Archive for the ‘video equipment’ Category

Newtek Tricaster Mini: New Video Production Studio in a Box

Monday, October 27th, 2014 by Jeff Gray, KET


All-in-one video production “appliances” that include multiple camera video and audio switching, titling, special effects, and more for live and recorded production projects have been in use for  some years in Kentucky schools like Bath County High, and Eastside Technical School, Lexington. Schools who can afford Newtek Tricasters, which start around $5,000, or similar switching gear like the Roland line of a/v mixers, enjoy making live video production projects with crews of students who excitedly play-out the roles of professional video production staff. Together, they plan, write, and produce video news and special events programming that requires teamwork and a lot of group and individual skill building that culminates in shared products that prepare students for real-world jobs, and the use of multimedia in further studies.

Roland offers the VR50-HD ($7,495) and some less expensive items like the VR-3EX ($2,195) and the V4-EX ($1,995).  Check the technical specifications for comparison of models and features among the manufacturers’ units.

For schools, a big thing that’s been missing from the Tricaster line has been HDMI inputs for commonly-used cameras and other devices. With the arrival of the Tricaster  Mini, schools now have more options to consider because the new Tricaster Mini has HDMI inputs, a PC input, analog audio inputs, a DDR for video segment and graphics playback, program video recording, program streaming out, and much more, including the virtual set feature with advanced chromakeying for greenscreen effects. It’s features and specifications are encouraging.

There are two Tricaster Mini models: the base HD-4 model Tricaster Mini, at $5,995, records 15 hours of 1080p video to an internal 750GB hard drive.  Their more expensive HD-4i model sells for $7,995. It includes a monitor and records 45 hours of video to an internal 1.5TB hard drive and includes a side-mounted video monitor.  They’re not cheap, but their many features do the work that would normally require several individual component pieces of equipment which could cost much more if purchased separately.

One caveat of all-in-one studio production devices that scares some is that if a unit goes down it may have to be shipped back to Newtek for repair, halting production until the unit is returned. Tricasters we’ve seen in Kentucky schools seem to have been in service for a while and we’ve not heard any warnings if that helps. An alternative is to use an a/v switcher such as the ATEM TV-Studio by Black Magic Design ($995.00), along with other component equipment for equivalent video production. That way might let you carry on in case of individual component failure, depending on what breaks and when.

Here’s an equipment connection diagram from the Newtek site:


And here are links to Tricaster Mini evaluations and reviews:

We’re looking forward to seeing what schools do with this new video production tool. As a one-box video production studio, it could make beginning a school video production a lot easier, and its advanced features could expand existing programs.

(Note: This new product overview is offered as an information service only and does not constitute an endorsement by KET.)

DIY Camera Crane/Jib Project 1: Dogs Ever Vigilant

Friday, July 5th, 2013 by Jeff Gray, KET


Third in our collection of do-it-yourself camera support projects, we bring you my attempt at building a KrotoCrane camera jib, an easy-to-build camera support tool designed by Chad Bredhall. This one, made mostly of PVC pipe and electrical conduit tubing, is relatively inexpensive and can be made with easily-found parts, some which might be found at a school shop or garage. It should make a great project for student video producers, but as always, be careful cutting, drilling, and assembling the parts. There should be adult teacher supervision of younger students. It cost me about $50 to build, including some free electrical conduit we had on-hand in the KET shop, an old weight (4.5lb), and an inexpensive camera quick-release plate found at I did purchase some extra PVC parts. Your costs will vary depending on where you find the parts and what you have already on-hand that can be used. Our parts cost also doesn’t include the tripod; I used an older Manfrotto/Bogen 3030 with a 3063 head we had.

Here’s a video of some quick first moves made with the new jib and an Apple iPhone 5 camera. I noticed that I didn’t show the extreme vertical limits of the device, which can be made higher by extending the mounting tripod’s legs. I also noticed that the shot beginning and ending with the flower pot is overexposed when the camera rises over the deck’s plants. I left it that way to illustrate a challenge of shooting with an iPhone camera: if left to auto-adjust exposure, the (current) iPhone 5′s camera will adjust the iris accordingly, but in playback of the recorded video there are often noticeable light-glitches showing jumpy iris adjustment. Until the camera improves or an app comes along that fixes it, we need to lock the camera’s auto-focus and auto-exposure when shooting across variable lighting to avoid the problem. In the iPhone’s included camera app, locking both AF and AE is done with a long-press on viewing the chosen area you want to lock them to. There’s some trial and error required, but that’s part of the adventure, right?

Once I found the parts at a local hardware chain store and our Alex Cummings helped by cutting the conduit pipe and drilling the holes in our shop, it took me about and hour and a half to assemble the thing, maybe two hours. Maybe longer, I have to admit.  It turned out pretty well though, considering that many of my efforts turn out like Homer Simpson projects.

Here’s a set of repeating views of the unit. The last slide is Chad Bredhall’s KrotoCrane instruction video that you can click to watch in the viewer. Slides should be swipeable on portable devices.

DIY Camera Crane / Jib $20 - KrotoCrane

DIY Camera Slider Project

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 by Jeff Gray, KET

Continuing our test-builds of do-it-yourself photography/video production tools, here’s a camera slider that schools and home users should have a good time building for little money. Using it is fun, it’s very portable, and it adds many possibilities for interesting camera moves for video production projects. Students will notice that the moves are used regularly in films and tv shows. Slideshow pics are swipeable in portable devices.


Based on the Filmriot crew’s DIY Camera Slider design, our unit was inexpensive (around $20.00, including some used parts) and it helped to produce some nice test video right off the bat. Mods I added were: substitution of a raised metal electrical switch plate; addition of an inexpensive quick-release camera mount I found online; and felt strips to line the tubes for smoother sliding. If I can build this (think Homer Simpson BBQ project) I know you can.

Here’s the first quick video test. Could do better with practice and care, but the dogs, Precious and Bunny, were perfect with no direction at all.

Camera Slider Test Video
Camera Slider Test Video

Shot with iPhone 5; edited in Lumify app (to try); WiFi transfered to iPad w/PhotoSync app (on both); edited in iMovie app to add titles, stills, and music; exported to YouTube over WiFi; inserted into WordPress blog w/Royal Slider plugin.

See the earlier camera stabilizer project.

Coming soon: a camera crane/jib project for more super-silky-fun moves!

If you’ve made something useful for video production and would like to share it please leave a response, below!

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