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NDI® Cuts Costs and Cables at NAB Tradeshow

May 07, 2019 by Erik Hidle

For nearly every manufacturer, the annual industry trade show represents the biggest, single most expensive marketing activity in any given year. For NewTek and the broadcast industry, that means NAB in Las Vegas every April. Each year the company debuts a number of new technologies to show off the very best it has to offer.

The biggest challenge however, is channeling that investment of time, money, energy, and resources into building a highly complex, leading-edge workflow incorporating brand new technology practically overnight that must work at an extreme capacity – for four days. Normally, an undertaking of this size and complexity is something a broadcaster, for example, would pursue as an OPEX investment and operate and maintain for several years!   

To meet this challenge at NAB 2019, the company turned to its own network protocol: NDI®.

NewTek's Donny Oropeza greets booth visitors at NAB 2019. Only 9 XLR cables and 12 SDI cables were used to connect 450 video sources to nearly 100 hardware devices. NDI did the rest. 

AV at the Broadcast Show

NDI is well-known for empowering live-video workflows in the broadcast and live streaming space – but just as impressive is its ability to enable the pro AV market in integrations such as a localized booth setup.

Lennie Nelson, manager of Video Production Services for NewTek, said one of the most impressive components to the 2019 booth design was how the company utilized NDI to achieve an extreme level of flexibility and functionality across the space.

“Back before we introduced NDI we still had to run everything over physical SDI cables,” Nelson said. “That simply limits the ability you have to show your full range of functionality. In turn, that limits your message. When we came out with NDI it altered things fundamentally and at the 2019 NAB show we really saw the full capabilities of the technology come to life.”

NewTek built out the local network at its booth to ensure every demonstration pod could pull a source of video from anywhere else at the booth. This meant any of the 32 channels of playback content from the NC1 I/O devices – from green screen content, to basketball footage, to esports streams – any of the seven NewTek NDI PTZ Camera feeds, and any of the content being built at any individual pods, could be accessed from any location.

“In all we had about 450 video signals being transmitted across the local network,” Nelson said. “Before NDI that would have been impossible at any type of reasonable price point when you consider time, equipment, cabling, and labor. Without NDI you simply wouldn’t even try to set up a system like this.”

Legendary NewTek Stage Presenter Kiki Stockhammer can access 450 video signals from the touch screen in her hand.

Drastic Reductions

That drastic reduction in cabling not only empowers system designers to do more, it also creates a ripple effect of benefits. Less cabling exponentially reduces potential points of failure, which means less time needed to setup and troubleshoot. This resulted in one of the smoothest and quickest NAB booth setups in recent memory, Nelson said.

In turn, that significantly reduced the amount of stress put on the entire NewTek NAB staff who could spend more time preparing and honing their demonstrations – many of them utilizing brand new technology – and get a good night’s sleep rather than laboring over booth issues into the wee hours of the morning. 

Further, the amount of tech closet space necessary to house equipment was significantly reduced. This gives booth designers more space to attract and impress visitors.

Also benefitting the bottom line was the lower cost of acquiring, shipping, and storing cables, including the reduced cost of paying convention center union wages to move them. There are also savings when considering all of the specific single-purpose hardware devices needed to get a traditional workflow environment up and running that are no longer needed. Devices like video routers, converters, and more.

NewTek's Liam Hayter, Zoltan Motula and Bryan Davies agree, a well-rested demo artist is a happy demo artist. Using NDI reduced the amount of labor typically needed to wire a modern trade show booth utilizing multiple video boards. 

Biggest Savings – Manpower  

The biggest savings, however, came through reducing the time needed to set everything up and break it down after the show is over. This equates to the need for less manpower. Labor is generally the biggest expense, especially when considering airfare, lodging, and meals. 

“Because of the way we did this, we actually saved approximately 20 days of combined manpower-related travel costs,” Nelson said. “Basically, nearly every member of the team came in a day or two later than they have in previous years.”

NDI KVM capabilities even added the ability to reduce hardware in some locations. With KVM enabled, the individual pods within the booth could use NewTek software installed on inexpensive PCs to access any piece of NewTek hardware from anywhere throughout the booth – with no need for a physical control panel. In all there were 70 networked systems running to more than 40 screens.

The totality of these features was likely a tipping point in NewTek winning its first ever Best of Show award for Booth Design at this year’s NAB.

“NDI creates moments that really enforces the story of what we’re capable of,” Nelson said. “It shows how our tools work together as an entire ecosystem, and it shows the flexibility you have when you work on the network. It’s the moment where the magic happens.”

Nelson said the buildout at the show relied on just nine XLR cables for audio and 12 SDI cables. The rest was done using NDI over network cabling. Nelson predicts that handful of XLR and SDI cables won’t be necessary for long.

“The SDI cables were needed specifically for some of the monitors we used but NDI is making its way into those devices as well,” Nelson said. “Our goal is to reduce the amount of SDI cables down to zero and we are within reach.  All we have to do is get the device on the network, then anything can to talk to anything.  That breaks down the boundaries of traditional video workflows and gives us benefits beyond simply replacing cables. And that’s what it was like for us this year at NAB because of NDI.”

NewTek's Pablo Perez demonstrates TriCaster TC1 to an NAB booth visitor.  “Back before we introduced NDI we still had to run everything over physical SDI cables,” Nelson said. “That simply limits the ability you have to show your full range of functionality. In turn, that limits your message."

NewTek’s NAB 2019 booth workflow featured:

  • 45 - Screens playing video content
  • 12 - NewTek TriCaster TC1s
  • 12 – NewTek NC1 Studio I/O modules                             
  • 12 – NewTek Connect Spark and Connect Spark Pros
  • 7 - NewTek NDI PTZ Cameras
  • 5 - NewTek VMC1 Video Mix Engines
  • 4 - NewTek 3Play 3P1 Instant Replay and Slow Motion Servers
  • Cisco Network Router
  • Arista 7050T Switch
  • Arista 7020 Switch
  • Netgear PoE Switch

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A/V, AV, Corporate Video, Digital Signage, Home Page, NC1 Studio I/O, NDI, Popular Stories, Video Production Tips,

NDI, NAB, NAB 2019, Trade Shows, Kiki Stockhammer, Booth Design, TriCaster, Arist 7020, Arista 7050, Cisco Network ROuter, Netgear PoE Switch,


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