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NDI-in-a-box (DIY): A Comprehensive Guide

Table of Contents

IMG 1170 1000w

The mimoLive® NDI-in-a-box system is designed as a drop-in replacement for traditional video production switchers.

As NDI® continues to mature and grow in popularity, NDI-in-a-box is designed to maximize its advantages. It is small and lightweight, yet packs the power of a full-fledged OB truck, including autonomous Internet access to eliminate venue dependencies. The entire network of 4 to 5 NDI camera sources can be set up quickly and doesn’t require a large team to operate. It is also very affordable.

It is currently a work in progress. The project was developed in the open in collaboration with Office Hours members as part of an After Hours workshop.

Parts List

To make it easy to build, here is a complete parts list including sources to purchase them from.

MacBook Pro/Air with mimoLive

The central component of the NDI-in-a-box is the Apple MacBook Pro/Air running mimoLive. Depending on the model, you can get different performance levels that allow between 3 and 8 NDI sources and different levels of video processing. We recommend a MacBook model with an Apple Silicon processor (M1, M2, M3) and at least 16GB of RAM. Other Mac models also work, provided they are compatible with the OWC Thunderbolt Go dock.

Make sure you have an appropriate Thunderbolt 4 cable to connect to the Thunderbolt Dock.

SKB Injection Molded 2U Studio Flyer Rack Case

Criteria for selecting the case:

  • Portability: The case must be easy to transport. The one we chose has built-in wheels and can hold the MacBook in addition to the 19-inch gear.
  • Size: We chose the 2 RU version to make it as compact as possible. The holding clamps for the laptop are a convenient detail, eliminating the need for a separate case.
  • Design: We want to give the impression that the solution is modern. Although this is difficult with 19″ flight cases, which are primarily designed to be rugged, the chosen case doesn’t look too bulky and doesn’t have any chrome trim.
SKB Injection Molded 2U Studio Flyer Rack Case
SKB Injection Molded 2U Studio Flyer Rack Case

Netgear M4250 GSM4212P Network Switch

This switch has 8 PoE+ 1Gb ports to connect the NDI devices. The Netgear M4250 Series is optimized to support NDI traffic. This ensures that the network won’t experience any problems.

Netgear M4250 GSM4212P Network Switch
Netgear M4250 GSM4212P Network Switch

OWC Thunderbolt Go Dock

This Thunderbolt dock connects your MacBook (Pro/Air) to the NDI-in-a-box system. It also provides power to the MacBook. It was chosen over other docks primarily because of its built-in power supply. This eliminates the need to mount a power brick inside the case.

OWC Thunderbolt Go Dock
OWC Thunderbolt Go Dock

Unifi Mobile Router

The NDI-in-a-box system should also be self-sufficient in terms of Internet access. While not a perfect solution in all circumstances, a mobile router with a SIM card should provide basic access. The Unifi Mobile Router is unique in its segment in that it can be powered by PoE, eliminating the need for a separate power supply.

Unifi Mobile Router
Unifi Mobile Router

Slate AX Mobile Router (Alternatively)

As an alternative to the Unifi Mobile Router, the Slate AX is a bit more complicated to integrate (it requires a 5V 4A PoE splitter for power, which takes up space in the case), but we found it easier to use if you want to:

  • Access the Internet over an existing wifi network, while still providing your own local wifi network and separate IP numbers for your local NDI devices.
  • Access the Internet through a wired drop line provided by the venue, while still providing an isolated NDI Wifi and Ethernet network.
  • As a bonus, you can get an LTE/5G USB phone and connect to the Internet through it as well.
axt1800 1
Slate AX (GL-AXT1800)

Cable Management

Having all the connectors on one side of the NDI-in-a-box enclosure is great for quick and easy installation. Also, not plugging the cables directly into the devices helps with longevity and ruggedness. In addition, the cables should have some kind of strain relief. For these reasons, all cables are routed into a D-size patch panel (except for the Thunderbolt cable from the MacBook to the Thunderbolt dock, because there isn’t a suitable module). If a connector wears out, you can simply replace the module in the patch panel for an easy and inexpensive fix, rather than replacing the expensive device.

Audio Interface

As there is often a separate audio mixer at a venue or in a studio anyways, it makes sense to have only a single audio input into the NDI-in-a-box. This job is being done by a Magewell Pro Convert Audio DX.

SDI and HDMI input

To support legacy SDI or HDMI cameras, a number of devices are available to convert HDMI or SDI to an NDI signal. For example, Magewell offers a number of converters as shown below. The advantage of using individual devices is that you can do the conversion at the camera end, so you can run easy-to-manage Ethernet cables from the camera to the production box instead of SDI or HDMI. The units are powered over Ethernet (PoE), eliminating the need for additional power outlets at the camera end.

Magewell Ultra Encode Plus
Magewell Ultra Encode (HDMI/SDI to NDI)

Native NDI Cameras

Of course, you can use any camera with native NDI support with the NDI-In-A-Box system. There are a lot of very interesting solutions for different use cases.

A fairly new contender in this space is the OBSBOT Tail Air. The untypical small form factor of the 4K PTZ camera makes it easy to transport and the image quality is great for such a small device. Additionally, it has auto-tracking which might help in certain use cases to produce with a small crew. The company offers an optional PoE Ethernet adapter and an add-on to unlock NDI support.

Power Supply

As we have reduced the number of devices requiring a power cord to 2, we can implement a power supply with a simple splitter and a PowerCon adapter for the patch panel.

Wiring Diagram

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