Kitplus - The TV-BAY Magazine

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REVIEW 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 pleasantly surprised. 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 the edit. 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 same day. 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 obvious competitors. 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 TV-BAY095NOV14.indd 38 06/11/2014 13:05 Inf