Product review: unboxing Matrox Monarch LCS

An in-depth look at the new lecture capture appliance from Matrox

With remote and blended learning likely to remain a core feature of education for some time, schools and universities are understandably seeking the very best capture and streaming devices. They’re particularly looking for state-of-the-art kits that will allow them to broadcast their lectures and presentations anywhere, at any time, and onto any viewing device — with the best image and sound quality that technology can achieve.

Given this state of affairs, you’re likely looking for a versatile, fully-featured lecture-capture solution, open to virtually all platforms. And, if so, the Matrox Monarch LCS lecture capture appliance is the piece of kit for you.

Simple to integrate

The headline news for school IT managers is that the Monarch LCS is impressively easy to set up.

The first question they’ll ask, “What platform is Monarch LCS compatible with?” The good news: the device is compatible with most Video Management Systems (VMSs) – including Kaltura, Presentations2Go, Streamitup and Ubicast, as well as Learning Management Systems (LMSs)/Virtual Learning environments (VLEs), including Moodle, Blackboard, Brightspace and Canvas. What does this mean? Monarch LCS is ready to integrate seamlessly into almost any existing infrastructure. Furthermore, with its compact size, the encoder makes it an ideal fit for any storage rack that can be installed discreetly within the classroom. Its metal frame also makes it extremely hard-wearing.

Simple to operate

The device has passed the first test, but how does it fair from a usability standpoint?

For starters, the Monarch LCS does away with the need for complex recording equipment when capturing presentations in lecture halls. Instead, it allows you to simply and effectively mix video, audio and supporting digital material from SDI and HDMI sources into a single webcast.

Once your physical setup is ready, you can take advantage of convenient features such as the scheduler, which allows you to set the Monarch LCS to start automatically in time for any lecture or event — no need for any interventions on your part. Meanwhile, the ‘set and forget’ facility allows you to input settings just the one time — the Monarch LCS will do the rest and broadcast with the same settings until they are altered.

When presenting, lecturers can choose from a number of operating modes, including layouts such as Picture-in-Picture (featuring two or more images displayed in the same screenshot) and Side-by-Side. Want to change inputs during the lecture? No problem — just select Switcher mode to navigate between, say, presenter and presentation-slide views.

Deep dive: streaming, recording, storage

The Monarch LCS gives you multiple destination options when streaming or recording. When the device is set to record, an encoding channel captures H.264 content in MOV or MP4 files, meaning that your video files will play on virtually any player. You can also record files locally to an SD card or USB attached storage and transfer those files over the network or via FTP/sFTP at a later time, thus reducing network congestion during peak times, or worse, the potential of losing files in transit due to connectivity issues. Alternatively, you can record lectures to USB drives, SD cards, or network-mapped drives and have them made available immediately to your school’s virtual management system (VMS). For streaming purposes, the encoders use either RTMP or RTSP protocol to deliver live streams to local media servers or cloud-based CDNs.

Synchronised sources, exceptional viewing experiences

One key feature that your viewers will hugely appreciate is the Monarch LCS’ built-in frame synchronisation. Too often, when streaming or recording audio and video contents, presenters will find that, while a camera and computer’s output resolutions can easily be managed, if the frame rates are not matched, this will result in a distracting lag between video and audio.

The Monarch LCS adjusts for this by taking in the different feeds and synchronising them before encoding, delivering perfectly timed video and audio, regardless of the operating mode. Built-in frame syncs also correct any signal discontinuity at either input, ensuring uninterrupted streaming and recording operations.

The verdict

The Monarch LCS brings complete peace of mind to the table. The lecture capture appliance provides a simple-to-integrate and simple-to-operate platform for both IT administrators and lecturers alike. What’s more is that the Monarch LCS is built on a one-time purchase model, with no annual subscriptions or contract renewals, for a state-of-the-art kit with budget-friendly pricing.

Final verdict: the Monarch LCS lecture capture appliance will comfortably cover all your bases when it comes to recording and streaming content anywhere, anytime — and with exemplary sound and picture quality.

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