Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NewTek's new Tricaster 40: Right price point, wrong feature set

Earlier today, NewTek announced a new Tricaster, the 40, that offers HD video switching at a very competitive price. The Tricaster 40 has six live inputs and three internal video sources, including an internal hard drive that can store up to 20 hours of 1080i HD video. It also offers the same 24 virtual sets as NewTek's more expensive Tricasters, making it one of the least expensive ways to use professional virtual sets. The entire package weighs 19 pounds and is about the size of Shuttle's small form factor PCs. The Tricaster 40 lists for $4,995, and its optional dedicated control surface is $1,995.

The biggest problem that I have with the Tricaster 40 is that all of its inputs and outputs are analog, not HDMI or SDI. If you want digital inputs, you have to step up to the Tricaster 455 A La Carte model (without a control surface) for $15,995. Virtually every camera and camcorder that you'd want to use for HD production today has either a HDMI or SDI output, so with the Tricaster 40, you're stuck with a stack of converters and a rat's nest of cables. Blackmagic Design's ATEM 1 M/E, which has four HDMI and four SDI inputs, along with HDMI and SDI outputs, lists for $2,495. It seems to me that the decision by NewTek to leave professional digital video inputs and outputs off the 40 wasn't so much a cost-saving measure as it was a deliberate attempt to keep the 40 from cannibalizing the company's more expensive Tricasters. That might have worked when NewTek was the only game in town, but customers are now very aware that they have other choices.

At this point, the only reason that I'd recommend a Tricaster 40 over the ATEM 1 M/E is for the virtual set capability. If you want to use virtual sets, the Tricaster 40 is a steal. Also, if you want to use a dedicated control surface, you can save some money over an ATEM 1 M/E ($6,990 for the Tricaster 40 and control surface vs. $8,485 for the ATEM 1 M/E with control surface and HyperDeck Studio dual-slot disk recorder.) However, the best solution would be for NewTek to "bite the bullet" and put professional inputs and outputs on a device that's screaming for them.
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