2020 has been an insane year. While many products in our industry have remained more or less the same, some have really stepped out into the spotlight. With the need to have less and less people involved in productions, and have more physical distancing, products like Wirecast have really come to the forefront. It’s ability to take your camera’s and really any input device, and turn it into a source for a “one person production studio”, has really changed the way we can work during COVID. I watch a church service in Toronto every Sunday morning in a massive cathedral with nobody in it, and I have no doubt they are using Wirecast, as they can send their 4 static cameras into a computer, and create all their graphics, elements, etc, and create a polished end product each and every day. There’s a new version of Wirecast, version 14, that hit the market a little while ago. Let’s give it a look!
I normally start out with cost right off the bat, as i can write a whole review, just to turn people off with the price at the end. There are two versions of Wirecast. The Studio version and the Pro version. We’ll be talking about the Studio version in this article, and you can check out the additional features for the Pro version in the image below.
For the most part, what you’re looking at with the Pro version is 7 remote guests via Wirecast Rendezvous guest conferencing, Pan/Tilt/Zoom camera control, audio effects, instant replays and virtual studios in the Pro version, as well as some advanced output options. To be honest, the biggest feature is the ISO records, but something that’s very important for me to point out about this is that the ISO feed records are for hard wired source feeds only, and doesn’t apply to Wirecast Rendezvous feeds. If you’re looking at having more than two guests (standard with the Studio version), then definitely look at the Pro Version. The cost difference is $599 for the Studio version and $799 for the Pro version, so as you can see the upgrade from Studio to Pro version won’t break the bank. I also want to point out there there is an upgrade path that’s not readily apparent from the Telestream website, but you can find on resellers pages like Videoguys. To upgrade the Studio version from versions 4-7 to current will run you $299 and to upgrade the pro version from the same, 4-7 to current will run you $399.
BIG SUR & ARM-BASED MACS
So, I probably should point out for all my Mac friends out there that Wirecast 14 is supported on Mac’s running Big Sur with only a couple of minor issues, however, as of this writing, Wirecast is NOT supported on Apple Silicon based Macs, so if you just purchased one, you’ll have to wait a little bit before installing and running Wirecast, in a Telestream supported workflow.
WHAT IS WIRECAST?
For those of you who don’t know, Wirecast is designed to be, basically, a production hub for you to create live productions that will be output to file, or directly to the web, based on your needs. Whether you’re looking for just a straight three camera cut and dissolve production, all the way up to 12 (or even more) camera, full graphics packages (lower thirds, etc), audio mixes and multiple output destinations I’ll use the example that I had earlier of a church service. So, with COVID (at least here in Toronto, Canada), churches have been shut down, but offer live web services every Sunday streamed live to YouTube. Wirecast gives users the ability to do this. Simply take the output of the sources (sources include video, audio, screen capture, USB, Capture Cards, NDI, iOS, IP and web stream sources), and cut or dissolve them together, producing a “finished” product that can be recorded live to tape, or even live to the web, for their audience to see. Start your productions as basic as you need, and scale them up from there. Add text, titles, utilize Chroma key, along with social media integration (Twitter comment curation and display, integrated Facebook Polling, live viewer counts, etc) and even an integrated Stock Media Library. It’s really very easy to get yourself up and running with Wirecast. I have used Wirecast for live Press Junkets and was really happy with the quality of the end product, and it really didn’t take that much of a learning curve to get me up and running. With all that said, there is a new version of Wirecast, so let’s see what Telestream has updated it with.
WHAT’S NEW IN VERSION 14
- All new Chroma Key (with special guests Luma Key and Color Key)
- New options for more accurate keying, including spill suppression, edge coloring, and clipping ranges. Plus a Luma Key (useful if you have a logo with a white or black background you wish to remove), and Color key (useful for images (logos) that have non-black and non-white backgrounds).
- Better, more reliable incoming video source connections
- Improved reliability for Wirecast Go, Rendezvous and webstream sources, plus efficiency improvements with GPU decoding for NDI sources
- Text and font improvements
- Smoother text scrolling and a new font picker to select font variants
- More options when sources get disconnected
- When a source gets disconnected, you can now choose to replace it with transparency or a custom image
- Improved ability to size and scale sources
- We’ve added new options for sizing and scaling sources, making it easier to precisely size your videos and images on the canvas. Plus, incoming sources are now scaled automatically, and will maintain their size based on settings you choose.
- Latency and syncing improvements
- We’ve made improvements to – and we’ve also given you more control over – the way incoming audio and video are synced together, ensuring more accurate lip-sync.
- Updated technologies
- Updated to NDI 4.5, ported OpenGL to Metal on macOS, updated webstream plugin (libVLC), for improved connectivity and efficiency
- Better notifications and stats
- The status bar is now moved to the bottom of the screen, giving more space to show System CPU and App CPU, as well as other streaming stats.
For me, the biggest improvement has come with Wirecast Rendezvous and Wirecast Go (the iPhone/Android app that remote guests would download and log into, to connect to your live broadcast) as it seems to be much more stable and more reliable now, than it was in the past. If you’re planning on having “special guests” in your broadcast, this is absolutely essential. There would be days where I would constantly have connection issues and other days I wouldn’t and the team seems to have resolved now, and to go hand in hand with that, I really like that they have added better options when someone gets disconnected by accident. I can now have a logo, or “Please Stand By” or something pop up when a feed is lost. Very nice! I’m also glad to see that they have updated Chroma key (which I’ll be honest, I don’t use much). Anytime a chroma key is added to any application, it needs to have all the standard bells and whistles that editors and compositors are accustomed to like spill suppression, clipping ranges, etc. The fact that they have added in a Luma Keyer is great. I’m going to make myself sound super old, but I remember the days where we were keying our logos on a table with camera above it, and the fact that we don’t need to mess around, and can do quick keys on black and white logos is great. What’s important for the developers of Wirecast to keep in mind is that they need to treat Wirecast like it’s a production truck, and upgrade each of the features of the “truck” to match what we’d find out there on the big productions. I’m not saying go crazy, but if you’re going to add a Keyer, give me all the options of a keyers.
With all this being said, there are still a few things I’m not overly happy with, with Wirecast, so let’s talk about that now.
WHAT’S STILL NOT WORKING
For me, the biggest problem with Wirecast is the ISO’s. First of all, they are only included in the Pro version. I’m fine with you limiting how many ISO’s I can record, but give me a couple in the Studio version that I can work with, and then if I need more, open that up in the Pro version. Also, and I’m sure this is probably a technical limitation of Wirecast but, especially with Wirecast Rendezvous (where I can have remote guests log into my production), give me the ability to ISO them. That’s a big deal, and currently the only ISO’s you can do in Wirecast is with hard patched sources like cameras/etc. Most of my guests come in via Rendezvous, and having the ability to ISO them would make my life a heck of a lot easier!
Soooo……through the powers of the internet, the Wirecast Product Manager Lynn Elliott reached out, as well as commenting on this article to let me/us know that there is a new “.1” beta version of Wirecast 14 that does give you the ability to ISO record your Rendezvous streams, which is totally AWESOME news!
Thanks for the review, Kevin. I’m excited to mention that version 14.1 is in Beta, and has a new feature called “Shot ISO”. This enables you to independently record any shot in your document, including Rendezvous shots, audio-only shots or any other shots you create in your document. The latest beta can be downloaded from the Telestream Forum site here: https://telestreamforum.forumbee.com/t/x2hmg4y/14-1-beta-november-16-2020
I like Wirecast, and this update is no exception. The issues I have with it are all very minor. If you haven’t used it up until this point (version 14), it has really been fleshed out to be an all-in-one production package that can even be hardware upgraded, if you’re really serious about it. Most of the new features that are being added in the subsequent versions are “overhauls” to existing features to make them even better than they have been in the past. If you’re looking to start broadcasting productions directly to the web, or even to files on your computer to upload at a later time, Wirecast is the tool to get your rolling! You can start out super simple like I did, and then add cameras, title’s, backgrounds, separate sources and so much more over time, and take your simple “home” productions and turn them into professional looking web streams. For more information, or to download a free trial of Wirecast 14, you can click on the link included here!