It just got easier for engineers to build custom controller devices for cameras from Blackmagic Design with the release of the $95 Blackmagic 3G-SDI Arduino Shield, a double-sided expansion board for the low-cost Arduino open-source hardware platform with 3G-SDI input and output. The board piggybacks on top of an Arduino and leverages the Blackmagic Camera SDI Control Protocol supported by the company's cameras to embed camera-control commands in an SDI output.

Here's how it works: any video source can be connected to the board's SDI input. The output is connected to a camera. The Arduino is used as an interface to insert camera commands — lens control, color-correction, tally, etc. — into the blanking space in an SDI data stream, eliminating the need to connect extra cables to the camera. The same SDI control protocol is built into Blackmagic ATEM switchers, DeckLink cards, Video Assist and viewfinders. 

The company said an example of a simple application would be a joystick controller built on top of the Arduino Shield that could be used to send focus or iris commands to the camera via SDI. The Arduino Shield itself provides power to the Arduino hardware, and a USB port makes the software updatable.

Basically, the solution eliminates the need for do-it-yourselfers to fiddle with implementing SDI hardware via the Arduino — easily the most technically challenging aspect of many use scenarios. "The Blackmagic 3G-SDI Arduino Shield is exciting because it makes Blackmagic Design products more open and accessible than ever," said Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty in a prepared statement.