Magewell Streaming or Conversion Encoders: Which one is Right for You?


Magewell now offers a wide variety of encoders for IP media applications, including products in our “Stream” and “Convert” series. With so many choices, you may be wondering which solution is best for your needs. This blog will introduce some key differences between these models in three aspects: type of user, network environment, and typical use cases.

1. Type of User

Magewell's Ultra Stream encoders make live streaming remarkably simple even for non-professional users who want to stream but may have minimal technical knowledge. Ultra Stream enables these users to record or stream high-quality video with one click using on-device buttons, an intuitive smartphone app, or a web-based interface. Users can stream easily to YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Live and custom-specified RTMP or RTMPS servers. Video cap also be recorded and saved as clips on internal storage, a USB flash drive, the associated smartphone, or a specified FTP server.

While Ultra Stream is ideal for new or non-technical users, the Ultra Encode and Pro Convert encoder families are mainly designed for systems integrators, streaming professionals, experienced streamers, and OEM partners. Ultra Encode flexibly supports high-quality H.264, H.265 (HEVC) and NDI® HX encoding and multiple streaming protocols – including SRT – with wired or wireless network connectivity. Meanwhile, Pro Convert encoders leverage the popular NDI® media-over-IP technology to reliably bring traditional live video signals into IP-based production, remote contribution, and distribution workflows. While still designed to be easy to use, Ultra Encode and Pro Convert offer the advanced configurability needed by professional users.

2. Network Environment

Ultra Stream devices offer both H.264 and H.265 video compression, but since they use the RTMP or RTMPS protocol for live streaming, typically are used with H.264 for live applications. Ultra Stream can encode compressed streams lower than 8Mbps, enabling transmission of high-quality video and audio over the Internet.

Ultra Encode also supports both H.264 and H.265 compression, and multiple live streaming protocols including RTMP, RTMPS, RTSP, HLS and SRT for delivery over the Internet. It also supports bandwidth-efficient NDI® HX technology, which can be used over wired or wireless connections in LAN and WAN environments. Ultra Encode supports bitrates up to 16Mbps, supporting use cases that require even higher-quality video.

Based on high-bandwidth NDI® technology, Pro Convert encoders are best suited for reliably transmitting video over a Gigabit (or faster) LAN. The bandwidth of each  high-bandwidth NDI® stream with 1080p60 resolution is approximately 100Mbps, achieving exceptional quality that is ideal for IP-based production applications.

3. Use Cases

Ultra Stream encoders are primarily used for applications such as live streaming of content such as events, worship services, sports, and lectures, as well as virtual conferences. Users typically stream one-way from the event site to a live streaming service or platform, and then distribute video via the platform. Bitrate requirements in these use cases are not very high and streaming latency is not a major concern (compared to use cases such as remote production), so the easy-to-use Ultra Stream encoder is an idea choice.

Ultra Encode dedicates more of its hardware resources to higher-bitrate (and thus even higher quality) encoding and to maximizing streaming performance, with an exclusive focus on live delivery. While Ultra Encode does not include the file-based recording or app-based control of Ultra Stream, it adds support for technologies such as NDI® HX and the low-latency SRT protocol. These differences allow Ultra Encode to be widely used not only in live streaming applications, but also for AV over IP, remote contribution and IP production workflows.

Based on NDI® technology, Pro Convert encoders can convert HDMI or SDI signals into HD or 4K IP streams and transmit them over a LAN with very low latency. This makes them ideal for AV-over-IP distribution and on-site, IP-based production workflows. For video production applications, Pro Convert encoders include value-added features including program and preview tally lights; control protocol conversion for NDI® control of non-NDI® PTZ cameras; and a standard 1/4"-20 thread for camera mounting.

NDI® is a brand of the Vizrt Group.