Review: Magewell USB Fusion

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Testing the USB Fusion 

Here’s how I tested the USB Fusion. First, I was interested in determining how well the USB Fusion could work as a video production switcher in a use case such as our webcast series at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Our webcast series includes lectures from physicians and other clinicians. We record in a TV studio and use a webcast recorder. The video and audio output of our three-camera studio production is sent to our recorder over SDI. Our other source for the recorder comes from a computer running PowerPoint. Periodically we include videos of procedures during presentations.

Second, I wanted to learn if the USB Fusion could be used in a remote production environment for online meetings or streaming of lectures. Additionally, I wanted to know if the USB Fusion could enhance these meetings or lectures 

Testing as Video Production Switcher

For testing the video production switcher capabilities, I created a presentation with various Scenes (Figure 7). Included was a PDF, webpage, PowerPoint, images, and videos, screencast (from iPhone), and HDMI source (GoPro). It was straightforward to add all sources. Advancing between Scenes worked great. Clicking on the thumbnails in the figure advances you to the next scene. I liked how I could easily make adjustments to a Scene during production in the USB Fusion App, to tweak settings like volume, preview quality, or add lower thirds. Adding videos for a presenter is also really easy. If the computer connected to the USB Out is connected to HDMI with a PowerPoint opened, presenters or streaming producers can easily control the PowerPoint with the on-screen options.

Figure 7. Presentation view of the USB Fusion App

The screencasting feature works extremely well and allows users on a local network to connect for screensharing to the USB Fusion over Wi-Fi. To add a screencast using an iPhone, connect to Wi-Fi on the same network as the USB Fusion. Second, click the plus (+) button in the USB Fusion App, and select Screencast (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Adding a Screencast

Third, open Control Center on your iPhone and select the Screen Mirroring option. On your output monitor for the USB Fusion, an Onscreen Code will appear. Lastly, enter the code on your iPhone and click OK. The device should be displayed on the program output for USB Fusion and the App.

Another feature that is extremely helpful is the annotation tool, which is available only within the USB Fusion App. It gives presenters the option to spotlight, highlight, write, and use whiteboards during a presentation. Users can also do telestration during Presentations (Figure 9).

Figure 9. Using telestration in the USB Fusion App

Users can adjust Scene settings on the USB Fusion App by clicking the Menu icon in the upper-right corner, which opens the window shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10. Viewing and adjusting audio levels

The settings for your source will appear. In Figure 11, I’ve selected a video that’s playing and these are the items that appear. Since this is a video, I can adjust the volume slider for Video up and down.

Figure 11. HDMI 1 Input Settings in Web UI

This Web UI allows users to see details related to the Program output. You can also view details about your various input devices and screencasts connected. Information such as resolution, aspect ratio, and number of audio channels are all included.

In the Video section of the HDMI tab, you can adjust brightness, contrast, hue, and other settings. Lower-thirds can also be easily added over videos or presenters within a Presentation. Users can add lower-third graphics with alpha channels in the WebUI and the USB Fusion will display them once selected.

There also is a recording feature available for the USB Fusion, in both the Web UI and the USB Fusion App. In the App, you can easily click a button to have your presentation recorded. In the Web UI, you can also record as well using scheduling. You can choose to record the Program output or any video inputs.

Testing in a Remote Production Environment

To evaluate the USB Fusion’s effectiveness in a remote production environment, I added the output of the USB Fusion as a source to a live encoder and to a video conferencing tool. For my live encoding tool, I used Wirecast, and for the videoconferencing test, I used Google Meet. Keep in mind that the computer you’re streaming or conferencing from needs to be connected to the USB out on the USB Fusion.  

Adding the USB Fusion Wirecast was simple. I opened Wirecast, clicked on the + button for audio capture and selected USB Fusion USB-C Audio, which added the USB Fusion to Wirecast as an audio source. To add it as a video source, I clicked the plus (+) button on another layer, selected video capture, and selected USB Fusion Video to add the source.

You can see how both sources appeared once added in Figure 12. The process was quick and straightforward.

Figure 12. How sources appeared in Wirecast

In Google Meet, I started my meeting and in the video settings selected USB Fusion for my video. I followed a similar process for adding audio.

When using the USB Fusion, you may find the image being reversed when adding video. While this is most likely an issue with the USB-C out setting, you can select it in the General Settings of the USB Fusion web UI to fix this issue (Figure 13).

Figure 13. Fixing mirroring issue in video conferencing on streaming app

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I like how the USB Fusion functions as device. It’s easy to configure and use on a regular basis. Once users understand how the device operates in the USB Fusion App, and in the web UI, many should appreciate its capabilities. One challenge is that users will need to learn the limitations of the web UI and USB Fusion App as some features are available in the app and others only in the web UI. It would be great if users could perform the same tasks in the Web UI and USB Fusion App.

For this review, I wanted to learn how well the USB Fusion could work as a video production switcher in an educational production scenario like our webcast series. I liked the ease of use for adding media and creating Presentations. Both the web UI and USB Fusion App were easy to use. I appreciated how information added to Presentations was automatically saved. Features that stood out to me were the video playback, screencasting, and the ability to add webpages. I also thought the annotation and telestration features were outstanding. The video playback features make it easy for presenters and producers to share videos during a production. The ability to share information on local devices with screencasting and sharing webpages gives streaming producers more ideas for what they can do in their productions. I also appreciate the ad hoc and scheduled recording option on the USB Fusion. This allows producers to confirm that their content is recorded. For viewing the audio levels of sources, I would appreciate wider VU meters to make it easier to see the levels.

Second, I wanted to learn if the USB Fusion could be used in a remote production environment for online meetings or streaming of lectures. Additionally, I wanted to know if the USB Fusion could enhance these meetings or lectures. The ease of setting up this device for online meetings or streaming lectures is excellent. The program output of the USB Fusion just gets added as the video and audio source with conferencing and streaming tools. This makes setup a breeze.

Additionally, users can add unique elements (web pages, screencast, telestration, annotation) to their productions that they may not have been considered before. The way it could be used for my remote recordings for our webcast series would be to add the device as another source, similar to adding a webcam in Zoom or Google Meet. This would easily allow me to transition to a video, screencast, and other Scenes included on the USB Fusion. In addition to improving productions, the USB Fusion could definitely enhance online meetings and lectures.

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