The Next Evolution of NDI®
April 08, 2018 by Dr. Andrew Cross and Steve Bowie
From its start, NewTek’s mission could be distilled to one imperative – to give storytellers a voice through video. We are convinced that computers, software and networks are the three keystones of the next generation of video tools, not for high-end markets only, but for anyone who wants to produce a show, or stream their team, class or congregation – and have fun while doing it.
Video revolutions start in basements and garages wherever creative programmers have great ideas (we know, because we started there, too!) We want them to succeed. When they win, we all win. NDI® is where our commitment to this vision becomes reality.
We could have kept NDI to ourselves. Instead, we made it both incredibly easy to implement and free to sell. Thus we were gratified but not surprised to see hundreds of great new products appear as if overnight that take advantage of NDI’s outstanding A/V interchange features.
To underscore how strongly we feel about this, we even helped our competitors achieve their goals: We released our NDI PTZ cameras, but we also assisted Panasonic, PTZ Optics, Lumens, Marshall, and others to bring their NDI products to market. We’ve made NewTek-brand NDI converters, but helped BirdDog create theirs, too. And we give away, completely free of cost, our richly powerful suite of NDI Tools – to enable developers and end-users alike to immediately multiply the benefits of their investments.
We’re very proud of NDI. It’s what results when a video software company designs an IP protocol. NDI checks all the important boxes for production, but doesn’t paint you into a corner. For example, NDI-SMPTE2110 interop is fully functional. Likewise, we anticipate that upcoming protocols in various stages of development by hardware-focused companies will be equally complementary to and compatible with NDI.
We want to sincerely thank the community for making NDI the world’s most successful IP standard for video production. Without thousands of companies who joined hands with us, more than ten million people would still be chained to HDMI and SDI. While this latest build is dubbed version 3.5 (full integer updates occur at IBC on NDI’s anniversary), it is extremely feature packed and delivers massive benefits for NDI developers and customers alike.
Changes to NDI Applications and Drivers
NDI Scan Converter
The new version of NDI Scan Converter provides vastly improved image quality and much, much more. The GPU is now used to capture the screen, and handles the lion’s share of color conversion, processing and NDI transmission. You can now capture all of your system’s desktops in real-time, at full 60Hz and with almost no CPU usage. (Note: This version of Scan Converter relies on the latest DirectX 11 API, thus requires Windows 8 or better.) Choose which audio source accompanies your screen capture, including system audio. Now you can play a computer game or display a PowerPoint presentation with audio (with no impact on frame-rate) and supply it as an NDI source. Scan Converter now fully supports webcams, too. Stream games with audio, and overlay your webcam on the stream while supplying voice-over with a high-quality mic. Send PowerPoint to your audience on Hangouts, Zoom Media, Skype, or GoToMeeting (see NDI Virtual Input), and use your webcam to talk to them. NDI Scan Converter now provides ‘region of interest’ support, so you can capture video directly from a YouTube page.
NDI Studio Monitor
It would be hard to overstate the importance of this ‘little giant’. Signage is an extensive and important video field, and Studio Monitor now has it covered. The set for virtually every show now includes multiple video screens; lobbies, building façades and billboards display giant screens, and so on. Supplying these sources over analog cabling was always impractical, SDI hardware costs are prohibitive, and HDMI’s distance limitations prevents it from serving as a reliable alternative. IP is, of course, the perfect solution – ubiquitous, reliable, and inexpensive.
Need to update the display on a remote screen? NDI Studio Monitor now provides an integrated web server; just scan a QR code on the display to turn your mobile device into a (password-protected) remote control. What’s more, multiple instances of Studio Monitor running on the same machine can be independently controlled. Even when you have lots of different computers running Studio Monitor, they all ‘see’ each other over P2P, giving you complete control from any point on your network!
An equally radical and valuable addition to Studio Monitor lets you overlay titles and graphics (even full motion video) on the display. Assign a unique overlay to appear over video in your lobby and apply something different for your showroom. Or use the Overlay feature to provide picture in picture output. Each Studio Monitor instance can now choose which sound device to use for playback, and which video monitor its output should appear on (or which monitors it should span). You can even set Studio Monitor to launch on computer startup so that multiple instances, all correctly configured, launch automatically. Buy a NUC or two to easily and inexpensively create multiple, remotely controllable, 4K outputs.
Better support for joysticks and keyboard shortcuts for PTZ control round out this phenomenal upgrade.
NDI Virtual Input
Assign NDI video sources as inputs to anything that supports webcams (including GoTo Meeting, Skype, Hangouts, Zoom Media, and much more!) NDI Virtual Input fully supports 1080p60 or even 4K at full frame-rate, and even allows you to modify audio levels for different application requirements.
VLC Media Player
This new version now supports both VLC 3.0 and VLC 2.x. Virtual PTZ control is built in, allowing you to pan and zoom around in VLC output displayed in Studio Monitor as though you were controlling a real PTZ camera. Video format support is improved, as are time-stamps and more.
Adobe CC drivers
The new driver support the absolute latest version of Adobe CC, at the same time as delivering higher quality, floating point color support, and more.
NDI HX Drivers
The NDI HX drivers are now integrated into NDI tools to make things quicker and more convenient. The drivers feature many optimizations, bug-fixes and improved support for complex network setups. In addition, hardware acceleration support has been upgraded.
Changes to the SDK
We’ve made the entire SDK easier to use. Functions are easier to understand, but fully backwards compatible. The new SDK Getting Started Guide will accelerate the learning process for those who are new to the NDI ecosystem.
Changes to the Protocol
Really, NDI itself has been completely transformed ‘under the hood’, including truly massive optimizations to the underlying protocol to support UDP data transfer, with Forwards Error Correction (for both Unicast and Multicast). What is more, NDI now automatically detects NICs, and all the possible paths between a source and a destination, in order to spread the bandwidth out across all possible paths. This delivers much better performance in almost every case, even on high latency networks. What is more, very sophisticated internal congestion control reduces packet loss, and helps everything run on real-world networks which often employ ‘less than ideal’ routers or switches.
More reliable discovery
Numerous discovery and connection edge cases are handled better, to provide increased reliability when network topologies change, across multiple NICs (or networks) and much more. In other enhancements, NDI discovery on the local machine is improved as also are NDI sources on virtual networks.
NewTek will soon be launching a reference FPGA project running on a Xilinx reference board that we will let people play with for free; if you make a commercial project then we should talk about how we can work together to make it successful.
And more …
Traditionally, using RGB video was 80% slower than YCbCr. We’ve added AVX2 optimizations to bring this down to just 20% (assuming you have enough memory bandwidth on your system to keep up). We also now support 4:2:0 video color spaces on input, and we even include FFMPEG for Windows with NDI support for your convenience, eliminating the hassle of working out how to compile it yourself.
You Want it When?
Release is scheduled for right after NAB (when we’ve woken up from the fun. See you at the show!)
For details and downloads for all things NDI: NewTek NDI Home