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First Look: BirdDog Flex 4K NDI Converters

Accessing the Devices

To fire up the Flex, begin by plugging it into DC power or PoE. Watch for the lights to come up, open a web browser, go to this address: BirdDog-xxxxx.local, replacing “xxxxx” with the last 5 digits of your Flex unit’s serial number, visible on the bottom of the unit. An app called Fing for Android and iOS provides a great way to catalog everything on the network and get the actual IP addresses. I prefer this to using actual IP numbers as visible on my LAN.

Figure 5 (below) shows what you see when you log in to your Flex 4K IN. The default password is "birddog.” The name of your device is birddog + the last 5 digits of the serial number. You can also see in Figure 5 that I'm issuing everything via DHCP. If you don’t know a lot about networking, I recommend brushing up before taking the NDI plunge. I’m using DHCP because my network is very simple and I'm working in a home studio. If you’re going on location to stream from various places and deploying your gear in new situations each time, bring your own router, bring your own cabling, bring your own network, and bring your own Wi-Fi.

Figure 5. Here’s what you see after you log in your Flex IN device.

Never rely on what's there. As I wrote in my article Seven Rules for Mobile Multicam Streaming Success, Rule #1 is bring your own router. That's especially important because I'm using the Skaarhoj controller to switch this show and also control the PTZ camera.

This controller talks directly to IP addresses. If I power everything down, go to another location, and power everything up, it's still going to try to address this PTZ camera at the specific address that’s programmed into the software. So using dynamic IP addresses (DHCP) doesn’t always work for devices that might be assigned a different address each time they’re set up. When the Skaarhoj controller goes to talk to the PTZ at the address it was at last time and the PTZ is not there anymore, it won’t know where to find it. Having your NDI devices on fixed IP addresses is very important because, that way, your controllers or switchers will be able to find them because they’ll be in the same place they were last time.

To set your configuration to a manual IP and even change the BirdDog device's name, if you so choose, go to the Network tab shown in Figure 6 (below), make your changes, and click Apply.

Figure 6. Change settings in the Network tab

If you have a PTZ camera, you can set and adjust presets in the PTZ tab (Figure 7, below). This is where you would adjust the VISCA settings to communicate with the PTZ camera. I’m not using a PTZ camera for this demo, so these settings don’t apply in my case and are grayed out.

Figure 7. Choose PTZ settings here

The System tab is where you can change the password. If an update is available, you download the file, choose the file here, and click Update. Other network and discovery settings are found on this page as well.

In the the A/V-Setup tab (Figure 8, below), you choose your video mode (4K or HD), adjust color space settings, and choose gain settings for audio in (via the external jack over HDMI), and audio out, which goes to the headset.

Figure 8. The A/V-Setup tab

Your NDI video bandwidth, which you also set here, is variable. I have it at a low of 60Mbps. HD will go from 60 to about 150. If you're in 4K, the max is about 360Mbps, and you can bring it down a little bit from there. Be aware of this setting if you deploying these devices on a gigabit network. You’re really only going to get a max of three 4K sources on such a network before it’s full.

Again, you should use a dedicated network for a video. And if you plan on more than three 4K sources, you're going to need a 10 gig network. Each of these Flex devices are gigabit, but you're gonna need a 10 gig switch to be able to handle 5-7 4K sources, if that's where you're going. So just be aware of managing your bits on a gigabit network.

Now, I'm only doing HD in this demo, so I have NDI bandwdith set to 60 Mbps. At this bitrate, that I can put 10 devices on the network and still have space to spare. Continuing on the A/V-Setup tab, there's NDI audio mute or unmute. I have onboard tally set to on, even though the default setting is off. When you apply your change, click Apply and the settings are automatically applied. You don't have to reboot the device.

The last tab is for logging out.

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