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NAB 2024: BirdDog Talks X1 and X1 Ultra PTZs and MAKI Box Camera

BirdDog Founder & CEO Dan Miall discusses BirdDog's newest camera offerings--the X1 and X1 Ultra PTZs and the MAKI box camera--in this interview with Streaming Media's Shawn Lam from the BirdDog booth at NAB 2024.

Shawn Lam: It is Shawn Lam here at NAB for Streaming Media Producer with Dan Miall, the CEO of BirdDog, and we're here to talk about three of these cameras here: the X1, the X1 Ultra, and the MaKI.

Dan Miall: So the X1 is the first in our X series of cameras. The X1's got a huge amount of features in there, though probably the most obvious one is the big tally light up front. We're calling that the Halo tally. It's very easy to see at the moment. It's bright white for the show, but it goes red for when you're on program or green when you're on preview automatically. One thing it really does though is draw your eye into the camera, and that's really important when you're doing any kind of live production to really engage with the audience. So it's actually more deliberate than just looking cool. It's also daylight-visible, so it's a very bright LED light. From there, we've got the first camera out in the world which has got an e-ink display on the side. So e-ink is something you would've seen things like Kindles and that kind of thing. It's a display that stays on all the time. So if you label up the camera, even if it's turned off, it's still got that display on there, which is actually really convenient for any kind of portable production. You don't have to have gaffers tape with Sharpies written on there about which cameras, which you've got it already put on there.

Shawn Lam: Useful things like the IP address.

Dan Miall: Absolutely. And actually we're going to bring out a feature which allows you to put your own logo on there as well. So if you're a production company, you can put your own logo on that display. We've got some other really cool stuff that has AI-based tracking, and this is a new feature in the X1, but we haven't had before. So on camera AI tracking and also auto framing. If you've got multiple people in a shot, it'll have them all lined up, so it'll have everyone zoomed in, but if you can also focus on a single person and the camera will track them, and we've got some really smart ways of making sure that it's always staying on the right person and switching between people, which we can do with NDI control as well. Okay. The last little party trick, which I think is an amazing feature in a camera is it's not only a camera, but it's also an NDI decoder. That means that on top of being able to send your camera video over the network to be able to use in a production, you can send a video back to the camera, which might be a teleprompter, it could be a confidence monitor, and the HDMI out of the camera can be displaying that so it becomes truly integrated just with one cable.

Shawn Lam: Wow, that's a really neat feature you wouldn't expect at this kind of a price point. How much is this one here?

Dan Miall: The X1 is $995 US dollars. So again, it's packed with features and we used exclusively Sony sensors. So the image quality is fantastic out of this thing. So it really is groundbreaking in terms of what it can do for the price point, but also for the size of it.

Shawn Lam: So what size is the sensor on this one?

Dan Miall: So this one here, it is a 1/2.8" sensor, so it's fairly common size, but being a brand new camera, it's actually got the very latest Sony sensor in there. So it's a really high-quality image that you get out of that, which allows you, like I said, with the X1, that'll do up to 1080P at 60 frames.

Shawn Lam: And then the connectivity here, so I mean it is an NDI camera, so traditional, but also ...

Dan Miall: Also we have Wi-Fi. It's ethernet, it has power over ethernet. So if you're using that in a regular wired production, one cable and you're done. But with Wi-Fi it means that you can also use that completely untethered. The camera can be battery powered as well, so you can have completely wireless. Where I see this being really interesting is things like maybe an event center, or if you're doing some kind of corporate event in a ballroom and you need a camera over the other side of the room, you can just take the camera and put it there. Otherwise you'd have troubles with cable lengths or with trip hazards and things like that. So NDI being network based and these cameras with NDI HX3 allow you to send extremely low latency over a Wi-Fi network and it actually works amazingly well.

Shawn Lam: So which Wi-Fi protocols are supported?

Dan Miall: It's regular Wi-Fi. It's Wi-Fi 5 that we're using. Wi-Fi 5 is actually a really great middle ground in the fact that it has really quite a decent range and it has enough bandwidth for what we need. So we're finding it's a really good balance in terms of what sort of technology's out there.

Shawn Lam: Baseband connectivity, you talked about the HTMI output. What other inputs or outputs are on there?

Dan Miall: So this camera will work as a USB camera. You can use it with Zoom and Teams. So it can be worked just as easily in a boardroom for AV communication as it can be for a live production. It also has HDMI and that can be switched to either be the camera output if you're doing a regular baseband production or like I said before, that can be a decoder that it has on there.

Shawn Lam: So a single HDMI that's either in or output, depending how you configure it. Correct?

Dan Miall: Absolutely. And then on top of that we have our serial control as well. So again, if you're using more of a traditional production, you can still control it. Like any other PTZ camera, you can take the HDMI out and use it as you would normally, but of course it's got the bells and whistles of all that network connectivity as well.

Shawn Lam: Moving up the chain, the X1 Ultra, the ultra meaning 4K. What other differences are behind the scenes there?

Dan Miall: So really they're both part of the same family. So everything I've spoken about there, including the decoding functions, the e-ink display and the tally lights are all identical. The difference is that the X1 Ultra is UHD, so it'll do up to UHD 30 frames a second, and that's for both the encoding and also for the decoding as well. So it's the ultra version of the X1.

Shawn Lam: Alright. And then you've got the MAKI Ultra here. So how does this one work? How is it different than the X1s?

Dan Miall: I'm really proud of our whole product line and you'll see as we move along, this is the beginnings of a new product line as well, keeping in mind that we're announcing and shipping with that strategy. So as we announce more, they'll become our shipping available. The marquee is designed to be a complementary camera for live productions. It's a box camera or a Zoom camera. So you can get this in either a 12X or 20X Zoom, it's a 4K 60 exclusively. So it'll do everything, all the frame rates up to that, but it will do 4K 60. And with the Halo tally on the front, it still integrates really well into any kind of live production, but it's also got a neat set of buttons on the side as well. So you can actually control it, adjust your framing and things very easily just by pressing the buttons. We've gone a long way in terms of cameras. We went traditional cameras that got buttons all over them. We went to PTZs, which have got no buttons and had no screens. We started to add some screens and actually in this case for this type of camera, it makes sense to have a couple of buttons on there to just help you reframe a little box camera shot.

Shawn Lam: Alright, so this is a Z camera if you will, right? It's

Dan Miall: A Z camera. Absolutely.

Shawn Lam: And these are PTZs? Correct. So you said 12 or 20X Zoom. So is that based on the resolution or are there actually two models?

Dan Miall: There's actually two different models and actually that's the same price. So these guys, $1295 is their retail price, the 12X Zoom. The reason why that exists is for smaller spaces, things like some of them are used in meeting rooms is a great space, but also in security applications or in surveillance type areas. Maybe if you're working with equipment where you've got to have a wider field of view. So the 12X one is a wider field of view at just over 70 degrees. But then you've got the 20X one, which has got a much longer zoom, which is better for stage environments. So all the features are the same. It's one's got a wider field of view and one's got a longer zoom.

Shawn Lam: And what's the widest field of view on the 20?

Dan Miall: The 20X zoom, it's about 60 degrees.

Shawn Lam: And then the zoom on the X1 and X1 Ultra.

Dan Miall: So the X1 is a 20X zoom as well. So X1 will at 10 80 p will go up to 20X zoom and the X1 Ultra is a 12X zoom.

Shawn Lam: Excellent. Alright, thank you very much Dan. This has been Shawn Lam for Streaming Media Producer at NAB 2024 here with Dan at the BirdDog booth.

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