SVG Sit Down: BirdDog’s NDI Cameras, Tools Find Believers in Sports Production

When the global pandemic struck last March, it transformed sports production around the globe, with professionals looking for solutions that could be relatively easily deployed not only at stadiums and arenas but in living rooms and dens. It also created a jump in interest for NDI-based systems, something Australian-based manufacturer BirdDog has been focused on since its founding.

The Cleveland Browns are leveraging BirdDog’s NDI cameras in their studio.

Dan Miall, BirdDog, co-founder and CEO, says that when NDI came out more than four years ago, he and Drew immediately saw an opportunity to develop a chip-based approach to NDI support which would allow it to be more easily integrated into products like cameras, encoders, decoders, converters, and more.

“We were the first company to do NDI in a chip that we put inside all of our products, like converters and cameras, and then we have software applications to tie it all together,” says Eamon Drew, BirdDog, co-founder and CMO. “We were all in on NDI and more recently we have added Dante audio to the arsenal as well, so we have a whole bunch of Dante workflows now.”

Miall says the NDI on a chip approach allows for the processing power to get as close as possible to the glass where the acquisition is taking place (inside the camera) and then to the screen where it is going to be consumed (inside the encoder/decoder).

“Our first product was effectively a camera back that was an encoder that had tally and talkback,” says Miall. “You can decode, encode, and have power all in one cable.”

BirdDog has increased its presence in the U.S., recently opening its first support office in Michigan and also having distributors like Broadfield, Starin Marketing,  B&H, and others on board across the country.

BirdDog’s product lineup includes everything from PTZ cameras, 4K HDMI-to-NDI converters, software-based communications systems, and now cloud-based NDI.

BirdDog has also introduced a cloud platform to serve as a gateway so that uses SRT to allow for NDI-based content to be integrated with other NDI-enabled devices. Pan-tilt-zoom camera control, tally, and BirdDog’s free audio intercom software are all integrated within the Cloud platform.

“It just changes the world for production,” says Miall. “Having bi-directional communications like audio intercom and tally, and control of the cameras what our cloud platform enables.”

Drew also points to the A200 and A300 weatherproof PTZ camera systems (with Sony CMOS backlit imagers) as something ideally suited for the sports market.

“They are great for stadiums and we’ve got a whole bunch of stadiums we have set them up in,” he says. Many broadcasters around the world are using them for crowd shots and other needs.

“The last year has been amazing for NDI and having some enabling technologies has certainly made it more interesting for us along the way,” he adds.

During the pandemic BirdDog had a high-level presence with the NBA as its cameras were used in the bubble for post-game interviews. BirdDog cameras were also used for the referee clarifications that now seem to be a permanent part of the NBA production gameplan.

“They were used for more than 3,500 hours of content and were really well received,” says Miall. “They brought fans closer to the players and now the teams themselves are using them.”

Drew says the biggest opportunity is college and high school sports because of the ease of use and flexibility of NDI.

“The flexibility of NDI allows our cameras to be networked to whatever device they’re using, whether it’s a Tricaster or something else,” he says. “Then they can stream to Facebook, YouTube, a Website, or do a lot with Twitter and podcasting. So, there are a lot of pretty cool opportunities there.”

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