Alright, before we get started I have to warn you that this post/article/rant is going to be very technical. So either bail out now, or get a cup of coffee or whatever it is that keeps you going.
I’ve been working on my streaming and video creation craft for a while now and after pouring in countless dollars (well, I say it’s countless but my wife disagrees), I’ve finally got to a place I wanted to be. Or so I thought until I started hearing about using a technology from NewTek called NDI or Network Device Interface. In layman’s terms, it lets you take a signal, video or audio and send it over your network to another computer. Without the need for an extra capture device or card.
Meaning that you can play a game on your main gaming PC and use something like OBS or XSplit to send the signal over your network to one or multiple PC’s. This cuts down the number of resources your main gaming PC is using. Which is helpful if you have an underpowered PC or if you just run a lot of stuff and want to cut the number of things going on. Ever since I started using it, I’ve been hooked and have looked at ways to maximize just how much I can pump through my network. It’s pretty amazing and it’s just a matter of time before it becomes more commonplace. Like in game consoles and other electronics.
There’s just one problem with using NDI – It needs a lot of bandwidth.
Since the majority of my home network is wired, I figured I had the bandwidth. That is until I started streaming and noticed that my streams were looking pretty bad. For the next few days, I started doing some heavy testing. Transfers between my PCs, testing cable signals and basically trashing my network. It wasn’t giving me the speeds I should have. Seriously, bad speeds. Like 10MB/s transfers that took hours to transfer multiple GB files.
Yeah, something was wrong and I was determined to fix it.
So the next few days, I tore down my network while upsetting my family. Since we use Amazon’s FireTV set-top boxes in my house, that meant no internet for them. Sure, I could have set up WiFi while I was doing it. But if I was going to suffer, then so could they. Go read a book or something, geez.
I yanked out all my cables, installed PVC piping to run new CAT5E cables through to make it look better. I even relocated my Gigabit 16-port switch and router to my basement. Installed a new punch panel and terminated all the cables (12 in all) into the network equipment and then spent 2+ hours making new cables to run between the punch panel and switch. If it sounds like a lot of work, it was. But it was worth it.
At the end of the day, it took five hours, however, the results speak for themselves.
That’s a 4K (100MB bit rate) file sitting at shy of 16GB. Before it would take hours to transfer, now it takes under five minutes. That’s a drastic change.
But Keith, what does that have to do with NDI? I’m getting to that, I just had to lay the groundwork first. In regards to NDI, after making sure my network was up to par, I’m able to stream with zero issues. Using either h264 or NVENC, I can now stream or record high encodes across the network and they look good. Stream to Mixer (which I love) I was able to pump a 10MB bit rate stream with fast settings in OBS and the NDI didn’t skip a beat. Before all the work, it was a messy pixellated mess.
I’m definitely much happier with the results. The delays were way lower than before. Especially when it came to my camera output and game delay. I was even able to play a game looking at the PC that was receiving the signal. Something I wasn’t able to do before. Even stream 4K content with lesser issues. In the end, I learned an important lesson. NDI is nice, as long as you have the network for it. Making sure that your internal or home network is up to snuff is important. Otherwise, you may encounter the same issue I had and likely swear off NDI. If you look into any issues you have first and then run NDI properly, you may just fall in love with it.
Now that you’ve read all that and happen to have any questions for me. I’d be happy to answer them for you, just but need to ask.
Next time I’ll look into running NDI over WiFi. But that’s a story for another time.
P.S. – Streamlabs, please get NDI output working in Streamlabs OBS. You got the input, but the output part is sorely needed.