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Portable Streaming Devices: Making the Right Choice

The better the encoder performs, the better the streaming capabilities all around will be.

Working for a streaming provider company, I have helped set up too many encoders to count. I’ve also created numerous documents for how to set up various kinds of encoders. Each of these encoders have their little nuances, and because they are called encoders, they are often assumed to all be the same. 

But they aren’t.  

If you are interested in learning more about streaming for houses of worship, check out the following session, "The Sunday Service Livestream Conundrum," slated for the WFX Conference & Expo this November in Orlando. 

Encoders each have their own list of settings and menus. Usually you can connect to them through an IP address from a browser on the network. 

So how do you choose the right encoder for your specific needs? 

Let me help you decide. 

A portable encoder is a device that is not rack mounted, without additional ‘rack mount’ accessories. That’s it. And they come in a bunch of different sizes and prices. 

Generally, the more expensive the encoder, the better it is. 

Why is that? 

The parts that comprise the innards of the unit are heartier and seem to allow the unit to operate longer between power cycles. They can send more data or record more streams at one time. 

What’s important to me? That the encoder sends the right codec and metadata information, so that my service can interpret the information coming in. The better the encoder performs, the better the streaming capabilities all around will be. 

There are a lot of ways to choose an encoder. 

You might opt to select an encoder based on the noise it makes, the size, the digital inputs that are available, etc. I have an insider tip though. I would ask the streaming service you choose, to use whichever encoder that they suggest would be best. 

I’m sure that they will have optimal suggestions for any price range. One solid reason that this is a good idea, is choosing one that produces an encoder log, a key feature that helps when inevitably something goes wrong, since the user will call the streaming service and will want to know what’s wrong. For example, there are encoders out there that will offer great log reporting, so that the streaming provider can explore in more depth what might be happening at that moment. 

Another reason is the more that a streaming service is familiar with a particular encoder, the more certain the user is that the hardware will work hand-in-hand with the service. This is good because the streaming service knows how to accomplish what the user wants to accomplish. 

The streaming service can then suggest the right hardware for the job. 

Just ask them before making a purchase. 

This is what it’s all about. As the streaming provider, I don’t want any headaches, and the user also doesn’t want any headaches. The more seamless the operation can be from event to event, from week to week, the better each of our lives will be. The less amount of time I will need to spend supporting someone else’s hardware, the more time I must continue building and providing a better service. 

Here’s a list of portable encoders I suggest and some reasons why: 

Matrox Monarch

These come in two models. HD (HDMI) or HDX (SDI) units. The HD unit handles streaming or recording, while the HDX can do two streams simultaneously, one stream and one record, or two records simultaneously. The software is stable, which is very important with these portable encoders. And the encoder sends the right codec info along with the stream. It creates a good log with an attached USB. 

Osprey Talon

This encoder can come in HDMI or SDI with HDMI. The gen2 model has a touchscreen for easy operation. The software has gotten much more stable over the last year or so it’s been on the market. This has become a very good rival to the Matrox Monarch. In addition, it can do a third stream. Now you’ll have to configure these streams to not overload the hardware’s CPU, but you could potentially fit three different streams out of a single unit. This also has a matching decoder, which makes it a very affordable multisite hardware solution. 


This encoder is a little newer than the two encoders previously listed. Three models make up its product line: Sonora (HDMI), Greylock (SDI+HDMI), and the Shavano (4K w/ HEVC). These are becoming very competitive to Matrox and Osprey. The software is good and they have matching decoders, that can serve as another affordable multisite option. 

Vitec MGW Ace

This is a far more robust option than the others noted above, built as military grade units. The quality blew me away, when comparing side-by-side to other encoding solutions. They have matching decoders and HEVC technology. Their price tag is higher. They can send up to four streams, with multiple audio channels and very low latency. This is mainly my choice for multisite. 

Wirecast Gear

The very popular software program has moved ahead by creating a portable hardware streaming unit. It’s packaged with beefy hardware and specified for taking in up to four 1080p streams, sending four 1080p streams, and recording four 1080p streams. It also has a built in switcher that can be very useful for a flexible production. This generates a useful and detailed log to a local directory.

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