View Full Version : 20 Questions with NewTek President & CEO Jim Plant

Paul Lara
04-22-2008, 04:53 PM
At NAB 2008, NewTek received a lot of interest and questions from current and potential customers, show attendees, analysts, writers and the like. We thought you would find it valuable to have Jim Plant, NewTek President and CEO, provide the context for what NewTek was about at NAB and for the answers, in his own words, to the 20 most Frequently Asked Questions we heard during and after the show.

20 Questions with NewTek President & CEO, Jim Plant

Q1. You had some big announcements at this year's NAB. What were the

A. Yes, NAB 2008 was really big for us in several important ways. First, we launched more new products than at any other NAB in NewTek's history. But more importantly, we fundamentally changed and improved our entire TriCaster product line; made it a lot more open and useful in a variety of live production and streaming situations.

Q2. What do you mean by "made it more open?"

A. Well, we opened it up in two very significant ways. First, we added features like Flash Media Encoder streaming, native MPEG2 file recording and QuickTime support to make it much easier to integrate with other production tools our customers might have. So, with Flash Media Encoder streaming support, there are a lot more systems that can receive live TriCaster output. With QuickTime support, it's much easier to get Mac-related files into the TriCaster's editor or DDRs. And, with native MPEG 2 capture, it is easier for Macs to read the TriCaster's output files. So, now a Final Cut Pro user can take the output from the TriCaster and load it right up on the timeline without any time consuming transcoding and just start editing.

We also fundamentally opened up TriCaster by creating several new peripheral
and external data input systems to allow TriCaster to work more efficiently in multi-user environments. Originally, the TriCaster was designed to work very efficiently for a single operator to create network-class live productions. This has worked great in a lot of live scenarios, but some of our customers wanted the option to open things up; to do more than one person could reasonably control; to get more people involved in the production. We've added several new options for that including a standalone live titling system, called LiveText, that allows a separate operator on a separate computer system to generate titles "on the fly" during a live production and send them over to the TriCaster in real-time. We've also announced two new control surfaces, including one called TimeWarp that allows a separate operator to manage slow motion and instant replay features on the TriCaster. Finally, we've created a new optional plug-in called TriCaster Data Link that allows data from scoreboards and other external data generators to be automatically inserted into TriCaster's title template system. We showed this in our press room at NAB working with a Daktronics scoreboard controller.

Q3. Was Data Link related to the Daktronics announcement you made?

A. No, actually this is a separate issue. The press release was about partnering with Daktronics to include a TriCaster with a new video display system that they have designed for the high school sports market. As you know, Daktronics is the market leader in sports display systems at all levels of the market. They are a great company, and we are very happy to be working with them on this project. The Data Link product, on the other hand, is not Daktronics-specific. Data Link is designed to work with data from scoreboards from various manufacturers...and not just scoreboards. We allow data feeds to come from a very wide variety of sources, including databases, text and XML files, external scoreboards and more. This really opens an entire new range of applications for using TriCaster.

Q4. So, besides what you just mentioned what were the other products you
announced at NAB 2008?

A. Well besides the TriCaster 2.0 software, the foundation of our announcements was the brand-new TriCaster model that we added to the top end of the TriCaster product line. It's called TriCaster BROADCAST, and it adds SDI i/o, preview out and genlock support to the TriCaster line. We also added the new control surfaces I mentioned before: the new LiveControl 11 surface, and the new TimeWarp slow-motion, instant replay surface. We also added LiveText, the external live production character generator that I mentioned previously. And, we also added several new content packages for use with 3D Arsenal, TriCaster and VT[5].

Q5.Yes, I noticed those new content packages...is this a first for NewTek?

A. As a matter of fact, it is. One of the major strategic moves we made last year was the formation of a new content development group at NewTek. The new content products we introduced at NAB are the first packages from the new group. One of the packages is our first 3D Arsenal Ammo Pack. We're also offering a new package of LiveSets that include support for one or two persons in the set. We've also added two new Sports graphics packages. We showed off a lot of these new graphics and animations at our booth at NAB...really spectacular stuff that will take your live sports shows to an entirely new level of production value.

Q6. I noticed the new content packages are all sports-centric...is there a
reason for that?

A. Yes, in fact if you look at most of our new NAB product announcements, it's pretty hard to miss how much live sports production is driving our product development. We're seeing so much growth in live streaming from the high end of the market, like Fox Sports, Major League Baseball, the Arena Football League, the NBA, the NHL, all the way down to small college and high school games. It's really quite astounding to see how TriCaster has opened up new business models for live sports production at all levels.

Q7. Most of your focus at NAB was on TriCaster, what about VT[5] and some of your other products?

A. We showed the new TriCaster BROADCAST, the new control surfaces, SpeedEDIT and 3D Arsenal on the main stage, as those were the products that we thought would be most interesting to NAB attendees, and also easiest to demo in the short amount of time that we have people's attention. On the back wall of our booth we had workstations and demo specialists for the entire line including VT[5], SpeedEDIT, LightWave 3D, LightWave Rendition, 3D Arsenal, LiveTEXT, TimeWarp, LiveControl and the other TriCaster models.

Q8. It appears that you've changed and upgraded the TriCaster product line;
can you explain that?

A. Yes, we've really refreshed the entire line with our new TriCaster 2.0 software. All the new TriCasters will ship with this new software, and in the near future we will offer upgrades for all of our current TriCaster customers. The TriCaster 2.0 upgrade price will be $495 to $995, depending on the model. We will be providing this upgrade at no charge to any registered customer who purchased their TriCaster on or after March 13, 2008. Contact your reseller for details. We're also planning on giving TriCaster PRO the same capabilities as what we are currently shipping as TriCaster PRO FX, which includes live virtual set technology.

So, the new TriCaster product line will be TriCaster 2.0, TriCaster PRO 2.0, TriCaster STUDIO 2.0 and TriCaster BROADCAST.

Q9. Will the new TriCaster peripherals and add-ons work with VT[5]?

A. Yes, although it will require a new software upgrade for VT[5], but that's in the plans for later this year.

Q10. When will we see a SpeedEDIT upgrade, and what will be in it?

A. We also have an upgrade planned for SpeedEDIT for later this year. There's lots of cool new stuff in it, but I would say the highlights are the long-requested "sub-projects as overlays" capability, a new interpolated slow motion mode, and better QuickTime support.

Q11. When is NewTek going deliver an HD version of TriCaster (or VT)?

A. We've been working on a completely new multi-channel HD hardware/software platform for several years now, but we're not quite ready to officially announce any new products based on the new platform.

Q12. Why is it taking so long?

A. What we are doing is extremely difficult. This is not just another HD switcher we're designing here. It also includes multiple DDRs, streaming, a DVE system, a live virtual set system, built-in titler, and more. There's so much functionality in the TriCaster system and it's all integrated in such a unique and powerful way. It took several years for us to develop the first PC-based, real-time, multi-channel switching card that ultimately became the platform for VT and eventually TriCaster. There are very few companies on the planet that have the expertise to do what we're doing, and it simply takes time to develop a product of this depth and complexity...and do it right.

Q13. But with HD so popular, isn't this hurting your business?

A. First off, we're already supporting HD in most of our products. I should also point out that you can connect virtually any HD camera to any TriCaster and see noticeable improvements in the quality of the video image. Secondly, while HD use is certainly growing quickly in some areas of video production, its adoption is not uniform across all sectors. For instance, the market for live production combined with web streaming is still predominantly SD, and will probably continue to be for quite some time, especially at the price points we cover. When you take into account everything we offer in a TriCaster system; all the features I mentioned previously; a similarly equipped HD-based live switching and streaming solution can easily be double or triple the cost. At that point many, if not most, live web streaming business models break down.

Q14. Will you be shipping an HD TriCaster (or VT) this year?

A. We have no plans for that this year. At NAB we presented a product roadmap to our resellers and distributors for the rest of 2008, and HD versions of VT and/or TriCaster are outside the scope of that time frame.

Q15. Will you be shipping any HD live video products in 2008?

A. Yes. At NAB we showed our channel partners and several key customers a prototype of a multi-channel SD/HD instant replay slow motion system that we plan on announcing and shipping later this year. This will be the first product built on the new HD platform I mentioned previously.

Q16. Why an instant replay system?

A. Our many TriCaster and VT customers in the sports market have communicated that this is something that they really need for their live productions.

Q17. But, doesn't this overlap with your new TimeWarp product?

A. No, they are very different products aimed at different markets and different users. The new system we are working on is different in several fundamental ways. First, it's multi-channel. The new system can iso-record and monitor several video streams simultaneously; the TimeWarp doesn't do that. Second, the new system will be HD ready, unlike the TimeWarp system. The new system is a standalone, multi-channel SD/HD system. The TimeWarp is an inexpensive single-channel add-on controller for an existing TriCaster system.

Q18. I've noticed you have some interesting upgrade programs for current customers to upgrade to the new products, can you tell us more about these programs?

A. Absolutely. NewTek has always been extremely generous with its upgrade programs. In some cases, we've even offered full value for older products on a trade-in for a new product. We can't always do that, but we're pretty well-known for going the extra mile to give our customers an easy path to improve their production tools. We have programs to trade-in older TriCasters to newer ones. We also have a program to trade in your old RS-8 or TriCaster VM control surface for the new LiveControl. We're also offering a software upgrade for our existing TriCaster customers as previously mentioned. Contact your reseller for details for the specific details and prices for each upgrade and trade-in programs.

Q19. What about upgrading from a current TriCaster to a future HD system?

A. Yes, we will definitely have an upgrade or trade-in program for that, as well. I can't tell you what it will be right now, because we haven't completed development of the new HD platform so we don't know the costs yet.

Q20. What else do we have to look forward to the rest of 2008?

A. First, we're going to get all the new products we announced at NAB shipping. That should happen over the 30-60 days. Beyond that, I already mentioned the new multi-channel, HD slow motion/instant replay system and upgrades to VT[5] and SpeedEDIT. Oh, we're also upgrading 3D Arsenal to bring some of the benefits of the LightWave v9 series and optimized for the new Intel Macs. That will be available soon. We're also very close to completing the Data Link plug-in that will allow TriCaster to automatically read-in data from scoreboards, and other external sources. VT[5] will get that option, as well. No doubt the new Content Group will have some new packages before the end of the year, as well. We demonstrated LightWave 9.5 at NAB. It's in a widespread open-beta program right now. It's a HUGE upgrade and it's free for all current LW 9 customers, and we expect to ship it before SIGGRAPH. The 3D team also tells me there may be some interesting surprises at this year's SIGGRAPH.

There's so much going on at NewTek right now. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of it all.