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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive

Archive for April, 2011

The thirty-second episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

This one is all about how how every frame in short form projects matter.  Oh, and how a friend fixed an issue where a car was in PARK.

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

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This last NAB (NAB 2011), I had a mission. Well, other than working as a demo artist for Matrox that is. My mission was to search for a reasonably priced archiving solution of tapeless media that all of us not-so-big production and post production people could afford. There are plenty of options for the places that can afford to drop $10,000 – $20,000…and need to back up footage for a dozen or more projects each month. The majority of places I am hired at are small shops…five to twenty or so people. Or I myself am hired with my system to work on a project. IN those cases, $10,000 is a bit out of reach. Which is why I use a cheaper method of archiving tapeless masters…hard drives.

I know my current archiving solution is flawed. I know that hard drives will fail…it’s just a matter of WHEN they will fail. I cover my bases a little better by archiving to TWO hard drives…a manual RAID 1 if you will (material mirrored on each drive)…so if one drive goes, I have the backup. And I make a practice to spin them up at least once a month. And this is a VERY inexpensive way to archive. I have a $110 eSATA four drive enclosure…then a $60 Sonnet eSATA card…and use 1TB bare SATA drives (bare meaning “not inside an enclosure”) that run about $55 each.  Or you can use a drive dock that costs about $30.  Now that’s cheap!  By both meanings of the word.  Inexpensive, and not THOROUGHLY reliable.  Although I will state for the record that I have only had ONE drive fail in the past two years.

What lead to this search?  Well…in brief, I am working on a show that archived their P2 masters to LTO4 tape, using the setup that existed at the large post facility that they were editing in.  They needed to recover one P2 card that had an interview they wanted to use in their current project…but, there was a problem.  The post facility folded, and while gave the production the tapes, the issue was that they were archived using proprietary software and the ONLY place in Los Angeles…the WHOLE of L.A….that also used this software, was backed up for 8 weeks.  And to even LOOK at the footage you needed to purchase the software and get a 1 year service contract…and buy the drive.  Oh, and a PC to run it.  Over $15,000 just to unarchive one P2 card.

OK, enough back story, now to what I found at NAB 2011.

The one place that EVERYONE pointed me to was CACHE-A.  And they were telling me that they really were reasonably priced, and were standardized…not proprietary.  Standardized…I like the sound of that.  So I went to the booth, got the presentation…and liked what I heard.  CACHE-A is a software solution that also involves a consortium of LTO manufacturers: Quantum, IBM, HP to name a few.  So if one manufacturer leaves and no longer supports CACHE-A…you have alternates. And there is no proprietary software involved…the interface is WEB based.  You use a browser.  Now, there is a LOT of information about these guys, so I suggest you visit the website and dig in.  But one thing I wanted to point out were the products.  They have a couple devices…Prime CACHE-A and Pro CACHE-A... that archives from MULTIPLE tapeless sources…both to tape and to internal hard drives.  Perfect for field backup, or backup at the hotel at the end of a shoot…because they archive to hard drives.  THEN you can archive to the tapes. They work with multiple software types, including HD Log, CatDV, R3D Data Manager, Marquis…MANY options.

Wow…that sounds great!  Amazing.  Non-proprietary, works with many sources, many different LTO manufacturers.  But then comes the price point.  $10,000 for the Pro CACHE-A and $8000 for the Prime CACHE-A.  That was out of the price range I was looking for.  But seriously, for all that it does, I’d expect it to cost that much.  And again, if I was a larger facility, I would have no hesitation in buying it.  It is literally the GOLD STANDARD of archiving. But, the price point is out of the range I was looking for…out of range for the smaller shops. So I needed to look somewhere else.

A couple people recommended something called BRU, by the Tolis Group.  ”They are more in your price range.”  And they were right. As you can see from the link provided, they have several packages, starting from $800 and ending at $7200.  With many great options in between.  Check them out for yourself.

The one that I liked best was the Edit Bay Production Desktop (see the picture above).  It comes with the drive, a tape, a cleaner tape, the software, the ATTO SAS card to connect to the drive (so a Desktop machine is required), a software license and one year of support.  NOTE…support isn’t needed to use the software.  Just needed for you to call and say “HELP ME!  I’m stuck!”  All of this for between $3000 (LTO4) and $4000 (LTO-5).  Very much within the price range of the small companies.  And 1TB tapes run about $120.  Perfect.

I will say this…it is proprietary.  And yes, that is one thing I was hoping to avoid.  But, as I was told by the representative, they won’t leave you stranded.  Their main objective is RESTORING your footage.  Backing it up is one thing, but the reason you back up is so that you can get to it later.  To recover the footage.  And that is one thing they will never stop you from doing.  They know how important it is to recover the data.  When he heard my story of trying to get the one P2 card from the drive, he said “EXACTLY! Why are they doing that to their customers?”  So if you want to recover your footage, all you need to do is have a drive, and the software.  And they offer a 30 day demo of the software, free of charge.  So you can recover everything you need.  And if the demo expires…the RECOVER option STILL WORKS!  And if it doesn’t, call the company and they’ll extend the demo to ensure it works.  So we won’t get stuck with a bunch of tapes full of archives and no ability to unarchive them. That is priceless. Customer support comes first.  That is a BIG selling point.

I know I’m not going into every detail of both options…for that you need to go to the links provided and dive in.  Now, I’m off to try to convince a couple small companies that BRU is the way to go for them.  And tell the BIG company that I know was looking, about CACHE-A.  And start saving up for a BRU system myself.  If I drop a drive, I’m hosed.  Drop a tape?  No problem.

Unless you live in a cave, you might have heard that Apple announced FCP X (10) at the Supermeet at NAB. And from all the people asking me my thoughts about it, I gather they want to know what professional people think about what we saw.

Me? I put forty more questions than it answers. So much was left out, and I need to see the full app before I can really rant or rave. I simply don’t know what it can do for us broadcast professionals.

But, there are plenty of other initial thoughts to read. Here is are a few:

http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/ssimmons/story/fcp_x_is_shown_to_the_world._flashy_things_are_seen_questions_are_asked/

http://www.philiphodgetts.com/2011/04/what-are-my-thoughts-on-final-cut-pro-x/

http://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/news/?newsid=3274193&olo=rss

http://www.larryjordan.biz/app_bin/wordpress/archives/1452. (Although I disagree with the title. Not all of our jaws dropped)

Does this post seem like a cop out? Well, a little. I mainly don’t want to add to the chorus going on about this release just yet. Still letting things sink in.

More later.

Maximum…Max.  I’m talking the Matrox MAX system…the H.264 encoding engine in their MXO2 with MAX product line, and the CompressHD card.  You might have thought that this only worked on the APPLE stuff…Compressor and FCP.  But no…it works on the Avid Media Composer side too.  Because the Matrox MXO2 Mini is designed to work as a monitoring option for MC5.

OK, here’s the situation.  You are done with your cut and you need to submit it for client/producer approval, and they want you to post a QT movie with timecode for them to watch.  It’s a 30 min piece, the time is 3:30 PM, and the client would like to see it before the end of the day.  What are you to do?  That was the situation I was in last week, and I’ll tell you what I did.  The twist to this story is that I was on my laptop.  So no power from my tower on this one.

First off I must tell you that if I did things the normal way…or one of the two normal ways…this would have taken 3:24:18…that’s three hours, 24 min, 18 seconds.  I know this because I tested it later on…just to see.  Well, that was the timing it took exporting directly from the Avid as H.264, 640×360.  And when I tested exporting a Quicktime Reference and using Sorenson Squeeze, it took 3 hours 12 minutes.  Compressor (because I have Final Cut Studio on the same system)…3 hours 18 minutes.  All of those would have put me past my deadline.  And if I was on my tower, I could have used Compressor and Q-master to utilize all my processor cores to do this.  But, I wasn’t on my tower, and if you don’t have Final Cut Studio, or a tower with multiple processors…what are your options for the fast encode from Avid Media Composer?

MATROX MXO2 Mini with MAX!

Last year Matrox and Avid got together and made the MXO2 Mini work as a monitoring solution for Avid Media Composer 5.  And I thought that the benefits stopped there.  I got the MAX version to help with encodes on the Final Cut side…I didn’t know that it could be used on the Avid side until recently. It might have been included in some press release somewhere, but I think it is the best kept secret about the MXO2 Mini with MAX that should NOT be a secret.

Here’s what I did.

STEP 1:  CHOOSE EXPORT AS… in the export setting, choose Quicktime Movie.

Click on OPTIONS…then you get this window:

Choose VIDEO and AUDIO…click on format options:

Choose the Matrox Max H.264… I kept the default settings:

…and you are done.

When I exported this time, it was just about real time. The 30 min project (OK, 29:45) exported out…with timecode window burn…in 31min 14sec. ON MY LAPTOP.  That’s fast.

I ran tests on my Tower, just to see.  And without the MAX, doing it the Avid way, I didn’t save much time.  It took 3 hours and two minutes.  But with the Mini with MAX, it was FASTER than real time.  29 min and 19 seconds.

If you want to know more about this box, and happen to be going to NAB, I will be manning a station in the Matrox booth showing off this and other capabilities.  The show is from April 11 to April 14 in Las Vegas.

FYI – This was done without rendering the timecode overlay filter before I started exporting.