Just as Bob Dylan wrote those lyrics in 1964, NewTek has rewrote the lyrics to how live video production has been done for decades. NDI or Network Device Interface, has already been a game changer in its short two and a half years of life since NewTek’s President and CTO, Dr. Andrew Cross announced it. Almost one hundred other manufacturers have adopted the technology and incorporated NDI into its work flow and products.
The days of long video cable runs, fiber video transmission and satellite trucks are heading to the wayside. As these items will still be used for now, NDI will soon take over. The option to run multiple HD 1080p or 4K signals over a single cat5 cable will soon be the option for every production truck, church, AV company, network television, etc. But why is this technology so awesome, how does it work and what are the down falls to it? Come gather around people
wherever you roam, lets look at this thing we call NDI.
What is NDI? According the San Antonio company “NDI™ is a royalty free standard developed by NewTek™ to enable video-compatible products to share video across a local area network. NDI allows multiple video systems to identify and communicate with one another over IP, and to encode, transmit, and receive many streams of high quality, low latency, frame-accurate video and audio in real time.” To break that down, it’s any video signal (HD-SDI, HDMI, etc) thats encoded using NDI and transporting that via IP on a local network. This is done with one cat5 cable coming into your computer and with very low latency. This is for inputs and outputs including multi-viewers, graphics, replay, DDR or any other type of video that you’re working with on a live production. To make it better, Newtek has developed NDI to be bi-directional. You can send and receive video from any location and to any location with minimal latency.
NDI works only as good as your network. NDI will thrive on a network that is built primarily for IP video however a basic NDI setup can be done with a basic networks setup. Your network must be capable of supporting multiple audio, video, and data streams in a reliable, synchronized manner, all without disruption. NDI was designed to use consumer off the shelf network hardware but to ensure better transmission, NewTek recommends a switch that every port is full duplex with at least 1Gbps throughput.
According to a document NewTek released, here’s a brief look into how it works. “NDI uses compression to enable transmission of multiple video streams across existing infrastructure, specifically discrete cosine transform (DCT), which converts video signals into elementary frequency components. This method of compression is commonly used in encoding formats and mezzanine codecs within the industry. One of the most efficient codecs in existence, NDI achieves significantly better compression than many codecs that have been accepted for professional broadcast use.”
If you didn’t understand much of that last paragraph, its ok. It’s basically the magic sauce that makes NDI work. You don’t need to fully understand how your car runs to get you to work everyday or how planes keep from falling out of the sky; you basically know and trust these items are going to work to get you from point A to point B. NDI works and works well…most of the time.
What are the downfalls to NDI?
With any new technology there is always going to be growing pains. NewTek is relying on other manufacturers to implement NDI. With that can come pain of tech support with these other companies. Also, when updates get pushed out it can take a few weeks for these companies to push out updates to be compatible with NDI. Another problem that most will face is network issues. Unless you’re an IT guy and a video guy, you may get lost in the trouble shooting, cabling issues and other issues that may arise.
I’ve already talked to a few “old school” dudes that are pushing back hard against NDI simply because they don’t understand IP video or audio. These guys grew up with composite and had to change to SDI and now….IP? “WTF”! If they don’t get on board soon, they will be lost in the ever changing industry of live video production. “Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone – For the times they are a-changing.”