It’s been a few weeks since Vara Software released Wirecast, version 3, but I’ve finally weeded through all the chaos of our Oratos union and I’m now set to review it.
Editor’s Note: I’m using a special trial version of the program that is not feature-limited, however it will expire after three-months. The license for this special version (often provided to journalists interested in reviewing software), was graciously provided by Vara.
My experience with the software has been fantastic so far. Version 3 is a major improvement over version two, although there are several quirks in it that one wouldn’t expect. More after the jump….
This is the primary interface that you’ll get to know, love, and despise throughout your tenure with Wirecast. From here, you switch video, control transition types, and speeds – the primary functions of the program. On the left, below the video area, you’ll see a column with rows such as “Foreground”, “Title”, “Audio”, etc. You can add media into any of these panels, and then during the switching process you can click over to one of these panels to launch media from them.
To get started in your live-switching process, you’re going to want to add some video. If you have live video sources plugged into your computer already (for example a cheap webcam or an HDV camera), you can switch over to these now and see them appear in the video area. I don’t have any Live Sources though so I’ll add some.
The new shot interface is relatively straightforward, simply click the “+” at the bottom of the screen to add a new media file. You can use the “A” “B” and “C” buttons to define which media file it is, so if you use, for example, a picture-in-picture view, the program doesn’t get confused. When you’re done, you close. I’m not sure about Mac (the native OS for this program) but it seems to me that there is a lack of “OK”s and “Cancel”s. Windows users are used to having to tell things Ok and Cancel, and this program is somewhat of a departure from that. Another thing that’s strange is that there is no MPEG support! Perhaps decompressing MPEGs is too intensive for a real-time app, but it seems strange that such a widely used format isn’t supported.
Most of the interfaces are the same. A few add options to change the position of the media (for example the title interface) or to add effects, but they generally follow the same pattern. It’s easy to jump from one to the next with relatively no trouble.
The next most important window (in my opinion) is the Broadcast Settings window. This is where you control the output formats and streams of your new live video.
You get all sorts of crazy options here. You can push or pull to or from a service. You can choose from a preset or create your own (for better compression or better quality). This is also where you “annotate” your media file (add in info such as Name/Author). This version of Wirecast for Windows embeds a Quicktime Streaming Server, meaning Windows users are no longer limited to WMV (out of the box). You can even record to disc if you want.
This is a fairly basic look at the program, but there is so much that it has to offer. I only went into basic functionality that most users need, but there is a lot more at work here. You can view statistics on your video, alter viewable layers, and so much more. Wirecast is truly a feature-packed program that anyone at any scale should consider for their video-switching needs. There may be a few quirks for Windows and MPEG users, but that doesn’t prevent it from ruling its market because of one factor: ease-of-use.