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Exclusive: NDI Global president & GM at Vizrt Group speaks!

Tarif Sayed speaks to Installation about the Network Device Interface protocol

Tell us about your background?  
I’ve worked much of my career in broadcast, production, and content creation. I was an executive producer and director for many years creating documentaries before moving to produce live sports. I then transitioned to working for companies that built technologies used by content creators, including Dolby and Nokia. At Nokia, I was the head of the virtual reality technologies business unit where I helped to release the industry’s first-ever VR camera and various content creation tools. Now at NDI, I have the incredible opportunity to combine my creative, content creation, technology, production and media domain experience.

You joined Vizrt Group as the president and GM of NDI in April this year. What attracted you to NDI?
The value and simplicity that NDI brings to the market is truly revolutionary. I was also amazed at the traction they were experiencing. I have never seen a protocol used by everyone from tier-one broadcasters, that care about peer image quality and complexity of the workflow, to people that want to livestream its church services to congregations. I found that fascinating – something that has that value to such a diverse audience and to anyone in content creation and delivery. The move from traditional SDI or HDMI-based workflows will continue with or without NDI, but NDI has helped simplify that transition. There are truly countless benefits, and I am excited to be a part of the company and help shape our journey.

What has surprised you the most about NDI in your first six months?
Again, I was surprised most by the sheer range of people using it for content creation and delivery. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with customers of all types. From the gamer who uses NDI over Skype to host gaming parties to teachers using it to livestream classes. The variety is impressive, exciting and is a constant reminder to us to continue innovating.

What have been the standout moments since you’ve started?  
I had a discussion with a producer from Mexico who during the pandemic used NDI technology to play music remotely through video with his friends. He said, ‘as you keep innovating, you are unleashing our minds to be more creative.’ To hear that we are helping creative people be more creative is very fulfilling to me. To play music in real-time together, harmoniously, requires an extremely low latency and we’ve delivered that, hearing what they do with it is amazing.

Another moment was realising NDI’s benefits to the ecosystem beyond simply transmitting audio and video from point A to point B. I’ve learned the true value of NDI to the ecosystem and to interoperability. All these devices communicate and work together almost as one organism. It’s eye-opening when you look at the ecosystem rather than device by device.

NDI has a wide range of users and customers. What are you doing to improve the technology?
We are continuously working to improve the technology on multiple fronts. With NDI, as a protocol, we have to consider video and audio, but also the metadata and how much data you can send. Additionally, device identification and discovery, or how devices communicate and interact with one another. In each of these areas, there are numerous opportunities to innovate and some of our recent announcements represent excellent examples of our progress.

With the release of NDI 5.5 in August, we delivered a number of new features to give content producers, developers and manufacturers more freedom to move video and audio across networks. It provided user experience improvements and added powerful routing tools and enhanced audio capabilities. We also introduced the ability for content creators to move beyond Local Area Networks (LAN) alone to use Wide Area Networks (WAN). Allowing creators to move audio and video in a distributed fashion via WANs anywhere in the world breaks down geographical barriers and enabling more sustainable productions.

There’s a lot discussed, debated and written about NDI – are there any misconceptions in the market?
One of the biggest misconceptions I hear about NDI is that it isn’t broadcast quality, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Broadcasters turn to NDI because it is not restricted by resolution or format. It is designed to have latency less than a frame and provides higher image qualities such as 4K and 8K resolution. Also, using an AV-over-IP-based system to integrate and manage devices on the network dramatically simplifies a broadcaster’s production setup as everything in a studio connects via a single wire type. NDI is also incredibly easy to use too, because of its interoperability. We’ve been involved with some ground-breaking proof of concepts with broadcasters this year, especially as they want to move into the cloud for distributed and remote production and NDI is critical in these, they’ve been so successful too. It’s a really exciting time for NDI as it grows across the AV, broadcast and wider media technology industries to become this de facto standard.

Outside of being the president and GM of NDI, what are some of your favourite hobbies?
Living in San Francisco, I have the advantage of many great outdoor activities. I love to play golf and go fishing. But one of my biggest hobbies is content creation. I like to make short documentaries of people and places or moments that inspire me too. For instance, I have created videos for friends for special occasions like anniversaries. I still really enjoy the process and experimenting with different techniques and technology.

Any exciting developments coming up in 2023 for NDI that you can talk about?
2023 is shaping up to be a big year. For instance, in the NDI ecosystem, one customer, who will make an announcement soon, is building video capture apps that content creators can use to create content for social media platforms such as YouTube and using NDI to deliver it in a more seamless way. The democratisation of NDI is continuing, and that vast adoption inspires our team to reduce latency wherever we can. We also are prioritising what our end users truly need – flexibility.