Teradek Cube-255 HDMI H.264 Wireless HD Encoder Review

The Teradek Cube 255 is the newest version of the popular low-cost camera-top wireless HDMI HD camera encoder, bringing budget conscious production groups wireless capabilities during their shoots.

Teradek Cubes have been very popular in the past for their light weight and relatively low cost. With a Teradek Cube, you can easily add wireless capability to any video camera with an HDMI or SDI output. The Cube takes in an HDMI or SDI output from the camera and will encode that feed into a high-quality h264 feed. From there, you can push the feed out via Wi-Fi to your internal network or with its own ad-hoc network. Using a laptop, an iPad, or even a Teradek decoder, you can take the feed from your camera and display it wirelessly anywhere you can read the network.

Teradek Cube 255 - iPad

You can view the feed from the Cube 255 with a number of devices, including a iPad, for remote wireless monitoring.

For example, a director can get out of the way of the crew during an intense action sequence, using his iPad to see what the cameraman is filming without adding an extra body on the set. A production manager can watch the current camera feeds from his networked laptop in his office away from the set. A live crew can take wireless teams out into the area, piping back a networked feed to their home base where the operations team switches it to their live broadcast.

Teradek Cube 255 - Camera Top Close

The Cube-255 shares a lot with its predecessors, having the same form factor, simple to use controls, and a 1/4″-20 mount or hot-shoe adapter for easy attachment to any camera system. WIth the new Cube-255, Teradek brings it to a whole new level with a host of upgrades.

Sleeker and More Features

One of the most notable upgrades is the new built-in Li-Ion battery, providing 90 minutes of internal power. Previous versions required an external power source, but now you can cut down the weight by using just the unit itself. Of course, at about 90 minutes, you won’t be able to do full day-long shoots. But unlike its predecessor that needed an attached battery at all times, the Cube-255 can easily switch between internal and external power allowing for seamless switches for long productions.

Teradek Cube 255 - Display

The Teradek Cube 255 features a easy to read display with on device controls and a quick streaming button.

Another new feature is the new OLED display, allowing operators to change settings on board the device itself without the need for a connected iPad or computer. The display is easy to read and understand and proves a useful information about the current status of the feed.

The Cube-255 includes a new High Profile h.264 encoder, allowing for 1080p encodes at 10Mbits over wired connections as well as a higher quality feed over a constrained wireless connection. In addition, the Cube-255 also provides Baseline and Main profiles for direct mobile device streaming as required.

Wireless Freedom with Oops Protection

Using its new Dual Band a/b/g/n MIMI Wifi, the Cube-255 has great performance and allows you to skip the crowded 2.4Ghz space for the more open and faster 5.8Ghz band. With a built-in access point mode, you don’t even need a router to connect iPads, iPhones or computers to the unit.

Teradek Cube 255 - Antenna Ports

The MIMO Wi-Fi antennas provide excellent range, but you can also use a wired connection or attach a USB 3G/4G device if desired. Also included is a mini-SD card slot for proxy recording

Also new to the Cube-255 is a micro USB port, allowing you to do a local proxy recording onto the device itself. With an onboard recorder, you can save a copy of the feed in mov or mp4 format for immediate local playback or allow the system to automatically upload the file to your proxy server, saving time and giving your editing team a chance to start their off-line edits before you even return to them with the raw footage.

The Cube-255 also now includes a Micro USB port for charging the battery in case you don’t have the charger handy, and a USB Port that works with a variety of 3G/4G USB modems for cellular data.

Teradek Cube 255 - Video Connection

The Cube-255 includes an HDMI input, analog audio input, and a headphone output for operator monitoring.

Finally, the unit has analog audio input in case you didn’t want to use the embedded HDMI/SDI audio as well as a headphone output for the operator to verify a clean sound coming in.

Connectivity Galore

A great feature of the Cube-255 is its ability to use any of its connections (Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or 3G/4G) to not only push a feed out to its own TeraCentral monitoring app, but directly to any supported network CDN. The Cube-255 has built-in support for just about any different type of stream mode, including RTMP used by Justin.tv, UStream.tv, and YouTube Live. There is also direct support for LiveStream.com built into the system itself with minimal configuration required.

Once setup, all you have to do is push the red “stream” button, and the Cube-255 will happily push directly to your video streaming service without the need for a dedicated streaming computer. Coupled with a 4G USB cellular adapter, you can easily broadcast a live stream from out in the field with no setup or infrastructure required.

Web Setup

Teradek Cube 255 - TeraCentral App

The iOS TeraCentral App allows you to view settings and get a preview of the Cube-255

You can access all the setup for the Cube-255 though the web interface, reachable via the TeraCentral app for desktop or iOS. Though the web interface, you can configure the video and audio encoding settings, as well as the stream targets for the device. It’s here you can choose to have the unit broadcast out and allow receiving clients to access the feed passively, or you can have the unit broadcast directly to a CDN. The settings are very straight forward and easy to understand, though the web interface as a whole can act sluggish at times, especially when attempting to configure the wireless in a heavily crowded venue.

Teradek Cube 255 - TeraCentral Preview

The TeraCentral App can give a real-time full-screen preview of the Cube-255.

Furthermore, the TeraCentral app allows you to monitor the Cube-255 in real time to see what it is broadcasting, or as a monitor for your interested crew as needed via a mobile device or computer.

Additionally, with the Cube-255, you can just as easily configure most settings on the device itself without the need for an computer or iPad via the clear OLED display. While you can setup the Wi-Fi via the onscreen display, it is very tedious to manually enter in passwords. In those situations, I would recommend setting up the unit at home beforehand, using a computer.

Real World Usage

In October, GeekBeat.TV took the show on the road to New York for the 2012 PhotoPlus Expo as the official live coverage for the event. As part of the show, we made a lot of use of the wireless camera to bring coverage from the trade floor itself as well as on the set. Despite a venue littered with dozens of different wireless networks all competing with each other, the Cube-255 performed admirably in most situations.

Teradek Cube 255 - Top

While running in 2.4Ghz mode, it struggled with range and interference problems thanks to the crowded airwaves. But once we switched it over to the 5.8Ghz mode, the Cube-255 didn’t miss a beat, providing us with an on-the-go and handheld camera without any wires getting in the way.

As the device is encoding to an h.264 format, there was an obvious delay in the video feed compared to our hard-wired cameras. By definition, there is no way to instantly encode in real time, but we were able to get around the issue by smart switching and framing. In the end, it was an invaluable tool for the production, providing an element that we couldn’t have easily gotten otherwise. With the Cube-255, we were able to reach several booths and a whole row away, and with an elevated Wi-Fi access point and better line of sight, we could have probably covered much more of the trade show floor.

Final Thoughts

With competitive wireless systems costing in the $10,000 to $20,000 range, the $1,490 Cube-255 is a downright bargain. With the ability to feed to not only a free iPad app but also directly to your streaming CDNs, the Cube-255 is an incredible value at an affordable price. Coupled with a Cube decoder such as the Cube-355, the Cube system is as seamless as you can get with a wireless setup for under $3,000.

Teradek Cube 255 - Camera Top

The Cube-255 Fits nicely on top of a DSLR or other small camera.

If you are a budget videographer who needs a way to monitor your camera remotely, or a live crew looking to send your coverage back to home base without a field truck, the Teradek Cube-255 is a great, easy to use, and reliable system at a great price.

You can find the HDMI Teradek Cube-255 (as well as the HD-SDI Cube-155, composite Cube-550, and non-Wi-Fi versions of all) from various production retailers and Teradek.com