by Allan Tépper
Beyond audio and video quality (which I frequently cover in other tech articles, product reviews, and white papers), one critical —yet often forgotten— detail when choosing video systems for live production is the character generator. Like a mic flag, your CG conveys both information and your brand. In fact, whenever I see sports or news on a muted TV set in a restaurant, I often pay even more attention to the quality of the CG than to anything else. This article is about two different versions of NewTek’s LiveText CG. Beyond the astounding end result, you’ll discover that LiveText CG is much more powerful than you probably imagined.
In this article
In this article, you’ll see:
- LiveText CG in a nutshell
- Two different versions of LiveText CG
- Importing a pre-designed logo
- LiveText CG 2 project and page management
- LiveText CG 2 system requirements
- Input devices and personal preferences
- FTC disclosure
LiveText CG in a nutshell
LiveText CG is software that creates and displays network-quality lower thirds, graphics, crawls, rolls, and still pages in HD or SD. With LiveText CG, we can type using any desired font (standard or third-party), import a pre-designed logo (more about that later), and even draw objects. Beyond the font, the text you type can be styled with color and bevels. There are gradients including many presets or manual controls for those who want even more.
Caption: The above screenshot of MacBreak Weekly episode 295—where I was a guest panelist—demonstrates the use of LiveText CG in TriCaster with translucency as an episode ID, over a wide shot, during a multicam live webcast from NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) annual expo.
As expected, LiveText CG has a Safe Area guide, which remains a must for traditional broadcast television, IPTV, as well as for web video, since so many people now connect the web to their HDTV set. Via LiveText CG’s built-in DataLink function, it can also receive real time data from many popular third-party sports scoreboard systems, as well as LiveTime real time clock and timer features. Although powerful, LiveText CG is quite intuitive. You certainly don’t need to be a graphic artist to use it. If you aren’t (I’m not), you can fortunately use the available Page Templates as a starting point, and make your desired changes accordingly.
Caption: Full screen station ID of my friend Leo Laporte’s TWiT network logo, superimposed over the logos of his multiple Internet TV shows.
Caption: Full screen show & episode ID from TWiG (This Week in Google), which is webcast live and is also available as a subscribable video podcast.
Caption: LiveText CG in TriCaster generates a live lower third, including an alpha channel with an irregular shape and antialiasing.
Two different versions of LiveText CG
Commercially speaking, this dual-version product from NewTek is called LiveText CG 2, although the current version number is 2.75 as of publication time of this article:
- LiveText CG 2 comes integrated (i.e. included and built-in at no extra cost) with any current TriCaster.
- LiveText CG 2 Remote Titling System is also available as a software-only remote titling system for TriCaster for US$995 (or less if your organization qualifies for educational pricing), to be installed in your own compatible computer or laptop.
This version of LiveText CG 2 is delivered to you by your NewTek dealer on a USB thumb drive, and allows you to dedicate a specialized operator to character generation and graphics creation, and then send the signal live through your local Gigabit Ethernet network to your TriCaster, thus alleviating this responsibility from your technical director/TriCaster operator. In addition to sending the signal live during a show, the LiveText CG operator can also export title pages in advance for later recall in a TriCaster, by the TriCaster operator. Additionally, if you have multiple TriCasters in your organization, your LiveText CG operator can create branded templates to send to all of the TriCasters to maintain a consistent look throughout all of the shows on your channel. In fact, those can also be created and sent in an appropriate format for use in video editing too, as explained ahead in this article.
Importing a pre-designed logo
I was so anxious to confirm that I’d be able to import a pre-designed logo with alpha channel, irregular shapes and translucency, that I actually skimmed the LiveText CG 2 manual from the NewTek website while I waited for the evaluation TriCaster to arrive. Although the operator’s manual didn’t actually describe the process or this exact capability, it turns out that it was so simple that I now understand why the manual’s author considered it to be unnecessary to include.
After I fired up the TriCaster and LiveText CG 2, I copied my TecnoTur logo (which is a .png with alpha channel, and contains irregular shapes) from my MacBook Air onto a USB thumb drive. I ejected it and unplugged it from the Mac; plugged it into the TriCaster, and went to import it from the LiveText CG 2 File menu. I changed the dialog to see the contents of the USB thumb drive, set the file filter to show all file types, and voilà: my TecnoTur logo with irregular shapes, alpha channel, and translucency were all immediately and automatically respected by LiveText CG 2, as it should be. It only took a few minutes for me (with zero prior experience with LiveText CG) to create the grey rectangle, position it just within Safe Area, and then adjust the layers so that the rectangle was in the background and the other elements (logo and the text with my name) were in the foreground. I couldn’t ask for more power or simplicity.
LiveText CG 2 project and page management
LiveText CG 2 projects consist of one or more pages. If you want one main introductory title, another title for a station ID, and an animated list of rolling credits, each of these is created as a separate page within the whole project. Completed pages may be exported (using Export Current Page or Export All Pages in the File menu) for use in video editing programs as a .PNG image including a potentially translucent alpha channel, animation (.avi) files, or as Title Pages (.cgxml) which are compatible with all TriCaster TCXD systems.
Starting with LiveText CG version 2.0 (remember, we are now at version 2.75), projects are aspect ratio independent, meaning that they are not born specifically as 16:9 or 4:3. The LiveText Canvas where we prepare our title pages is always displayed as 16:9 initially. When connected to a compatible TriCaster (local or via the network), the current LiveText output aspect is updated as required (from 16:9 to 4:3 or vice versa) to match the session running on the connected TriCaster. When connected remotely, the current network output format is shown in the upper-right in LiveText CG’s title bar. When exporting title pages as image files for external use, we get to choose the resolution and image aspect ratio from the export dialog.
LiveText CG 2 system requirements
The integrated version of LiveText CG 2 comes with all current TriCaster models. You may use the standard keyboard and mouse that comes with your TriCaster, or any other Windows-compatible keyboard and pointing device. (See details about that ahead.)
LiveText CG 2 Remote Titling System requires a computer/laptop with the following specs:
- CPU which supports the SSE2 instruction set (typically an Intel Core 2 or better)
- RAM: 2GB (4GB or more preferred)
- Graphics display card (PCIe recommended) with Microsoft DirectX 9 (or better) compatibility
- Monitor Resolution 1280×800 pixels minimum
- Gigabit network recommended for network transmission to TriCaster
- Keyboard and pointing device compatible with Microsoft Windows
Input devices and personal preferences
Whether you use the integrated version of LiveText CG 2 in your TriCaster or the remote version, NewTek has fortunately made them to work with practically any input device that works with Microsoft Windows.
- In the case of pointer devices, I prefer a trackpad (aka touchpad) over a mouse.
- In the case of keyboards: For efficiency’s sake to have direct access to accent marks, diacritical marks, currency symbols (i.e. $ and €), and ordinal numbers, I prefer purchasing and using a Spanish ISO keyboard which is easily set in the Windows control panel. This has absolutely no bearing over the language you type or of the UI (user interface), which can remain 100% in English if you prefer. It’s just a question of the keyboard layout, and I’m glad NewTek made LiveText CG 2 to work however the user/operator wants. Fortunately, LiveText CG 2 supports the selected keyboard layout and the use of dead keys, which are used to accent a vowel by first accepting the accent mark (or other diacritical mark) and then pausing to await the desired vowel to be entered.
If you are still debating what video mixer (“switcher”) to purchase for your multi-camera video system for live broadcast, live streaming, and/or live-to-drive recording, remember that acquiring a character generator of similar quality and power of LiveText CG 2 for a non-TriCaster mixer would likely cost at least the price of a complete TriCaster, which already includes LiveText CG 2 built-in. This is one more reason to consider purchasing a TriCaster rather than some other video mixer. And although you might not immediately need to connect your character generator to a scoreboard, it is great to know that the option exists just in case.
If you already own a TriCaster and like LiveText CG 2, but need to delegate graphics creation to a dedicated operator, then you should consider acquiring LiveText CG 2 Remote Titling System, together with a computer or laptop that meets the system requirements I mentioned. Remember that your character generator not only conveys information, it also outputs your brand.
NewTek sponsored this article after receiving Allan Tépper’s proposal. The words and opinions of Allan Tépper expressed herein are his own.
To learn more about LiveText, click HERE.
To learn more about which TriCaster is right for you, click HERE.