All BirdDog cameras and converters support video transmission over a local network using NewTek’s Network Device Interface (NDI). There are actually two flavours of NDI that can be found in production kit: ‘full’ NDI and NDI HX. Full NDI is a variable bitrate, intra-frame codec that is visually lossless and of broadcast quality standard. NDI HX, however, uses a compressed long-GOP H.264 codec. NDI uses a purpose-built NDI codec, whilst NDI HX is using re-purposed MPEG-4. NDI has an integrated alpha channel, but NDI HX does not. There are quite a few differentiating factors.
You would typically expect a 1080p60 video feed using NDI to have a data rate of around 140Mbps; using NDI HX this drops down to around 12Mbps. Now if you’re running a professional multicamera production, would you want to permanently limit the quality of the images the cameras can output, or would you prefer to have a beefier broadcast quality output, from which you can always squeeze down as and when is needed? In carpentry speak, it’s easier to saw more wood away from a piece timber than it is to try and add more back.
Historically, sending video signals over a network commonly presented two issues; less than ideal latency and a setup process that was not exactly user friendly. Latency is the time it takes for a video frame to travel from a camera’s sensor to the next piece of kit in the system, often a video switcher.
If you only have one camera feeding into a recorder then latency is not really an issue. It doesn’t matter too much if this delay is even a few seconds, as it’s an isolated system. The same goes for a single camera live stream to an online platform such as YouTube. Although your audience watches it from a different location, they won’t perceive any delay as, again, it’s an isolated system.
However, if you have an event where someone is speaking on a stage, using multiple cameras all feeding into a switcher, then it’s crucial to keep latency to a minimum to ensure everything is synchronised. This is especially important if the switcher is outputting to large screens in front of the audience, because they can see what’s happening on the stage and on the screens at the same time, so even a small delay is going to be very noticeable.
BirdDog use their own NDI chip that has been developed with a focus on delivering incredibly low latency signal processing to overcome this issue. The typical latency of a BirdDog NDI camera is sub one frame of video when compared to the SDI output - as low as 16ms. To put that into context, compare that with other more established IP streaming protocols: RTMP = 3-30 seconds, RTSP = 1-2s, SRT = sub 1s.
NDI also makes it incredibly easy to route video signals across a local network. When you connect a BirdDog device to a network it will automatically ask to be assigned an IP address using DHCP (although it can be set to static if preferred).
BirdDog 4K converters even have a built-in screen which will display their assigned IP address. You can then type that into a web browser from a device on the same network and access a user-friendly web interface where all the controls are found.
For a decoder, it’s as easy as picking the NDI video source that you want to decode from the list of NDI feeds that the unit automatically detects on the network. NDI is discoverable by all NDI capable devices on the local network, so all available sources will automatically appear within this web interface – this goes for any NDI source or destination, they are all visible and ready to be pointed towards each other.
All BirdDog products can be powered remotely by the local network when using a network switch that can provide Power Over Ethernet (PoE). This means that a single Cat 5e/Cat 6 ethernet cable can be used to integrate each piece of kit into a production system.
When connecting a BirdDog PTZ camera, this single ethernet cable will also carry control, tally, audio and video transmission. This not only simplifies permanent installs, but also makes using NDI and BirdDog an ideal solution for mobile production systems.
Many PTZ cameras offer only basic image control - often limited to exposure, white balance and perhaps overall sharpening and saturation controls - which does not really resonate with what today’s professional camera operator would expect. Other PTZ cameras focus on robotics and the ability to control the camera remotely - the sensor, imaging module, and colour controls seem to be of lower priority.
BirdDog have put themselves in a market sweet spot by offering PTZ cameras that are very good value for money (some models even falling within entry level budget territory) without sacrificing imaging quality and control.
Highly regarded Sony CMOS backlit sensors and imaging modules (optics) are mainly used within the range of cameras, and the comprehensive, web-based control panels really give the operator the means to finesse and craft the image. There is even a full colour matrix, allowing individual saturation and hue control with 64 levels of control per channel, 72 levels of gamma positions to really dial in those blacks, highlight compensation, edge enhancement etc – all the control is there, and with ongoing firmware updates the feature set is only getting better.
With BirdDog cameras and converters, you get an instant tally and comms system that runs on the network, which is of huge benefit for those producing live multicamera productions – it’s one less thing to setup and manage.
When the camera or converter detects that its NDI source has been put on preview or live from within an NDI video switcher, the built-in tally light will reflect it by illuminating green or red – that’s tally done, it’s as simple as that.
BirdDog Comms is a piece software that runs on a windows computer or tablet (free and paid versions available) that links up all of the connected BirdDog encoders and cameras to create a unified comms system. On the camera or converter end an operator can plug-in an apple style headset into the device and can then communicate with the operator at the computer.
NDI capable production kit is still in its infancy when compared to traditional SDI and HDMI video devices, so you may find that although there are plenty of manufactures offering NDI or NDI HX products, they likely don’t have a large enough offering to fulfil specific project requirements. Birddog however have an extensive range of cameras and converters (it’s their sole focus) so you really can pick and choose the right tools for the job at hand. You may require a mixture of HD or 4K indoor PTZ cameras along with outdoor cameras that can survive hurricane levels of wind gusts and rain. You may want to install some NDI HDMI wall plates within an office environment, or perhaps you’re looking for an easy way to drive digital signage – it’s all doable with BirdDog.
Keeping within the BirdDog ecosystem keeps device management super straightforward, provides a level of consistency, allows cameras to be colour matched easily, and means that you’ll not have to ever use third-party systems for the likes of Comms and Tally.