Bridging the NDI gap to ATEM: Blackmagic in the IP World

Bridging the NDI gap to ATEM: Blackmagic in the IP World

Bridging the NDI gap to ATEM: Blackmagic in the IP World

The video production market is transitioning towards IP. Whether it will ever get there 100% or will find a balance between HDMI, SDI and Ethernet remains to be seen, but we are without doubt entering a phase where crews and installers are weighing up the benefits of IP technology for each project.


As the video and AV markets get closer together and the benefits of COTS (consumer off the shelf) routers and Ethernet networks become more and more tempting to video installers and live events companies, video over IP is gaining traction. Instead of connecting cameras to production kit using video cables, with video over IP (VOIP), the equipment can be connected using inexpensive Cat5 or Cat6 cables, potentially using pre-existing IT networks. Being able to locate cameras in any position, connected by a single Ethernet cable is very tempting for event producers on a tight schedule. For AV managers, the idea of adding cameras to an existing IT network is a dream come true, compared with the prospect of laying a dedicated SDI infrastructure that may involve drilling through walls and ceiling spaces.


For years, the industry has standardized around the traditional SDI-based video production vision mixer. Users appreciate the stability, familiarity and functionality, and Blackmagic’s approach in the ATEM range balances control and creativity for all manner of productions, from conference sessions and concerts to fast-paced sports and live daytime TV.
While Blackmagic Design’s ATEM offers producers an incredible vision mixing experience, like most switchers, it is designed around SDI and HDMI inputs rather than IP workflows. For the majority of users this is second nature; tens of thousands of productions of all sizes rely on SDI-based ATEM mixers as their creative switching platform.
For producers and installers looking to the benefits of IP, how can the ATEM be adapted for Ethernet-based workflows?


Blackmagic Design’s own SDI to IP solution is very effective: their Teranex Mini SDI to IP converter sends a very high quality (up-to DCI 4K), low latency signal, over Ethernet networks. Compressed using the TICO standard (SMPTE 2110), it can support 10-bit 4:4:4 video sampling and is a no-compromise solution, visually lossless at 4:1 compression. It’s a great solution, with the promise of tremendous video quality over IP.


NDI is a popular alternative to TICO. It has one great advantage: bitrate. At over 1Gb/s for a single 1080i stream, TICO is bandwidth hungry. NDI and NDI|HX are incredibly nimble in comparison, requiring between one tenth (NDI) and one fiftieth (NDI|HX) the bandwidth of a typical TICO stream. That means producers can theoretically run dozens of NDI|HX signals over a 1GbE cable.
With NDI converters, TV and pro-video, cameras can be converted to IP and ingested as a standard SDI input into the vision mixer. Low cost, reliable and ultra-low latency, Birddog NDI Converters are the ideal companion to any ATEM switcher.


Birddog converters for SDI or HDMI cameras generate an ultra-low-latency NDI output over Ethernet. The cost-effective Flex range are tiny and can cope with up to 4K 25 and 30p with the added convenience of power over ethernet. If 4K 50p or 60p is required, then the 4K Family of Birddog encoders is needed.  The 4K Quad can encode or decode an amazing 4 channels of 12G SDI in a device the size of a hardback novel.


The converted NDI signal from the camera is decoded to SDI or HDMI for ingest into the vision mixer using either separate Flex Out Converters or 4K Family SDI and SDI Quad converters.


PTZ cameras are gaining even more popularity as productions look to reduce the number of crew and maintain safe social distancing. Many cameras (from the likes of Lumens, Panasonic and Datavideo) are NDI|HX ready, enabling them to use Ethernet networks for video transmission, control and power. This is a significant saving in installation times and offers a huge reduction in cabling costs. However, NDI|HX is a much more compressed codec which adds a fair amount of latency to the production chain. Birddog’s range of full NDI PTZ cameras have less than a frames latency and all transmit high quality 10bit 4:2:2 video through Ethernet, also allowing control and power over the same connection. They also have SDI and HDMI outputs making them the most flexible option for IP and Hybrid production.

NDI - ATEM Workflow