Archives For Resolve

Quick note: This post (and this entire blog) is targeted at an audience of post-production pros. Within that, this post is targeted more at Mac users considering their options than those already on Windows. For me, this decision has been building behind the scenes for awhile, but I’m starting to get more serious about it. Also, please note that everything in the post below is my present opinion and outlook. There are factors I may not have considered and I have much to learn about the road ahead. If I’m wrong about something, break it to me gently, and I’ll update the post.

Current state of affairs in Mac post land: I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of Apple’s lack of attention to the needs of production professionals (on the hardware side…the software side is still an open question-sort of-but let’s not open an FCP-X debate in a post about hardware). It should come as news to no one that video post-production has ever-increasing demands in computing power, and the greatest performance gains have been seen in recent years by modern software that leverages more CPU cores/threads, GPU, more RAM, fast bulk video storage, and even faster, separate,  storage caching techniques. Of course, having software that can take full advantage of that hardware grunt is the other required component. I will, however, concede that while we have reached the point where basic video editing is now possible on lower-performing hardware, a full-on, high-performance, high-productivity soup-to-nuts post production system is the goal here.

Where I think Apple is going: Despite Tim Cook’s carrot-dangling (which probably references Intel Haswell), I am not convinced whatsoever that Apple is going to be building machines that support multiple GPUs, storage, etc. in a high performance configuration. I think they have a different vision. I believe Apple is on a trend toward increasing miniaturization and modularization of computing hardware. This is a mass market approach, and perhaps what is right for Apple. The mass market has reached a point where more mainstream, modest hardware satisfies their needs. Apple knows this, and is leveraging Thunderbolt to get a lot of that stuff outside the box, where it is an optional accessory only for those that need it. That is a fine strategy and opens up exciting possibilities for me and other video professionals. I envision a number of exciting configuration options for specific production purposes, especially mobile ones, where the priority is portability over peak performance.

Where I get stuck: The point where all this falls apart for me (and other post pros I’ve had this conversation with) is my “Big System”, the main editing/animating/coloring/mastering suite. You know that place…a place where you happily trade tiny screens and mobility for a clean, comfortable space, big screens, big sound and high performance hardware…a place where you can sit and do client-driven work without issue. That kind of system is driven by powerful hardware. Its exact configuration can take many forms, but high capability and performance are the priorities in this environment. You want power, and the ability to handle all sorts of work. This is where I do most of my work, and certainly my BEST work.

A system like this- built today- would utilize two or more GPUs, video RAID, other storage, video capture/display card and GUI Display bandwidth. Thunderbolt can handle one or two of those functions, but in total, the sheer volume of storage and PCI-E bandwidth a high performance system is capable of using will present substantially higher bandwidth load than today’s Thunderbolt can support. This problem will exist for quite awhile: It will still be true when Thunderbolt moves to PCI-E 3.0 speeds,  which could almost double data throughput (that’s better, but still not enough for all of the above). Beyond that, there are faster Thunderbolt implementations on the roadmap, but they are YEARS away, 100gbps end of decade. So, while I think we will get to that point someday, the reality of today precludes a big, highly capable system built entirely around Thunderbolt.

Now add to this the fact that Apple are woefully behind the times in building machines with high performance CPUs…both at the “enthusiast” level (where is the 6-core i7 machine?), and of course the enterprise level (where are Sandy Bridge-E Xeons?).

Quick point on iMac: I actually like the higher-end iMac as a nicely configured cutting and basic utility station. A nice package for a slightly premium price. A lot of contributions to a project can be made from a machine like this, and in larger facilities I could see some cutting stations being configured this way, but due to the limitations of hardware I’ve noted above, do not think the iMac can serve as the basis of a fully capable “Big System”.

Forcing my hand: So (on the Mac)…CPU grunt isn’t there, and bandwidth isn’t there to add all the GPUs and other necessary hardware to build a robust modern system. This situation has gone from bad to worse as the hardware and software marketplace are marching forward, further enlarging the delta between the power and capabilities of the Mac platform vs. the equivalent Windows-based counterparts. I have held on to my current Mac Pro tower longer than any other before it. Part of this delay was driven by leaner economic times, but also by lack of a compelling business case to purchase newer Mac hardware as the performance gains of the available options didn’t seem high enough to justify the cost of re-tooling. Meanwhile, I have absolutely maxed the upgrade possibilities of this system and am pretty much at the end of that road, needing to move forward soon before this thing totally ages out. I’ll just come right out and say it: For a post professional in my situation (I know a lot of them), there is simply no compelling Macintosh option to move forward that would provide that substantial bang-for-buck performance boost that is required of any major upgrade. Those options DO exist in hardware, you just can’t run a supported Mac OS configuration on it. You can, however, run a supported Windows 7 platform on it. I’m setting aside the Hackintosh issue right now, because, while people get it to work, I’m not comfortable putting my production business in that precarious support position.

Me: mac-centric, but not a complete stranger to Windows: Having some familiarity with the Windows platform, and already experienced in building several custom PCs, I’m not exactly a stranger to Windows. Having said that, I have long-preferred the Mac platform for production work, and I vowed to stay as long as Macintosh computing hardware kept reasonable pace with the rest of the world. Look around my office and amongst the 14 computers and devices in daily use, 12 are from Apple.  With one exception, all primary post-production since I opened the doors on my own facility in 1997 has been done on the Mac.

For those curious about the exception, it was in the era between the Power Mac G4 and G5 where Apple fell way behind on hardware performance…meanwhile the Pentium 4 surged. At that time I moved all of my After Effects and video encoding to Windows boxes due to sheer performance advantages, while continuing to edit and master all programs on Macs. The extra hassle of using PC-friendly codecs and moving data between systems was more than offset by computing grunt, but it was a pain. When the G5 was released, performance on Mac returned to levels where staying on the one platform was preferable.

As you probably have already gleaned from reading the above, I have absolutely no patience for platform wars and fanboy-ism from any side. I have my preferences, but I’m a businessman. Being a good businessman requires pragmatism, not platform ideology. These tools are a means to an end. I must satisfy both the creative and technical requirements of my client’s projects. Performance is critical in my world. This is not just about faster render and encoding times. Performance impacts the creative phase of a project substantially more than the tangential benefit of speeding up the creation of deliverables. I have determined that the personal pain of getting comfortable doing post production on a new platform is a lesser evil than the severely limited options the Mac platform currently presents. That has been a huge hurdle for me, one that I’ve resisted a long time and still have a great deal of apprehension about, but at this point I feel my hand is being forced. I know that I am not alone in this, and many will come to this realization after me, so I hope my forthcoming posts on this topic provide value as I work through this process.

Support: While the biggest factor in wanting to stay on the Mac is familiarity, I think it also goes to the issue of support. The more limited choices in the Mac hardware space may have kept prices higher and compromised a few high spec options, but this was offset by generally better support from vendors as well as more common system configs within the user community. Supporting the Mac is generally a simpler affair due to these factors. That’s my humble opinion of course, spoken as a career-long independent operator. The driver of that opinion is this: The tremendous choice in configuration options in the Windows world is both a blessing and a curse. Generally, more options and more competitive pricing are good things, but this typically results in a given users system configuration being totally unique. This complicates both user-to-user and vendor tech support as there are more variables when troubleshooting.

Applications drive hardware choices: This part is relatively easy to figure out. While I run about 20-30 production applications, I have my core post production activities:  Editing, Motion Graphics and Color. Plus encoding…more than ever, I deliver encoded files for broadcast and web. Also, I drive an external SDI Reference monitor and also a plasma client monitor.

Editing: I use Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, Avid Symphony , FCP 7 and X. Of those, Adobe and Avid are on Windows. Adobe Premiere is my primary editor as of this writing. It makes very high utilization of CPU threads for codecs while GPU handles image and effects processing in the course of playing back clips on the timeline. CUDA preferred over OpenCL currently. Fast bulk RAID storage (spinning disks are still the only affordable option for large amounts of video data) .  A quick note about Smoke, just as it’s making it’s big push as a mainstream product, is sadly Mac only. This fact is currently limiting the amount of attention I am dedicating to this product in light of my impending platform shift.

Motion Graphics: Adobe After Effects CS6. I use lots and lots of plugins. GenArts, Red Giant, Trapcode, Digieffects, Digital Anarchy, you name it. CPU utilization high, GPU less so, but Ray-traced rendering is CUDA-powered, and many plugins OpenGL, CUDA and other GPU processing. After Effects now has a great new capability in it’s Global Performance Cache. This is best directed at a very fast disk such as an SSD or better yet a Fusion IO device. For max performance it should be a fast disk that is separate from your video RAID containing your source media. I also use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator extensively in the creation of these elements, but these apps and many other supporting apps are not primary drivers of hardware performance decisions. Pretty much everything in the AE universe is equivalent on Mac and Windows.

Color: DaVinci Resolve 9. With the exception of in-app plugin favorites like Magic Bullet Looks and Colorista, Davinci Resolve is my color grading application of choice. I am watching the progress of Speedgrade with interest-and for that matter other systems too-but Resolve continues to rock my color grading world at this point in time.  Resolve uses a combination of CPU and GPU performance but skews more heavily to GPU. For a nice Resolve setup you are really looking at a minimum of two GPU cards (OpenCL supported but less performance). As with editing and pretty much everything else, Resolve leverages fast video RAID storage for read and write operations. Resolve is available on Windows as well, but I still need to research how well it performs on Windows, and any platform differences.

Encoding: This is typically all CPU, the more threads, the more clock speed, the faster the encode at any given spec. Fast video storage plays a role too. As far as I know, not many encoding options currently leverage GPU, although when you export from within Premiere Pro, any effects that leverage CUDA on playback will also be CUDA-accelerated during the encode, but the primary encoding function is all multi-threaded CPU work.

Pulling it all together: This is a starting point of sorts, a certain set of priorities that will drive decisions moving forward. I am open to configured systems as well as a roll-my-own approach. I have a ton of research to do in selecting components, as this applies even to pre-configured systems to a point. Bang for buck is a huge factor as I’m simply a business owner with limited resources and need to maximize ROI and that includes upgrade potential.

But all of that is hardware talk. Hardware does nothing without software. I know I’m good on primary application support, but need to find equivalent procedures and apps for all the little utilities and bits of software that are so essential to making my Mac post production business hum. There is a lot of work to do on this front. I plan on seeking advice here on the blog, the IMUG list and on Twitter as well as sharing what I find as I move forward. In fact, I’m not going to pull the trigger on the hardware until I have reasonable confidence that I have all the software bits sorted.

You read that right…at the end of this, the possibility remains that I will choose to remain on the Mac platform. If so-at that point-I’ll certainly have my reasons! This is going to be quite a journey.

I really hope you’ve stayed with me to this  point, and have something to say or contribute. Leave a comment and let me know what’s on your mind…

 

 

I’m very happy to present the final episode of “In Production: DaVinci Resolve”.

In this episode:
Steve and I get down to grading some projects. We each take one of our real world projects and grade it, then hand it off to the other for an alternate grade. This episode is very hands-on, working in Resolve to get the job done.

Note: If you want some great, affordable DaVinci Resolve training, here’s a great recommendation: Alexis Van Hurkman’s brand new release via Ripple Training: DaVinci Resolve Core Training. Definitely check it out!

Episode 6 of 6: Color Grading Sessions

About the show:
“In Production” is a video chat program where hosts Carey Dissmore and Steve Oakley discuss tools and topics related to the video production business from their unique perspective as independent production business owner/operators.

This is the sixth and final episode in our series on DaVinci Resolve.

Carey’s blog is at http://www.careydissmore.com
Steve’s Blog is at http://www.steveoakley.net

Here’s something I’ve been eagerly anticipating for quite awhile. Ripple Training has released “DaVinci Resolve Core Training” featuring instructor Alexis Van Hurkman. I have long been a fan of Alexis from his book “Color Correction Handbook” , his speaking engagements, and the fact that he’s the guy that literally wrote the Resolve manual!

I’m posting this in an excited state – I have only reviewed a portion of the training so far but I have to shoot  straight and tell you that what I’ve seen so far is very good and already worth the price of admission. I’ll be happy to follow up when I’ve seen it all.

The best part? It’s just $79 bucks and is an immediate download…with practice media. That’s “impulse purchase” pricing for something that might just give you a basis to launch a new chapter in your career.

Also, don’t forget to check out “In Production“, my production business chat show where where we have a 6-part series on DaVinci Resolve.

Disclosure: I was advanced a review copy of this training. I encourage you to review my general ethics statement.

 

Presenting episode 5 of “In Production:DaVinci Resolve”!

In this episode:

Carey and Steve discuss why you might want to use a control surface, and the options in controllers that are out there. We’ll also discuss monitoring very pragmatically, and offer some straight talk on the number one job of your monitor. It’s probably not what you think!

BONUS: Check out the video embedded below on “Metamerism Failure”. A scientific explanation of why monitors can be accurately calibrated and still not match each other!

Episode 5 of 6: Controllers and Monitors


About the show:
“In Production” is a brand new video chat program where hosts Carey Dissmore and Steve Oakley discuss tools and topics related to the video production business from their unique perspective as independent production business owner/operators.

This series on DaVinci Resolve will be released in 6 episodes.

The final episode will be released right here on CareyDissmore.com and also on SteveOakley.net

BONUS: Explaining Metamerism Failure

Flanders Scientific, makers of very high quality reference monitors has released this video… an excellent explanation of metamerism failure. The best, most accurate explanation I’ve ever seen as to why different monitor types can measure as calibrated accurately and still look different to your eyes when compared SIDE-BY-SIDE. This is an excellent counterpoint that illustrates why it might not be the best idea for me to be running my LCD, CRT and plasma monitors all at once in my edit/grading suite.

I strongly urge you to watch this video. Then watch it again. It’s dropping serious knowledge that will help you understand human vision, display technology and generally be a better video pro.

Presenting episode 4 of “In Production: DaVinci Resolve” !

In this episode:
Carey and Steve get into setting up a Resolve system and what machines will run it. We talk about GPU acceleration, CUDA vs. OpenCL, Red Rocket, laptops, iMacs, and Resolve Lite-the FREE version.

Missed the first three episodes? They’re all here.

Episode 4 of 6: Setting Up A Resolve System


Direct YouTube Link

About the show:
“In Production” is a brand new video chat program where hosts Carey Dissmore and Steve Oakley discuss tools and topics related to the video production business from their unique perspective as independent production business owner/operators.

This series on DaVinci Resolve will be released in 6 episodes.

Additional episodes will be released weekly right here on CareyDissmore.com and also on SteveOakley.net

Presenting episode 3 of “In Production: DaVinci Resolve” !

In this episode:
Carey and Steve talk get into an overview of the Resolve workflow. We’ll explore a number of different ways to get projects in and out of Resolve, some great features AND gotchas, and express an opinion or two along the way.

Missed the first two episodes? They’re right here.

Episode 3 of 6: Resolve Workflow Overview

Direct YouTube Link

About the show:
“In Production” is a brand new video chat program where hosts Carey Dissmore and Steve Oakley discuss tools and topics related to the video production business from their unique perspective as independent production business owner/operators.

This series on DaVinci Resolve will be released in 6 episodes.

Additional episodes will be released weekly right here on CareyDissmore.com and also on SteveOakley.net

I’m very happy to present a brand new blog show.

In Production” is a brand new video chat program where hosts Carey Dissmore (that’s me) and Steve Oakley discuss tools and topics related to the video production business from their unique perspective as independent production business owner/operators.

This show will be produced periodically as series around specific topics. Our first series is on the topic of Color Grading and DaVinci Resolve. This series is comprised of 6 episodes, to be released weekly. The first two episodes are embedded below.

We hope you like this show and, as always, welcome your comments. Cheers.

Episode 1 of 6: Introduction

Direct YouTube link

Episode 2 of 6: Color Grading Basics

Direct YouTube link

Additional episodes will be released weekly right here on CareyDissmore.com and also on SteveOakley.net

Go Get Em!

Link to downloads page.

Blackmagic Design today released Desktop Video 9.2 beta 1, a software update for its capture and playback products that adds broadcast monitoring support with the new Final Cut Pro X 10.0.3 update.

Desktop Video 9.2 beta 1 for Mac OS X is available for download now and is free of charge for all Blackmagic Design customers. This update includes support for all current DeckLink, Multibridge, Intensity and UltraStudio models.

Broadcast monitoring in Final Cut Pro 10.0.3 allows video output to external monitors and other equipment using the SDI, HDMI or analog video outputs from Blackmagic Design video hardware.

Desktop Video 9.2 beta 1 includes a new control panel for selecting the video output format from Final Cut Pro X for output to devices such as broadcast quality monitors, HDTVs and projectors, so you can see exactly what your master will look like in television colorspace.

 

Apple has announced immediate availability of Final Cut Pro X 10.0.3 with some really big new features like Multicam, improved XML, Relinking…and Broadcast monitoring!

In this short post I discuss some of these new announcements as well as an exciting new tool from Intelligent Assistance, 7 to X, which provides a way to move your legacy Final Cut Pro 7 projects to FCP X.

I also include an addendum on my previous posts about Thunderbolt and the Mac Pro future.

Apple’s official page announcing the FCP 10.0.3 Software Update

Philip Hodgetts Blog post about the creation of 7toX, the FCP 7 to FCP X translation utility.

Hey gang,

This is some very exciting news for the world of production that does not work in full-blown uncompressed video very often.

Blackmagic Design has had one of the most affordable SDI/HDMI recording devices available in the Hyperdeck Shuttle, which takes off-the-shelf SSDs as recording media, and costs just $345. But it had one rub that quickly harmed it’s appeal: It would only record full-rate uncompressed video which meant record times of just 9 minutes or so on a 64GB SSD. The high cost of SSDs (now dropping a bit) combined with the sheer volume of data to transfer and manage through the entire editorial and archive process made this product less desirable for many longer-form projects.

Today Blackmagic has announced that the Hyperdeck Shuttle 2 will now have the option of recording in DNxHD, writing files in industry standard MXF format. DNxHD is a codec with similar performance to Apple ProRes, but is developed and championed by Avid (Although you can work with these files in Premiere Pro). This will dramatically improve recording times (5x or more) and have the added benefit of making total project sizes far more manageable…all without reducing visual quality in a perceptible way.

 

Blackmagic Design Releases HyperDeck Shuttle 2 with Avid DNxHD Recording and Playback

Milpitas, USA – January 19, 2012 – Blackmagic Design today released a new version of it’s popular HyperDeck Shuttle Solid State Disk recorder. HyperDeck Shuttle 2 replaces the existing model and adds broadcast quality 10-bit recording and playback to the Avid DNxHD format for the same low price of $345.

You can find the rest of the press release by clicking here.