Since I was a kid, I can remember flipping through the pages of video production magazines like Videography and drooling over all the new cameras and gear that I wished I had. One ad that would always stop me in my tracks was the ads for something called a video toaster. At first glance, it brought thoughts of the flying toaster screen-saver that was so very much the thing to have on your computer at work, but the Video Toaster was something far more cooler and powerful. The Video Toaster ran on the Amiga computer and consisted of a fairly cheap hardware and software combination to bring a powerful live switching / linear editing solution that was affordable. Later generations of the video toaster added more and more features and has become the Newtek Tricaster that we know today.
1994 Promo Video for the Video Toaster 4000
Live streaming video has come along way from the postage stamp sized video of NASA TV that I remember watching using real player on my 56K modem more than ten years ago. Watching high quality video is common place now and made possible by the increase in the availability in broadband and fast, cheap, computers. Streaming services like, Ustream, Justin.tv and Bit Gravity have made getting your video content out even easier. I remember days spent trying to get several servers to work together to feed a rtsp stream to a couple of computers across a LAN, and now anyone with a webcam can be easily streaming to an audience of thousands without the hassle of working out the back-end technnology.
The Tricaster isn’t a brand new product, but has seen huge growth in sales with the rise of people creating live video content for the web. The Tricaster has a lot of bang for the buck, replacing hugely expensive satellite trucks with a small box that can be easily shipped and it price ranges from just under $5,000 for the basic tricaster to $15,000 for the new drool worthy HD Tricaster TCXD300. The new HD Tricaster is an extremely attractive alternative to other HD switchers in the market that generally start in the $100,000 range and the Tricaster has more features. The Tricaster has made online TV networks possible and affordable like TWIT.tv and ThisWeekIn.com. When a normal TV studio would normally need a crew of a dozen or more, the TWIT live stream is controlled solely by Leo Laporte that switches cameras while hosting and all of the rest of the duties of head TWIT all while on air.
Photo: © Newtek Inc.
Newtek had a big presence this year at SXSW with the Tricaster equipped Mini Cooper showing up all across Austin as Newtek made it possible for companies such as SiliconAngle.com, TWIT.tv, and This Week in Startups, and Revision 3 to bring the SXSW experience into people’s homes.
And its not just online video producers that are increasing using the Tricaster, more and more “old media” producers are integrating Tricaster into their productions for web content or video played in sports venues. I think this trend will only continue to increase as more people start creating live web video and old media looks for more ways to reduce costs and attract a larger audience.