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Bessie's New Tool Round-up

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CreativeCOW presents Bessie's New Tool Round-up -- Broadcasting Review


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NOW PLAYING: TOOLSONAIR'S FULL RANGE OF MAC-BASED BROADCASTING SOFTWARE

ToolsOnAir has put together a set of software applications that enable an entire TV studio operation, including MXF ingest, playout servers, real-time broadcast graphics, and administration and management tools - all made to run on standard Mac computers, exploiting such Apple technologies as Quartz Composer and QuickTime.

"Even though broadcast systems have been dominated by Windows, we have seen increased interest in more cost-effective Mac solutions," says Gilbert Leb of ToolsOnAir, a software development company based in Vienna Austria. "Apple hardware also brings us the kind of performance, stability and reliability needed to run playout automation and real time graphics.

"We have sold over 300 systems in the very small Austrian market in a very short time. This shows the potential of a cost-effective solution that competes with the big players, who are much more expensive.

"Our concept is to work only on standard hardware. With Apple, we have the confidence that every Mac, everywhere in the world, has the same configuration as the ones in our office that we use for development. It is the same with the additional hardware that our systems use, from AJA, Blackmagic and Matrox. Customers can buy them locally, which saves shipping costs, with confidence that there will be no configuration issues.

"That's our vision of a 'TV Station in a Mac,' to offer it on standard hardware, and to work with Apple tools such as Quartz Composer."

just:play
ToolsOnAir just:play

The process begins with ingest, using "just:In." It provides direct access to MOV and MXF files while they are being recorded without the need to use reference movies. No background application is running and no scanning or referencing process is required

Just:In allows MXF crash recording without predefining a fixed duration. The streaming MXF media is instantly available and accessible for editing in Final Cut Pro, which updates with just one mouse click by using an included FxPlug plug-in. "UpdateFCPMedia" launches automatically with Final Cut Pro and provides a new user interface element to fast re-scan and update media files. There is zero latency and no buffering or chunking of the recorded MXF media - you get what is there in the moment you click on the icon.

just:play, the ToolsOnAir automated playout solution, offers an easy, intuitive graphical interface, operators to quickly create combined playlists for video and graphics playout using cards from Blackmagic Design and AJA. It works in both SD and HD, and is compatible with both MXF and QuickTime format files. just:play manages playout from video servers, studio feeds and live feeds and has the capability to easily integrate real time graphics, including corner logos, real time tickers linked to RSS feeds, and remote databases.

It works closely with just:live and Composition- Builder, the ToolsOnAir Apple-based real time graphic solution. Templates built in CompositionBuilder can easily be brought on air in real time, including lastminute change capabilities.

Multi-channel input is also supported over Bonjour networks and via Telestream Pipeline, including Telestream Pipeline Quad. Adding a fifth channel is as simple as adding a Mac Pro with Final Cut Pro and an AJA or Blackmagic card.

ToolsOnAir is developing additional software for live Mac-based production, including LiveCut, a fullyintegrated solution for multicam production. Supporting up to 16 cameras in full HD, LiveCut is completely tapeless, eliminating the need for media transfer. Instead, a track-layered multi-clip sequence is automatically delivered to Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Server with full support for edit-in-place.


CRAY DASEIN WORKSTATION AND SIROCCO MEDIA SERVER OFFER SUPERCOMPUTING POWER FOR CREATIVE PROFESSIONALS

Using 64 Intel Xeon Nehalem cores providing 16 Teraflops of processing speed, the Cray Dasein Workstation is optimally configured for the unique graphic visualization demands of the creative media community.

Systems are easily custom-configured, and fully scalable: three 64-core cabinets, each supporting 512 GB RAM (soon, 768 MB), can be linked, for a total of 192 cores, with a speed of 48 Teraflops. A 16-node GigE switch is standard, for simple, direct networking.

Each workstation also offers the option of mounting 128 NVIDIA GPGPUs. These "General Purpose Graphics Processing Units" are separate from the graphics display boards. Based on the NVIDIA CUDA Tesla to take advantage of massive graphic parallelization of GPGPUs, these work particularly well for image rendering pipelines.

Cray
Cray Dasein Workstation

The Cray Dasein also supports up to 24 TB of internal storage, yet is powered with a single, regular wall plug. Its whisper-quiet sound is conditioned with active noise cancellation, and its internal temperature is controlled through integral solid state coolers.

With more computing power than found even in typical render farms, it is also easily rackmounted for studio or mobile use.

The Cray Dasein workstations integrate with the Sirocco Media Server from PsiTech, a Cray partner for more than 15 years on the development of graphics, imaging and memory management. Routinely recording RAW 4K up to 500 fps, the Sirocco Media Server has been used by NASA and the US Department of Defense for more than 10 years.

For broadcasters, several HD Cameras can attached to the "stream through" Sirocco SPR™ model. Raw video can be compressed internally with all of the standard codecs including Avid DNxHD, DV100, IMX and MPEG-2. Current Sirocco camera interfaces include HD/SDI, VR Phantom and Camera Link; others are in development.

Cray, along with PsiTechCray, is the legendary pioneer in the development of Supercomputing, starting with the breakthrough Cray-1 and now offering the Cray XT4 Jaguar, the fastest computer on the planet, with 45,000 quad core processors (180,000 total cores) and a cost of over $100 million each.

Introduced in 1976, the original Cray-1 was a 5.5 ton whopper with EIGHT MEGABYTES of RAM, all Freon- cooled to prevent melting.

The first Cray-1 system, installed at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, played a major role in Walt Disney's "Tron" in 1982, handling CGI rendering, and servin as a background prop when the LLL computer room was used as a live action set.

With the new Cray Dasein Workstation, Cray is back again supporting the creative media community, with systems starting at $15,000.


BLACKMAGIC DESIGN: REWIRING SDI WITH FIBER OPTICS

In 2008, Blackmagic Design introduced DeckLink HD Extreme editing, Videohub routers and Mini Converters, all featuring 3 Gb/sec. SDI. Three Gb/sec. SDI eliminated the need to use dual cables (dual link) just to get 4:4:4 video, and also allowed native 2K editing with a single BNC connection. Blackmagic Design introduced them at the same cost as the product models they replaced.

"We felt this was the only way to introduce 3 Gb/sec. SDI technology in any meaningful way," says Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty. "Many postproduction companies are now using 2K on 3 Gb/sec. SDI based products, and this is dramatically simplifying feature film workflows."

However, even 3 Gb/sec. SDI has limitations - starting with the fact that there is no roadmap for increased speeds. (Of course, past experience shows that higher speeds would necessitate new cables.) Cable runs are also limited to 300 feet - a major problem in broadcast facilities - use the increasingly less-common BNC connection, and, put simply, are big.

Blackmagic Design has recently introduced a new line of products based on fiber optical SDI, including a Mini Converter, DeckLink card, HDLink, and OpenGear converters, once again costing the same as the copper SDI products they replace, while also providing significant advantages.

Blackmagic Design Descklink Optical Fiber
Blackmagic Design Decklink Optical Fiber

As Grant explains, "Optical fiber can run massive lengths - up to 45 kilometers with SD, and 25 KM at 3 GB/sec. That's 170,000 feet - quite an improvement!

"There are virtually no speed limits on optical fiber cables. This eliminates the very expensive need to constantly upgrade copper cables, because you can plug the same optical fiber cables into higher speed equipment in the future."

Fiber optic cables are much thinner and more flexible, and use the inexpensive, widely-available LC connection, as standardized in the new SMPTE specification, which also standardizes light frequencies and laser drivers .

Lack of standards has been among the obstacles to widespread adoption, as has the higher cost of fiber optics. Much of this has been rooted in the expense of copper-to-fiber SDI converters, which had run to thousands of dollars each. BMD has addressed this with the introduction of the Mini Converter Optical Fiber, for $495.

HDLink Optical Fiber ($795) provides monitoring on up to 2K with 3D LUTs, up to 6 channels of RCA audio monitoring, and connections for both copper and fiber SDI. DeckLink Optical Fiber is a 10-bit HD and SD PCI Express one-lane capture and playback card compatible with Windows, Mac OS X and now Linux computers. It features both copper SDI in and out, as well as optical fiber SDI in and out, plus reference input and RS-422 deck control.

Blackmagic UltraScope is the world's first PC based waveform monitoring that's designed for editing and color and also supports both copper SDI and optical fiber SDI. It also includes more scope views, a much nicer user interface than other solutions, says Grant, with the added benefit that, unlike others, it's actually accurate!

"With these new products, we believe that optical fiber technology will now be more accessible to small and growing television production studios. Customers will now be able to afford to use optical fiber between equipment, and then get benefits in the future as video quality increases.

"Lastly I think it's very romantic to think of video traveling all over a facility as pulses of light!

"Even putting aside all the technical, financial, and future proofing benefits of optical fiber, it mind blowing to know that images, which are really just digitalized light, are now being transferred by light! It really feels like the right way to do it!"


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