Review: ATEN UC9020 StreamLive

For our future streaming needs at Australian Videocamera I have opted to use a combination of GoPro cameras, and Thronmax mics (with Sennheiser wireless lavs when needed) and a Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro to tie it all together.

For future playback everything is also recorded via the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro to a SanDisk Extreme Pro portable US drive.

Now the main reason I went this route is simply I am PC / Windows based and of course have a leaning toward Blackmagic Design seeing as I use DaVinci Resolve, Fusion and have a Blackmagic Design Cinema Pocket Camera 6K. And for me, this combination works a treat for what I do.

But if I was Mac based and wanted portability, that would lead me in a whole other direction, that of the ATEN UC9020 StreamLive unit.

For this, all you need to start streaming on the go is an iPad to act as a monitor, a decent camera and microphone.

And voila! Fully comprehensive mixing desk suitable for anything from conferences, live event broadcasting and even commercial production purposes. The one caveat is you do need 240v power, but if you only have access to 12v, a $300 1000w pure sine wave inverter should do the trick.

Input / Output

One thing that sets the StreamLive apart is the extensive use of proper broadcast grade connections. Sure, you can use a USB mic if you wish, and admittedly they are getting better and better, but for full on production work you cannot go past XLR connectivity. All the cool kids use it.

Sadly, unlike its PC counterpart, the CamLive Pro, there are no XLR ports on the StreamLive so you have to make do with an analogue 6.5mm connection, twin RCA or the aforementioned USB.

I have no issue with a good mic running 6.5mm or even step-downs to 3.5mm (although adapting from XLR to 6.5mm / 3.5mm can get messy but is possible), I just wish the engineers at ATEN had included XLR in such a serious piece of kit.

Moving right along …

As well as the analogue audio and USB ports, you also have access to a network port, 3 HDMI inputs, a loop HDMI port and a single HDMI out port.

If you look at the bigger picture of these ports allied with the mixing control panel, you can switch and mix between multiple video and audio sources. Including using an integrated a transition T-Bar for scene switching including fade-in/fade-out effects.  “Luminous” panel keys are easily identifiable and used for audio level monitoring and scene mode switching.

A groove in the top of the UC9020 is designed to securely hold the iPad when in use and on the right hand side is a headphone port and USB link. The left contains a security Kensington Lock node.

Due to a fanless cooling system, the UC9020 is quiet in operation and even in days of 38 degree plus it didn’t miss a beat or hiccup in my tests.

So in a single compact box, you get 1080p video capture, video switching, a streaming encoder, video converter, video splitter, and audio mixer all in one.

A live streamer’s delight, and like the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro replaces – or more correctly has allowed to be developed from – technology that only a decade or so ago would have cost 5 to 10 times the $1900 or the ATEN StreamLive costs today.

The associated app, called OnAir (incidentally the name of an album by arguably the world’s best audio producer, Alan Parsons who did Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and the Beatles Abbey Rd among many others) supports preview and program monitoring, changing the video layout with full screen picture-in-picture, image and subtitle overlays and screen transitions.

The inbuilt encoder bypasses the need for the computer to do that heavy lifting and so out of the box you can directly connect to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Livestream or indeed ATEN claim, any custom RTMP destination in full HD (but no, not 4K).

Conclusion

Having a background in commercial video and radio, I understand the necessity of, and the skillset needed for good, really good, production values. It really is the difference between a jam in the garage with your mates and a Pink Floyd concert.

If you are doing it for fun, then all power to you, but if you are serious about your live streaming and other productions, you need the correct tools to do it properly, and also take the time to fully learn those tools to totally exploit the edge they give you.

If you are Mac based with an iPad, then the StreamLive HD is hard to go past to reach those goals. If you marry it with a decent camera – GoPro Hero 10 or if you want something a little more flexible then perhaps a mirrorless from the Panasonic GH range – and mic (we cannot go past Sennheiser here for the best of the best, but RØDE also make some very good units).

It is easy to set up, easy to learn and contains all the technical goodies you need. No, it is not “cheap”, but good stuff never is. What it is though, is the perfect tool for the job and what price perfection?

You also need content of course, and if you are REALLY serious, some voice and on-camera training never hurts (start with a mirror and record your voice).

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