NDI-Source BirdDog NDI

NewTek Spark or Birddog Alternative? Try NDI Source!

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.

Your Guide to NewTek NDI
Your Guide to NDI eBook

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.


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To do this you can go down a few different routes.

NewTek NDI Converters
NewTek NDI Spark Converters

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.

Send Video Over NDI
NewTek Connect Spark

Now you can capture video from digital cameras and other devices wirelessly or over Ethernet whenever you need it from anywhere on your network.

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).

Birddog NDI Converters
Birddog NDI Converters

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.

HDMI to NDI Under $500!
Birddog Mini NDI Encoder

BirdDog Mini is the only product in the world to offer full-bit rate1080p60 NDI Encoding, 1080p60 NDI Decoding (using BirdDog Link), Tally, Comms and Power over Ethernet. Pure NDI Mini is the World's smallest NDI encoder.

SDI to NDI For Under $600!
BirdDog Studio SDI NDI Encoder

BirdDog Studio enables your existing cameras to be included into a new IP workflow for your live productions. Once you convert your HDMI or SDI signal to IP the possibilities of live productions are magnified.

4K SDI to 4K NDI For Under $1000!
BirdDog 4K SDI 12G-SDI NDI Encoder

Features include 12G SDI and HDMI 2.0 inputs and outputs, built-in cross converter, SFP+ port for 10GbE connectivity, active loop outs, audio intercom system, NDI® tally system, PoE, and compatibility with BirdDog's Comms Pro and Central Pro apps.

We Have Another Option Though

Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder
©Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder

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).

NDI Source
NDI Source

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.

Small But Mighty!
Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder

Connect any HD SDI or HDMI source to this little box and connect to your PC over Thunderbolt. It's simple and it just works!

HDMI to USB-3!

The U-TAP USB 3.0 Powered HDMI Capture Device from AJA is suitable for use in the field, on set, or at a studio. This compact capture device is bus-powered and supports frame rates up to 1080p60.

How to Use This Route?

It’s actually really quite simple but there’s a couple steps you need to have sorted first.

You will need to ensure you know what you destination frame rate is first. On Tricaster this will tell you at the top of the project, for OBS, Wirecast, and Vmix, this is determined by the settings.

Ensure your camera or feed is set to that frame rate and then connect the converter box to the camera via SDI or HDMI.

Blackmagic Design Mini Recorder Desktop Video Utility
Blackmagic Design Mini Recorder Desktop Video Utility

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.

NDI Source UI
NDI Source UI

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.

Network Upgrade
Netgear 8port gigabit switch

The Netgear 8port unmanaged gigabit ethernet switch is a plug and play switch that requires no set up and will provide anough throughput for all your gigabit connected devices.

Wire-free Networking!
TP-Link AV1000 Powerline Adapters

The TP-Link AV1000 gigabit powerline adapter will provide your home or office with a gigabit network solution where it's not possible to run cables. Simply plug in and connect!

For a more in-depth guide to NDI our new eBook ‘Your Guide to NDI’ is available from the DigiProShop.

Your Guide to NDI
Your Guide to NDI eBook from DigiProTips

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:

iPhone NDI Cam for OBS

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