ClearCaster Pro Manager: What’s New

February 26, 2020 by

 

As part of our continued investment in the ClearCaster product family, we’ve rolled out several updates to the ClearCaster Pro Manager this year. Justin Miller sits down with Dan Germain, principal product manager, to demonstrate the new features in this video. Learn about the expanded graphics package, enhanced user management capabilities, and more.

 

Full Video Transcript:

Justin Miller:

Hey, how’s it going? My name is Justin Miller and welcome to another Wowza webcast. I am here with Dan Germain. Dan, how’s it going?

Dan Germain:

It’s going fabulous. Thank you Justin.

Justin Miller:

Now Dan is our resident expert on ClearCaster for obvious reasons, if you’ve read his lower thirds. So I’m just going to go ahead and turn it over to you as we show you a little about the ClearCaster.

Dan Germain:

Thanks very much there, Justin. Yeah, I’m the product manager for ClearCaster and what I’d really liked to do now is just walk you through the system. A lot’s changed over the past few months since we last did a video, a lot of worthwhile features. I’d just like to highlight maybe the new graphics package that we have. I think that’s worth looking at. I know you’ve made some graphics, I think Justin, for me to look at.

Justin Miller:

I have added some graphics just for you to look at.

Dan Germain:

I’m very excited. So I haven’t seen those, but let’s take it away. So if we cut over to the web interface, what you’re going to see is that we’re actually logged in with Chrome here and we’re going to use Justin’s account to access the ClearCaster. So if we take over here, what you’re going to see is we can see all the systems he actually has online. So he’s currently got two systems ready to go. It looks like one of those is already broadcasting, Justin?

Justin Miller:

I believe it is, yes.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, that’s great. And one of the best things, and one of the unique features that ClearCaster has over any other encoder in the marketplace is the fact that we can actually manage all of our servers from the cloud. So these could actually be in a different city. I could go in, it would show me if I had any software updates pending. I could click update, the system would automatically update that software and when we come back, we’d be ready to go. So there’s no sort of fiddling with USB keys. All of that stuff’s gone away, which I think is absolutely fantastic.

Justin Miller:

Great.

Dan Germain:

So we can see we’ve got two systems running. While we’re here, why don’t we just look through some of the other options that we have. And I mentioned the graphics menu, let’s just go straight there and show you what we’ve got. When I look in the graphics package selection, I can see you’ve built three of these three companies I’m guessing.

Justin Miller:

Right. And that being said, by default there are just three graphics packages available.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, that’s right. If you want to do more, you can see this is powered by Singular Live. If you want to get into the Super Bowl sort of 3D, Vizrt graphics, you can do that by going to their construction page. And they actually allow you to have a 3D CAD system to work with, which is pretty cool. But I think what we have in ClearCaster is pretty amazing. So you can see we’ve got two slates, a lower-third, and a logo. Let’s just dive into one of these just to show you what’s going on. So you can see this looks like it’s pointing at a background image. And wow, you put some animation in there as well.

Justin Miller:

Yes, that is an animated GIF file.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, look at that. So this means when you go into this graphic, you’re going to get that animation, which is pretty good. And I think that’s a key thing. I don’t know what’s on the first one here. Let’s check that out.

Justin Miller:

This one is not animated.

Dan Germain:

Ah.

Justin Miller:

This is just using our default title and subtitles.

Dan Germain:

Now, what I like about that is that I can go in and change that text at any time. So we can go in and make that say ClearCaster. And this really just proves these graphics are live. Now, you’ll see as quick as that, we’ve updated that HTML-5. It looks really slick. Good job.

Justin Miller:

Yeah.

Dan Germain:

And I think I can change the colors as well it looks like?

Justin Miller:

Yeah, absolutely.

Dan Germain:

Should we do it as we’re doing the demo?

Justin Miller:

Sure.

Dan Germain:

Let’s get in there. Should we go for ClearCaster orange?

Justin Miller:

If you know the actual numbers to get ClearCaster orange, I don’t know them by heart.

Dan Germain:

FF9200 looks good to me. Let’s run with that.

Justin Miller:

All right. I will, I like that.

Dan Germain:

So it’s worth knowing that we have those four presets. And again, we have lower thirds, which Justin already mentioned. There you are, there’s my name in there. And we can also go in and even do logos. And one of the nice things about the logo control here is that I can obviously reposition this logo and I can change my size to my heart’s content. So we’ve got all the controls, really everything you’d need to actually do a webcast like this.

Justin Miller:

Right. No, I really like the options to change the transparency so it doesn’t have to be as vivid as it is.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, and it’s really fast. You can see how fast this is running here. So basically, just for the more technical amongst you here, we could take any HTML-5 source and we actually have four renders in the system, which means we can lay out all four of these at the same time on top of each other over the live feed. There’s a lot of power in ClearCaster that we’re releasing here. All right. Well, we can add that to a live stream. Let’s just do a recap over the other functions we have across the top here.

Justin Miller:

Okay.

Dan Germain:

So do you know what users do, Justin?

Justin Miller:

I know that as a user I am allowed to have access to many of these functions and when I limit the access I can only say, “Start a stream.”

Dan Germain:

Yeah, absolutely. So what this area is, is it’s really about restricting the functionality of the machine. So I’m basically logged in as an admin at the moment, as are you, so I can actually go right down and look at these templates and start adjusting the actual JSON files that we’re working with here. Now that can be pretty intimidating to someone who’s a producer or someone. They don’t want to be worrying about the JSON files. That’s absolutely right. What users allows you to do is remove some of that functionality and even with the new widgets functions we have, we can just basically say, high, low, or medium quality, and just define what settings are exposed on the machine. Again, that makes this even more powerful to work with.

Justin Miller:

Could you explain to me a little more on the templates that you were showing? Now I understand those templates relate to creating broadcasts, right?

Dan Germain:

Absolutely. So what we’ve tried to do is make ClearCaster as simple as possible. But let’s say I wanted to go … Let’s use YouTube as an example here. So if we just select YouTube, so this is just a single output. What you’re seeing here is 1080 30P. If we scroll down to the resolution section, you can see there it’s saying, “Let’s set the capture hardware to 1920, 1080 by 30.” So that would be pretty easy for us to change. And if I go in here on some of the presets, you can see as I change this to say 720 30, those numbers are changing in real time. But because ClearCaster, we don’t want to lock users down to just using templates, we could go in and actually edit any value we wanted to here.

Dan Germain:

So if I go in and make a copy, what this would allow me to do is, say I wanted a wacky format. Maybe we go back in time, we wanted to do 1024 by 640. So that’s one of those old VGA resolutions. And maybe we only wanted to do that at 15 frames per second. So if I’m doing, say, corporate streaming to my local land, that might be the browser shape that I’d want to use. I can physically go in and make any parameter, so I’m sort of working with the low-level part of the encoder at this point.

Justin Miller:

So if we wanted a square version, for example, to be used on social media.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, absolutely. And again, you can see in this section here, maybe we want to make it a 1,000 by 1,000, that’s like your Instagram square there. I also have all sorts of options here for changing how I want to do that. Do I want to take the 16 by 9, stretch it, corner pin it out? Do I want to crop it? All of these settings can be defined. And again, maybe I want to use a different encoder. So in this case, maybe I want to go in and change this to H.265. So you can go into these templates and really customize them to your heart’s content.

And we’ve put as many as we can in. So for example, if we wanted to do a … Let me just save that. If we wanted to do a different function here, maybe multiple targets. So this is when, if I look down here, this is for, say, going to Facebook and YouTube. Again, exactly the same applies. I could keep cutting and pasting these, I could send it to Twitter, I can send it anywhere I want. Vimeo, as well. And we can keep adding to those and build basically whatever template that we want. Pretty cool, right?

Justin Miller:

Yeah, yeah. No, that’s a nice functionality. And once you have this functionality, you don’t have to, like you said, using users, allow other people to have access to it.

Dan Germain:

Absolutely. You can then just tie those into whatever features you want. So this is really the low level. I wouldn’t expect everyone to need to go in to this much detail, but guess what? You can. Really powerful feature in the machine.

Justin Miller:

Awesome. In terms of users here, if users don’t have administrative access, do they have access to graphics or is it just focused largely on broadcasts?

Dan Germain:

No, there’s a varying degree, actually. So they can actually have access to the graphics tool and work with that. But you can obviously, that will turn off templates and integrations, which is where I was going to go next actually.

Justin Miller:

Okay. Sorry.

Dan Germain:

No, no, no, no. It’s all good. There’s a lot to go through here and people get tripped up. So when we look at the ClearCaster API, let’s do that. So what I mean by let’s do that, let’s actually generate a key that I can use and start using the machine without any graphical interface at all. Now, this seems pretty scary for some people, but believe it or not, the majority of ClearCasters that are out there today, I’d say half of them are actually not being used by this web interface. They’re actually being integrated into other people’s systems, whether this be Crestron or other type of workflows.

Dan Germain:

And to generate a key, let’s just make one here. I’m going to make this one for you, Justin. What it does is it brings up this dialogue which looks pretty scary to the uninitiated, right? You thought JSONs were bad, there’s some long strings. Couldn’t be simpler, actually. What we’ve done is we’ve effectively made a simple URL that I can cut and paste into your browser here. What that does is it takes us directly to, without any other buttons or any other controls, the GraphIQL interface. And this is really a developer’s playground and developers absolutely love this. Because if we just look at this one here, I can set up queries to say, “Tell me about all the encoders in our group.” And you can see that we have a group of IDs.

But let’s think of a real-world example. What about if I wanted to find out, say all the IP addresses, guess what? You can just type in IP into the help. It shows us the command and then I could just paste this command into the area over here, and we could find the status of all those encoders. It’s absolutely great.

Justin Miller:

All right. So we’ll just do a quick query over here on the left side.

Dan Germain:

Yeah. And there you go, Justin. There’s all the outputs of your IP forward address. It really is that simple.

Justin Miller:

Nice.

Dan Germain:

So let’s go back to the main part of the demo.

Justin Miller:

Okay.

Dan Germain:

What we’ve done now is we’ve basically covered all of the backend of the machine, right? So at this point we can go to our encoders, we know how to update them. I can see that these encoders have both got 1920 by 1080 60P inputs, no closed captions on them. But of course, we will read those in and embed those into any stream that we make as well. Let’s go over to the Broadcast tab. So think of broadcast as just a way of predefining a set of inputs and a set of destinations. So you had two machines. I might want to make a broadcast, and let’s actually do this right now. Rather than talk about it, I’m a firm believer in showing it.

Justin Miller:

Absolutely.

Dan Germain:

So let’s just call this Justin to YouTube

Dan Germain:

There we go. So this is basically saying, “Okay, I’m going to use … ” You got a lot of machines. Let’s use production machine 10 here, just as an example. I can basically select some of those presets we built earlier on from the JSON area of the machine. Yeah?

Justin Miller:

Okay.

Dan Germain:

So I’m going to select 720p30. In fact, this is YouTube, so we can push it a little higher than Facebook. Let’s do 1080p. At this point, I would just go in and paste in my secret and public keys, and we’re basically ready to go. And I’m going to say every record that I do, I’m going to save that. And if you want me to look at the engineering view, so this is when we want to see the audio levels. It’s sort of like a confidence monitor on the HDMI output of the machine. If I enable that, we’re basically ready to go. And why that’s really important … If I’m using this on say Facebook Live Producer or I’m using it on YouTube Studio, that’s not frame accurate. So one of the great things about having that HTML output is, when you hit record, you’re going to see a countdown and then you know you’re actually live and recording. And that’s the power of it.

Justin Miller:

Yeah. No, no, that’s nice to have in the monitoring room.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, because otherwise if you’re just using the social media interface, you don’t know what the lag is. And sometimes it could be 10, maybe even 30 seconds. That’s really hard to work with live, so it’s really important that you use the HDMI output.

Justin Miller:

Absolutely. Okay.

Dan Germain:

Okay. So we’ve already got one running so we don’t need to use the new one that we made. Here are those slates I was talking about earlier. So what you can see here, if I turn that on now, that slate is now being animated. This is the one with the full-screen building and remember it had that little animated logo? That’s now being used on that channel. It’s that simple.

Justin Miller:

Okay. With that being said, what’s happening to the logo that I currently had on?

Dan Germain:

So that logo is still going to be using, but they’re kind of layered on top of each other.

Justin Miller:

Gotcha.

Dan Germain:

So the logos on the bottom and the lower thirds on top of that logo. Then slate two is the next one up. And then slate one is on top of it.

Justin Miller:

Gotcha.

Dan Germain:

But there’s no reason, if you were feeling a little bit ambitious, that you couldn’t turn all four of those on. So if the top logo, the main slate was only doing the top half and then the bottom, you can have all of these turn on the machine as the power. I think that’s the important thing.

Justin Miller:

Gotcha.

Dan Germain:

In reality though, I think we would go back in … Let’s just say we’re using a lower third and the logo. And again, the nice part is, say someone’s speaking. So in this case, Dan Germain is speaking, we’ve got that slate. What’s great, if I turned that off, even though the broadcast’s running, I can drop back into the graphics manager, go in and edit that slate and we could … Oh sorry, that’s the graphics. Go in and edit that lower third. And we could change that from Dan Germain to Justin Live. And that’s the great thing, I’m now running on a live broadcast, going back to the broadcaster. Guess what? Now Justin’s there. That’s-

Justin Miller:

Oh, wow. Okay.

Dan Germain:

That’s real power.

Justin Miller:

So it actually turns it off.

Dan Germain:

Absolutely, yeah. That’s great.

Justin Miller:

Very interesting.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, so that’s really powerful. Not many people know you could do that. People think that they’re static. No, they’re dynamically changing all the time, which is great.

Justin Miller:

Great, yeah.

Dan Germain:

One of the most powerful features on the machine. And again, we’ve got a status here, so we can see that we’re… This one’s actually streaming to Wowza  Streaming Cloud.

Justin Miller:

Yes, it is.

Dan Germain:

So one of the advantages of going to a Wowza Streaming Cloud is the fact that you could just send a single 1080p feed, like we have now, or a 4K 30p feed and then you can use Wowza Streaming Engine in the cloud to generate as many layers as you want or many renditions. So certainly with the … Although the box is very, very powerful, it’s limited to about three renditions and probably about seven outputs. If you want to do more than that, so this is higher-end broadcast going to multiple destinations and model renditions, just send that stream to the cloud and let it do the work. You don’t have to buy any more hardware, you just make the endpoint the cloud, paid for that one event, which is higher-end, and then bring it back down afterward. It’s great.

Justin Miller:

And that being said, just to point it out, when I created this particular feed right here, I didn’t, or I had not set up the options to connect directly to Wowza Streaming Cloud.

Dan Germain:

Gotcha.

Justin Miller:

For example, you have under monitoring the integration options right there.

Dan Germain:

Yeah. And that’s where you would add your key. Just in the same way as we had created the key earlier on for the API, you just generate one for the cloud and that’s what allows that sort of deep integration. Right?

Justin Miller:

That’s great.

Dan Germain:

Cool. Well, let’s go back to the broadcast because there’s one important area here I want to show us. As you see with health, it’s showing it’s connected and it’s live and that’s the Monitor tab. So we can access it from the top of the screen or we can actually just look at the feed that we’re working with here. And we’ve got a lot going on here. So it looks like we’ve got some kind of critical warning going on.

Justin Miller:

Uh-oh.

Dan Germain:

Justin, have you been pushing this machine beyond the limits?

Justin Miller:

I may have.

Dan Germain:

Yeah. Well, look at this. But this is a great example, because clearly we can see this machine probably needs some maintenance. I suspect there’s dust in the fan or there’s something going on.

Justin Miller:

This is actually an older model here that I was testing just to see what would happen. And admittedly, as you’re talking about it, it’s in a pretty heavy enclosure.

Dan Germain:

Gotcha.

Justin Miller:

So that fan is not getting a lot of air.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, and that’s worth knowing. Actually, I’m glad you brought that up. And I didn’t ask you to bring this up because if you’ve got one of the original ClearCasters, the cooling wasn’t as efficient. They weren’t as powerful as the ClearCaster Pro. So I’m really encouraging people, reach out to the local sales guy-

Justin Miller:

Expert.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, or expert. Or reach out to me or Justin. We can put you in touch with the right people because we’re offering really good upgrade deals at the moment to get you onto the latest hardware. Because again, we don’t like to … This is dangerous. We’re running it at nearly 90 degrees C here, that’s a little warm for this ClearCaster. But amazingly, it’s soldiering on, but it’s done the job. It’s warning us that we’ve got a temperature issue, which is great actually.

Justin Miller:

And obviously, this is the one main reason why you need monitoring like this, because things will happen that you’re not going to be able to be prepared for.

Dan Germain:

Yeah. And actually, this big spike here, it’s pretty good actually because we can see something happened, right? So what we’re looking at here is the adaptive bitrate, encoding and, play. So what that means is if we’re an environment, pretty much these machines are being used in corporate environments or sporting events. Let’s say something happened to the network connection. So we’re at … I don’t know, we could be at a baseball game, football game, I don’t know what pushes your buttons, Justin. But let’s just say suddenly everybody decides to do something on social media.

Dan Germain:

Even with the power of 5G and all this other technology, it’s still basically one internet line coming into that stadium. So there could be just a freak event, which brings over … Maybe something happened in the news. A freak event, everybody starts doing something. That makes the available bandwidth available to ClearCaster less. So what happens is rather than dropping frames or dropping audio, these are two very negatively impactful things that can happen when you’re streaming video. ClearCaster’s smart enough to realize that. It counts the dropped packets and actually adjusts its bitrate accordingly.

Justin Miller:

Nice.

Dan Germain:

Yeah. So we’ve all probably experienced that, when you’re streaming something online, maybe the quality … Just something looks slightly softer or something like that. That is adaptive bitrate encoding. So you’re not actually interrupting your stream, which it’s jarring when that happens. The system is basically adjusting itself to maintain that stream no matter how bad the network conditions, which is really cool. Right?

Justin Miller:

And if, God forbid, you’re on a system where there are multiple people who are using that network, that’s really important.

Dan Germain:

Yeah. No, no, I think it’s one of the most important selling points. I think that the Cloud Manager is why ClearCaster’s so important. Because if this ClearCaster overheats and dies. You know what? Nothing’s stored on that ClearCaster. We can immediately flip over to the broadcast or another ClearCaster and you’re up and running. Or they can be configured in pairs so that if one fails, the other one keeps broadcasting as well.

Dan Germain:

That’s why you have the main stream and backup stream keys. Right? So I think everything’s really covered for you here. Another thing people don’t realize is the fact that we’ve got … This is actually the same input resolution as output resolution, but we can actually change that as well. We’ve got built in scalers in the machine. So this morning I was working with a customer, they actually had a 720p60 coming in and they wanted a 1080p30 out.

Justin Miller:

Gotcha.

Dan Germain:

Again, really high quality. It works. Maybe you want 30 frames per second for Facebook, but you want 60 for YouTube and you want a different res. All of that can be taken care of inside the ClearCaster, right? That’s why we have that hardware.

Justin Miller:

I’m used to so many, I’m going to say years worth of equipment. Meaning, you go back just a couple of years and scaling wasn’t really easily accessible. You always had to have some sort of external component to make that happen. So it’s great to see.

Dan Germain:

And you know what’s interesting as well? If you get into those JSON files, you can actually make tweaks and use different types of scaling as well. But that’s for the advanced class. I think we’ll leave that alone today. While we’re here. I mean, obviously what’s interesting here as we go down, obviously we’ve seen there’s a temperature issue on this machine. Looks like, I don’t know, maybe the dust bowl is coming out. It dropped temperature there a little bit. Again, I always think these two are the most important things to look at, the connection attempts. If you see this going up, it means there’s been a break in the connection. So this is always a bad sign. If I see this is happening it means somebody’s unconnected a cable or something’s happened.

Dan Germain:

So always keep an eye on this one. And then the roundtrip time here, this is pretty consistent. I’m not seeing any flags. Even though we saw there was a bit of dip in performance here, I’m not really seeing the roundtrip time changing. So this to me looked like a local network problem, rather than something actually going on with the social media service itself, which is kind of interesting. And it goes much deeper than this. We actually store over 400 vectors around our encoding process. So if you want to learn more than … This is sort of like the simple dashboard, so you can see what’s going on quickly. You can actually log in with Cabana or something like that and analyze all of those 400 metrics.

Dan Germain:

So we can go really deep and we can help you do that as well. But another selling point is I think one of the useful things is just the way we can look at our ARCO broadcast. So we can select the date range here of when things are running. It looks like this one’s only been running for today, not a big deal. But I can go in and maybe I’ll view this test job you did earlier today. So I could see this was running earlier on today. We can see … Whoa, what happened here? So Justin, what was happening this morning?

Justin Miller:

This morning, I connected this in order to test it and wanted to hook it up directly to Wowza Streaming Cloud. But I didn’t set up that API connection.

Dan Germain:

And here’s the giveaway, right? So we can … This is always good because we can look at the appliance and we can see that, yep, it’s pretty much running normally. The temperature is, yeah, a bit higher than normal, but not nothing for us to worry about too much. But this is the giveaway. Remember, before I said, “Oh, if we see this reconnection, something serious is happening. Either the network connection is not there?” Or in this case, the API wasn’t enabled, so this is why we couldn’t get it.

Justin Miller:

And I think this is great. The fact that we have not only logs available to show people, but sort of a graphical visual to let people understand immediately what the problems are, or-

Dan Germain:

Oh, it’s just a-

Justin Miller:

Or, what the problems had been.

Dan Germain:

Yeah. It’s just a pleasure to use. But it gets even better than that, because of course as well as going into the broadcast … If we go back to our Manager tab, we’ve actually got recordings as well. Because we’re live, we haven’t got any there at the moment. But what happens is every time we stop recording, we make a copy to the local disc and that’s then uploaded to the cloud. So this is fantastic because it means if you’ve just done a live broadcast, anyone in the world who has access to this manager can download that locally and you’ve got a VOD asset. And it gets better because that’s all free. We don’t charge for that. When you buy the ClearCaster, you actually get that functionality, the logging for five days and all those video recordings, free of charge. We pay the egress from Amazon and that’s a big deal I think.

Justin Miller:

Yeah, I think it’s a nice feature to have the recording capabilities directly in the encoder itself. It can get tedious when it’s somewhere else and then it’s not all in one place for you.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, and that’s it. Then it’s a simple case of logging out. We’ve covered all of the features. It’s an incredibly powerful box. It does so much. That Cloud Manager, I can’t emphasize enough the cloud management aspects of the software, the adaptive bitrate controls. We’ve seen that, whether that’s through the API or through SRT, one of the latest developments. We take that feedback and we adapt our bit rate accordingly. And then just the general power of the system, right? To be able to work with 4K, have those multiple outputs on a box that costs … I mean, it’s fantastic.

Justin Miller:

Well, thank you for showing us all of this today. I really appreciate it. For anybody interested in checking out more information, please go to our website, wowza.com. You can check out our ClearCaster and get more details there. If you want to talk to someone and have a consultation, definitely I recommend it. Thanks again for coming. And hey everyone, have a great day.

Dan Germain:

Yeah, have a great day. It was a pleasure being here.

 

About Traci Ruether

As a Colorado-based B2B tech writer, Traci Ruether serves as Wowza's content marketing manager. Her background is in streaming and content delivery. In addition to writing, Traci enjoys cooking, reading, gardening, and spending quality time with her fur babies. Follow… View more