As we pointed out in our previous article on the wonders of NDI, it can do a lot of things with very little.
You’re probably now well into the rabbit hole of how to get the most from it.
One of the most common things people want to know is how they can use their existing equipment and turn it into NDI-enabled hardware so that they don’t have to purchase expensive capture cards or devices.
This article and many others like it (not published) can be found in our eBook ‘Your Guide to NDI’. The eBook offers and introduction and thorough walkthrough of all the ways you could integrate NewTek NDI into your digital video and audio workflows. Get a copy right 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.
DISCLAIMER: This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission if you buy the products from these links (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But we only recommend products we would use ourselves. For more information, click here to see our disclosures.
To do this you can go down a few different routes.
There’s the NewTek Spark series which has options for SDI or HDMI inputs and then whether to go WiFi or Ethernet to deliver your transcoded signal to its destination.
These boxes are not as expensive as some capture cards for your PC but they’re also not far off either (for the 4K versions).
There is also the Birddog series of converter boxes which have similar features to the Spark’s but also carry tally signal and can even go up to quad 4K input.
These boxes carry a heavier price tag for the extras that they give and that may be worth it to you depending on your setup and budget.
We Have Another Option Though
If you have a BlackMagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder or an AJA capture box you can use these with an app from Sienna.tv called NDI Source to convert your SDI or HDMI input into an NDI source using just the box and an app on your Mac computer (on Windows a company called MediaLooks does something similar).
The app costs $99 so if you don’t have one of these little devices already then the spark may be just as cheap a route for you. These boxes retail for about $300 so the costs become comparable.
How to Use This Route?
It’s actually really quite simple but there’s a couple steps you need to have sorted first.
Ensure your camera or feed is set to that frame rate and then connect the converter box to the camera via SDI or HDMI.
On the BMD Mini Recorder you need to have the BMD Desktop Video application installed and ensure your device is listening on either SDI or HDMI, whichever your cameras is connected to.
Connect the converter to your Mac and open up NDI Source. Choose your converter from the drop down and then choose the frame rate of your source and destination. You can hit ‘Start’ and a preview will show in your preview window on the UI.
The camera will now appear as an NDI source at your destination called ‘NDI Source’.
And there we have it!
Unfortunately you can only connect one camera up this way. To get more cameras involved you would need to go down the Birddog route which can handle this. But for one camera and some existing hardware this is a simple and slightly cheaper alternative to those boxes.
Try it out for free to see how it works for you with the NDI Source demo app on Sienna.tv.
Note. We suggest a network setup with at least 1gbps bandwidth to take full advantage of the technology. NDI streams use little CPU power but can use 100Mbps for each stream. We suggest using at least CAT6 ethernet cabling to ensure 1Gbps transfer around your network. Gigabit Desktop switches connecting your hardware for your local network traffic will also secure a stable NDI connection. If your setup requires WiFi or cannot run cables around your location then there is the possibility that gigabit powerline adapters could create a makeshift 1Gb network for you. If you would like extra security over your connectivity then a 10G switch would provide more than enough throughput for NDI streams and the transfer media locally in post-production. You may want to think about CAT7 ethernet cables for this though to ensure enough bandwidth in your cabling to handle 10G.
For a more in-depth guide to NDI our new eBook ‘Your Guide to NDI’ is available from the DigiProShop.
And if you sign up to our newsletter you can get the first 4 chapters for free right now. Sign up using the form below this post.
Check out our latest NDI content here: