BirdDog NDI converters – get NDI from your traditional SDI and HDMI cameras.
If you’re looking into Birddog NDI converters then you are definitely already down the garden path with NDI. However, if you are new to NDI and have stumbled upon the ability to convert HDMI (or even SDI) to NDI and want to know more about NDI’s capabilities then check out my previous in-depth article all about it here:
How do I know what I’m talking about? Head to the DigiProTips Experience and Background page to find out how I’ve built up my knowledge over a career spanning feature film, broadcast TV and digital content production.
Before we jump into it though, it’s worth briefly touching on what NDI is and why this is such a powerful and useful workflow for your setup. NDI, which stands for Network Device Interface, is a data transfer protocol developed by media switcher and hardware extraordinaire NewTek. It is an open-source protocol that allows you to send video and audio across your local area network at high quality with minuscule latency. It is allowing studios and video professionals to cut cords everywhere and produce digital video like never before.
With this great invention also comes the dilemma of how do I utilise my great camera equipment with traditional connections like HDMI or SDI for NDI production? This is where Birddog comes in.
Now, for those of you who know the great abilities of NDI and want to convert your traditional HDMI or SDI cabling to NDI using a Birddog NDI converter but don’t know which one to choose, then you’ve come to the right place!
Birddog have cornered the market in this small niche for signal conversion, producing some mighty little boxes dedicated to converting SDI and HDMI inputs to NDI sources. However, it’s worth noting that they aren’t the only horse in the race. NewTek themselves do produce a range of NDI converters very similar to Birddog’s. Today though, we are focusing on Birddog. Who have a wide selection of premium and high-quality converters that won’t let you down.
When NDI was first introduced by NewTek there was a whole host of third-party developers creating apps for conversion within software programming but there wasn’t any real hardware conversion going on. It wasn’t until NDI, as it is currently known, got bigger and better that hardware specialists started to look at the capabilities of conversion. Encoding traditional video signals and decoding at the destination.
In 2017 I was well into the build of a new studio for my employer and I wanted to look at going as wire-free as possible. I had heard about a brand and seen them at expos, called BirdDog, they promised the future that I was looking for. However, the demand with which they were met was so vast that they couldn’t keep up with orders and it took a lot longer than I would originally have liked to get the new studio up and running with NDI enabled cams.
However, once I did, I never looked back. The freedom and flexibility was fantastic! Since then BirdDog has increased its production line and improved its offerings with even more converters and other products. It’s fair to say they are a brand that can be trusted to do what they do well.
Which BirdDog NDI Converter to Choose?
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BirdDog Mini – Your Entry to NDI
The Birddog Mini is the first in the lineup of the family.
Each of the BirdDog converters have what BirdDog call their custom NDI silicon chip. Which is built specifically for carrying NDI signals. It allows their units to utilise full NDI (rather than NDI|HX) in all instances and be as fast and reliable as your network bandwidth can handle.
The BirdDog Mini is the entry-level HDMI to NDI converter in the range and as such has one of the lowest price tags attached. Its feature list is still incredibly impressive though, with ‘HDMI inputs and outputs, Active Loop Outs, Audio Intercom System, NDI® Tally System, PoE, and compatibility with BirdDog’s Comms and Central Apps.’ That’s an extensive list of abilities that this little unit can carry and all tools that most studios will need.
It is capable of encoding any HD HDMI signal for use in your production and works with HD up to 1080p at 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94, and 1080i at 50 & 59.94 fps. Another thing I like about the BirdDog Mini is that it is also capable of seeing and displaying any other NDI source on your network. It does this by using the HDMI out port to display a program out or any other camera feed on the network using its built-in NDI decoder. This is great for camera ops who don’t have a program return feed or to feed that output to a reference monitor on set.
The BirdDog Mini retails for around $495.
BirdDog Studio NDI – HD NDI Flexibility
The next in the line up is the Birddog Studio NDI converter unit. This is the bigger brother of the Mini, it aims for complete flexibility when it comes to SDI, HDMI, and NDI.
As well as having all of the same features as the Mini but with SDI and HDMI inputs, you can also use the Studio NDI unit as a cross converter for SDI and HDMI, as well as an NDI decoder unit.
So, for instance, if you wanted to take an NDI feed and display it on a monitor over HDMI then you can. If you want to take an SDI feed and convert it to HDMI, you can. If you want to convert SDI or HDMI to NDI and view the output via loop out, then you can. It is extremely versatile and therefore, an incredibly useful little device when on the studio floor!
When I was setting up the studio a few years ago, this is what I was after. It is still a fantastic device to have unless you are after 4K video. That’s where the Studio NDI might not be the right choice for you. Fortunately, there are offerings from BirdDog similar to the Studio NDI but in 4K, just not at the same price point.
It retails for around $695. If you only need HD then the Studio NDI is a perfect choice for digital video professionals everywhere looking to convert to NDI.
The next in the Birddog range and the most expensive, is the 4K selection of Birddog converters.
These are primarily aimed at the studio and film production professionals looking to capitalise on the older but still very expensive camera equipment they currently own/use and now have a need to use them as NDI-enabled cameras on the IP based production.
4K HDMI – Entry Level 4K NDI
The BirdDog 4K HDMI unit is the entry-level converter of the 4K range. It is by no means a beginner at what it can achieve though. Using HDMI 2.0 the unit can take a 4K HDMI signal and convert it in real-time to 4K NDI. The unit works all the way from 720p to 2160p at 60FPS.
The unit also features a 12G SDI output so that you cross convert HDMI to SDI or use the output as a viewing monitor.
Every unit in the 4K line has a 10GbE SFP port so that you can take that 4K signal across any network at lightning-fast speeds. The port is also a PoE port, so you can power the unit with this port as well.
The cross conversion is fantastic in the 4K line, with any 12G SDI signal being able to be converted to HDMI 2.0 and vice versa.
The unit retails for $895 and is a great entry-level unit for 4K studios who only need to use HDMI but want to get their workflow moved over to NDI.
4K 12G SDI – Entry Level 4K SDI to NDI Conversion
The BirdDog 4K 12G SDI is incredibly similar to 4K HDMI unit in almost every aspect, except of course the connection types.
The unit has a 12G SDI input and output and one HDMI 2.0 output as well.
SDI a the studio standard, in terms of cabling, and most studio cameras will be equipped with SDI over HDMI. The stability and quality assured with SDI is the main driver behind that.
As such, the BirdDog 4K 12G SDI converter is $100 more at $995. This is a great piece of kit for studios with expensive broadcast/cinema cameras who want to take advantage of NID without having to purchase new NDI enabled cameras that may not be of the same specification or quality of their existing setup.
4K QUAD – The 4k Studio NDI Unit
In terms of flexibility, just like the Studio NDI unit, this unit is designed to give the maximum amount of input and output power, combined with NDI, that it can.
With four 12G SDI inputs and one HDMI 2.0 output this unit gives you the option to connect up to four SDI cameras or peripherals to your NDI set up.
As well as a tally system, 3.5mm audio input/output, a 4-line OLED display, USB 3.0 interface, PoE support, and 10GbE connectivity this unit also comes with the BirdDog Comms Lite audio intercom software, which supports up to four BirdDog devices. ‘Comms Lite is Windows compatible and offers features such as Director Push-to-Talk, Mute Camera Operator, Auto Detect NDI Sources, Monitor Camera Audio, and Shortcut to Web Console.’
The feature-rich 4K QUAD delivers a lot of power and flexibility for its price point but that price is certainly a jump from its smaller brother and sisters. The 4K QUAD retails for $1,995. Now, if you have 3 or 4 cameras or peripherals that you want to connect via NDI to your workflow then this is a no-brainer over buying multiple 4K 12G SDI units or 4K HDMI units. However, if you only have one or two, then it still makes financial sense to go with one or two of the previous 4K converters. Unless of course, you want to future-proof your setup.
New to BirdDog’s array of NDI converters is the Flex 4K range. Which claims to be ‘the smallest 4K NDI on the planet’.
For such small little boxes, you may wonder what they can offer in terms of features but you would be surprised. ‘Flex delivers everything you have come to expect from BirdDog including Tally, Audio Intercom, Video, Audio, PTZ Control, and Power. All over a single Ethernet cable.’
Flex 4K In
The Flex range is split into three distinct products, the first being the Input product in the lineup.
The Flex 4K In is a converter designed purely for taking an HDMI input and converting it to NDI for you.
The unit features only a PoE ethernet port, DC in and DC Out, and then the HDMI input. Perfect for a small studio looking to convert their cameras to NDI cheaply.
There is no cross-conversion with these units. They are designed for one-way conversion only, HDMI to NDI.
Because they are designed for this one particular purpose and are much smaller than some of the other products from BirdDog they are also much cheaper.
The BirdDog Flex 4K In retails for $399 (in fact, all of the Flex line up do).
When compared to the 4K HDMI unit above, that is an absolute steal to get 4K NDI.
The backpack variety of the Flex range is pretty much the same as the Flex 4K In model with one exception, it can be attached to your camera monitor/recorder and power that monitor/recorder as well.
The idea being that this unit can be used to take power from the PoE ethernet connection, power itself but also other parts of your camera setup, therefore eliminating the need for more bulk. You could even use the 15W supply to power your camera and do away with batteries.
Again, this unit retails for $399.
Flex 4K Out
The key to the Flex 4K Out is in the name. It’s one job is to take and NDI source and convert that to HDMI instead of the other way around.
Incredibly useful when setting up gallery monitors, reference monitors on set or for your camera operators to have a program out of the control room.
If you have run out of outputs on your vision mixer or switching device then this is a great way of adding more outputs to view NDI sources on.
NDI Made Easy
You see, there really are many ways to get your current camera tech NDI-enabled with BirdDog and choosing the right one for you is hopefully that little bit simpler now.
As I said at the start of this article, the contents of this post and a whole host more about NDI can be found in my ebook, ‘Your Guide to NDI‘. Grab the first 4 chapters for free now.
For more ways of NDI enabling your current cameras for cheaper then check out my other article on it here: