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How a Toaster is Changing Online Video

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.

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Live Streaming Oddball SXSW video

SXSW 2010: Leo Laporte Live Streaming Crowd Surfing

Ask anyone who was at SXSW Interactive or just watched the online coverage from warmth and security of a Shiner Bock and a snuggy, one the of highlights was seeing king of the internet and pope of SXSW Leo Laporte crowd surf at Saturday’s Diggnation party. Leo was using a backpack device loaned from Ustream that uses 6 bonded 3G modems to give enough bandwidth to send high quality video back to Ustream. What was amazing is the whole thing worked while Leo was crowd surfing; watching it live from home, I was holding my breath just waiting for the stream to fail or a cord to get pulled out from the broadcaster unit. Watch the video and see it for yourself.

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gear Live Streaming SXSW

SXSW 2010: What Technologies Will Blow Up This Year?

Each year nerds from all the world flock to Austin for five days and nights of panels, parties and puking also known a South by Southwest Interactive.  It seems each year there is at least one application or technology thing that everyone is using at SXSW. Last year the big thing was geolocation apps mainly Foursquare that had a big swell in users at SXSW last year as all the cool people were trying to find out where all the rest of the cool people are at and which party is the one to be at for the night.  In previous years twitter really started to take off and gained size-able adoption and proof of that is in the almost constant chatter about SXSW which is especially annoying to people like me who aren’t lucky enough to be going this year.

So what will be the “it” things at this year’s SXSW? I have two things that come to mind, QR Codes and Live streaming. I think we are going to see QR codes all over the place as people are trying to network and QR codes are a great way to exchange the information that would normally be on your business cards.  If you don’t know anything about QR Codes click here for the wikipedia article.  I think the band, movie posters and leaflets that are plastered all over the convention center will have the new addition of a QR Code that sends the user to a site with more information about their show or movie. Be prepared to see a throng of nerds in shirts with huge QR Codes silk-screened on them, hawking their blog or whatever.

In the year since the last SXSW, Apple released the iPhone 3GS, the version of the iPhone yet that best suited for live streaming video, and apps like Ustream broadcaster and Qik that allowing people to do live streaming video over Wi-Fi or 3G has become possible. I think live streaming services like Ustream are going to see a lot of use from people at SXSW streaming events going on in Austin.  One man who will be doing this for sure is Leo Laporte. Ustream has lent Leo one of their streaming backpacks from LiveU a company that builds this portable computer designed for streaming.  The backpack has enough juice for about 6 hours of use. The secret sauce that makes this all work is 8 separate 3G modems, 2 each from the 4 major players, that work in concert to provide a solid connection and sufficient upload bandwidth that produces some pretty good looking video. I think we’re going to see a lot of live streams coming from Austin next week as many of the big podcasts like TWIT, TWiST, Buzz out Loud, NSFW, Diggnation all converge in Austin. At&t epically failed last year, greatly underestimating the strain that the more than 13,000 attendees would put on their network and they say they have been working since then to make sure that this year isn’t a repeat. They beefed up the cell towers downtown with more fiber, installed hardware in the Austin convention center and are bringing a convoy’s worth of cell tower trucks to cover Austin in a rich and creamy layer of 3G. We’ll see if this will be enough to handle the demands of bandwidth heavy apps and thousands of people constantly refreshing twitter every minute.