NDI-to-HDMI on the cheap?

There is no question that Newtek’s NDI is rocking the world of video production. Whether in corporate video, educational video, live streaming or low-end broadcast, it allows a transition to IP transport that’s profoundly attractive in many ways.

NDI delivers high quality video at very low latency, under one frame of video. A 1080p60 NDI stream requires at most around 150 mbps. This is ideal for production applications, which are quite separate from transmission/delivery, where lower bitrates are preferred and some seconds of delay is tolerable.

ClueCon NDI Feed on Monitor

In the early days of NDI, if you needed to view an NDI signal on a monitor that required a Windows PC running NDI Studio Monitor. This is an application that can pick the stream off the network and display it on a monitor. It has some nice features, like the ability to overlay a second stream (picture-in-picture) and show audio metering.

I used this approach at Cluecon 2018, with a very small PC purchased just for the task (pictured above.)

This little PC has the right stuff to be a reliable presentation device; Windows 10, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet and Intel HD Graphics 600 GPU. It can present a 1080p60 stream using about 40% of CPU continuously without overheating. best of all, and under $200, it was affordable.

A BirdDog Joins the Hunt

In 2018 BirdDog.TV arrived with their Studio ($895) and Mini ($495, pictured) products. These were initially NDI encoders, designed to NDI-enable cameras or other sources. They have recently been extended to decode as well. That means that a BirdDog Mini  can be connected to a display, allowing it to see any NDI signals on the network. No requirement for a Windows PC. All the reliability and convenience of an appliance.

bird-dog-mini-1

BirdDog are first to market for one, very good reason. They developed their own firmware to deal with NDI.  Their products are FPGA-based, allowing them to be effectively reprogrammed in the field. Newtek support for partners included an emphasis on such a hardware strategy.

Enter DeltaCast

Very recently DeltaCast announced their new DELTA-neo N2H Standalone converter, which is a small appliance intended to be a headless NDI playback device. That is, it can pick an NDI stream from the network and display it on a monitor or HDTV.

delta-neo-n2h-new-meca-560x373-safearea-1

In some respects, the N2H is similar to the BirdDog Mini. At least in as far as the NDI decode function is concerned.

Kane Peterson of Newtek tells us that it’s also FPGA-based. That makes sense given their support with sample code for FPGA developers.

DeltaCast reports that the N2H is very conveniently powered via standard power-over-Ethernet.

What’s not said, but appears obvious to me, is that the product is based upon something akin to a Raspberry Pi single board computer. The connector locations, and the nature of the case itself, just screams out, “built on Pi” or Pi clone.

Heck, it looks a lot like the Raspberry Pi and HiFi Berry combination that I use to replace my old Logitech Squeezeboxes as the die of old age. The HiFi Berry hat makes the case taller, but the mechanics of the standoffs from the SBC are the very same.

It’s probably not a Pi, but rather an SBC in a matching form factor, of which there are a handful. I suspect it’s related to the ZynqBerry or SmartBerry which are single board computers in the Raspberry Pi form factor, but with an onboard FPGA.

ynqBerry - Zynq-7010 in Raspberry Pi form factor TE0726-03M_1_600x600

Why does this matter? Well, it’s about price. The price of the N2H is not yet known. In my application, it would replace a SFF Windows PC that costs around $200. The N2H being an appliance has some advantages over the Windows PC. Most especially in long term, fixed installations. However, it’s got to cost less than BirdDog Mini, which is much more flexible.

I would hope the N2H to cost around $250. At that price I would buy it over the small Windows PCs for an upcoming project.