Edited on februari 3rd 2020: added information on HDCP
I have experienced the three fundamental differences between NDI and most other Pro AV over IP solutions.
- NDI is software based with the advantage of great flexibility and lots of free software tools. The BirdDog Studio NDI hardware encoder / decoder is a lot of value for the money, but it limits the flexibility somewhat: no NDI|HX support and only 720 / 1080 resolutions.
- NDI is focused on the live production / broadcast market. The main interface seems to be SDI but in most cases HDMI is supported as well.
- NDI is a standard, maintained by NewTek. There’s a large NDI community providing information, including lots of video tutorials, and helping to push the technology forward. Different hardware manufacturers, including Panasonic and Sony adopted NDI.
NDI, including the free NDI Tools is easy to use, require practically no network configuration and utilize user friendly names instead of IP addresses.
Let’s go over the most important topics:
- Video Quality: Although I have not done extensive quality measurements comparing NDI to other solutions, I believe that quality is sufficient for most Pro AV applications. NDI|HX’s quality is significantly less.
- Switching: switching sources on the BirdDog NDI Studio took about 3 seconds and it’s not seamless.
- Latency: I measured 3-4 frames at 60Hz with the BirdDog Studio NDI. Note that this is NDI and NOT NDI|HX. There are AV over IP systems with less latency, but it’s still pretty low. It will do in most Pro AV applications.
- HDCP: It was brought to my attention that BirdDog Studio NDI does not support HDCP copy protection. The hardware is HDCP ready, but there’s no implementation schedule. I haven’t investigated other NDI hardware, but I my guess is there’s no HDCP support either.
- Miscellaneous: Unicast is default with NDI, multicast is possible but will make things more complicated. Like in every other multicast application. I haven’t seen things like scalers (to convert resolutions), EDID management tools or videowall applications.
So can we use NDI in a Pro AV, non video production, environment today? Well, it depends on the application. If you do not need the ultimate performance (latency / quality), seamless switching, HDCP support and stick to video resolutions (720/1080): I would say YES.
And what about tomorrow? If you consider the pace in which NDI is evolving I expect to see much more (4K) NDI hardware and new (software) features. It’s unclear to me if HDCP will be supported in the future.
I would like to finish with some quotes from Dan Miall, CEO of BirdDog, after reading this review:
“….some things which are coming out shortly which will improve your results are faster decode source switching as well as further reduced latency”
“We also have a full line of 4K converters on the way”
“ …. we are working to support many more video resolutions to work more readily in A/V markets”