I had to do something I have never done before the other day. I had to connect some devices together via SDI.
Now to most in the broadcast arena, this probably has caused a shrug of the shoulders and a “so what” response, but to the rest of us who mainly deal in the consumer world of HDMI and USB, this was something of a novelty.
So for those not aware of SDI (and a quick straw poll shows that is quite a few people), it stands for “Serial Digital Interface” and uses BNC cabling albeit with special connectors.
Its main advantage over HDMI is the ability to transmit up to 100 metres without any amplification, as against HDMI which needs amp-ing after about 15 metres.
This also makes it far less expensive than HDMI of course.
The downside is that to use SDI, unless you want to employ converter boxes, then your camera(s) must have an SDI output.
And this brings me neatly to the latest gadget from Australian company Blackmagic Design – the Web Presenter HD.
Unlike its previous piece of wizardry, the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro series of switchers which use HDMI, the Web Presenter HD uses SDI cabling (except for monitor output which is HDMI).
So, of course, when my review unit of the Web Presenter HD turned up from Blackmagic’s Australian distributor, New Magic, as my two “broadcast” cameras – a Panasonic X1 and Panasonic PV100 – don’t support SDI, only HDMI, this caused a bit of a dilemma.
Thankfully New Magic saved the day by shipping me an SDI -> HDMI converter box and so I was able to get the Web Presenter HD set up and running.
So what does it do?
In simple terms, it gives you an easy way to live stream to platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Restream.io, Twitter and Periscope. You can also use it to control Skype and Zoom for video conferencing, with these applications seeing the BMD Web Presenter HD as a web cam.
A more technical explanation is that it converts and SDI feed to H.264 for live streaming and also point to point for transmission of video to remote locations using the internet as the carrir.
There is no messy external software to install and come to grips with; simply supply power via a standard “kettle” plug cord (or there is also an option 12v port if you are going rogue), connect a camera, a network cable that has ‘net access and that is pretty much it.
Oh, you will have to supply a power cord as one does not one in the box oddly. I guess supplying one type for each country is a bit of a nuisance, and anyway, you can get one for about $15 at Jaycar.
There are a couple of USB-C ports there too, ostensibly for extra setup / update duties via a download, but also letting you connect a smartphone and use its internet hotspot facilities when no ethernet is available.
On the front panel of the Web Presenter is an LCD panel showing the live feed content complete with audio meters, readouts for the data rate, duration and the amount of internal cache being used. Various icons in different colours signify the type of internet connection and whether it is live or not.
To the left are buttons for On Air, Off, Menu, Lock and Call.
The majority of these are self-explanatory; Call is however at this stage not implemented and slated for a “future update” according to the documentation.
To change settings in the BMD Web Presenter HD, press the Menu button and then choose what you want and press Set, make any changes using the rotary dial followed by pressing Set again.
The Lock button, well, locks the panel so changes cannot be made inadvertently while on air. It is unlocked by pressing Lock again and holding for 2 seconds.
If you have an external monitor plugged in, output to this includes video input, audio levels, on air status, data rate and cache levels, plus technical information about the SDI input including Colourmetry, Closed Captions, SMPTE 292 error checking, Luminance Y Bits and Chroma.
In-depth audio technical data is also available.
Similar to the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro software from Blackmagic Design, there is also a Web Presenter package letting you control your Web Presenter remotely. With Blackmagic Web Presenter Setup, you can access the same controls and settings that are available on the unit’s front panel.
Cleverly, the BMD engineers have also allowed for connectivity to other BMD products including the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro Streaming Bridge and Teranex Mini Rack Shelf as well as making developer information available.
The Blackmagic Web Presenter Ethernet Protocol is a line-oriented, text-based protocol to control a Web Presenter. The Blackmagic Web Presenter Ethernet Protocol is available for Blackmagic Web Presenter HD. Lines from the Web Presenter server will be separated by an ASCII LF sequence. Messages from the user may be separated by LF or CR LF. TCP port 9977 is used for connecting.
The manual gives you full information on how to take advantage of this.
I had a sample Live Facebook streaming session up and running within 10 minutes of having the Web Producer HD out of the box. And considering I had never done a Facebook stream before, this is testament to how easy it is to set up.
I would have doine a YouTube stream as well, but you have to wait 24 hours to get a streaming key, so that is for another day. I will have a crack at a Restream.io connection though, and possbly Twitch and report back. If they are easy as Faceboook once, they will be a doddle.
Of course the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro can do most of this, albeit only via HDMI. But the Web Presenter HD does fill in important niche due to that SDI connectivity and I can see a lot of broadcast folk grabbing these with glee.
At AUD$789 (the same price as the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro) it is a bargain.
More info at www.blackmagic-design.com.au