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NAB 2018: BirdDog Talks Compact NDI Streaming

BirdDog's Dan Miall and Streaming Media Producer's Shawn Lam discuss the benefits of NDI and BirdDog's implementation of the technology in its line of compact streaming solutions.

Shawn Lam: It's Shawn Lam here for Streaming Media Producer at NAB 2018. I'm here with Dan Miall from BirdDog and we're here to talk about NDI and some of the products that you have. Let's start off here. NDI was a protocol developed by NewTek. They unleashed it on the world and you guys are one of the adopters. What is it, in a nutshell? What is NDI?

Dan Miall: NDI is a method of sending video and audio as well as other information over standard commuter network. There's a lot of talk about IP these days, but really the hard part with that is trying to get that video in a practical way. NDI has solved that by being able to use the gigabit ethernet connection, which means that you can run on a standard network in any building basically in the world and move video around very easily and multiple channels. Some building have thousands of NDI sources in them. So it's a really simple way of getting things around.

Shawn Lam: And it avoids some of the limitations like SDI and HDMI, especially HDMI with cable link limitations and having to invest in that copper type of transmission.

Dan Miall: In a video environment, if you're investing in all these core pieces of equipment like DAs and routers and things like this, when you go to IP, essentially your networks, which is doing all that work for you. So the plant equipment cost just comes down dramatically. With NDI being available as an SDK for anyone to use, there's literally hundreds of applications out there that support NDI.

Shawn Lam: So the connectivity on the transmission side, you've got your camera that connects into an NDI transmitter.

Dan Miall: That’s right. So this is one of our boxes. We actually have two products. This is our brand new one for the show called BirdDog Mini. What this does is it takes your HDMI connection, we have the other product Studio NDI, which will also take SDI, and we have an ethernet connection here, which is powered over ethernet. Inside this box it does all the conversion from your video source into NDI in real time and it's ultra low latency and full-quality NDI. The pictures come to you, whatever destination, extremely quickly and also in really good quality.

Shawn Lam: On the receiving side, you don't need a matching receiver.

Dan Miall: You don't although you can. I've got some more news with this. Typically, why people are looking at using this is for example, NewTek makes TriCaster, which is a video switcher. There's other video switchers that also understand NDI.

Typically, what people will do is mount this on your camera and on the other end you'd receive it in your TriCaster, or whichever product is your choice. You would get that video right into your session and that's live, ready to go for a live production. In return with that, you'll also get a bunch of extra facilities. As soon as you take this camera source on your TriCaster, and put that into preview or program, you get a tally light. We have a tally light on the front here so your camera operator and talent know which camera to look at and that's with zero configuration. So as you were saying with SDI, there's a whole bunch of cables that you need to run and there's expenses. But if you also wanted to run tally, if you also wanted to run return feed and things like more intercom. There's more and more things that you need to run more and more cables for. With NDI that's all down a single cable. So it's a really convenient way to do things.

On top of announcing Mini, we also have for our current products studio NDI, an enabled decode. So we can receive an NDI signal from a BirdDog or from another NDI source. Then turn that back out into HDMI or SDI again. That then completes our vision of having IPs close to the glass as possible at both ends. That's close to the glass on your camera and it's close to the glass on your TV or where you're consuming it.

Shawn Lam: Or your projection system.

Dan Miall: Absolutely. By doing that you have the ultimate flexibility with IP because then you can move things around wherever you like.

Shawn Lam: All right. Let's talk a bit about the intercom capabilities that you're announcing.

Dan Miall: One of our big announcementw for the show is actually running on the screen behind us here. All of our BirdDog products have an intercom connection or a headset connector. We've just released this software. Essentially, we've re-imagined what a communication system could be, given that we now have access to everything with NDI. We've got video, we've got tally information. We're seeing a person that would be running a program, whether that's a producer, director, something like this. We've given them what we think they would really like to have on one screen in one place. If you look at the larger window that we have up here, that's a program output. That's what's going live to air. They can sit in front of their computer and can see what's going out to air.

Underneath, you can see all of your video sources. That's every single, individual camera. Being a touchscreen interface, you can just touch on any of those cameras and talk directly to that camera operator. We can also do grouping as well. We're able to set up different party lines and have different groups. So individual sections of the production can talk to each other and maybe not be disturb other parts.

Again, with NDI, we've also got the tally information. On this same application, you can see which cameras are currently live on air and which cameras are being queued up. So if all of a sudden, the camera that's being queued up is not quite focused or not in the right spot, you can just touch on that camera and quickly fix that. Gone are the days in the gallery of having multiviewers and having a separate audio-com system. With this, we see certainly for small-to-medium productions, you can have someone sitting in front of the computer, even potentially on Wi-Fi, and watching all of this and interacting in real time across the whole production.

Shawn Lam: The cost savings on this are phenomenal. I mean I think on the intercom side, I know from personal experience, it's about $1,000 per belt pack and headset. That adds up really fast.

Dan Miall: It certainly does. If you put that into perspective, our audio-coms application, through till September, we're actually giving it away free of charge. If you look at our belt pack, we actually give you a whole lot more than a belt pack here and this is $595. It really is a cost-effective solution for productions looking to do a whole lot of things on a budget. Because all of these extra features tally, coms, they all make for a much more professional production in the end.

Shawn Lam: This has been a look at BirdDog and NAB 2018. I'm Shawn Lam for Streaming Media Producer.

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