4 Streaming Encoders to Consider at NAB Show 2024

Updated: Mar 25, 2024

This image features a close-up view of a professional digital cinema camera, on a film or event set. The camera is equipped with various accessories and attachments. There are numerous cables connected to the camera, indicating it's set up for a high-quality live feed or recording. Attached to the top is a monitor. On the side, there's a battery pack providing a portable power source to the camera. To the right, there's a wireless network video streaming encoder with antennas for sending video to a remote monitor or director's station. The background is blurred, but we can discern a busy environment, likely a convention or trade show floor, suggesting this could be a demonstration or live event capture.

There's a lot to consider when choosing a streaming encoder for your remote production workflow. Dozens of the top streaming encoder manufacturers will be exhibiting at NAB Show Las Vegas this year.

Photo courtesy of NAB Show.

The 2024 NAB Show is going to be huge next month at the Las Vegas Convention Center, with exhibitors spread out across the Central Hall, West Hall, and both(!) floors of the South Hall. That’s a lot of ground to cover. If you’re looking for a live-streaming encoder for your remote productions, where do you go? 

Before you go shopping, you should know why you need a hardware streaming encoder in the first place. Essentially, you need to compress (encode) video and audio files so they can be delivered from your off-site shoot back to your control room or the web. 

Encoding is a demanding task that requires a great deal of processing power. Many producers prefer a dedicated, self-contained solution that doesn’t draw computing resources away from other tasks. That means having a piece of equipment that is separate from software-based production tools. Whether you’re on location or in your control room, sharing is not caring when it comes to your CPU during live productions.

What features do you need to consider? Inputs are a good place to start. Will your encoder support your video and audio sources? Look for SDI, HDMI, and even USB ports for webcams or cell phones. Will you need XLR or RCA connections for your microphones or other audio sources? Make sure your encoder supports the equipment in your workflow. 

Next, consider the end result. What is your final resolution? There are plenty of 1080p and 720p hardware encoder options out there. They are generally less expensive than devices that support 4K because they don’t need as much processing power or bandwidth. If you aren’t delivering 4K coverage online or on the air, this may be a corner you can cut without sacrificing quality, at least in the near term.

Once you know an encoder will work with your gear and can deliver the resolution you need, it’s time to think about connectivity. Almost any encoder offers an Ethernet port and/or Wi-Fi connectivity. But what if you’re regularly on location where the Wi-Fi is lousy and there’s no Ethernet option? You might want to consider a streaming encoder that offers a bonded cellular option. Bonded cellular uses multiple cellular modems (multiplexing) to improve connectivity.

There are a lot of streaming protocols out there. Three of the most popular are RTMP, HLS, and SRT. RTMP uses H.264 video and AAC audio codecs and is known for its low latency. HLS is also widely used – it supports H.264 and adaptive bit rate streaming. SRT is popular because it works with any codec while offering low latency and high reliability, even when your network connection is second-rate. Check out this handy guide to networking streaming protocols to figure out which is best for you.

Below are a handful of options that pair nicely with Cablecast Automation systems – and they might just help streamline your shopping experience.

Teradek (Central Hall, C5916)

Teradek has discontinued its Cube line of encoders – Prism is now the company’s flagship video encoder solution. Prism Mobile was announced in early 2023. It’s a camera-back model with two internal modems for bonded cellular performance, supports nine network connections simultaneously (Wi-Fi, Ethernet and cellular) and delivers up to 4K HDR. According to Teradek’s Michael Gailing, Prism Mobile is a “no-compromise solution” that solves complaints of product size, power usage and features. There’s also the Prism Flex in a desktop design from 2022 and Prism RU (in a rack-mount design) that was announced in 2019. 

AJA Video Systems (South Hall, SL3065)

In 2022, AJA launches HELO Plus, replacing its original HELO streaming encoder and recorder. Priced at $1,869 MSRP, it’s a compact, standalone appliance that can stream up to 1080p/60 (H.264) to two separate destinations simultaneously. Plus, it can record simultaneously to network storage or local SD card or USB storage. It has a simple user interface, with record and stream buttons as well as audio VU meters on the front. On the back, it has 3G-SDI and HDMI I/O and two-channel stereo audio, along with a 1GigE network port. Bit rates from 100 kbps to 20 Mbps can be set independently for each encoder, and HELO Plus supports up to three layers of video and graphics (with 20 presets). It supports plenty of protocols, including RTMP, RTMPS, HLS and SRT. 

Blackmagic Design (South Hall, SL5005 and SU3069)

The Blackmagic Web Presenter ($515) has been around since 2017 and includes a hardware encoder for HD streaming via SRT or RTMP protocols (H.264). There’s also the Blackmagic Web Presenter 4K ($675), introduced in 2021, which adds H.265 for Ultra HD streaming. Both compact models offer one SDI input with SDI, HDMI and webcam outputs. The front panel features an LCD display with a small control panel and spin knob for navigation. Plus, USB connections on the front and rear panels allow you to attach a phone, so you can use your Android or Apple phone to connect to the internet via 5G or 4G (if Ethernet is not available or you want a backup connection). 

LiveU (South Hall, SL5105)

Back in 2022, LiveU introduced its Solo PRO portable encoder. Starting at $1,495 and available in HDMI and SDI/HDMI versions, it combines up to four 4G/5G cellular modems plus Wi-Fi and Ethernet to deliver up to 4K video with H.264 and H.265 (HEVC) encoding. It only weighs about two pounds and can be transported via a professional-grade cross-shoulder pack or belt pack. Its built-in battery offers up to three hours of use, while the USB-C power input allows support for other power sources. Plus, you get full web-based remote control via your smartphone, tablet or web browser. 

While you’re at the 2024 NAB Show, be sure to schedule a meeting with Cablecast to demo our latest equipment upgrades and other PEG channel solutions. Book your time and keep up with the latest Cablecast NAB news here.

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