Tel: 905–690–4709 dk@tfwm.com - Darryl Kirkland, Publisher

Product Review: ViewCast Niagara 2120

For starters, there are several things I like about the Niagara 2120 streaming media appliance from ViewCast. Its ability to handle Flash media encoding and multiple streams during a live broadcast event has made a very good impression on me.

I had the opportunity to take it through some testing in Lagos, Nigeria. During this time I enjoyed the light weight of the appliance, the durability and ease of use in setting up multiple live streaming events.

In Nigeria, bandwidth limitations are an issue. The Niagara 2120 handled impressively well under these harsh bandwidth load conditions, and was able to stream lower bitrates, even to end users with connections such as dial up.
With huge support for H.264 streaming via Adobe Flash platform, Niagara 2120 provides a plug-and-play solution for streaming video content across enterprise networks or the Internet.

The SimulStream technology enables one video source to generate several video streams simultaneously. This can be done in multiple resolutions and bit rates, with each stream configured differently for computers, cell phones and mobile devices anywhere around the world. Image scaling, cropping, de-interlacing, inverse telecine, and closed caption rendering capabilities are also included.

At just the size of a half rack (1 RU x 7.5”) the Niagara 2120 is compact, portable and fits easily into any live production environment
The Niagara 2120 allows even non-technical personnel to stream high-quality live video. Its built-in Web interface simplifies system set-up and operation, allowing complete system control from anywhere on the network.

By simply setting your streaming parameters from the intuitive Web interface, you can begin streaming in multiple resolutions and bit-rates with a single push of the front panel “stream” button.

Some provisions have been made and the flexible connectivity options include component, Y/C (S-Video), and composite video inputs, as well as balanced and unbalanced stereo audio.

The ViewCast Niagara SCX streaming media management software is also included with the Niagara 2120, enabling centralized set-up, monitoring and control over multiple systems positioned anywhere on the network.

One of the main features of the Niagara 2120 is the fact that it provides simplified set-up and operation. It features a built-in Web interface to enable streamlined management from anywhere on the network. The compact, self-contained unit is ideal for location streaming applications and also fits easily into any production control room. Users simply set the desired streaming parameters via the intuitive Web interface, and then initiate one or more streams simultaneously from the front panel “Stream” button.

The modern world we live in is increasingly reliant on multimedia streaming for content delivery, which means that pretty much every major organization that wants to stay in business has to adapt and adopt such a solution in their environment. No longer is it OK to look at streaming over the internet as a difficult deployment for any business, non-profit or church ministry.

The back panel of the Niagara 2120 has everything you will need for connecting analog components to the system. Video and audio inputs were easy to connect and get started streaming right away. Also, during my time of running the Niagara 2120 through its paces, I found it to be very stable under high CPU usage. The various challenging conditions in Nigeria (electricity, bandwidth, etc.) did not keep the Niagara 2120 from performing in excellent fashion.

The entire process, from setup, to delivery to break down and everything in between was exceptional.

During a recent live streaming event in Houston, Texas I witnessed the Niagara 2120 in splendid performance. The Niagara 2120 streamed a live church event for four hours inside a hotel and never once did it stop or hang up during encoding and delivery. The media production of this event was elaborate to say the least, and had many audio and video components. The Niagara was more than able to provide all the needed audio and video connections to two Ethernet ports.

We had one obstacle to overcome during this live streaming event and that was to connect the Niagara 2120 to a WiMAX device with 5Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. I wasn’t too sure if the Niagara 2120 would be able to stream to a WiMAX device connected via a wireless network outside the range of the hotel location. I know very well how unstable Internet connectivity can be when using wireless modem devices in rural and some city areas. Myself and all of my team members were impressed with the Niagara 2120’s ability to push several H.264 Flash stream profiles to our end users.

My team members and I have nothing but good things to say about the Niagara 2120. Laptops were set up for backup encoding and streaming in case of failures from the Niagara 2120, but that did not happen.

I am also impressed by the ease of use and simplicity to set up and configure all of the different flash encoding profiles. For this event I had to configure the Niagara 2120 to accept a video input from a PAL video production switcher, and deliver a 320 x 240 frame size to the web. I am very proud to say the user viewer experience on the web was exceptional and the frame size of the video was proportionate.

We also had several end users who emailed and raved about how the flash streaming was sharp, steady and did not buffer or stop during the four-hour event. Overall I give the Niagara 2120 very high marks for H.264 flash delivery to the web and mobile devices. I would recommend any business, non-profit organization, church or ministry look at purchasing and deploying several Niagara 2120’s in your media production environments for your streaming media events.

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