If you're anything like me (if so, sorry) you hate the fact your NewTek products are the only Windows-based machines you administer.

I truly dislike dealing with Windows-based solutions, which is why the NC/IO unit has been pretty disappointing, since it's just a 1U Windows box with a Deltacast SDI interface card, plus some software (which can't even record NDI).

I had been thinking about creating my own Mac-based NDI server, but was stuck on what hardware to use and how exactly to go about it.

Then I remembered Apple's short-lived rack-mounted servers, the glorious XServe! Sure, they're almost a decade old, but the last versions are still fairly powerful and can handle a modern macOS as well as NDI functionality.

This is all a work in progress, and definitely a hacky enthusiast solution, so proceed at your own risk!

Hardware list:

Apple Xeon XServe:

Any of the "Nehalem" Xeon-based units will work: https://everymac.com/systems/apple/x...ex-xserve.html
Check eBay and Craigslist for XServes, or local datacenter liquidators
You can get a suitable XServe with no RAM or HDs for a maximum of $200
Make sure the XServe comes complete with its other components: internal power supply, hard drive trays, PCI risers, and slot-loading disc drive
If the XServe didn't come with a hard drive or OS installed, you'll need a copy of 10.7 (Lion) to install first, to prepare the XServe for 10.11.6 (El Capitan) https://www.apple.com/shop/product/D6106Z/A/os-x-lion ($20)
You may need a Displayport monitor adapter ($29) unless you have one laying around: https://www.apple.com/shop/product/M...to-dvi-adapter


RAM/HD Upgrade:

Your XServe will likely come with no RAM or something comically low like 3 GB
The XServe has 6 RAM slots, you should pull the existing RAM and install a kit in threes, such as this: https://www.datamemorysystems.com/dm61-759-x-3/
That will give you 24 GB of RAM, with a maximum of 48 GB if you buy two kits (and love RAM!)
Each 24 GB kit is $120 shipped
You will also need an SSD to boot your XServe from. Any modern SATA SSD will do, probably 256GB or larger. You do not want to use spinning drives of any kind.
Samsung Evo is always a good bet: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...500gb_2_5.html ($150)


SDI/Capture Card:

The XServe comes with two PCI slots, suitable for use with BlackMagic DeckLink cards such as these:
https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/decklink
The cards run from $150 with one input to $500 with 4 inputs


Sienna software:

Of course, none of this would be possible without the hard work and mac-dedication of Mark Gilbert/Sienna!
They have a multitude of macOS NDI apps available here and on the App store: http://www.sienna-tv.com/ndi/
I recommend NDI Monitor (free); NDI Source ($40 for one input, $100 "Multi" for unlimited inputs); NDI Recorder ($50);
NDI Outlet ($50 for one output, $100 for 8 outputs) is also recommended if you want to turn NDI into SDI

Total cost: $1000ish depending on DeckLink card and software purchases




If you're at all familiar with building computers (or even just installing a PCI card) the setup process is fairly easy.

01. Remove any old RAM, install new RAM
02. Install DeckLink PCI card(s)
03. Install SSD into XServe drive tray (standard SATA connector)
04. Plug in power, make sure power supply fans spin
05. Insert OS X Lion (10.7) install disc
06. Connect USB keyboard and mouse to rear port
07. Connect monitor via Displayport
08. Ensure the front locking mechanism is disengaged (next to the power button)
09. Hold down the C key on the keyboard (tells the XServe to boot from disc)
10. Press the front power button and get startled by how loud the fans are
11. Wait for the Apple symbol to show up on the monitor before you release the C key
12. Install OS X Lion (10.7) as usual (you may have to open Disk Utility in the installer first to initialize/format your new SSD)

You've now (hopefully) installed OS X Lion (10.7) onto your XServe! It will boot into the setup application, as if you were setting up a new Mac.

If you've ever owned a Mac, you are entitled to re-download El Capitan (10.11), and install it on any (real) Apple hardware you own, including the XServe.

13. Go to this link on your XServe to sign into the App Store and download the El Capitan installer: https://itunes.apple.com/app/os-x-el...47835434?mt=12
14. Double-click the "Install OS X El Capitan" app in your Applications folder
15. Click through to start the installation, your XServe will reboot automatically and it will take 15-30 minutes to install

Assuming that all went well, your XServe has now booted into macOS 10.11.6 (El Capitan) with a speedy SSD and at least 24 GB RAM. Sweet! Run Software Update a bunch of times to make sure you're completely up to date.

Now for the NDI software portion:

16. Install the BlackMagic drivers for your DeckLink card(s): https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/sup...e-and-playback
17. Reboot and verify the cards are working via the BlackMagic Media Express utility
18. Install whichever Sienna and other NDI software you desire

You're now off to the races in your 1U macOS-based NDI server for around $1000!

This has all been fairly stream-of-consciousness, so please don't hesitate to ask any questions or for clarification.