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Who’s using NDI?

Now that you’ve read our primer on NDI, NewTek’s royalty-free standard for video over IP, it’s time to start thinking about how you could implement it. While production and post facilities are interested in NDI as a low cost alternative to routing over SDI, it’s actually an incredibly versatile standard that can help in more fields than you’d think. We asked our experts to shed some light on lesser known NDI workflows…


Liz Sunter

“Probably 25% of the NDI products currently available are computer graphics systems,” says Mark Gilbert, CTO of NDI developers Gallery SIENNA. “That’s where NewTek originally started to develop the technology, and using NDI is a total no-brainer for graphics people: not only will it send fill and key natively on a single connection, but it lets them offer every element of the graphics scene as a separate, parallel NDI source without needing a separate fill and key pair for each. With minimal hardware, they can send out 20 or 30 NDI sources for things like clocks, tickers and scoreboards for receivers to choose from.

At the same time, NDI has made its way into a number of PTZ cameras – most notably Panasonic’s NDI|HX line, and the native NDI cameras announced by BirdDog at IBC.

NDI|HX, a variant on the NDI codec which uses the H.264 compression common to most PTZ cameras, has caught the imagination of REMI (REMote Integration) crews because it produces a signal so lightweight that it can be transmitted reliably over WiFi. This means that if you can connect to WiFi at the stadium, you can get footage from a remote camera to a central control room and enjoy all the benefits of a REMI workflow for a fraction of the usual cost, although you will still need to invest in various software-driven solutions to ensure your footage makes it over the air intact and in sync – get in touch on the details below to find more about developing your workflow.

And of course, once you’ve got the signal back to your facility, be it in production or post, there are plenty of ways to put NDI to work, whether that’s instead of installing costly SDI infrastructure to enable centralisation and virtualisation of your hardware, using timeline playout to NDI to deliver breaking news or close to air programming, or distributing incoming feeds across a site, rather than having a single gallery display.

However, it’s not only broadcast workflows that are benefiting from, or being adapted by, NDI.


The new, old face of AV systems

Using a solution like Gallery’s SIENNA NDI Router, NDI can work with existing video routing protocols, including Pro-Bel and Videohub. A number of high-end AV controllers – including those by market leaders like AMX and Crestron – also understand the Videohub protocol, and so can communicate directly with your NDI hardware over IP. This means you can route over NDI rather than a more expensive, proprietary system, without your operator having to get to grips with a new way of working.

“If you're building a massive presentation facility or an event space, you might build it around AMX or Crestron, and end up having to use their proprietary video equipment to route video around your facility,” Gilbert explains. “You have much more flexibility if you build your infrastructure on NDI, and you’ll still be able to give the CEO the same control panel at the end of it.”

This also removes the need for traditional video routing infrastructure in events spaces. “NDI provides a cheap, flexible way to mix feeds from cameras, displays and live feeds and send it to projectors or feedback screens in real time,” says Jigsaw24 AV specialist Anthony Hammond. “People are also beginning to develop technology that would allow us to use NDI for synchronised delivery of live and scheduled content to signage, though it’s very early days for that application at the moment.”

Away from large-scale events like these, NDI can be used for local area networking casting – an increasingly popular way for large businesses to conduct video meetings. “Products like the NewTek Wowza MediaDS server have made it incredibly trendy for businesses to have their own personal content distribution network (CDN) inside the building and distribute content themselves, rather than having them reach out to an external CDN,” says Gilbert.

“You can actually do the same thing with our NDI WebLink, which makes NDI sources available as streaming feeds in a web browser. You can actually take an NDI source, and deliver it as an HLS stream that you send in an email and everyone in the building can tune into on the same internal network. It doesn’t matter how tech-savvy your end users are, because all they need to do is click on a URL, and they’re watching a live NDI feed.”


The rise of eSports

NDI is also a popular choice for eSports events, as NewTek’s customer stories show. We recently partnered with Staffordshire University, one of the UK’s top universities for game design and development, to design and build a custom NDI setup from scratch, helping them to scope out their first dedicated eSports broadcast lab.

“eSports was a new venture for everyone involved here at the university and was quite the daunting prospect initially,” says the university’s Broadcast Technical Instructor, Christopher Leese. “Video over IP has become more and more popular over recent years and is set to be the way forward for the industry, so it was quite clear from the outset that we needed to utilise NDI.

The university’s eSports studio supports up to 12 PC gaming feeds from players in a space covered by three studio cameras and a ceiling suspended PTZ camera (all 4K UHD). Students can mix these feeds and add graphic overlays generated in CharacterWorks. Because the course will run in perpetuity, it was essential that the system be scalable, and able to cope with the increasing demand for 4K resolution online broadcasts. The university was able to afford all of this thanks to the implementation of NDI, which allows them to handle all the studio’s traffic over a single Netgear S3300-52X switch. “This was a new venture for everyone involved here at the university and was quite the daunting prospect initially,” said Leese, “but by getting Jigsaw24 and NewTek involved at the early stages of the project, it became much more manageable, and achieving our desired solution seemed much more realistic.”


Moving to software-driven workflow

As we’ve said before, video over IP is many different things for many different people, and NDI isn’t right for every scenario. However, it is a likely fit for anyone looking to reduce hardware costs and move to a software-driven workflow, whatever environment they may be working in.

We can help you develop a workflow from scratch if you’re building a new facility, or advise on a staggered migration to NDI if you need to replace your existing infrastructure more gradually. For more information, get in touch with the team on the details below.


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