LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

A Talk with SpectSoft's Jason Howard about Linux & Film Production

COW Library : : Jason Howard : A Talk with SpectSoft's Jason Howard about Linux & Film Production
A Look at SpectSoft RaveHD for Linux

A Creative Cow Linux Systems Feature

 


an interview with Jason Howard <jason@spectsoft.com>
Systems administrator, Creativecow.net
Vice President of Product Development, SpectSoft LLC, Oakdale, California USA

©2003 by CreativeCow.net, SpectSoft LLC and Tippett Studios. All rights are reserved.

Article Focus:
Creative Cow's own Jason Howard, is helping bring Starship Troopers 2 to the big screen. His company, SpectSoft, has been working with the famed Tippett Studios to integrate SpectSoft's new RaveHD system into Tippett's workflow. Faced with creating a system that allowed customers like Tippett to work with many different formats and systems -- like accessing both Sony CineAlta's 1080p24 format and Panasonic VariCam's 720p60 -- and performing well with the very latest HD decks, etc. How well has RaveHD worked for Tippett over the last eight months of its use? Well, famed Tippett Studios used it for the HD editing workflow for Starship Troopers 2. Here's the story...





Who is SpectSoft and What Is Its Purpose?
SpectSoft LLC was founded in 1997 to specialize in Linux-based software for use in the film, video and broadcast industries. It was started by me and my mother, Ramona Howard because of our experience in both media production and open systems coding and solutions design. Our idea was to bring into SpectSoft both "open" software and the kind of Unix design philosophies that allow our customers the never-ending flexibility and freedom of advanced systems using our software. We felt the unix philosophy of making a particular software tool do "one thing, but one thing well" to be the perfect match for high-end film and video production -- this, as having to worry about stability of a tool is simply not an option in the world of high-end production. In the high-end film and video world, since being on the cutting edge is expected, open software not only allows bugs fixes and feature additions to happen more quickly, but also allows for configurability and integration on a scale that is just not possible with software from more conventional models.

Since its inception, SpectSoft has worked on technical projects with some of the industry's biggest and brightest companies like Dreamworks Animation (Glendale, California) and Tippett Studio (Berkeley, California) that have furthered the state of the art in high definition video's use in the film production work flow. Through it all, SpectSoft has been able to maintain a relatively small footprint as well as the original design values that make it so unique.


What is RaveHD?
RaveHD is the second-generation hybrid digital disk drive recorder (DDR) and uncompressed video editor created by SpectSoft specifically to suit the needs of the high end film and video post production facilities --or anyone else with the need to import/export uncompressed video.

Rave is an acronym for Raw Audio Video Editor. Its I/O support options span the whole video gamut, from Standard and High Definition video, to Dual Stream 10bit log 4:4:4 RGB, like that used in the Thompson Viper and Sony Cinealta SR.

Rave is a linux-based system that uses both custom software and drivers created by SpectSoft that can utilize off-the-shelf commodity hardware and can also include a selection of I/O cards from AJA Video, which we have worked directly with AJA to optimize for use in the world of Linux.





What Features Are Available In the Rave System?
An important part of our entire philosophy is that you must remember that while we have created specific tools to solve specific high-level concerns of our customers, there are always custom facets in each of our installations -- these customized "hooks" allow us to integrate our system into whatever system or systems our customers are already using. The basic system makes the assumption that our customers are running the software on the reference system, explained further down -- but the basic system includes:
  • RAID3 data protection with the Huge Systems media vault array
  • 10bit YUV, 8bit YUV (both UYVY and YUYV)
  • 8bit RGB (RGBA, ARGB, ABGR)
  • 10bit RGB (RGB packed and RGB DPX) color-spaces are supported. (Not all color spaces are available with SD)
  • RGB/YUV/3 WAY(Final Cut Pro-ish) LUT based color correction (HD only)
  • RS-422 machine control
  • Varicam™ (Panasonic) active frame tagging support
  • Frame-based file system (each frame can be made available via NFS, FTP, Windows File Share, etc)
  • RP188 timecode import/export (also can be used to record the time-code of each frame into meta-data for later use)
  • Realtime 2:3 (SD only, but HD 24p -> 60i/23.98p -> 59.97i is planned)
  • Burn-in of timecode, graticules, and other ancillary data
  • Open/Available source code (with purchase) to both the driver and application allows for a massively extensible DDR
  • SQL database tracking of clip, audio, and EDL assets across multiple DDRs
  • Scheduled/Interrupt-able job queuing support (allows for image conversion, color space conversion, file moving, or any other scriptable process to be scheduled for when the DDR is sitting idle.)


Why Did You Develop Your System Using Linux?
It would probably be easier to explain "Why not Linux?" Linux is an open-source and freely available operating system that runs on everything from small embedded devices to massive supercomputers. It is both incredibly stable and thus very reliable. This is a must for the high-end film and video industry. From a programming perspective, it is extensible, easy to alter, and has a very low system overhead.


What Are the Advantages of Using Commodity Hardware?
Quite simply, this allows for two things: It gives us the most "bang for the buck" and also allows for easy upgrades in the future. No longer does the system have a "product lifetime," or useful life. Simply upgrade the surrounding hardware to support tomorrow's technology. What kind of hardware is in the reference box? The system includes:

  • 4U Rack mountable (very cool looking) case
  • Huge Systems IDE 1.3TB Array (Media Vault) w/ Dual-SCSI U160 I/O in RAID3
  • Off the shelf Dual Xeon 2.4GHz, 512 MB RAM, Modem (for remote support), Dual U160 Controller, 1Gb Ethernet, RS-422 (Converted from RS-232), CD-ROM
  • AJA I/O CARD (HD, SD, or BOTH)
  • 1.3TB in RAID3, 1.8TB in RAID0


How was RaveHD used at Tippett for Starship Troopers 2 HD workflow?
The "Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation" principal photography was shot with the Sony Cinealta at 1080p24, however miniatures and elements were shot with the Panasonic Varicam at 720p60 (usually in some factor of 24). So right off the bat, we were faced with working with both formats, having both formats exist on the DDR at the same time. We also gained quite a bit of experience working with both Sony and Panasonic decks. Also, RP188 support was a must as we had to pull out the active frames from a Panasonic Varicam sequence.

All the visual effects plates were captured and exported via RaveHD over the course of about 8 months in post production. Also, finals of each shot were done on RaveHD by the director (Phil Tippett) and the visual effects supervisor (Eric Leven). Frames were moved on/off the DDR via NFS, the standard unix file sharing method. They were then converted from the YUV color space and they were captured into a floating point RGB colorspace designed by Tippett for use by the artists.





How Much Does RaveHD Cost?
The base system with the above reference box, software, and HD SDI I/O is $35,768. However, the software and I/O card are available for those that want to create their own DDR setup.


For more information on RaveHD, visit www.spectsoft.com


To discuss RaveHD with Jason, visit Creative Cow's Linux & Media forum

###

Note: All of us at Creative Cow are doubly proud of Jason Howard as in all his spare time he is also our systems administrator and keeps our server merrily pumping along, even with pageviews getting to the point of 10 million and more each month. We introduced Jason to John Abt, president of AJA Video, when John mentioned that he wanted to get his line of 10-bit video boards into the world of Linux. We told John that Jason could do it and do it in "a few months" -- John was understandably skeptical but Jason did do it in a few months and introduced the system at Creative Cow West 2003, where studios like Dreamworks and Tippett took note of what SpectSoft was doing in the high power world of Linux media production. Jason is an amazing guy and we are proud of his accomplishments.


Please visit CreativeCow.net for more great articles and the best forums on the Net
if you got to this article by a direct link

 


Related Articles / Tutorials:
Blackmagic Design Announces Advanced New Blackmagic RAW Codec

Blackmagic Design Announces Advanced New Blackmagic RAW Codec

Blackmagic Design has introduced the public beta of Blackmagic RAW, a new and very modern codec that combines the quality and benefits of RAW with the ease of use, speed and file sizes of traditional video formats. Blackmagic RAW is a more intelligent format that gives customers stunning images, incredible performance, cross platform support and a free developer SDK.


Creative COW
NVIDIA's realtime raytracing premieres at SIGGRAPH 2018

NVIDIA's realtime raytracing premieres at SIGGRAPH 2018

Highlights include: Photorealistic, interactive car rendering. Real-time ray tracing on a single GPU. Advanced rendering for games & film. Cornell Box ??" Turn to this tested graphics teaching tool to see how Turing uses ray tracing to deliver complex effects ??" ranging from diffused reflection to refractions to caustics to global illumination ??" with stunning photorealism. Ray-traced global illumination. New Autodesk Arnold with GPU acceleration, this demo lets you see the benefits of Quadro RTX GPUs for both content creation and final frame rendering for feature film.

Feature, People / Interview, Business
Creative COW
The Ultimate Guide to Flying Drones with Dirk Dallas

The Ultimate Guide to Flying Drones with Dirk Dallas

Join filmmaker, photographer, educator, and drone pilot Dirk Dallas of "From Where I Drone" for this comprehensive guide to getting started, and getting really good, with flying drones. His practical advice covers preparation, calibration, and exercises to master for control of both your drone and its camera.

Tutorial
AdoramaTV
Westdoc Online interview with documentary filmmaker Marina Zenovich

Westdoc Online interview with documentary filmmaker Marina Zenovich

What do Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Roman Polanski, and ESPN have in common? Documentary filmmaker MARINA ZENOVICH, who joins host Chuck Braverman for this episode of Westdoc Online.


Creative COW
VR Filmwork: Immersive Begins to Emerge ... Slowly

VR Filmwork: Immersive Begins to Emerge ... Slowly

Want to see a storage person's heart skip a beat ... or two? Flutter even? Just mention VR and BAM!, they get real excited. Some people think we like 360/VR just because it devours so much storage capacity. Ok that's a good reason but still the good VR stuff is really really good. Not just scare your pants off good but good to experience, enjoy, be immersively entertained, informed.

Editorial, Feature
Andy Marken
Christina Rzewucki: Thor: Ragnarok, Tomb Raider & more

Christina Rzewucki: Thor: Ragnarok, Tomb Raider & more

Christina Rzewucki is a Texture and Look Development Artist at Rising Sun Pictures. A 2016 graduate of the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Adelaide, she began her career with the game company Monkeystack. Since joining RSP in 2017, she has applied her diverse technical and creative skills to projects including the blockbusters Thor: Ragnarok and Tomb Raider. Next month, she will be teaching the texturing component of ‘Look Development and Lighting,’ a new second year elective course associated with UniSA’s Media Arts degree.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Risingsun Pictures
Could This The Real Reason Apple Wants To Ditch Intel?

Could This The Real Reason Apple Wants To Ditch Intel?

Creative COW's Tim Wilson thinks this is the real reason for Apple's announcement that they will drop Intel. Do You agree?


Creative COW
The Cinematography of Altered Carbon

The Cinematography of Altered Carbon

Today we explore the cinematography of Altered Carbon with Directors of Photography Martin Ahlgren and Neville Kidd.


Ben Consoli
Know Your Film Editing History, Part 1

Know Your Film Editing History, Part 1

Knowing about the history of film editing can help you understand how best to use these tools today, as well as point to where film editing might go in the future. Join feature film editor Sven Pape, host of "This Guy Edits", for part 1 of his fast-paced, example-packed conversation with Los Angeles-based filmmaker and film teacher Tyler Danna.

Tutorial, Feature
Sven Pape
Preparing to Edit the PyeongChang Winter Games, Pt 1

Preparing to Edit the PyeongChang Winter Games, Pt 1

Growing up, Kylee Peña says that she was always glued to the Summer or Winter Olympics. And as a young and ambitious video nerd, she wondered what went into the incredible number of visual stories being told. Between pre-cut packages and live footage and montages put together with moments that had happened seconds ago, she couldn’t fathom what went into the teams who created this media. But for the next few weeks, her friend Mike Api is in PyeongChang, South Korea, where he’s working as a freelance editor on the Olympics for NBC. Having been through the Olympics editorial experience before ??" the Summer Games in Rio two years ago ??" he knows he has a lot of interesting stories to tell us while he’s working.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
MORE
© 2018 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]