Review: Logitech’s Brio 4K Webcam Pro

My how time flies. It hard to believe that I’ve had Logitech’s Brio 4k Webcam Pro in my office for well over a year. While I reported some cursory observations here and here, I’ve yet to give it a proper review…until now.

Brio is Logitech’s first 4K webcam.

As you may recall, I was quite eager to get my hands on a next-generation webcam. I had high hopes for what might be possible using a faster USB 3 connection to the host and a more modern sensor. Brio certainly addresses those areas and more.

My initial evaluation of Brio stalled for quite some time. At that time neither my desktop nor laptop, both a circa 2013, were up to the task of handling 4k video in real-time. While I was using Brio every week, I wasn’t properly able to exercise the little beast.

Happily, the eventual purchase of the Airtop-PC has provided a more than capable host platform. The Airtop has the CPU, GPU and connectivity necessary to cope with 4K video without breaking a sweat. Or making a peep.

Further, as part of my preparations for ClueCon 2018 I upgraded my vMix license to the 4K edition. This gave me both 4K capability and remote control of the PTZ Optics NDI cameras that I rented from Tom Sinclair at Eastern Shore Broadcasting.

Suitably tooled up for the task, I’ve been able to give the little Brio more of a workout in recent months. What follows are my observations from daily use and a series of experiments.

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Voicemeeter 8 (aka Potato) Released Today!

I don’t normally parrot press releases, but I have the highest regard for VB Audio, the Voicemeeter Series and his Virtual Audio Cables. These are profoundly useful pieces of software.

I’ve used Voicemeeter from VB Audio since it launched. It’s great, simple audio mixing software for Windows. In truth, I now routinely use Voicemeeter Banana, which the more capable version, supporting extra virtual inputs and outputs. This is how I bidirectionally connect ZipDX to a Hangout and my headset for VUC each week.

Today VB Audio extends the Voicemeeter series further with the first official release of Voicemeeter 8, which Vincent has nicknamed Potato. Here’s the formal announcement:

Voicemeeter Potato Press Release
VB-AUDIO SOFTWARE
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2019
  
Voicemeeter 8 (a.k.a. POTATO) is finalizing the Voicemeeter Series with an ultimate virtual mixing console application, offering 5 Physical I/O and 3 Virtual I/O to connect again more audio devices and more applications together and to provide more control on any kind of audio workflows (now from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz).

This Voicemeeter release (version 3.0.0.7 / 2.0.4.7 / 1.0.6.7) offers new virtual audio drivers for the entire series (also to Voicemeeter Standard and Voicemeeter Banana) made to be more reliable, with optimal CPU load, better audio quality and fully compatible with all Windows versions (XP, VISTA, WIN7, 8, 8.1, WIN10 32 or 64 bits and Windows Server 2003, 2008, 2012, 2016 32 or 64 bits). Voicemeeter also installs virtual ASIO drivers (4 clients per ASIO driver) to connect 32 and 64 bits DAW’s and a Virtual ASIO insert driver made to connect a VST HOST to process any pre-fader inputs with any VST Plug-ins.

voicemeeter8

Voicemeeter Potato brings again new features inspired by audio pro mixing console and provides a better Microsoft windows integration. With the 8 BUS multi layer mixer, it is now possible to define an independent mix for each BUS (SEL Button). The internal FX section offers a reverb and a Multitap delay FX to invite musician or small bands to use it as music production mixer. The external FX section provides regular AUX with SEND and RETURN path to connect external hardware FX.  Finally the Potato virtual input strips are showing the connected applications with a volume and mute control for each (as it is proposed by the Windows Volume Mixer).

Voicemeeter Series is also providing extra services through VBAN protocol to transport Real Time audio, Real time MIDI and Real Time Remote Control over network. Voicemeeter package also installs additional applications like MacroButtons, VBAN2MIDI and 2 examples of a BUS A.P.A. (Audio Processing as Application) a 15 Bands Graphic EQ and a 8×8 Gain Matrix. Finally with Voicemeeter comes a complete API to control any parameters or to process audio stream inside Voicemeeter in a client application programmed in any language supporting standard DLL. SDK Download and Voicemeeter Remote API information are on our forums.

Fair trade, affordable for everyone!

While Voicemeeter Standard and Voicemeeter Banana are distributed as Donationware without constraint, Voicemeeter Potato is distributed as donationware with an activation code, free to download and free to use! It will invite you to activate your license after 30 days. Thanks for your participation and support! Contact us for volume licensing or special deals.

Windows XP, VISTA, WIN7, WIN8, WIN8.1, WIN10 32/64 bits (MME, DirectX, WDM/WASAPI, KS, ASIO). www.voicemeeter.com / www.vb-cable.com /www.vb-audio.com

Rebranding Networks: Wi-Fi 5 vs 5G

The hype around 5G mobile networks seems to have the Wi-Fi Alliance crowd a little nervous. In early October they launched a rebranding initiative to make the alphabet soup of Wi-Fi easier for grannies to understand. Were once we refereed to 802.11a/b/c/n/ac and/or 802.11ax…now, to be Wi-Fi certified, the correct terminology is:

  • Wi-Fi 4 (formerly 802.11n)
  • Wi-Fi 5 (formerly 802.11ac)
  • Wi-Fi 6 (formerly 802.11ax)

The entire guide to this new marketecture, which includes a library of symbols for use on packaging, is here. It’s worth a glance. Remember, the point of the exercise is to bring clarity to the oh-so-confusing world of Wi-Fi.

Continue reading “Rebranding Networks: Wi-Fi 5 vs 5G”

Lifesize Announces Icon 700 4K Video Conference End-Point

Lifesize has once again made a splash, announcing the Icon 700, their first 4K-capable video conference end-point.

Lifesize-Icon-700-Camera

They’re taking pre-orders for the device, which marries a 4K PTZ camera with a 20x zoom lens, with the ability to drive dual, 4K displays. Thus it delivers 4K participant video and 4K full-motion shared content at each location.

lifesize_icon_700_camera_back

Lifesize must be quite excited since the announcement happened even before they had marketing support for the device. Lacking for a spec sheet, I posed a couple of questions to their sales team. They report the device as leveraging H.264 baseline or high profile, with H.265 on the road map. Further, that 4k30 video requires 3 Mbps for each stream.

Yesterday they finally released a proper spec sheet from which we learn:

  • The device is SIP capable (no surprise there.)
  • Maximum 83 degree field of view.
  • Gigabit Ethernet.
  • 10 camera presets (near or far end.)
  • Dedicated RJ for the Lifesize phone provides power to the phone via POE.
  • Audio codec support includes; Opus, G.722.1, G.722, G.711 and Siren 7.

I’m a big fan of dog-fooding. That’s actually using the tech that’s being pitched. So I was happy to see that the promo video used in the launch of the Icon 700 are actually produced in 4K.

Lifesize began as a manufacturer of end-points and MCUs. They were founded by Craig Malloy, General Manager of Polycom’s Video Communication Division, who was frustrated at how slowly Polycom was moving into HD video conferencing.

In 2015 they made a major pivot from being a maker of traditional, installed MCU hardware to offering their MCU back-end as a cloud service.

This is NOT the first that I’ve heard of 4K video conferencing, but it is the first time I’ve seen a 4K-capable end-point appliance with a real PTZ camera. The Icon 700 lists for $7,500 USD.

El Gato CamLink: Now in 4K

Remember the El Gato CamLink? I reviewed it in the summer of 2017 when it initially launched.  This week it seems that El Gato, now a division of Corsair, has released an upgraded version, CamLink 4K.

The new 4K models appears identical to the older model, but now accommodates 4k30 sources. It’s listed direct from Corsair for $129. At present it shown on Amazon for a whopping $249. That’s surely a launch-time anomaly.

There’s still no on-board scaling or compression, so my earlier observations still hold true. If it does what you need, it’s a nice, low-cost way to capture video.

For some folks,  it simply won’t do what they need. Those folks are better served by capture devices from Magewell or Yuan. Those companies offer more capable, and most costly, 1080p and 4K capture devices.

Mulling the approach of WordPress 5 & Gutenberg

While the pace has definitely slowed, this blog is rolling into its 11th year. That’s a long time running WordPress. Around 1,250 posts. I revisit this as WordPress 5 is about to ship, along with the new Gutenberg editor.

The Gutenberg editor is a major change and one not to be taken lightly. Or is it? I’ve been using the Gutenberg plug-in in WP 4.9.x for the past few months, just to get a sense of it’s significance. It’s ok.

It reminds me a lot of Squarespace, which I also use to run the Woodland Heights Civic Association web site. That site was built by someone else. I assumed the admin role when I joined the WHCA board in late 2016.

After years of using WordPress it took me a while to get used to Squarespace. It seems very constraining. I was accustomed to having a fine grained control of presentation. The block-based editing of Squarespace and Gutenberg are more Apple-like. Easy to layout pages and posts. High-level control. Want to do something niggly and specific? It may be that you simply can’t. There was a little learning to just let it go.

As ever, I am anomalous. I still like to write offline. Where I once used Windows Live Writer, I now use Open Live Writer. The fact is that Gutenberg does not interfere with this. OLW posts appear to Gutenberg as “Classic” format posts, which can be converted to the new block-based format.

From my cursory experimentation, it also appears that Gutenberg posts can be read back into OLW. At least simple things don’t fall apart right away. So far, so good.

The combination of OLW and Gutenberg are interesting. OLW is about writing. It’s simple. Productive. It doesn’t create a mess of HTML like MS Word. I especially like the ability to automatically add links based upon a library of common word or phrases.

Gutenberg seems to me more about manipulating page layout and using rich media. It’s especially easy to add and manipulate media. Move things around. Craft the presentation you want.

If you’re the sort (like me) who was accustomed to spending time creating media in support of posts, it’s not all that big a deal. However, if you did not have access to tools like Adobe Creative Cloud, the improved media handling could be transformational.

I would hate to write something feature length in Gutenberg. I’ve read that some people are upset at how Gutenberg behaves as a long-form editor. I can see that. I really don’t enjoy the web-based writing/editing experience. Its just not as responsive as a native application. And it can be troublesome if you fall offline.

I see that the release is imminent. Release the Kraken Gutenberg!