The ABCs of NDI – NewTek’s Video Over IP for Everyone

Announced by NewTek at IBC 2015, Network Device Interface (NDI) is an open protocol enabling IP video workflows across standard fixed and wireless Gigbit ethernet networks. NDI is a bi-directional standard that allows video systems to identify and communicate with one another over IP, and to encode, transmit, and receive multiple streams of broadcast-quality, low latency, frame-accurate video and audio in real time. The NDI encoding algorithm supports all video resolutions and frame rates up to 4K and beyond, as well as multi-channel, floating-point audio up to 16 channels and beyond. NDI also includes tools to implement video access and grouping, bi-directional metadata, tally, and more.

Support for the standard has come from the likes of Adobe Pro Video, AJT Systems, Archion, Autocue, Evertz, JVC Professional Video, LiveU, Panasonic, PlayBox, and Vaddio.

With IP-video platforms evolving around SMPTE 2022-6, VSF TR-03 and VSF TR-04 standards (backed by AIMS, the Alliance for IP Media Solutions) and the Evertz-backed ASPEN standard, where does Network Device Interface fit into the broader IP ecosystem?

According to Dr. Andrew Cross, President and CTO, NewTek, “The best way I can describe it is there are multiple IP standards. At the top of the pyramid, you have AIMS and ASPEN, which are the two 10 Gigabit video, high bandwidth, over 10 Gigabit ethernet. And, what we saw was a need to make something that’s accessible for everybody else who wants to do video.

“If you think about it, once every office building anywhere in the developed world is wired for ethernet, it’s all going to be 1GigE. So, part of NewTek’s vision – and I think what’s going to happen in the industry – is that more and more people are going to want to do video but we want to enable them to work in the facility that they have, not need to rewire it, because the difference between a TV station and an office building is the TV station’s already wired for video.

“What we’re focused on is making a solution that just works for people wanting to do it on regular 1GigE. So, I would say we’ve got AIMS and ASPEN at the top of the pyramid and our goal is to fill from them on down.”

“If you take AIMS and ASPEN, while they really do serve the needs of broadcasters very, very well and I should say we’re collaborating with them, the problem is that the small guy in the basement is not going to be able to build something around them. So, that’s kind of the difference.

“I bring that up because we have to see ourselves as highly complementary to what they’re doing and we really don’t want to position ourselves as competitive with them at all. In fact, we are part of ASPEN and Evertz has done integration with NDI because it recognises that in a TV station you have the big studios and you have the small studios. Your small studios and your small plants are going to run something like what NewTek has, and the big studios are going to run theirs, and the video should be able to flow between them.”

Aiming to help this flow of video, NewTek recently introduced NewTek Connect Pro, a multi-purpose software tool designed to connect the IP video formats of new and existing video production hardware and software, allowing them to work together. As well as NDI, ASPEN and SMPTE 2022, Connect Pro also supports streaming IP formats found in cameras from JVC, Panasonic, PTZ Optics, Sony, and Vaddio.

According to NewTek’s Andrew Cross, “Our call with NewTek Connect Pro was to create the converter box of all the standards in the IP world and so we built something where you can come in with, for instance, existing cameras.

“One of the ironies of all of this discussion about IP is that most cameras can do IP today. You watch JVC cameras, your Panasonics, your Sonys, all of them will do a transport stream out. It’s just in the wrong format for all this new IP stuff, so we allow it to cross convert from those into NDI. We allow you to bring in SDI capture cards, HDMI capture cards. It can cross convert between any of these things.”

Moving from cameras to the edit suite, NewTek also recently announced NDI for Adobe Creative Cloud, a software plug-in which enables users of Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Adobe After Effects CC and other Adobe Creative Cloud applications to send real-time video and audio to any NDI-enabled receiving product, such as production switchers or capture cards, across a standard ethernet network.

“One of the great things about the IP world is that, in some ways, we have standardised on one thing which is the cable and the packets that go over it,” says Andrew Cross. “And, while we’re all talking about all these different formats you can have a single ethernet cable and it can do NDI, ASPEN and AIMS all at the same time. We’re virtually standardised in a way we haven’t ever before, but one of the great things about having that is it means that people can use the right technology for their needs.

“If you think about the internet, there’s not one technology. You can use PNGs or JPEGs or java script and python, and the cool thing about the Internet is that, by having these different technologies, people can choose the thing that serves their needs the best. And, I think the same has got to be true in our space. We hope to change the discussion from one about formats into one about how we solve problems. That’s our goal with it and we’ll find out, but I know our customers have a need for it so that’s going to be exciting.”



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