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MATROX MONARCH HD
by Colin Ashby
F irstly, a confession; it’s a fair bet that,
technically, I know a lot less than you
the reader although I’ve worked in
broadcast television for over 30 years so I
have a lot of hands-on experience. To balance
this out, I’m a cameraman so we’re by nature attracted
to new models, bright shiny things, whistles and bells etc.
That’s not to say that I know nothing of how things work,
more a case of only knowing in depth about equipment that
is relevant to my work, again it’s a cameraman thing.
Consequently when I fi rst opened the box of the Matrox
Monarch HD I was rather underwhelmed. Judging a book
by its cover is a bad idea but if you did it in this case
you’d declare the latest best seller by Matrox as rather
dull and lacking content. Read on though and you may be
The purpose of this unassuming grey box is to stream at
web quality whilst at the same time saving high quality
video and audio to an external recorder for archive or
editing. So for example you could use it to stream a live
event at 5Mbps and at the same time record at 25 Mbps
for later use. Channelling my inner Jennifer Aniston, here’s
the science part. It works by generating an H.264-encoded
stream from an input source, encoding the video at a low
bitrate for live streaming, whilst simultaneously recording
a high-quality MP4 or MOV. The input is via HDMI socket,
the output is to two USB sockets or an SDHC card slot.
This allows you to use low cost storage if needed or even a
portable hard drive or SSD for larger fi les. Maximum rates
are 30 Mbps for recording and 20 Mbps for streaming.
File size can be controlled as required to keep them
manageable then seamlessly glued back together again in
As a piece of equipment the Monarch HD appears
unspectacular and rather straightforward; nothing shiny,
free from whistles and bells. That’s not to say it isn’t a
brilliantly simple piece of kit, for example all the input ports
are located on one side of the body, output sockets on
the other side. Well thought out, simple and practical. To
review how it is to use is diffi cult also as, well, it just sits
there quietly getting on with things. There are no distractive
fl ashing displays to grab your attention, no noisy fan to ruin
your pristine audio.
So it’s a wonderful tool but what to do with it? I would
suggest that almost anything is possible, the small size
(150x110x25mm) and weight of 300grams mean that it
fi ts in anywhere. As long as you have a power supply and
computer with a decent broadband connection you can
stream from anywhere and save a high quality copy. An
obvious use would be a live product launch, like at IBC
or the Geneva Motor Show, where highlights could be
edited and uploaded to a corporate website later on. Large
churches in the US stream Sunday services then post
Greatest Hits (Greatest Hymns?) to their websites on the
My teenage boys tell me that there are professional gamers
who play FIFA ’15 online watched by thousands who
would rather see virtual football rather than the real thing.
The highlights from these ‘matches’ are then posted to
YouTube where the gamer earns an income from adverts
or the number of subscribers and views. Well who knew?
What else, well live gigs, Q&A webinar sessions like Sony
host, the possibilities are endless. In the near future I shall
be fi lming a friend who is a yoga teacher; lessons will be
streamed live to subscribers with content archived and
edited for later release.
As a broadcast cameraman in my line of work I can’t see
myself owning a Matrox Monarch HD and this review
seems a bit fl ippant and dismissive. BUT, this is a versatile,
highly usable and well thought out piece of equipment. It
works well, the interface with the Matrox website is easy to
use and the device itself can even be remotely operated via
smart ‘phone or tablet. For anyone involved in livestreaming
or who wants to get involved this is an ideal way in to low
cost, high quality streaming. It seems as though Matrox
are leading the fi eld as at the time of writing there are no
Current retail price in the UK is in the range of £650 +VAT
which may seem a lot for simple box but I believe it
is good value for how well it works, its versatility and
the lack of similar products.
38 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 95 NOVEMBER 2014