"Our goal is to give our customers a voice through video," explains Andrew Cross, NewTek's president and CTO. "We want to enable this for everybody, and we hope that doing so will benefit us also. We know that there's going to be more video producers tomorrow and more video production going on tomorrow than there is today. We are in a changing market and we don't know how to reach people the same as before, but we know that our market is going to grow."
Cross emphasizes, "We are big believers in IP as the future of video production. It represents the biggest transformational change in the industry since file-based workflows replaced tape, and we may not see a bigger transition in our lifetime."
With this new paradigm in mind, NewTek recently announced the NewTek NDI PTZ camera, NewTek Connect Spark, a portable device that delivers SDI or HDMI video to a computer or IP network, and NewTek NDI version 3.
NewTek NDI v3
NewTek NDI, or Network Device Interface, is an enabling technology for live production IP workflows over Ethernet-based LAN networks. NewTek originally designed it for internal use but opted to distribute it for free, turning it into a royalty-free standard anyone can implement to connect video equipment across a network.
NewTek NDI Studio
Considering the introduction, distribution and subsequent adoption of NDI, Cross relays the simple strategy for a complicated technical development: "We gave it away in the hopes that it would help spur adoption of IP video. We're trying to make NDI so that it really fulfills the end-to-end vision and dream, which is that just by having sources on your network, you can use them."
Cross did not anticipate the industry's reaction. "I have to admit that I'm kind of surprised, positively surprised about how well NDI has taken off. With NDI, we did something we thought was going to be important, but just because we think it's important doesn't mean that anybody else out there will."
Well, they did. NDI version 3 is available now as a royalty-free software development kit (SDK) for anyone wanting to enable IP workflows in their facilities, or in production devices and systems they manufacture. "NDI version 3 firmly grounds our vision for the all-IP future of video production," Cross notes. "With major new technologies like multicast and the introduction of end devices, the true IP revolution has arrived."
NewTek Live IP Production Workflow
Cross says that NewTek's effort in evangelizing the technology is paying dividends. "For the first year or so we were doing quite a lot of heavy lifting explaining why this is important, why it matters. I feel that, particularly within the last six months, we have reached an inflection point where it's like pushing the cart off the top of the hill and it's starting to roll under its own momentum. I'm seeing more and more people getting what we're doing and why, and that is really a cool feeling."
The NDI SDK has been downloaded thousands of times, and millions of NDI-enabled applications, devices and systems are in the hands of customers today.
"I'm seeing people doing really cool stuff with NDI—they've got nothing to do with us, and that's even better," Cross laughs. "That's what we want.
"I wanted to make something that allows these small guys to implement IP video really easily, without thinking about the complexities of IP video transport. I would credit the growth of NDI with solving that problem for people. It made it easy for them. Now they can focus on creating products that make them money" instead of working the kinks out of a complex video transport infrastructure.
NDI allows multiple video systems to identify and communicate with one another over IP, and to encode, transmit and receive many streams of high-quality, low-latency, frame-accurate video and audio in real time. This benefits any network-connected video device, including video mixers, graphics systems, capture cards and other production devices, making it possible to exponentially increase the number of sources available for live production switching without directly attaching to devices, changing locations, or investing in high-bandwidth networks that simply replace SDI-based workflows.
NewTek PTZ Camera
NDI version 3 implements new features and performance improvements while maintaining full forward and backward compatibility. The largest incremental change to the NDI SDK since its launch nearly two years ago, NDI v3 includes support for multicast with forward error correction, a high-efficiency mode (NDI|HX) suitable for wireless or long distance transmission, PTZ camera control and tally, and improved encoding performance. NewTek is also announcing with this release embedded NDI support for hardware devices such as cameras and A/V signal converters.
NDI 3.0 will expand the capabilities of products from BirdDog, Bluefish444, Microsoft Skype, NewBlueFX, OBS, Panasonic, PTZOptics, SplitmediaLabs XSplit, Broadcast Pix, Ross Video, Telestream Wirecast and Gameshow, vMix, NewTek and hundreds of others.
NewTek NDI PTZ Camera
NewTek NDI PTZ Camera
NewTek is entering a new phase of development, leading them to produce additional tools for mobile, IP-based production. "One of the dreams of IP is that you can take a camera, put it on your Ethernet network and it just works. Needing to have a capture card and a PC or a USB dongle to import video is hugely inconvenient. Being able to just move video through Ethernet—and now it's visible and usable—is what people want to do. We've heard that time and time again," says Cross.
Responding to that request, the company is introducing NDIHX-PTZ1, a broadcast-quality IP video camera that connects to every NDI-enabled video application. According to Will Waters, NewTek's director of product marketing, "It's the start of a whole new video reality."
An NDI-native PTZ camera, it transmits full 3G 1080p60 video directly to NDI-compatible products across a standard network. The camera's value proposition is its simplicity. A single Ethernet cable (and a network that supports Power over Ethernet) is all that's required. The cable transfers audio and video, delivers power, and offers bidirectional communication to support PTZ camera control and tally. Further, the technology works on existing infrastructure.
NewTek NDI PTZ Camera
Once connected to the network, the camera is visible to all compatible systems running the latest version of NDI, including Livestream Studio, SplitmediaLabs XSplit, Streamstar, OBS Studio, StudioCoast vMix, Telestream Wirecast and NewTek TriCaster, as well as business communication applications such as GoToMeeting, Skype, Skype for Business, Zoom Media and others.
"Producers recognize this technology simplifies their work while expanding their opportunity to create more and better shows," Cross notes.
NDI technology lets users add a PTZ camera wherever network access is available. With multiple PTZ cameras, Waters adds, you can expand your sources quickly and "enhance the storytelling without complicating and adding to the complexity of what we generally have to do in video production.
NewTek NDI PTZ Camera
"We think that it's going to impact storytelling because you can effectively run everything on that single cable. You get the capability and the long cable distances used in the IT world all the time."
Orders for the NewTek NDI PTZ camera are being accepted now, and units will begin shipping on August 1 for a U.S. MSRP of $2,799.
NewTek Connect Spark
Another product the company has developed to extend and expand IP-based production is NewTek Connect Spark, a portable device that delivers SDI or HDMI video to a computer or an IP network, wirelessly. As IP video converters with built-in NDI functionality, the units deliver video as an IP source to any standard network via Wi-Fi or standard Ethernet cable. Connect Spark also records audio and video to SD cards or USB drives, controllable from a web interface available for smartphones, tablets and laptops.
NewTek Connect Spark NCS (HDMI version)
"NewTek Connect Spark easily converts HDMI and SDI signals into IP signals," Cross explains. "It's as easy as plugging your video source into the device and turning on a Wi-Fi connection. At that point, any compatible system on the network can see it."
Connect Spark devices provide 3G-SDI or HDMI conversion up to 1080p60 with loop-through. In addition to video conversion to IP, the devices provide tally support, and remotely record MP4 to an SD card or USB drive.
"They are converter products at the core," Waters says. "Users have to deal with a huge variety of video formats and types—enough to make your head hurt. We want to simplify."
NewTek Connect Spark NCS-S (SDI version)
Waters adds of NDI workflows, "This is just the way things should naturally be. Video should be on the network, and we should deal with video just like we change channels on a TV. It should just be natural to the discussion."
Orders for the NewTek Connect Spark NCS (HDMI version) and NCS-S (SDI version) are being accepted now. Units will begin shipping August 1 starting at a U.S. MSRP of $499 for Spark NCS and $799 for Spark NCS-S. International pricing will vary.
Functions of the IP Video Future
"I hope that we're creating a real market and truly enabling IP video, which is the end game—not simply coming out with the latest product," Cross says. "If you want to do something that matters, there's got to be a reason for it and not just, 'Hey, look, it's got this feature now.'
NewTek Connect Spark with NDI PTZ Camera
"I think we are going to see a very different way of working five years from now because of IP," Cross continues. He hopes that IP technology will have moved into the background in five years time, acting as a silent enabler of video communication that users can, for the most part, simply ignore.
"I think it's going to take more time, maybe a bit more time than five years, for people to truly realize the potential of what they can do."
Considering NewTek's approach to innovation, Cross says, "We see ourselves as the disruptive startup, and so we very much have an affinity for people who have a crazy idea and want to go out and make it happen, because crazy ideas are what we seem to have."