Quicklink ST500 – Remote Contribution For Broadcast Made EasyThere is a huge demand from customers who have found themselves in a position where they are not able to have guests in their studio. The Quicklink ST500 (Studio-in-a-box) is used when a professionally managed, high-quality interview or contribution is required. But, does it live up to the hype? What I like about this system- with the continuing lockdowns, people are having to contribute from their homes using solutions of varying quality. In these scenarios, you have to rely on people’s own laptops, cameras, lighting, and their own quality of the microphone. The ST500 is sent out to people’s homes to replace these options to elevate the quality of your contributions. Ideally suited for HD studio broadcast where there are limited on-site technical resources available. The PTZ camera, lights, and audio can be controlled from any web browser using the Quicklink Manager Portal. It’s worth noting Quicklink has a 1RU rack-mountable version of this product- the Quicklink ST150. The Quicklink ST500 is unique in that it comes with a built-in 7-inch monitor that can be used for studio feed, local preview, or Teleprompter. A handy feature when you’re out in the field and need 1 less monitor. The monitor is tiny! But, you can set up an external monitor via DVI if you need something bigger. Back at the studio, a studio receiver is necessary for point-to-point ultra-low latency from the remote guest into the production switcher environment over HD-SDI, or NDI. Quicklink mentions on their website you can expect a 200ms glass-to-glass delay between your remote talent and studio. However, we found you can even get down to 20ms delay on encode and decode but video quality can suffer- so be careful with that! A couple of other points to hit here- the receiver is an H.265/HEVC equivalent encoder with an adaptive rate up to 1080/60. It also comes with 2 Channels of audio- as well as one IFB connection between the studio to the contributor.
The Setup – Quicklink ST500Let’s take a look at the inputs/outputs on the front and back of the ST500 unit. Front of the unit:
- 7-inch Touch Screen. Worth considering the monitor is located at the top of the unit- and cannot be moved. So, if you’re using this as a prompter- there is going to be that slight angle looking up at the camera if you’re using a PTZ embedded in the unit.
- Built-in LED strips
- 2x XLR Microphone inputs & gains – giving you the ability to use professional microphones.
- Headphone socket & headphone level
- Monitor output level control
- The slot in the middle for your PTZ camera. You can buy the unit with a camera or without. Just make sure you measure it out cause it won’t fit all PTZ cameras.
- There is a tripod plate – located on the bottom so you can put this on sticks.
- HDMI – An internal HDMI connects the PTZ camera.
- Single SDI – That is ready for future deployment. But, not functional today on the ST500.
- DMX512 – lighting connector
- (2x) Ethernet
- (2x) WIFI SMA Connectors
- (2x) USB 3.1
- (2x) USB C
- DVI – for external monitor
- 4-pin DIN power adapter – located at the bottom.
Camera Considerations For Quicklink ST500There is an option to buy this unit with or without a built-in camera. The built-in Minrray UV510A is a great low-cost option. Although, if you are looking for the highest quality camera- you’ll want to consider a third-party option. The good news is Quicklink put a lot of thought into third-party camera compatibility. The ST500 unit is compatible with all PTZ cameras using Sony VISCA or IP protocol- which will work for Panasonic, Birddog, NewTek or whatever flavor of cameras you prefer. If you want to fit the camera inside the ST500 box- the dimensions are pretty rigid, so don’t just assume any PTZ will work. We’ll include the full list of recommended cameras in the link below. Some supported cameras include: • Panasonic AW-HE38 • Panasonic AW-HE40 • Panasonic AW-HE42 • Panasonic AW-HE70 • Minrray UV510A **Contact us for Birdog, Sony, NewTek camera options Remotely you can manage camera settings: including pan, tilt, zoom, exposure, white balance and more. Chroma Key can also be operated remotely. Making adding stills or video backdrops easy. When it comes to recording locally, there is a built-in hard drive OR one of the USB on the back can easily be configured to an external drive. For the talent it’s literally about just plugging it in and having a production team control everything else from there- pan, tilt, zoom for camera, audio levels, chroma key, and lighting control- all can be configured with minimal need for the talent to setup.
Lighting Control with DMXThe ST500 can centrally control in-built and external lights: support of up to 5 DMX-512 lights utilizing 10 DMX channels You can use this to control brightness and color temperature remotely using the Quicklink Management portal. It can also be controlled by the talent using the menu system on the screen- however, it’s most likely if you’re getting this unit- you’re going to use it remotely. We talked already about the in-unit LEDs. And, I have to say- they are really good, especially when you need an easy key. Some considerations Some things to think about before purchasing:
- Size of the screen – The screen! At first, we thought about the size of the monitor being tiny- but in most cases, you’re going to have the talent up close. It’s worth noting when you connect an external monitor that display is mirrored- so don’t expect that by connecting a second monitor you’re going to get a dual monitor.
- PTZ camera compatibility is limited by the size of the unit. Limited in options of the camera due to size of ST500. However, with the 150-server version, I can package any camera since I’m not constrained to the interior of the ST500 box. It’s worth noting- you can essentially attach any SDI or HDMI camera- keeping in mind it might need a separate tripod since it might not fit in the box itself
- Internet bandwidth – you need at least 10 megabits per second up and down- but we tell clients to have 20 megabits to be safe. And when we talk about bandwidth here, we’re talking about bandwidth at the location of the talent and the ST500. The receiver side will likely need much more bandwidth cause of whatever other inputs you’re using. A good rule of thumb is to have 20 Megabytes up/down per input in the production control room.
- You do have bandwidth control in the management portal to adjust this. Quicklink will likely say you need less than 20 megabits, but this is what we at Key Code Media are recommending to make sure you have a perfect experience with no video issues.
- It is a MICROSOFT WINDOWS box– so you’ll want to make sure your box is up-to-date before production starts.
CONCLUSIONSIn 2020 we saw a lot of different remote guest solutions pop-up. Some focused-on connectivity with consumer video conferencing tools like ZOOM. While other solutions focused on predictable internet connectivity or video quality. The way we look at the ST500 is it’s focused on making setup as easy as possible for the non-technical talent- without sacrificing quality. The camera, lighting, and audio can all be configured remotely. The talent essentially can plug-in a few cords, turn it on, and the rest can be configured by the production team located somewhere else. It’s also a small enough form factor- that you could essentially ship these units in a Pelican case from one talent, to the next talent location as a kit. That’s huge for daytime and contest television shows. As well as any live stream that requires talent that is non-technical when it pertains to production equipment. This is where we’re going to ask you to contact Key Code Media. We can set up a technical demonstration, provide pricing information, or evaluate how Quicklink can fit into your production workflow. Visit keycodemedia.com to get the conversation started.
Why Key Code Media and Quicklink?
Key Code Media is a nationwide broadcast, post-production, and AV systems integrator. We are also Quicklink’s top partner in the United States. People work with Key Code Media for a one-stop destination for all their equipment procurement, equipment design, and installation. We differentiate ourselves with our equipment training programs, certified engineer install team known for excellent work, and 24/7 support plans that always keep your audiovisual technology operating the way it should be. Contact us for more information.