At OPPS, we always strive to ensure our clients experience the cutting-edge advancements in video production technology. Our unwavering commitment to quality and adaptability in the face of changing technology landscapes has led us to harness the power of the Network Device Interface (NDI) video protocol across many types of events. While traditional baseband Serial Digital Interface (SDI) video has been a staple in the industry for years, we’ve found that the benefits of NDI far outweigh those of its predecessor in most use-cases.
A Leap into the Future
As a highly flexible and easily scalable solution, NDI provides numerous advantages over baseband SDI. In the world of digital video production, having a flexible system that accommodates varying client needs is a prerequisite. The sheer flexibility of the NDI protocol allows us to configure, modify, and manage video streams in ways we previously could only imagine.
NDI's cost-effectiveness is a compelling attribute. Since NDI is software-driven, the need for large quantities of expensive, single-purpose hardware is significantly reduced. On an NDI-driven production, we can utilize high-performance general-purpose compute hardware to deliver results that would traditionally require multiple racks of equipment along with a larger onsite team to setup, configure, and operate.
Being an IP protocol, NDI is transported on standard network equipment rather than industry and application-specific infrastructure. Combined with Audinate's Dante audio protocol, this means we can run an entire production on a 1G/10G IP network.
The implications of this are clear: reduced equipment, less cabling, and minimized setup times. All these improvements translate into increased efficiency, requiring less space, reducing costs, and ultimately enhancing the final product.
Where NDI Might Not Be the Go-To
While NDI is revolutionary, it’s important to mention scenarios where this technology may not be the optimal choice. Firstly, in latency-sensitive applications, particularly situations involving Image Magnification (IMAG), NDI might not be ideal. While NDI has remarkably low latency, it isn't sufficient for in-room IMAG due to potential audio/video sync issues.
Moreover, for extremely simple setups, running a few baseband SDI cables might be a more straightforward choice. NDI truly comes into its own with medium to large systems, but sometimes the old-school simplicity of SDI has its merits.
Additionally, if you require ultra-high quality, uncompressed recording or broadcasting, SDI might still be your best bet. However, this scenario is quite rare across our client-base as most end-users view the production as a 5Mbps web stream. In regards to recording, most of our clients request recording in ProRes 422 format, which offers comparable quality to NDI, and often, a simple 20Mbps h264 file serves their needs.
Despite its potential limitations, the benefits of using NDI video protocol far outweigh the downsides. For those times where a baseband system is the right answer, we also maintain an inventory to satisfy those needs.
Pros & Cons
Extremely Flexible: With NDI, we can easily configure and manage video streams, adding a layer of flexibility that's unparalleled.
Easy to Work With: As a protocol, NDI is designed to be user-friendly, making our tasks smoother and our workflows more efficient both physically and digitally.
Software-Driven: NDI allows us to work on COTS computer equipment which means our workflows translate easily between on-prem bare-metal hardware and cloud-based VMs.
Latency: In latency-sensitive applications, especially those involving Image Magnification (IMAG), NDI may not be suitable due to its real-world latency.
Compressed Quality: Though visually lossless, NDI does employ compression. This could potentially impact the quality in scenarios requiring uncompressed recording or broadcasting.
Network Configuration: NDI runs on a network, and improper configuration can lead to issues that can be complex to resolve for those unfamiliar with IP networks; however, you can rest assured knowing our team is well versed in this technology.
The Bottom Line
At OPPS, we are relentlessly committed to delivering optimal solutions, tailored to the individual needs of our clients. NDI has emerged as an incredibly powerful, cost-effective, and flexible solution, enabling us to take our video production services to the next level. However, understanding its nuances helps us guide our clients better, ensuring they get the best possible solutions for their needs, using whatever technology is necessary to make that happen.
NDI represents the future of video production, and we’re excited to continue leveraging it for better, smarter, and more efficient workflows.