Wowza Video is a leading live and on-demand streaming platform, providing a reliable, scalable, customizable, and secure solution for any organization that shares video content. And while enterprises, media, and educators all count on Wowza Video to deliver a high-quality viewing experience to their audience, a Wowza hardware encoder is essential to ensuring the content gets delivered to the platform reliably.
In the past, choosing a Wowza hardware encoder may have been as simple as selecting the Wowza ClearCaster. Made by Wowza, the ClearCaster came equipped with presets fully integrated with the platform and delivered content with the proprietary WOWZ™ protocol.
However, in January 2023, a message went out to all ClearCaster customers notifying them of the intent to retire the product. As a result, technical support for the Wowza ClearCaster will no longer be available after December 31st, 2023.
With the Wowza ClearCaster discontinued, selecting a Wowza hardware encoder is more complicated. Consumers are spoiled for choice when selecting a hardware encoder to enhance their Wowza Video efforts. If you need a solution to replace the Wowza ClearCaster, these are the features we recommend in a Wowza hardware encoder.
Why hardware encoders are essential
There are two types of encoders: hardware and software.
Hardware encoders offer superior performance and reliability, two key factors that ensure consistent results in streaming and recording professional video. Hardware encoders are specifically designed and optimized to handle multiple high-end audio and video sources without dropping frames or interrupting the stream.
Meanwhile, software encoders run off general-purpose GPUs and CPUs to perform the same function. You need to own one or several computers powerful enough to encode video, or software encoders may be interrupted by background operations. Furthermore, assessing a computer’s requirements can be a long process depending on what kind and how much content is produced.
Rather than constantly evaluating how to optimize one or many computers to work as encoders, hardware encoders have already gone through rigorous tests to ensure the Wowza stream runs smoothly.
Audio and video inputs available are the first thing to check in a Wowza hardware encoder. By leveraging a wide range of input options, a hardware encoder can accommodate a variety of equipment you already own – cameras, mixers, and more.
A device that supports HDMI, SDI, and USB all at once means you’ll be able to connect any camera available in any given situation without worrying about easily misplaced adapters. The same is true for audio inputs. A device that supports XLR or RCA stereo means that Wowza can acquire the professional audio gear you need to tell your story.
When you have options to connect your equipment, you can confidently capture the content with whatever’s available. But flexible inputs aren’t limited to physical connections. The rise of hybrid and remote video production means it’s crucial to accommodate remote contributors who may not have access to anything besides video conferencing apps.
A hardware solution that can add remote guests to a production with AV over IP solutions like Network Device Interface (NDI) and Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) opens up a world of possibilities. With the ability to add guests from conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, any space can become a studio, empowering you to create with more flexibility while delivering an exceptional experience to Wowza Video.
Production needs will grow and change over time. There will be new cameras, sound equipment, and ways to bring in remote guests, Prioritizing a flexible hardware encoder for Wowza Video, which already works with everything and continues to adapt to wherever the industry goes next, allows your workflows to adapt to the unique needs of each production.
Once a hardware encoder captures the audio and video, it must be transported to the Wowza Video platform. And just like the acquisition of your audio and video, the flexibility with which you can get this content onto Wowza is a massive asset to your content plans.
At the bare minimum, a hardware encoder needs to be able to stream your content to Wowza via the RTMP protocol in H.264, which is easy to find. But Wowza Video supports a wide range of streaming protocols including RTMPS, RTSP, MPEG-DASH, HLS, and SRT.
The best streaming protocol for first-mile delivery to Wowza Video depends on the production. For example, HLS supports up to 4K video and can be delivered across unpredictable networks thanks to its ability to adapt, but it achieves this by adding latency to the stream. Meanwhile, SRT was built to provide low-latency, high-quality video over unreliable Internet connection, making it an ideal choice for any live content that requires real-time communication between talent and audience.
A Wowza hardware encoder that supports multiple different protocols for first-mile delivery so that you can send the possible content for any network conditions, codecs, and type of content.
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Cloud and remote management
Whether you plan on streaming from multiple locations or a single studio, accessing one of several Wowza hardware encoders from a single, centralized dashboard makes life easier for all stakeholders.
A hardware encoder configured, monitored, maintained, and operated from anywhere reduces downtime by eliminating legwork or travel time to diagnose the issue interrupting the stream or record.
Ideally, a remote-manageable device includes 24/7 device monitoring and customized alerts, allowing any team member to identify and resolve issues. In addition, remote management should also allow content control, quick configuration, starting and stopping, and the verification that everything is working as intended for the highest quality audience experience.
Remote device access and management offer invaluable peace of mind that the hardware is doing its job to deliver exceptional content to your audience.
Before the hardware was retired, a significant benefit of the Wowza ClearCaster was Cloud Orchestration. This allowed owners to take complete control of an entire fleet from anywhere in the world. Thankfully, many manufacturers have followed suit and it’s possible to find devices that can be accessed, monitored, and controlled in the cloud.
Adding production value
By taking advantage of a hardware encoder’s reliability and performance, you positively contribute to your content’s overall production value. By sending it to Wowza via SRT, you are ensuring quality and stability, which adds production value. Managing one or several devices remotely provides consistent performance, adding production value. And while important, these are all elements of production value audiences typically take for granted.
There are hardware encoders that add more visible production value, like branding and customized layouts, which can make your Wowza videos stand out and become more memorable.
Most hardware encoders convert the raw signals into streamable codecs. However, there are all-in-one production systems that can encode and create custom layouts, add images and dynamic text, and even switch between these different design elements that can help make your Wowza live stream undeniably yours.
Stream to Wowza with Epiphan Pearl
Following the announcement that the Wowza ClearCaster would be discontinued at the end of 2023, Wowza recommended Epiphan Pearl systems as one of the best hardware encoders for live streaming.
Pearl systems provide all the essential tools to create top-quality content for Wowza Video. With purpose-built components and a wide range of physical and AV over IP inputs, you can acquire signals from virtually any device and trust it to perform.
Pearl offers multiple streaming protocols such as SRT, HLS, RTMPS, and more, ensuring your content reaches Wowza in the best quality. Their lightweight and portable design makes them suitable for any environment. Furthermore, Epiphan Cloud enables you to manage one or several devices 24/7 from anywhere.
Discover which Pearl is right for your Wowza Video projects.
Stream like a pro
High-performance hardware for video capture, streaming, and recording. With seamless CMS support for Kaltura, Panopto, and YuJa and easily integrates with Crestron AV systems.