For all the esteem in which I hold this program, I do have a few problems with it. First, it will only run on a Macintosh that has an ATI Rage graphics card. This rules out all of the new Macs, unless you want to go out and find a used Rage card to stick in one of your spare PCI slots, if any. According to Channel Storm, a fix for this is on the way in both the Mac OS X version and an interim OS 9 release. The OS 9 fix for this is in the works. The OS X version is expected in the first quarter of 2002. [an error occurred while processing this directive] The second disappointment is that it is impossible to run this application in OS X right now, even in Classic mode. Again, this will be addressed in the first quarter of next year. In addition, at present, it runs on only a narrow selection of Macintosh operating systems--versions 9.0.4 through 9.2.1.
In terms of live camera switching, you can currently use only one DV camera in your FireWire ports. However, this single DV camera can be used in conjunction with non-DV cameras connected through a FireWire port (such as still cameras and Web cams), as well as USB cameras and devices connected through analog cards. And you can also use a second (and third and fourth) DV camera through an analog capture device, assuming your DV camera has the ability to output to analog capture cards. (I can't think of any that don't at least have composite outputs. Since you're broadcasting over the Web, you're not going to take a hit in the quality department just because you're using composite.) According to the company, Live Channel actually does have the ability to use more than one DV camera through the FireWire ports; the problem is a limitation in the current implementation of QuickTime.
Selecting a video source
Finally, I would like to see better documentation for this program. I absolutely could not get this program to broadcast properly through the personal firewall built into my router. The program's documentation mentioned this as an issue but offered no specific information of effecting a workaround. Live Channel's support site was equally quiet on the issue. (I should mention that once I bypassed my router I had no problems whatsoever with streaming. So, to save yourself some aggravation, just avoid firewalls altogether.)
The bottom line
It's a tough call on this one. Live Channel is a miracle of Mac software engineering. However, at present, it's also terribly limited in terms of the systems it can run on. I also don't like the fact that you can only use one DV camera at a time. If you're going to be doing camera switching, chances are you're going to be using DV cameras, and it would be very convenient to use the two FireWire ports built into Macs these days. So this is something that needs to be remedied soon, whether by Apple or through a workaround supplied by Channel Storm.
The "lite" version of Live Channel is an incredibly good buy at $199. It has all of the features of the Pro version except hard disk recording, multimedia content synchronization and multicasting/unicasting. All the rest is there: real-time effects, live switching, multi-camera support, live audio, etc. The pro version is $800 more. Whether it's worth it to you or not depends on how large of an audience you expect for your presentation, whether you want to synchronize Web content with the presentation and whether you need to record to disk for future video on demand presentations.
I give Live Channel Pro and Lite a strong buy recommendation each. I think the performance and impressive array of broadcast and production features justify the rating. Plus, since it's a software-only solution, you don't have to worry about an expensive add-on board that was obsolete the day it was manufactured. When Channel Storm releases an updated version with support for more graphics cards, Mac OS X and multiple DV cameras, I will undoubtedly have to revise this recommendation upward.
Live Channel Pro is available for $999. Live Channel Lite is available for $199. Both versions require Mac OS 9.0.4 through 9.2.1 and an ATI Rage graphics card. Neither will run under OS X. For more information, visit http://www.channelstorm.com.
Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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