Using NDI

NDI, which stands for Network Device Interface, is a standard that allows cameras, video switchers, computers, and other devices to send and receive high-quality video over a regular IP network. NDI streams can contain video at any resolution, frame rate, aspect ratio, and format, as well as multiple channels of embedded audio, control signals, and metadata. Starting with QLab 5.0, you can use incoming NDI streams as sources for Camera cues, and publish Stages as NDI streams for other devices to receive.

QLab uses the format DEVICE_NAME (NDI_SOURCE_NAME) to uniquely identify NDI streams. For this reason, it’s best not to have two (or more) devices on the same network which have the same name. If there are multiple devices with the same name, NDI automatically adds a numerical suffix which prevents problems, but is difficult to troubleshoot. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the same-named devices will appear in the same order after a restart of the system, so the numerical suffixes can change.

Using NDI input with Camera Cues

To use an incoming NDI video source with a Camera cue, first go to Workspace Settings → Video → Video Input. Then, either create a new video input patch using the button on screen or the keyboard shortcut ⌘N, or identify an existing video input patch that you want to use.

When you click on the Device pop-up menu next to the video input patch you’ve chosen, you’ll see all available video input signals listed by category. NDI video sources are listed towards the bottom under the rather appropriate heading NDI sources. Select the source you wish to use.

Now, in the cue list, you can create a Camera cue, navigate to the I/O tab of the inspector, and select the video input patch that you just configured. If the NDI source that you selected includes audio, you can also choose how many channels of that audio you wish to use within the cue.

Camera cues using NDI sources behave just like any other Camera cue.

Setting Up Your Network for NDI

NDI has fairly low-intensity networking needs, with no esoteric hardware or stringent technical requirements. There are a few basic rules, though, and some helpful minimum specs to keep in mind.

NDI Networking Basics

  • Every device that you want to use together via NDI needs to be on the same subnet, unless you’re using NDI Bridge.
  • The network must not block any of the ports listed below.
  • The network must support multicast traffic.
  • The network must have sufficient bandwidth as described below.

Network Ports used for NDI

  • NDI uses mDNS to detect sources on a network. mDNS uses TCP port 5353.
  • NDI uses TCP port 5960 for messaging between servers and clients.
  • Most NDI devices send their first video stream on port 5961, their second stream on 5962, and so on with one port for each stream. Older NDI devices made prior to 2016 use ephemeral ports for streams, with each stream using a port somewhere in the range of 49152 to 65535. Unless you’re sure which ranges of ports are used by the devices you’re using, it’s safest to assume that access to both ranges of ports will be necessary. QLab uses ports starting at 5961 and counting up from there.

Networking Tips from NewTek

While NDI does not require specific networking hardware, NewTek provides some guidelines which can be helpful:

  • Use network switches with 1 Gbps (or higher) full duplex ports.
  • Turn auto-negotiation off for any port used for NDI traffic.
  • Turn EEE (Energy Efficient Ethernet) off for any port used for NDI traffic, or use switches that do not support EEE.
  • Always be sure to use properly terminated ethernet cables.
  • Use “basic line-cascade” network structures; avoid “pyramid” or “tree” network structures.
  • QoS settings are not required, but if you use Qos, always configure NDI traffic as real-time and high priority/time critical.
  • Network packet loss should be 1% or less.
  • One-way latency between any two devices using NDI should be 150 ms or less.
  • Jitter should be 30 ms or less.

NDI Bandwidth Examples

Examples below include 16 channels of embedded audio.

Example NDI video stream Approximate bandwidth required
1 × SD video stream 20 Mbps
1 × 720p60 video stream 90 Mbps
1 × 1080i60 video stream 100 Mbps
1 × 1080p60 video stream 125 Mbps
1 × UHDp30 video stream 250 Mbps
1 × UHDp60 video stream 400 Mbps

The total bandwidth of your network should be high enough that all NDI traffic combined does not exceed 75% of the capacity of the network.

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