NAB 2013: Bob Zelin: The Evolution & Revolution
CreativeCOW presents NAB 2013: Bob Zelin: The Evolution & Revolution -- Archiving and Back-Up Editorial

Orlando Florida USA All rights reserved.

The entire post production industry is becoming one giant IT infrastructure. Everything is based on a having a central server where you put your media, and then you do stuff to it - everything from ingesting your media, editing, graphics, audio, managing your media, archiving your media, and ultimately delivering your media. That's it. That's modern post production. And it's all done on your storage arrays. It's a very different world from just 5 years ago.

Storage and shared storage products were the main product in the south lower hall at NAB. And this is where I stayed the entire 4 days of the show, at the risk of missing all the wonderful things in other exhibit halls. And while there were all kinds of wonderful shared storage products at NAB, the one common thing that shocked me, is that prices are coming down - radically, and these new cheaper products are terrific, and full of features.

Tiger Technology, Small Tree, Studio Network Solutions and ProMAX were outstanding in this area. All three have introduced very inexpensive products that can get the job done, without excuses.

Tiger Technology, the manufacturer of the well-known MetaSAN software, has introduced a turnkey hardware solution called Tbox, which is an all-inclusive shared storage solution for any platform. The Tbox provides the client computers with all the software required to run the shared storage environment, without the need for MetaSAN licenses. It provides integration with the generation of h.264 proxy files, eliminating the need for a third party product. And because it handles both Ethernet and Fibre channel cards to communicate with client computers, running at the fastest speeds is not an issue with Tbox when using 16Gig Fibre channel cards.

Tiger Technology Tbox

Small Tree Communications showed the TitaniumZ-5, a complete portable 4 user shared storage system that has 5 internal SATA drives in a RAID configuration that starts at just over $7000. At the other end of the spectrum, they showed Titanium Extreme, which they demonstrated by connecting TWO 10gig to Thunderbolt adaptors to one single MacBook Pro, running at a shocking speed of 1.2GBytes per second.

ProMAX showed the full range of shared storage products, including a portable system that held 8 internal SATA drives and four Ethernet users, with a starting price of about $8000.

As most shared storage systems demonstrated, many of these products can be configured today with 1gig Ethernet, 10gig Ethernet or Fibre channel cards. The more stuff you add, the more you pay. The more storage you want, the more money it costs.

It is important to remember that many of these very low cost entry level products are not expandable (some are, like the new Studio Network Solutions EVO5), so when you look at these new shared storage solutions, at these super low prices, just be aware that some many not expand as your business grows, and your demands for storage increase with it.


As for conventional storage, Thunderbolt was everywhere. While there are stronger rumors about a new Mac Pro, many people are preparing for the end of conventional PCIe card solutions, and new Thunderbolt storage solutions were everywhere. G-Tech showed a radical new solution using "secret" spinning drives (no details, but NOT solid state) that was still incredibly fast and small. These drives were USB3, but popped into a new G-Tech G-Dock ev, that offers Thunderbolt connectivity, and runs at 250MB/sec with just 2 drives.

When you don't care about small size, and you just want tons of Thunderbolt storage, Maxx Digital showed the ThunderRaid, which is an 8 bay enclosure that uses standard RAID5 and RAID6 hardware. This allows you to do 600MB/sec, with 32TB of storage, all over Thunderbolt.


Once you have your storage for your editing, graphics, audio or playout systems, you need to prepare for it to all blow up on you, even if it's RAID protected. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way in 2012. Backing up on inexpensive SATA drives, or archiving to LTO tape is becoming a critical thing to have at your business, now that videotape is not longer an option.

For the record, the buzzwords for these are as follows: when you back up to a drive, that is called "backup;" when you backup to an LTO tape, that is called "archive."

I have personally been using LTO tape solutions from Cache-A, and their products are as robust as ever, and their new LTO6 tape solutions hold 2.5 TB per tape. I have normally used single drive solutions, but this year, I looked carefully at the Cache-A Power Cache, that controls a larger LTO tape library. As drive solutions become larger and larger, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do a proper LTO tape archive with a single drive, and the library, while not a glamorous product to own, is becoming more and more important.

As I have personally suffered thru catastrophic failures of shared storage products in 2012, I became very aware of how important LTO archive is. But I also found that many clients still do not want to spend the money that is often required to make this happen.

In my search for low cost LTO archive solutions, I discovered Tolis Group BRU, and their incredible, yet cost effective solutions for LTO Archiving. BRU allows anyone to get a standalone HP Ultrium drive (or drive Library), pop on an ATTO miniSAS card to their computer (or miniSAS to Thunderbolt using a Thunderbolt expansion chassis), and run Tolis Group BRU PE software to allow their computer to do a simple LTO tape archive of their critical data.

[Ed note: be sure to check out Helmut Kobler's review: "Archiving Video With HP's New LTO-6 Ultrium 6250 Tape Drive," which also includes a close look at BRU archiving software.]

And for those that can't be bothered with all these pieces, BRU sells complete packages, with everything that you need included. Tolis Group showed their new ArGest backup and archive solutions, that includes the SATA drive array, AND LTO tape in the same solution, so that you can do backups for nearline storage, as well as LTO tape archive, all in the same package, all using the same BRU software.

Specialty products like Storage DNA offer LTO archive solutions with very tight integration with Avid Media Composer products. For Avid users, Storage DNA has become a standard for archiving their data.

For simple SATA backup solutions, CRU DataPort showed their sledless drive arrays, for eSATA, firewire (and soon Thunderbolt) backup. This means that you hook up the CRU drive array enclosure, just like you would any other drive, and just pop in raw cheap SATA drives into their box - with no screws, no cables, no nothing. You create your backup drive, and then put in on the shelf, just like you would a Beta tape in the old days.

And they even sell little plastic boxes for the drives, so you can treat this just like videotapes - but now, you have drives. No more excuses for not doing backups of your video media!


Once you have all this media on the massive drive arrays that you own, and once you have your stuff backed up to disk or LTO tape, the big question is - WHERE IS ALL MY STUFF? It's become so confusing!

Asset management (the ability to keep track of all your media) has become a critical component in today's post production workflow. Solutions from industry leaders like Avid and EditShare have their own proprietary server solutions - Avid has Interplay, and EditShare has Flow Media Asset Management. But many people just want to add a piece of software.

For the last several years, I have been using SquareBox Systems CatDV, which has become the accepted replacement for Apple's now discontinued Final Cut Server. CatDV works with FCP, as well as Adobe Premiere, and Avid Media Composer.

But a new company, that came out of nowhere (well, not really) is revolutionizing Asset Management. This company is Axle Video, started by the guy that was running the Avid Interplay division. While it currently does not do Avid, it does work with Apple FCP7, FCP X, and Adobe Premiere. Its complete cost for a 5 user workgroup is $1295, and runs on a cheap Mac Mini.

Axle Video
Axle Video multi platform asset management.

It's very easy to learn how to use. More important, it's easy to show your client how, because it's your client that will often be using it. Axle includes the h.264 encoder to make proxy files (you can use Telestream Episode for more efficient Proxy generation), and allows for client review and approval on the web, without the need for a "web client" purchase.

While it is a five user system, if your "users" log in under the same user name, you can have your entire network (all your computers) all access the Axle asset management software, without the need for purchases of client licenses. When you use Axle, you do not load any software on anyone's computer, other than the Mac Mini that you are running Axle on. You just type in the IP address of the Mac Mini in your web browser, and Axle just shows up - with all the media on your shared storage system or drive array, and you go to work.

This is revolutionary for asset management in our industry. It will allow for everyone to get involved in asset management now.


There were so many cool little products at NAB 2013, but Sonnet Technologies really is kicking butt with all of their amazing little boxes. Instead of trying to be "just another storage company," they have embraced Thunderbolt, and how to get "everything else" working with it.

Last year, they introduced the xMac mini, which allows you to put a Mac Mini into a rackmount chassis, and treat it like a Mac Pro, by having integrated PCie expansion slots in the 1 RU box using a Thunderbolt PCIe expander. This year they have introduced a Thunderbolt PCIe expansion chassis with 3 slots (just like the Mac Pro) but with integrated high-power cooling fans, so your boards don't blow up.

And they showed the new Thunderbolt adapter for the Qio line of card readers, so you can now quickly read all your CF, and SSD cards via Thunderbolt, instead of those horrible cheap and slow USB interfaces that are on the market. Another new Sonnet Product was the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Docking Station, which puts all the ports back on the Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Book Pro that Apple took off. It connects via Thunderbolt, gives you back the DVD drive (which can be upgraded to a Blu-ray as well) has space for another internal hard drive in the box, AND it only costs $399! When Apple says "you can't have all that stuff anymore," Sonnet says, "oh yes you can" and for a cheap price -- all via a single Thunderbolt connection.

I was really happy to see Digital Rebellion demonstrate Kollaborate. I use Digital Rebellion Mac utilities all the time, and I know they are a solid company. Kollaborate is a web approval software product that is being sold as a monthly subscription starting at $15 per month, that allows your client to see your edited videos and make instant comments on your edit over the web. Kollaborate uses the Amazon S3 cloud, but they take care of it all. All you do is hand over your 15 bucks, and all the aggregation is done for you.

ATTO Technology showed their entire line of plug and play Thunderbolt ThunderLink and ThunderStream adaptors, that lets any iMac, Mac Mini, or MacBook Pro interface with hi-speed 10Gb Ethernet connections, standard miniSAS drive arrays, or LTO drive products.

Intel introduced the "next gen" Thunderbolt, which is twice the speed of Apple's current Thunderbolt connection (20Gb per second). I told many people that it was not backwards compatible with existing Thunderbolt, but I was wrong - it IS backwards compatible. I just can't keep up!


AJA showed lots of stuff, but the ROI was one of my favorite new products introduced at NAB. The ROI is a $995 scan converter for DVI and HDMI computer outputs. It converts all the wacky computer frame rates out to ANY video standard (1080i, 720p, and everything else). ROI means "region of interest" which allows you to lasso the area you want converted on your computer, and it scales it to full screen, converts it to the resolution that you want, and spits it out to a BNC output to feed you video switcher or router.

And yes, it embeds the audio.

Left, the AJA Hi5-4K; Right, the ROI scan converter.

AJA also showed the KiStor dock, which allows you to take your Ki Pro drives, and stick them into something easy to unload the data via Thunderbolt, so you are not tying up your Ki Pro. And it's only $599. And all AJA cards are now compatible with Pro Tools!

AJA KiStor

Another incredible AJA breakthrough product was the Hi5-4K, which takes a professional 4K HD-SDI signal with all 4 BNC connectors, and turns it into an HDMI 1.4 signal, so you will be able to see your amazing 4K image on inexpensive consumer 4K monitors that are about to be released. How much? $595!


Well, they are just crazy, but you already knew this.

Everyone is talking about the new 4K camera for $3995, and the 1K camera for $995, so I won't bore you with this. And yeah, they had a $2000 4K switcher, and $2000 4K recorder.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

But are we really involved with 4K multicamera production yet? In the real world, they showed the Blackmagic MultiDock for the HyperDeck Studio products, which (like the AJA Ki Pro dock) will let you pop your SSD cards into this, and offload via Thunderbolt, and not tie up your HyperDeck. It holds 4 SSD cards, and costs only $599.

Blackmagic MultiDock

What really blew me away is the new ATEM Studio Converter. FINALLY, an intercom system that is complete, and doesn't cost a fortune of money! And it does a lot more than intercom. The ATEM Studio converter is part of the ATEM Camera converter system, which uses a Fibre cable out to the cameras, and transits not only the HD-SDI video signal (or HDMI signal from the camera) but two balanced XLR audio signals, and tally, AND the intercom system.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Studio Converter [back] and Camera Converter in front with headset.

But instead of the horrible Apple iPhone headsets, which were a joke, now there is a real control panel, with real buttons that you can talk to your camera operators, with a real gooseneck microphone, a real speaker that you can hear them with, and if you want phones, real high quality aviation headsets. They had the amazing Bose aviation headset which has the incredible ability to silence outside room noise (including the entire NAB show floor noise).

The box is a 4 input system, and if you want 8 or 12 cameras, just daisy chain the boxes together with Short BNC cables. $1995 each box - compare that to Clear Com or RTS!!!

There are only two problems with this product: 1) it's not RTS or Clear Com compatible; and 2) it's only a single channel unit, so if you want IFB back to your talent, the ATEM Studio Converter can't do it.

Blackmagic also released the SmartScope Duo scopes, which is a waveform monitor, vectorscope, audio meter, HD monitor in a dual monitor configuration for $995 retail.

SmartScope Duo

Take that Tektronix. How are you going to sell a $10,000 scope now? Oh, and DaVinci Resolve now has native editing software built into it. How can you beat a single booth like this? Well, you can.....

Blackmagic Design 4K Cinema Camera

Adobe Anywhere: oh boy, the #1 product at the show, the product that will change the industry forever. The reality that Adobe Anywhere will one day actually work, and be readily available to everyone at a reasonable cost, and at that time it will put people like me, who build small facilities out of business.

Adobe Anywhere was the most important product at NAB 2013 - more amazing than the Blackmagic 4K camera, or anyone else's product. The reality that "one day soon" (and "one day" right now for CNN) that you can be in Iraq with a WiFi Connection and can access your company server's 4K media and edit it over WiFi, and don't need any other equipment - well that just makes me sick.

Anyone that can afford it will buy Adobe Anywhere, and anyone that has Adobe Anywhere will never use any other editing software other than what Adobe provides - even if they hate it - because Adobe Anywhere is just too important of a product. Once your facility owns Adobe Anywhere, everyone can do everything, all at full media resolution, on a laptop sitting at Starbucks Coffee.

It works by streaming the video to you, not by creating proxy files. All you need is the server setup that is powerful enough to feed your users. As this product becomes more accessible to the regular production and post production companies, the only products that will survive will be the ones that tie in with Adobe Anywhere.

I can foresee that the model of the old post production facility will embrace Adobe Anywhere - at any cost - to convince smaller companies to let them maintain their media (on their servers, archive systems and asset management) so that the client can just "log in" via WiFi, and do their full 4K editing, and ultimately deliver to that TV station or client (via Aspera or Signiant, who were both the hit of digital delivery at NAB 2013). The giant "post house" will maintain a large Adobe Anywhere server, which they will allow their clients to use, and all the production companies will say "all we need are these laptops and an AJA T-Tap or Blackmagic Mini Monitor - we don't have to buy any more equipment ever again".

So, will Adobe take over the world? I think so.



Blue Ribbon Awards. There were many great evolutionary products at NAB, but these are the ones that will revolutionize their parts of the market:

Asset Management - Axle Video
Test Equipment - Blackmagic SmartScope Duo Scopes


Revolutionizing the entire world: Adobe Anywhere