Live streaming has certainly become a normal part of our lives. However, to put together even a simple streaming rig usually takes several pieces of gear, and some skill. The ATEN UC9020 is designed to deal with this simple requirement, and it does it well.
ATEN UC9020 is what I’ll call a 2.5 HDMI input (bear with me, it will make sense soon), scene based vision mixer with layers and streaming appliance. In order to use it, you also need a recent model iPad. Android devices are not supported.
The iPad which is connected using a Lightning adaptor to USB C, and in turn to USB A cable, is your interface to some very powerful features as well as your Multiview which is not full frame rate. It refreshes at about twelve frames a second in the preview and program windows, and less in the scene inputs.
HDMI In 1 will accept a 4K signal, but will scale it back down to 1080p for streaming and recording. Input 1 also features a loop through.
HDMI In 2, is another two inputs…kind of. The two HDMI plugs (labelled A and B) obviously feed into a single scaler which leads to limitations. In particular, you can only have one of the two inputs to line at a time, and I also noticed when switching between the two inputs within HDMI In 2, that the image briefly freezes whilst the scaler syncs with the new signal.
Hence why I call this a 2.5 input switcher. Not really three inputs, but definitely more useful than two.
Where the ATEN UC9020 really shines is with the innovative use of scenes. Rather than select inputs when switching, you select from eight pre-built scenes.
Each scene is built using the iPad and is multilayered. You have a background which might be one of your HDMI inputs, split screen, or perhaps both. Using the iPad, you have full control over the cropping and sizing of assets on the background layer.
Then then there is a layer above where you place your overlays. Once again, you have full control over the sizing and cropping of assets which you bring in via the Photos app on the iPad. You can also add text on this layer and as you expect, you have drag and drop control of the sizing, colours and so on. For simple webcasts, I think the scene approach is the right way to go.
Once your scenes are set up, you are ready to stream and record. The UC9020 has encoders to stream to two destinations at up to 1080p30, as well as record on external USB storage (H.264 Mp4). By pressing the “Go Live” button you both stream and record. There is no separate record button, which I like. I think all of us are guilty of forgetting to hit record in the heat of going live, so to do it automatically is a win.
Another feature I really like is the “Pause” button. When pressed, it mutes the audio output and replaces the program output with a graphic of your choice, but keeps the stream connection up. This is an easy way to establish your stream output prior to going live without tying up one of your scenes.
Both stream and record quality are excellent. Consistent with the simple approach, you have limited control over the bitrate, resolution and frame rate, but no control over the more obscure stream settings.
In terms of audio, embedded audio comes with the HDMI inputs. As well as these, there is a microphone input on 6.5mm jack, and stereo line input on RCAs. The microphone preamp does have gain adjustment but I found it to be a little noisy. The stereo line input does not have a gain adjustment and the mixer has no equalisation settings. The audio mixer does however have a simple compressor on the output.
The ATEN OnAir iPad app is easy to use and has three main pages. The first is your Multiview, and this is the page where you can edit your eight scenes. The second is the audio mixer which has virtual faders for levels and helpful input thumbnails above each fader. However, most of the audio controls are also available on the UC9020 itself. The third page is for setting your stream, record, and network settings.
The build quality feels solid, and the buttons are nice. The main buttons are not soft plastic, but rather nice quality hard plastic, and illuminated, which adds to the overall professional feel. The case is designed to seat the iPad upright, but you can hold the iPad whilst you are working with it as well. The UC9020 has an internal power supply which I much prefer to yet another wall wart.
The user manual was a pleasant surprise. I’m used to poor English in user manuals, but this was not the case with the UC9020. Easy to read and all my questions were answered.
Where would you use the UC9020? It is clearly designed for simple streaming with ease of use being the primary consideration. The scene buttons are a unique approach which delivers complex layouts with ease. I can see it being ideal for church streaming or video bloggers who want a simple to use system that works reliably with no surprises. The list price is $1,489 inc GST.
Video Input: 1 x 4K HDMI Type-A Female (up to 2160p60, unencrypted), 2 x HDMI Type-A Female (up to 1080p60, switcher, unencrypted)
Video Output:1 x 4K Loop-Thru HDMI Type-A Female (up to 2160p60, unencrypted), 1 x PGM HDMI Type-A Female (up to 1080p60, unencrypted)
Video Sampling: 4:2:2 8-bit
Colour Space: 4:2:2 YUV
Video Resolution HDMI 1 Input: VGA(640×480@60), 480p60/50/30/25, SVGA(800×600@60), XGA(1024×768@60), 720p60/50/30/25, SXGA(1280×1024@60), WXGA+(1440×900@60), UXGA(1600×1200@60 RB), WUXGA+(1680×1050@60), 1080p60/50/30/25, 2160p60/50/30/25
Video Resolution HDMI 2A/2B Input: VGA(640×480@60), 480p60/50/30/25, SVGA(800×600@60), XGA(1024×768@60), 720p60/50/30/25, SXGA(1280×1024@60), WXGA+(1440×900@60), UXGA(1600×1200@60 RB), 1080p60/50/30/25
SRC/PGM HDMI Output: 480p60/50/30/25, 576p60/50/30/25, 720p60/50/30/25, 1080p60/50/30/25
HDMI Loop-Through Output: VGA(640×480@60), 480p60/50/30/25, SVGA(800×600@60), XGA(1024×768@60), 720p60/50/30/25, SXGA(1280×1024@60), WXGA+(1440×900@60), UXGA(1600×1200@60 RB), WUXGA+(1680×1050@60), 1080p60/50/30/25, 2160p60/50/30/25
Audio Inputs: HDMI captured inputs (stereo), 1 x Mic input, 1/4” TRS jack (dual mono), 1 x Line input, RCA jack, signal level: -10 dBV
Audio Outputs: HDMI outputs (stereo), 1x 1/8” TRS jack (stereo)
Network Protocol: Dual-stream encoder supports direct live streaming to CDN server over Ethernet using Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP/RTMPS)
Video Encoding: H.264, Bit rate: 512Kbps~10Mbps, Colour format: YUV420, Resolution 1080p30/25, 720p60/50/30/25, 480p60/50/30/25
Audio Encoding: AAC, Sampling Rate: 48kHz, Bit rate: 128kbps
Recording Storage: Max. video resolution: 1080p30/25, File format: MP4
Support media: USB 3.x compatible mobile drive (HDD / SSD) or flash drive, at least 32GB of free space
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