Either/Or? BOTH.
CreativeCOW presents Either/Or? BOTH. -- Apple FCPX or Not: The Debate Feature

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As DigitalFilm Tree has evolved, we have focused on building exceptionally stable workflows. This includes Cold Mountain, where we built the first major film infrastructure to be based around Final Cut Pro. We not only designed the first Final Cut Pro-based workflow for prime time television on Scrubs, but we created internal workflows that have enabled our small team to work on four series (including NCIS: LA and Cougar Town) and a feature at the same time.

Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt, left) and Special Agent G. Callen (Chris O'Donnel), stand armed and ready when a suspect confronts them at the Hollywood Bowl on NCIS: LOS ANGELES. Season 02 Episode 09.

We first became known as FCP specialists, working only with Macs, but as our company has grown, we have become workflow specialists, working with the platforms and products that make the most sense for our clients. Our 15 Mac Pros are still responsible for nearly all of our editorial, using both FCP and Avid Media Composer, but we have added seven HP Z800s which coexist well with the Macs in our environment.

We're working on a project right now where the dailies are created on set in Toronto on a PC, and roughedited on a Macbased Media Composer. The team members there send the project and footage to us in Hollywood, where we do the final edit on a Mac, and finish using the Windows-only Avid DS on an HP Z800.

Before Avid DS, we added PCs to our then all-Mac shop quite a few years ago to run Autodesk Maya, before it was available on Mac -- and then once it was available on Mac, we continued using it on our PCs, because the performance was so much greater.

Cougar Town. Courtesy: ABC/MICHAEL DESMOND

We have the Adobe Creative Suite on both platforms. The reason we run it on the HP Z800 is for the horsepower. It's really not the CPU, where the Macs and the HPs are about equal. But for the GPU, the HP Z800 just supports faster cards that can do more -- and more cards. Those are the main reasons we use Z800s: more and faster.

Putting in those faster graphics cards is also easier. The HP Z800 is a truly modular workstation, and not just for cards. For example, I can pop out any component, add more storage, and swap power supplies, which is great for our post engineers that are either outfitting that workstation or fixing it.


At a recent technical summit in Hollywood, I met some of the engineering folks that work at HP Labs, and we began discussing HP's commitments to the media production community. In fact, HP's product portfolio is amazingly large, and we have been working with HP to design effective solutions for post-production workflow that take advantage of their broad portfolio.

Our latest infrastructure features a 60TB SAN built around HP P2000 storage, as well as the HP SN-6000 Fibre Channel Switch. This offers tremendous power and speed at a very reasonable price, and supports both our Mac and our PC clients very well.

60 TB of HP P2000 storage supporting both Macs and PCs at DFT.

We are also working with the HP StorageWorks LTO- 5 3000 backup tape drives, with the HP Linear Tape File System, HP LTFS. This is a critical breakthrough in several ways. First, it allows the LTO tape drives to work like any other drives attached to your computer. They work with Macs and PCs in a way that's entirely different, and much faster, than traditional approaches to LTO.

Second, the HP LTFS software that powers the LTO drive is both free and open source. Before this, the protocol for creating the original LTO is different for everyone who creates it. If every detail is not documented, and the person who created that protocol is no longer around, getting the data back is going to be a nightmare. The free, open source HP LTFS could be the key to preventing one of the biggest archiving disasters in Hollywood history.

We are also finding BRU (Back-up and Restore Utility) from Tolis Group to be a compelling solution. It provides a remarkable range of back-up options, and runs on the HP LTO tape drives connected to our Mac computers.

You will sometimes see HP present the Z800 as a business workstation, something more for an office than a studio. However, we see them as workhorses, truly industrial- strength. Not even horses: more like silverback gorillas.

We rely on them for massive processing each by themselves, but we can also use them in tandem, next to each other, performing a common task. We can harness two HP Z800s to do things that were unimaginable just two years ago, in terms of computing power, application speed, GPU acceleration, rendering, and real-time playback of massive files.

Side by side -- Mac and HP Z800

That does not change the fact that our company was founded on Macs, and still has twice as many Macs as PCs. The point is that the combination is seamless. If an editor says, "I want a Mac," we'll give them one. If they want to work with PCs, or work in a mixed platform environment, we treat it as a matter of personal preference, and not as a problem that we have to overcome.

There are certainly advantages to incorporating HP Z800s in a mostly-Mac environment. They're more open, they're modular, they're more customizable, and they're cost-effective when you measure the benefit that is coming from that investment.

This is why I see that there will be more ubiquity for PCs in Hollywood as they find their way into various workflow designs in media and entertainment, both in production and post-production.

Guillaume Aubuchon of DigitalFilm Tree
Guillaume Aubuchon of DigitalFilm Tree

I think that this will happen at an even greater rate than it has until now, because it can. There are no longer any hard and fast rules about platform. This is a dynamic, fluid environment where we create workflows on an hourly basis. The world has changed. If people are thinking in terms of either-or choices, they are missing the current realities, and missing the opportunities that go with them.



Ramy Katrib

Ramy Katrib

The Founder of DigitalFilm Tree, LLC., Ramy Katrib is a Documentary Producer, and is currently completing two feature length documentaries.