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What is NDI?

As Churches are getting their heads around the world of broadcast and live streaming, we’re seeing more and more people discussing terminology like bitrates, PTZ and SDI. One particular technology that’s being mentioned more and more often is NDI.

NDI is a fairly new technology (though the underlying technology has been around in other contexts for a number of years) and as a result, there is a lot of confusion about what it is, and how it works. We’ve put together a little guide to explain the basics. 

What Does NDI Mean?

NDI simply means ‘Network Device Interface’. NDI typically refers to a collection of software developed by NewTek to allow video devices to deliver, and receive broadcast quality video via a gigabit ethernet network. 

What Does NDI Do?

NDI allows you to send high quality video and audio between devices via a network. For example, an NDI compatible video device (like a camera) can be connected to a network and that device can be received by any NDI receiver on the same network. 

So rather than having to physically connect your devices to inputs and outputs like you would a traditional video switch, you just need to ensure your NDI devices are all on the same network. The biggest advantage of NDI over other solutions is that it doesn’t matter where the devices are connected on your network at all. 

You could have your devices connected directly to your router, or via 16 managed or unmanaged network switches. As long as they share a network, they’ll appear in your NDI compatible software.

This simplifies a lot of more complex video setups, and significantly reduces costs (network infrastructure is much cheaper than running SDI cables and purchasing video routers). 

Additionally, software based video switching software like VMix or Wirecast allow you to switch your NDI video devices like you would any other physical switcher. The only difference is that your switching computer only needs to be on the same network to see your input and output sources.

Using software tools, you can configure any input on your network, to go to any output on your network regardless of where they’re physically connected to your network. 

This is where one of the biggest advantages to NDI lies. It’s unlikely that whoever built your Church building had the foresight to run SDI feeds to every corner of the building in anticipation of you wanting to run screens in breakout rooms, foyers or parents rooms. Most Churches are built on a budget, and very few budgets stretch to installing tens of thousands of dollars in coax cable ‘just in case’.

However, most budgets do stretch to installing at least some network infrastructure, which you can use for your new NDI network. And if they didn’t even have the foresight to install some basic network infrastructure, it’s typically far more affordable to run ethernet cable through your building than traditional coaxial SDI cable.

Why Use NDI?

NDI is a very new technology when compared to more traditional video routing and switching solutions. This carries a number of advantages, but also some significant disadvantages that are important to consider.

It’s incredibly simple to set up, and the use of standard networking infrastructure means that for some Churches, an NDI setup could be as simple as buying a couple of NDI devices and connecting them to an existing network. 

Some of the camera offering’s from brands like Birddog and PTZ Optics are also perfectly suited to Church environments, offering remote controlled cameras that support NDI natively and work great right out of the box.

However, if you’re looking to keep costs down by using older or second hand equipment you won’t have much luck. Additionally, NDI converters (to convert traditional video signals like HDMI and SDI to NDI) still run around $800 (AUD), and there are very few native NDI cameras on the market.

Despite these disadvantages, we believe that NDI is the better option for small and medium Churches looking to add video switching capabilities to their setup affordably without compromising on features or versatility.

NDI technology offers some exciting prospects for Churches, and we’re looking forward to seeing it develop further as it becomes more widely used in broadcast.

If you’re considering an NDI installation for your Church and would like to ask some questions or get some advice, please feel free to get in touch with us! We’d be happy to help you decide on the best option for your Church.

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