How to Use NewTek Connect Spark with 3rd-party NDI® Switchers & Shy-Progressive Cameras

By Allan Tépper

Many 1080HD progressive cameras are “shy”, meaning that although they image —and often record— progressive signals internally, they aren’t designed to deliver native progressive via their live HDMI or SDI output. Instead, they sadly deliver a disguised signal called PsF or Telecine, which appear to be interlaced. For several years, NewTek TriCaster® models have solved this problem, thanks to two features with the corresponding names (PsF and Telecine), which seamlessly remove the undesired interlaced disguise and expose the original progressive signal for use in a progressive session. However, to my knowledge at press time of this article, no other NDI® video mixer (“switcher”) currently offers these features. That’s why this article will cover how to solve this issue, so you can have pristine progressive video from your shy-progressive camera via NewTek Connect Spark and your 3rd-party NDI switcher, without losing your precious full resolution.

Why This Matters For Your Final Quality

Progressive video is greatly superior to interlaced video for many reasons. The older standard-definition formats like NTSC, PAL and SECAM used interlaced video by necessity since there wasn’t enough bandwidth to use progressive. Among HD and UHD 4K standards, there are basically four categories:

  • 720p, which is always progressive, and is never misinterpreted as being interlaced.
  • 1080p, pure progressive, which is never misinterpreted as being interlaced. Unfortunately, most 1080p cameras are “shy” on their live output. See the next category.
  • 1080i, which can be authentic interlaced —or very often— a disguised progressive signal, either PsF (Progressive Segmented Frame, with a 2:2 pulldown) or Telecine (with a 3:2 pulldown), which only appear to be interlaced.
  • 4K UHD, which is always pure progressive, and is never misinterpreted as being interlaced.

This article focuses primarily on the third category, where “shy” 1080p cameras are misinterpreted as being interlaced. People who don’t know what you are about to learn in this article often give up, and set their switcher or TriCaster input setting to 1080i, which (for a 1080p session or project) de-interlaces the signal unnecessarily, and essentially reduces their resolution to approximately 540 progressive vertical pixels, rather than the original 1080 progressive vertical pixels, for all moving shots. Ahead you’ll learn how to retain your full 1080 progressive vertical pixels, which are the equivalent to the lines we used to have with analog video.

Clarification of “Shy” 1080HD Progressive Cameras, Versus “Outgoing”

If a 1080HD progressive camera is “outgoing”, it can not only image and (in the case of camcorders) record internally in pure progressive, but it can also deliver pure progressive over HDMI or SDI at its native frame rate. That is ideal, and simpler, as indicated in PROCEDURE 1 and PROCEDURE 2 of this article.

However, there are some cameras that image internally at a broadcast-friendly resolution and frame rate like 1080/29.97p, 1080/25p or 1080/23.976p, and when you set the live output to be 1080p, they, unfortunately, double the framerate. That is not broadcast-friendly for 1080p, and it won’t work with many TriCaster systems or other NDI switchers either. So for the purpose of this article, we are going to call those cameras “shy” too, since they can’t deliver progressive at their native frame rate live, and in those cases, we need to ask them to image progressively, but output disguised 1080i over the HDMI or SDI output. When we do that, they will actually be delivering either PsF or Telecine, depending upon their framerate. In other words, either way, they will be delivering the original frame rate over 59.94i or 50i (which are called 29.97i and 25i in Avid nomenclature). For “shy” cameras, we have PROCEDURE 3 and PROCEDURE 4, ahead in this article.

NOTE: Some cameras, TriCaster models, and third-party NDI switchers round numbers like 29.97 to “30” and 59.94 to “60”. Pick the non-integer number if it appears. Otherwise, pick the closest rounded one.

A Summary of the NewTek Connect Spark Devices

NewTek recently introduced the NewTek Connect Spark, a portable device designed to deliver SDI or HDMI video to a computer and/or an IP network, wirelessly (dual-band WiFi 802.11ac/a/b/g/n) or via Ethernet.

Photo 1

NewTek Connect Spark products are IP video converters, with built-in NDI functionality. The units deliver video as an IP source to any standard network via WiFi or standard Ethernet cable. Connect Spark can also record directly on the unit to SD cards or USB drives and is controllable from a web interface.

NewTek Connect Spark works with all NDI compatible devices and applications in use by millions of customers including NDI computer-based live production systems from CombiTech VidBlaster, Livestream Studio, OBS, Splitmedia Labs XSplit, Streamstar, StudioCoast vMix, Telestream Gameshow, Telestream Wirecast, NewTek TriCaster, and many more. Additionally, NewTek Connect Spark delivers video to popular desktop video applications including Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Skype, Skype for Business, WebEx, Zoom, and others.

NewTek Connect Spark devices provide 3G SDI or HDMI conversion up to 1080p59.94 with loop through. In addition to video conversion to IP, the devices provide tally support and remotely record MP4 to an SD card or USB drive. Recording is controlled through a web interface available for devices including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.

The included power supply with the NewTek Connect Spark converter boxes is multi-voltage.

The NewTek Connect Spark NCS (HDMI version) costs US$499 each in the US. The NewTek Connect Spark NCS-S (SDI version) costs US$795 each in the US.

PROCEDURE 1: Pure 1080p workflow when you have a TriCaster and an “outgoing” 1080p camera

PROCEDURE 1 and 2 are the easiest, but uncommon, due to the minority of “outgoing” 1080p cameras:

  1. Set your camera for 1080p at your desired frame rate: 29.97p, 25p or 23.976p, aka 23.98p (or the closest integer, if those don’t appear). Note that all frame rates may not be available with all cameras or all TriCaster models, so select among the common ones among them, noting that some cameras and some TriCaster models round to the closest integer in menus.
  2. Set your camera to output 1080p via HDMI or SDI. (This is a separate setting from the camera imaging/recording format.)
  3. Connect your camera’s HDMI or SDI output to your Connect Spark Pro HDMI or NewTek Connect Spark SDI.
  4. Be sure to have your NewTek Connect Spark Pro in communication with your NDI-capable TriCaster.
  5. Set your NDI-capable TriCaster’s session and input module to 1080p at the matching progressive frame rate (or the closest rounded integer).

PROCEDURE 2: Pure 1080p workflow when you have a 3rd-party NDI switcher and an “outgoing” 1080p camera

This one is as easy as PROCEDURE 1, but uncommon, due to the minority of “outgoing” 1080p cameras:

  1. Set your camera for 1080p at your desired frame rate: 29.97p, 25p or 23.976p, aka 23.98p (or the closest integer, if those don’t appear). Note that all frame rates may not be available with all cameras or all switcher models, so select among the common ones among them, noting that some cameras and some switcher models round to the closest integer in menus.
  2. Set your camera to output 1080p via HDMI or SDI. (This is a separate setting from the camera imaging/recording format.)
  3. Connect your camera’s HDMI or SDI output to your Connect Spark Pro HDMI or NewTek Connect Spark SDI.
  4. Be sure to have your NewTek Connect Spark Pro in communication with your NDI-capable third-party switcher or other NDI destination.
  5. Set your NDI-capable third-party session (and input module, if available) to 1080p at the matching progressive frame rate (or the closest rounded integer).

PROCEDURE 3: Ideal 1080p workflow when you have a NDI-capable TriCaster and a “shy” 1080p camera

  1. Set your camera for 1080p at your desired frame rate: 29.97p, 25p or 23.976p, aka 23.98p (or the closest integer, if those don’t appear). Note that all frame rates may not be available with all cameras or all TriCaster models, so select among the common ones among them, noting that some cameras and some switcher models round to the closest integer in menus.
  2. Set your camera to output 1080i via HDMI or SDI. (This is a separate setting from the camera imaging/recording format. It will really output either PsF or Telecine, depending upon the frame rate.)
  3. Connect your camera’s HDMI or SDI output to the corresponding input on your NewTek Connect Spark Pro HDMI or NewTek Connect Spark SDI.
  4. Be sure to have your NewTek Connect Spark Pro in communication with your NDI-capable TriCaster.
  5. Set your NDI-capable TriCaster session to 1080p at the matching progressive frame rate.
  6. For all cameras that are outputting disguised progressive 1080p, set the TriCaster for the matching disguised frame rate, i.e. 23.976 Telecine (it may appear as “24p Telecine” in some models), 25 PsF or 29.97 PsF (it may appear as “30 PsF” in some models).

PROCEDURE 4: Ideal 1080p workflow when you have a 3rd-party NDI switcher and a “shy” 1080p camera

  1. Set your camera for 1080p at your desired frame rate: 29.97p, 25p or 23.976p, aka 23.98p (or the closest integer, if those don’t appear). Note that all frame rates may not be available with all cameras or all switcher models, so select among the common ones among them, noting that some cameras and some switcher models round to the closest integer in menus.
  2. Set your camera to output 1080i via HDMI or SDI. (This is a separate setting from the camera imaging/recording format. It will really output either PsF or Telecine, depending upon the frame rate.)
  3. Acquire a third-party converter called Atomos Connect which will accept the disguised 1080 progressive signal and convert it into pure 1080p for connection to your NewTek Connect Spark Pro, following the Atomos Connect’s instructions. There are four different Atomos Connect models. They vary depending upon direction (HDMI-to-SDI or SDI-to-HDMI) and the power options available: Two of them are both AC and battery powered, and the other two are AC powered only. Please note that only the battery + AC models are capable of 23.976p, in addition to 25p and 29.97p. The AC-only models are only capable of 25p and 29.97p. The exact four models are detailed in the next section of this article. Because the Atomos Connect boxes convert either from HDMI to SDI or from SDI to HDMI, you need to pick the one to match the output of your camera. This will inversely affect the version of NewTek Spark Pro you buy for that camera. If a particular camera outputs both HDMI and SDI, even though the price of the Atomos Connect box will likely be the same, if you choose an Atomos Connect box with an HDMI output, your NewTek Connect Spark Pro will be a little cheaper if it is the HDMI version. However, if your camera’s only digital output is HDMI, you will have to purchase the Atomos Connect box that goes from HDMI to SDI, and then purchase the NewTek Connect Spark Pro SDI.
  4. Connect your Atomos Connect HDMI or SDI output to the corresponding input on your NewTek Connect Spark Pro HDMI or NewTek Connect Spark SDI.
  5. Be sure to have your NewTek Connect Spark Pro in communication with your NDI-capable third-party switcher or other NDI destination.
  6. Set your NDI-capable third-party switcher session (and input module, if available) to 1080p at the matching progressive frame rate (or the closest rounded integer).

Atomos Connect Options to Eliminate “Shyness” in Your Camera

Atomos Connect Battery + AC models, which work with 1080/23.976p (aka 1080/23.98p), 1080/25p and 1080/29.97p:

Photo 2

  • Atomos Connect S2H, converts from your camera’s SDI output (BNC) to HDMI, to connect directly to your NewTek Connect Spark HDMI. Includes battery and AC charger.
  • Atomos Connect H2S, converts from your camera’s HDMI output to SDI (BNC), to connect directly to your NewTek Connect Spark SDI. Includes battery and AC charger.

Atomos Connect-AC (only) models, which work only with 1080/25p and 1080/29.97p (no 23.976p):

Photo 3

  • Atomos Connect-AC S2H, converts from your camera’s SDI output (BNC) to HDMI, to connect directly to your NewTek Connect Spark HDMI. Includes AC cable.
  • Atomos Connect-AC H2S, converts from your camera’s HDMI output to SDI (BNC), to connect directly to your NewTek Connect Spark SDI. Includes AC cable.

As of press time of this article, all of these Atomos Connect devices cost US$149 each.

How to Determine Whether Your 1080p Cameras Are “Outgoing” or “Shy”

There are two different ways to determine whether your 1080p cameras are “shy” or “outgoing”, depending upon whether the manufacturer has been very detailed in the manual. If the manufacturer has been very specific, you can find out there. I have noticed that the higher the price of the camera, the more specific the manual, using the proper terminology regarding PsF. Rather than calling it Telecine, many camera manufacturers call it “50i/59.94i with a 3:2 pulldown” or “50i/59.94i with a 2:3 pulldown.: Some camera manufacturers that prefer to round might call it “50i/60i with a 3:2 pulldown” or “50i/60i with a 2:3 pulldown.” That’s the same as Telecine.

If you are not sure from the manual, you can be optimistic before using PROCEDURE 3 or PROCEDURE 4. If you have an NDI-capable TriCaster, try PROCEDURE 1 from this article first. If you have a third-party NDI-capable 1080p switcher, try PROCEDURE 2 first. If you can get it to work, great. Otherwise, you know you need to use PROCEDURE 3 or PROCEDURE 4. Optimism only goes so far, because most 1080p cameras are unfortunately “shy”, which is why I wrote this article, and the reason why NewTek added the PsF and Telecine options to its products.

FTC Disclosure

NewTek sponsored this article after receiving Allan Tépper’s proposal. As of the publishing date of this article, Allan Tépper has no commercial connection with Atomos, other than it has sent him review units in the past. The words and opinions of Allan Tépper expressed herein are his own. More at AllanTepper.com or ProVideoCoalition.com/atepper

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