Bob Zelin's NAB: Storage, Broadcast, Thunderbolt & 4K
COW Library : Archiving and Back-Up : Bob Zelin : Bob Zelin's NAB: Storage, Broadcast, Thunderbolt & 4K
"Nothing has changed. There was nothing new at NAB."
If you have this feeling, then you are still shooting with a standard definition Beta SP camera, OR you have spent so much money on your 4K cameras and editing equipment, that you can't deal with the fact that the entire world is changing around you, and everything – and I mean everything – is becoming very affordable.
I planned to only go to the south lower hall at NAB 2014, which is where all the post production equipment is. And I held to that plan. The problem was that there was so much to see in the south lower hall, I could not cover everything, and I apologize in advance to the manufacturers who make wonderful products, that I did not get a chance to see or write about.
As expected, the entire show in the south lower hall was about 4K video, and Thunderbolt 2. People react about 4K video no differently than they reacted about HD Video. "No one is asking for HD Video, so I am just going to keep using my standard def equipment." Well, look what happened. But now, 4K video equipment is cheap, and so every "newbie" will buy it, and everything you see will be 4k, and make your expensive HD equipment look pale by comparison. No one ever said that this was an easy business. And no one ever said that it was fair.
MY FAVORITE PRODUCT
Let me cut to the chase. My favorite booth, and my favorite product was Sonnet Technologies, that showed their new xMac Pro. It takes the silly round new Mac Pro, and puts it into a standard 4 rack unit rack mount case. Inside this case is a 3 slot PCIe expansion chassis, which connects to your new Mac Pro with a Thunderbolt 2 cable. This allows you to continue using your AJA/Blackmagic/Matrox/Sonnet/ATTO cards that you already own, and add USB3 cards, and anything else that you can think of, without having to buy special new Thunderbolt 2 versions of the same products.
Sonnet Technologies xMac Pro
"But wait, there's more." For an additional $199, you can install a cage inside the MacRack Pro, that can now be outfitted with an LTO drive, or 3 drive SATA configuration (like in your old Mac Pro), or 4 2 ½" SSD drives. All in the same chassis. Finally making the new Mac Pro as useful and flexible as the old Mac Pro. To me, it's a no brainer.
Also at the Sonnet booth was the release of the Echo 15 Thunderbolt 2 version, which is an under $400 little box, that connects to any Thunderbolt Mac with a single Thunderbolt cable, and gives you back everything that Apple took away from you, like the Optical DVD drive, Firewire ports, eSATA ports, etc. It even has room for an additional internal 2 ½" drive (SSD or SATA), and for an extra $100, they will throw in a Blu-ray burner for DVD Studio Pro!
For a simple rack mount for the new round Mac Pro, JMR showed the JMR ProBracket, a wonderful sliding rack rail that can securely hold the new Apple computer. This is only a rack mount – not a PCI expansion chassis, or flexible to hold LTO drives, etc., BUT it only costs $149 ! Apple thought that no one would be able to rack mount a new Mac Pro – take that Apple!
At both the Maxx Digital booth, and the Highpoint booth, was the wonderful new Netstor drive chassis that works with Thunderbolt 2. The Netstor drive array comes in 16 and 24 bay configurations, AND has a 3 slot PCIe expansion chassis built into the drive chassis, to stick your PCIe cards in. Highpoint also displayed the new Netstor 3 slot expansion chassis for Thunderbolt 2 that has room for 4 internal 2 ½" SSD drives, all in a tiny chassis.
(Ed. note: For more details, see Bob Zelin's extensive review of the Netstor chassis here.)
JMR and Stardom both showed their new 8 bay Thunderbolt chassis that is based on the ATTO RAID controller. Both of these chassis will soon be Thunderbolt 2, as soon as ATTO releases the new host card to them.
I am always willing to give companies another chance, and sure enough, NAS storage companies Synology and QNAP showed 10 Gig Ethernet NAS shared storage solutions at very affordable prices. Both companies offer expansion chassis for their NAS products that use the 10Gig Ethernet interface.
Sans Digital showed the first 12Gb Areca host cards in use on their 24 bay SATA drive chassis. While they were using conventional 6G SATA drives, they were able to show 3500 MB/sec READ speed at RAID 0 and about 3000 MB/sec at RAID 5, proving that the new 12 Gig technology is incredibly fast.
Of course, this was being demonstrated with a Windows PC, and not a Macintosh platform. No one was showing 12G products on a Mac (I will certainly be doing testing with this), but ATTO Technology, who is also releasing 12G host adaptor cards stated that there would be no performance increase using a Mac computer (either new Mac Pro or old Mac Pro) so there was no reason to write OS X drivers for their new 12G cards. That made me sad.
Studio Network Solutions, a leader in shared storage, showed the outrageous new Prodigy shared storage system from their EVO line. This is a 1 rack unit box, that can be configured with a 4 port 1G Ethernet card, to hookup to 4 client computers, or a 2 port 10G Ethernet card. There are 4 internal 2 ?xBD" drives on this system (either SATA or SSD). The entire shared storage system (not including the drives) is
$4700, making this the absolute cheapest shared storage system on the market that actually works.
Please remember that this system is not expandable, so that if you want to add additional storage, you can't do it. But for a small workgroup on a location, the reality that you can bring 4 TB of storage in a self contained 1 Rack unit box, is just amazing. 4 guys with 4 laptops in a hotel room, cutting a complex job on location – at this price, it's just amazing.
Small Tree showed their ThunderNet product line, which allows you to convert Thunderbolt to either 1Gig Ethernet, or 10Gig Ethernet, all in a simple portable box, making connection to iMacs and MacBook Pros with Thunderbolt a breeze.
But most exciting at the Small Tree booth was the display of their new 4 port 10GBase-T card, which works in their TitaniumZ shared storage system. This means that without having an expensive switch, you can put in a single 4 port 10Gig card in their system, and connect four 10Gig Ethernet clients for shared storage. Add another card, now you have eight 10Gig clients, and no switch. Up until now, everyone had to rely on fibre cables, and expensive SFP+ transceivers, but now, just use Cat6 cable, and you have tons of 10Gig connections with no expensive switch.
Facilis also had a big push towards 10Gig Ethernet, in addition to showing integration of 16 Gig Fibre channel products. Facilis has been a long-time leader in shared storage, and their move towards 10Gig Ethernet makes their wonderful product available at a low cost of entry point.
Maxx Digital showed the only 100% Apple Macintosh-based shared storage system, the ThunderRAID2 using the new round Mac Pro, and the Netstor drive chassis.
Maxx Digital ThunderRAID2
All the "secret cards" went into the Netstor drive chassis PCIe buss that is inside the drive chassis. Connections were made to an AVID Media Composer, Assimilate Scratch, NewTek TriCaster, and a cheap, bare bones Mac Mini with an ATTO NT1102 Thunderbolt to 10Gig Ethernet adaptor. This little Mac Mini was able to achieve connection speeds of over 600 MB/sec using regular Cat6 cable.
For LONG Thunderbolt cable runs, the leader right now is Corning. Corning showed 10 meter, 30 meter and 60 meter (200 feet) optical Thunderbolt cables, that allow you to get FULL BANDWIDTH performance across their long cables.
What I was most impressed with was their demonstration using the new Mac Pro and the incredible LG 34UM95 Thunderbolt 2 monitor. Not only was the image stunning on this monitor (passing thru the incredibly long Corning cable), but all the keyboard/mouse functions were available on this monitor – ALL from the single Corning Thunderbolt 2 optical cable. So it appears to me that anyone needing a long KVM extender that was done in "the old days" (last week) with multiple Ethernet cables, can now be done with a single Corning Optical Thunderbolt 2 cable, and no bulky transmit/receive boxes on each end.
OK, speaking of Thunderbolt applications, I was dying to go UPSTAIRS in the south hall just to see Intel, who was demonstrating Thunderbolt networking between a single iMac and a HP Windows PC. I drilled three Intel demo guys, and received conflicting answers. Two of them told me that Thunderbolt networking, for emulating Ethernet performance was NOT working yet (but they are working on it with their engineering team in Israel).
However, upon another visit, another demo person told me that it was working. When I offered to install AJA System Test on his Mac so he could show me that it was working, he declined, and said that I could not load any software on his computer. So at this moment, and based on the 2 gentlemen from Intel, my own tests, and Neil Smith's tests from LumaForge, Thunderbolt networking is coming, but it ain't here yet.
And speaking of Neil Smith, he was at the AMD booth, demonstrating AMD FirePro W9100 cards (actually 4 of them in a Super Micro Windows computer). He was playing back in real time RED Dragon 6K footage (no typo here) and WAS NOT using a RED Rocket card. How is that possible ! But it was a very dramatic demonstration. And let me tell you, in contrast to all the banter that I have with Neil on Creative COW, Neil is one heck of a nice guy, and incredibly smart. AMD was lucky to have him at their booth, to do this amazing demonstration, to show the power of the AMD FirePro graphics cards.
The AMD booth at NAB
LaCie showed a completely unique new Thunderbolt 2 8 bay drive chassis that was only one rack unit high. It looked like a blade server – in fact they had countless numbers of these chassis in a large rack.
The standard 3 ?xBD" SATA drives mount horizontally inside the long chassis, making the form factor completely unique, compared to the Promise or Areca 8 bay drive chassis. I look forward to evaluating this new product.
Boy, there were lots of new players here for LTO tape archive backup. One of the most exciting was mLogic, who showed their new self contained LTO6 drive with a simple Thunderbolt 2 and/or miniSAS interface, all for $3599. Just add a thunderbolt cable, and some software, like Imagine Product PreRoll Post, and you have a complete LTO tape archive system, that you can plug in in 10 seconds.
There were other amazing new LTO companies like YoYotta, who showed their new LTFS software, and Unitex from Japan, that had turnkey LTO solutions that seemed very easy to use. And if you have the big bucks, nothing can beat the new Cache-A ProCache 610, which is an LTO6 tape drive with 10GbaseT Ethernet interface, for super fast LTO tape backups. After a while, I started to become overwhelmed. There was only so much LTO I could look at. It was all good, easy to use, and cheap.
Boy, this is a boring review so far – storage, shared storage, and LTO tape products. But that's what post production hardware has become. So let's talk about monitors.
Because I was "stuck" in the south lower hall, I looked at the three main monitor companies that were there – Flanders Scientific, Boland, and TV Logic. All three showed the amazing new OLED monitors, as well as their conventional LCD monitor lines.
The demonstration at Flanders Scientific was dramatic for me, because they had their own top of the line 24" LCD right next to their new CM250 OLED 24" monitor.
The difference in quality was dramatic. OLED looks amazing, and if you have the extra $2500, you have to be crazy to not buy the OLED monitor. I am sure that Sony, Panasonic, JVC, and others had wonderful monitors to look at, but they were in the center hall, and I did not want to venture out.
I've been avoiding Blackmagic Design and AJA, because these two booths could have been their own trade show. The innovation from both companies is simply amazing.
AJA showed the new FS1-X, which is a new updated converter. It will convert ANYTHING TO ANYTHING, which includes changing crazy frame rates as well as video standards.
My favorite toy that AJA released was the new LUT-box. Countless people torture me to assure them that what they are viewing is REC709, and the truth is, I am never sure of what I am doing. But now, there is no need to worry. You buy the new AJA LUT box, stick in your HD video, and it spits out the correct LUT that you are required to monitor, on both SDI output as well as HDMI, and de-embedded audio. It can't be any easier.
And they showed the new AJA KONA 4 that can handle 4K video.
AJA KONA 4
But of course, the real news was the amazing AJA CION 4K camera, that is going after the throat of the ARRI Alexa and RED cameras.
I am sure that there will be countless articles about this camera. But the one thing I want to point out about this camera is that it shoots and records 4K ProRes video, making this camera a true post production camera. The bandwidth of the files will not be ridiculously enormous, so that its video media files can be readily used on any storage or shared storage system instantly. This will be incredibly useful for TV shows, corporate videos, and most general use applications.
Another very exciting feature is that the entire camera is controlled via Ethernet, and a single operator can control multiple cameras, and even stream the video over that Ethernet cable.
Blackmagic, ever the crazy company, showed the Teranex Express, which can convert anything to 4K. For $1395. Yes, standard def to 4K for $1395, in a 1 rack unit box.
They too showed their new amazing, cheap 4K camera, called the URSA, starting at under $6000, but that's not the camera I want to talk about that! Blackmagic has made a camera, called the Blackmagic Studio Camera that just blew me away. It made me realize that Blackmagic thinks about a lot of products for years, and how they integrate into their product line, long before they even discuss the product.
Blackmagic Design Teranex Express
What on earth am I talking about? Last year, they released the ATEM Studio Converter, which was basically a so-so intercom system that used the ATEM Camera Converter to allow for talkback and tally to a camera. It was $2000 for 4 channels, and it didn't make sense to me. BUT NOW, with the new Studio Camera, it's just GENIUS.
The ATEM Camera Converter is built into the Blackmagic Studio Camera. You connect a tactical fibre cable from the Studio Camera to the ATEM Studio Converter. You now not only have intercom, but the HD-SDI video gets de-embedded and goes into your ATEM Switcher. And because the camera has 2 analog XLR inputs, you can get 2 channels of analog audio down the fibre cable to your audio mixer if you wish.
Now, imagine 4 cameras, and 4 simple fibre cables, that carries 8 channels of analog audio mics, the 4 HD-SDI video signals for the camera, AND intercom from the director to the camera men. And you can loop the ATEM Studio Converter to additional units for more cameras, and more intercom. And you can do CCU control for color, gamma, etc. all over the fibre cable at the ATEM switch.
Blackmagic Studio Camera
SO, let me make this clear, you get these cameras for $2000 each (that's $8000 for four cameras, not including lenses). You stick these cameras into the ATEM Studio Converter (a box I didn't even care about until last week), and loop the HD-SDI feeds out of the Studio Converter into your $2500 ATEM 1M/E switcher, and you have a complete TV studio!
Now, you do have to add a small audio mixer ($300) and some small monitors (Blackmagic SmartView HD monitors – all very inexpensive). But your intercom is now integrated, your audio snakes all run down your fibre cables, and everything can fit into a small rack case. AND all the switchers can now do 4K, and if you want the Studio Cameras to be 4K, it's just $1000 more per camera. But most people will be more than happy with a 1080i studio camera WITH HUGE VIEWFINDER for $1995!
Please understand that you still need to purchase camera lenses, tactical fibre cables, headsets for the intercom, tripods, TV/Computer monitors, speakers, and some miscellaneous cabling, but these items are relatively inexpensive. The crazy idea that you can build a complete 4 camera HD studio today with everything for under 20 grand is now a reality, thanks to Blackmagic.
This combo revolutionizes the studio production package.
But let's say that you don't want to switch the show live. With today's modern editing software, multiclip is so easy and so readily available, maybe all you want to do is just capture the multiple cameras live, and deal with the rest in post production. Well, Softron has made that possible. You get a new Mac Pro, and a fast Thunderbolt drive array. You plug in their little 8 HD-SDI input box, and now you can record up to EIGHT ISO feeds all at the same time, all on the same computer, all on the same drive array, all in sync, with their amazing new Movie Recorder software.
Don't need 8 cameras? Just buy the number of Movie Recorder licenses that you need, and it will still work the same way. Pop on the Thunderbolt drive to your editing software and you can start editing.
Actually, I am not being clear. You can EDIT the multiclip video WHILE IT IS BEING RECORDED. I am not making this up.
WAS IT WORTH IT? I know that I missed things, which is why I tried not to leave the south lower hall. NAB was jammed full of people. Booths like AJA and Blackmagic were difficult to navigate because of this. But was it worth going? YOU BET IT WAS.
And for those of you still delivering Beta SP tapes – well, in a rare moment for me, I am speechless.
BOB ON NAB NLEsTitle graphic photo of the Blackmagic Design Booth at NAB 2014, courtesy Robb Cohen / NAB.