Building robots, programming them and then competing in tournaments – could education be more fun? VEX Robotics is all about creating tools for today’s educators, mentors and parents to inspire tomorrow’s problem solvers. With over 1,000,000 students in more than 50 countries actively using the VEX Robotics platform, it truly is a global movement in STEM education. STEM education is the learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interdisciplinary or integrated approach; robotics addresses all of this in the most engaging way possible. BirdDog Studio NDI was recently used exclusively as the video capture and distribution hardware at the VEXRobotics Australian Nationals, using the power and flexibility of its NDI products to bring the production to life.
As a computer science teacher at Barker College in Australia, Lael Grant has been involved with teaching Robotics for the past four years and producing VEX Robotics events for the last two. For the Australian VEX Nationals, Lael was tasked with creating a compelling live production – the team needed to create a high-quality livestream, plus an engaging in-venue experience, all within a reasonably tight budget. “We started investing in live production equipment two years ago and considered the option of traditional SDI workflows,” Lael explains, “but quickly realised it couldn’t provide the flexibility or the power that a full NDI-based solution offers. This is why we turned to BirdDog and its NDI tools.”
The VEX Nationals required six robot fields that all needed to be live streamed, on-stage presentations to be live streamed, plus delivery of all live content via two projectors to large screens in-venue. Traditionally, the level of production required for this kind of event would be the domain of OB trucks and specialist production teams. However, BirdDog hardware enabled the entire production for a fraction of the cost and complexity.
“BirdDog’s Studio NDI has provided us with enormous flexibility,” Lael continues. “When running productions at Barker, we can leverage the College’s existing IT network, with the ability to run cameras, production and real-time display in different areas of the College very easily. When producing on-location, it’s simple and easy to lay out a few switches with inexpensive and robust ethernet cable for even the largest of productions.
“Kids love seeing themselves and their robots live on the big screen,” adds Lael. “It takes a fun activity and turns it into a sporting event, ramping up the motivation and engagement students get from robotics. By creating a high-quality event, we reflect back to them that the endeavour they are engaged in is valuable and important. When students talk about Nationals with their friends and families with excitement and passion, motivated about their learning, we know we’ve achieved our goal.”
BirdDog Studio NDI provided great flexibility for the entire production by both encoding and decoding NDI streams. In total, there were eight cameras attached to BirdDog Studio NDI, to encode into the revolutionary NDI format created by NewTek, which then fed into two computers running vMix production software. vMix allowed all the switching between camera sources, graphic overlays and live streaming to the web.
The two projectors were driven from the output of one of the vMix machines via NDI over Ethernet, to the BirdDog Studio NDI, which decoded the NDI stream and delivered content to the projectors for the large in-venue screens. The whole set up performed flawlessly for the entire weekend. “Every BirdDog unit was left on for the entire production, with rock-solid stability for the entire event,” concludes Lael. “We couldn’t be more happy with how the event ran. The BirdDog Studio NDI has revolutionised and simplified our workflows no end.”
The BirdDog Studio NDI also has a large and customisable tally display, which made setting up all the camera feeds very simple. The LED displays were assigned to have their IDs on their display, making for easy identification when adding to vMix or when locating the IP for each unit using the client list on the controller software. In addition to this, each BirdDog Studio NDI was attached to the tripod with tally pointed at the associated vMix operator. The tally lights provided a sanity check and confidence to the operators that they were selecting the correct field, since all three fields looked virtually the same on the camera feed.
Events such as these VEX Robotics Nationals truly highlight that the future of live video production is IP based – BirdDog is at the forefront of that movement.
For further information, please visit www.bird-dog.tv.