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Embrace NDI: Empower your SDI infrastructure to facilitate remote IP production at minimal costs

By Joe Tan

In the fast-paced world of broadcasting, where technology is increasingly reshaping traditional media workflows, one platform is standing out as a catalyst for transformation. Blending information technology with traditional broadcasting, the Network Device Interface (NDI) standard is blurring the lines between broadcast and audio-visual information technology (AVIT) networks. This convergence is becoming increasingly crucial as media content digitisation and the demand for video consumption continues to soar. 

Speaking with APB+, Aniket Rangnekar, Asia-Pacific Regional Manager of Apantac, highlights the profound impact that NDI is making. “Over a relatively brief period, the NDI platform has propelled the convergence of broadcast and AVIT, seamlessly interconnecting technologies and traditional workflows,” he maintained.

What makes NDI particularly attractive to broadcast and media companies is its versatility and accessibility, said Rangnekar, who added, “NDI brings together computing, communication, and content for those who want to contribute, create, and deliver audio-visual content without increasing too much of capacity or adding complexity to their setup.” 

Considering the aforementioned advantages, Rangnekar emphasised that broadcasters and existing stakeholders in the media industry should consider NDI as a viable format for content creation and delivery. The initial investment is minimal, and numerous manufacturers offer solutions that can encode any baseband signal type to NDI, he added. “Existing infrastructure workflows apply within the AVIT network domain, specialised workforce requirements can be kept minimum, and AVIT production and delivery workflows can be rapidly implemented.”

Recognising the potential of NDI, Apantac unveiled three NDI solutions at NAB Show 2023, catering to the emerging needs of its customers and providing an end-to-end NDI workflow solution. The company also partnered with Ideal Systems at BroadcastAsia 2023 to showcase a full NDI workflow. 

“To summarise, for any organisation looking to consider upcoming technology in audio-visual for creative problem-solving and output delivery, NDI is the platform to consider,” said Rangnekar. “With a simple effective toolset from NDI, rapid deployment into existing infrastructure and delivery will help propel any media organisation into the forefront.”

The adoption of NDI has been positively received and has revolutionised the broadcast and media industry, said Robert Shen, Sales Manager for FOR-A South-East Asia. According to Shen, the adoption of NDI has acted as a crucial catalyst for the transition to new and versatile standards. By demystifying complexities, NDI streamlines workflows, reduces costs and enhances overall efficiency, he said. 

FOR-A’s NDI-enabled video production ecosystem serves as a prime example of this digital transformation. By incorporating an NDI I/O interface card into a traditional SDI-based system, users can create a hybrid, integrated live system, which facilitates the connection of character generators, mixers, and PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras over an IP network, resulting in an easily manageable setup. 

Shen continued, “Embracing NDI is not merely about adopting new technology but initiating a broader strategic shift towards IP-enabled remote production. Given its cost-effectiveness and flexibility, NDI has emerged as the ideal standard for this new era of remote IP production.

“In addition to facilitating the use of an IP production environment in conventional SDI-based systems, it is possible to build efficient workflows that utilise IP connections not only for programme production but also for the broadcasting of sports and events and various streaming delivery.

“My advice to media professionals considering NDI adoption is this: Embrace the change. FOR-A opens the door to the world of IP production by enabling all customers who have used SDI-based systems to utilise NDI. Remember, the future belongs to those who innovate, and in the broadcasting industry, NDI is the most effective innovation.” 

In recent years, broadcasters in Asia have faced many challenges to transition to IP-based systems without being offered clear advantages to existing SDI infrastructure. However, the landscape has now shifted to open up new possibilities, said Fintan McKiernan, CEO, Ideal Systems, South East Asia.

The advent of cloud-based broadcast systems, catalysed by the impact of the pandemic, has ushered in a new era. While certain aspects of production still require physical equipment such as cameras, teleprompters, microphones, and mixers, NDI has emerged as a crucial enabler, suggested McKiernan. By connecting peripherals to NDI through a cost-effective Netgear switch, local production can thrive while maintaining the flexibility to tap into the cloud when needed.

McKiernan emphasised that NDI offers substantial benefits over traditional SDI methods. For example, NDI delivers enhanced functionality, including bi-directional signal transmission, multi-format capability, and auto-discovery. These features position NDI as an alternative to conventional approaches. From a cost perspective, he maintained that NDI systems are proving to be more economical compared to equivalent SDI setups, requiring less specialised broadcast equipment like video routers and multiviewers. Notably, when compared to the expensive SMPTE 2110 standard, NDI systems can generate savings of over 50% in many cases, said McKiernan.

Andreas Panozzo, CTO of Si Media, echoed the sentiment about NDI’s transformative power and said, “NDI has demonstrated its potential from the very beginning. In a saturated market with high maintenance costs, this new format promises to free broadcasters from hardware constraints, while also reducing costs and implementation times, all without compromising quality.” 

He highlighted the key benefits of NDI in Si Media’s end-to-end workflow, including high stream quality, low latency, and compatibility with existing networks. This compatibility, he added, enables a smoother transition without the need for costly equipment replacements. 

To showcase its practical application, Si Media has successfully implemented NDI in client projects, as Panozzo described, “PrimoCanale, one of the major regional TV stations in the North-west of Italy, based in Genova, has been the first Si Media client to migrate to a complete end-to-end NDI-based workflow, from ingest to playout.

“We are now deploying a major production system entirely NDI-based in the Middle East, and we have been receiving increasing requests for NDI over the past few months.”

With more broadcasters and media operators looking for cost efficiencies that come with improved workflows, it is unlikely to be the last NDI deployment that will make the headlines in the months ahead.

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