NAB 2015, ZELINIZED: HD IS OVER
EVERYTHING at NAB 2015 was about 4K. HD is over – at least that's the impression that all the manufacturers are trying to demonstrate.
NAB 2015 seemed like a repeat of what happened when HD first kicked into full swing, when everyone was still working with standard def NTSC video footage. Everyone said. "But we don't have any requests for working in HD." The same thing is happening now with 4K, and 4K workflow will now become mainstream for production and post-production.
BLACKMAGIC DESIGN: 4K & 38 NEW PRODUCTS
What can I say? With 38 new products, Blackmagic Design's NAB could be an article unto itself.
The most important overview of Blackmagic is that they make incredible products that are cheap, and they continue to push this envelope every IBC and NAB show. Blackmagic had a huge general shift in their product line, so that they now not only can do 4K, but work at full 4k 2160p at 60 frames per second. Blackmagic refers to this as 4K 12G, and it applies to a good portion of their products from cameras, to recorders, to routers, and converters.
The price of Blackmagic 4K routers is shocking low. A 40 x 40 4K router is $2995, and the 12G version of this is $4995. They have a whole range of routing switchers, that include the new 12 x 12 switch that has frame sync inputs to lockup non synchronous sources, as well as route them. Their ATEM switcher line now does 12G 2160p 60 frame support. They have a 16x16 Multiviewer (introduced at IBC) for $1495.
A 40 x 40 4K router is $2995
Their ATEM switcher line now does 12G 2160p 60 frame support
Their entire mini converter line has been adapted to the new "Mini Teranex" series. This entire product series uses a normal power supply (no wall warts) but can be powered with a PoE (power over Ethernet) switch. And every converter can be set up over Ethernet from a computer plugged into that switch, instead of the little DIP switches.
Teranex Mini Premium Rack mount
Everyone was excited about the FREE Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve editing software that now does Multiclip editing. So you can do real complex editing and color grading all in the same application, and the LITE version is free. That's a pretty good price. Not to mention the powerful FUSION 3D software, that can be used for free.
The vast array of Blackmagic hardware products is hard to keep up with. New products like the new 8 Channel Talkback Converter, that let a single interface box talk to 8 cameramen at one time, at a fraction of the price of any other intercom system, just make you keep saying WOW when you look at the range of products Blackmagic offers.
Blackmagic's 8 Channel Talkback Converter
And how could I forget to mention the new DIRT CHEAP Blackmagic URSA Mini camera, and Micro Studio Camera for $1295 (and yes, it's 4K).
Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera
AVID'S FREE SOFTWARE
As Blackmagic Design continues to shock the world by releasing new and more powerful products that cost almost nothing (and some cost nothing, and I mean FREE), other manufacturers start to respond.
Avid introduced Avid Media Composer First, which is FREE editing software that will give entry level editors an opportunity to finally use Media Composer. It is my observation that Avid weakened its large user base, because young editors did not have access to the established expensive Media Composer software, so they found alternate solutions (FCP, Premiere, etc.).
Avid has finally realized that the only way to get a younger user base is to have something they can try out and get used to. Of course, this will have to compete with the absolutely free Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve editing software, a simple download from the Blackmagic website.
AJA'S FREE #TryCION
AJA is one of several companies that has expanded beyond post-production equipment and has gotten into production, with the manufacturing of cameras and recorders. They showed the upgraded and expanded CION camera.
AJA'S FREE #TryCION
The most exciting news is that AJA now offers a new program called #TryCION. They have 100 camera packages, and they will let anyone that signs up to try a camera FOR FREE for an entire project to see how they like their wonderful 4K camera.
This is a very aggressive move from a major manufacturer, and should put fear in the hearts of the big boys like ARRI, Red, and Sony.
SHARED STORAGE: AVID & FACILIS
I was certainly shocked and surprised to see that both Avid and Facilis have released entry level shared storage products into their lineup of high-powered shared storage systems for editing. Avid released the Avid ISIS 1000, which is a 12 drive, 16 TB, non-expandable shared storage system for under $18,000. For Avid's history of high pricing this is cheap.
Avid ISIS 1000
Facilis did something similar, but even more aggressively. Known for building the Rolls Royce of shared storage systems, Facilis introduced the 8D, which is (like the Avid ISIS 1000) an 8 drive 16 TB shared storage system, but for a mere $10,000. This puts Facilis in the same low end price point that all the other shared storage systems have for entry level systems.
Facilis 8D storage system
I was personally thinking about developing a Windows based shared storage system this year, but with the aggressively low price point of the Facilis 8D, why should I? You can't beat this price for a turnkey system.
The only limitation of the 8D is (like the Avid ISIS) it is not expandable, and requires an external 10G Ethernet switch. But for both the Avid and Facilis products, if you need more storage, you simply buy another unit, and have a second shared storage volume.
While there are certainly plenty of companies that are making excellent shared storage systems at this price, if your requirement is to use Avid Media Composer seamlessly with a shared storage system, you simply can't get a better price/performance deal than the Facilis 8D.
Lots of companies are in the asset management business (CatDV, Axle Video, etc.) but shared storage companies are starting to create their own systems for their shared storage.
While companies like Avid have had Interplay for a long time, and EditShare has had FLOW for a long time, it's great to see companies like Studio Network Solutions just giving away Share Browser with every one of their products. Facilis also now offers Fast Tracker for $2500 as an easy to use asset manager for their system.
Studio Network Solution's Share Browser
It makes you think – why are so many of these companies charging SO MUCH MONEY for asset management software, when it's being given away (or almost given away) by fully recognized established companies?
NEWLY AFFORDABLE = IMPORTANT
As I write this overview, I can imagine that some high-end users may be thinking, "All of this means nothing, because all the products already existed in another form." Well, that's true, but if something is cost prohibitive, it may be cool, but not that important to the larger community. Once a type of product becomes aggressively priced, all of a sudden, it becomes a very important product. If it can actually perform the same task, it will take over the market.
SOME RAID OPTIONS
CineRaid shows a 12g 24 bay SATA RAID chassis. Using 8TB STA drives, this means that you can have 192 TB in a single RAID enclosure.
Maxx Digital showed their new 16-bay rackmount Thunderbolt drive array, allowing for 128TB in a single enclosure. That's a lot of storage for a Thunderbolt based Mac!
16-bay rackmount Thunderbolt drive array
ATTO showed an 8 bay Thunderbolt 2 chassis that was rack mountable.
G-Tech showed the aggressively priced, easy to use Studio XL 8 bay RAID enclosure that comes standard with Enterprise class HGST drive arrays. It's a very small mini tower (think backpack), that can hold up to 64 TB.
So having enough storage, no matter what format you work in, is no big deal anymore.
LTO: mLogic – mTape
LTO tape Archive products were everywhere. But it was hard to resist (once again) the mLogic – mTape, which follows Apple's mindset of being easy to use. Simply buy the LTO drive, plug it in with one simple Thunderbolt cable to your Mac, run software from Image Products PreRoll Post or YoYotta LTFS software, and you have the easiest, cheapest solution to get LTO tape archiving to work for you.
mLogic – mTape
And mLogic has formally introduced a single and dual rackmount version of their Thunderbolt LTO drives, for professional facilities that want everything in a rack configuration. Unless you need an LTO tape library, I can't imagine why anyone would not buy the mTape for LTO archive.
JMR'S DRAMATIC REINVENTION
JMR, formerly just another company selling drive arrays, has reinvented themselves this year, and showed dramatic new products that made everyone go WOW.
The JMR Lighting Quad Tower looks like an old school Mac Pro, but inside is the entire new cylinder Mac Pro. In this chassis is a DUAL BUS 4 slot PCIe expansion chassis.
JMR Lighting Quad Tower
Let me be clear – there are three Thunderbolt chip sets on a new Mac Pro, but when you use one to go to an expansion chassis for PCIe cards, they all share just one Thunderbolt chip. But JMR has split this so you can have two different Thunderbolt chips go to the two busses in the JMR PCIe expanders (2 cards per Thunderbolt bus). AND they have an INTERNAL 8 drive SSD drive bay built right into this chassis.
AND you can take of the handles so you can rack mount this entire unit, for a studio rack, or mobile rack cart that a DIT would use in the field.
JMR also had this tiny 512 gig Thunderbolt "thumb drive" (think USB flash drive) but it was doing 1000 MB/sec read speed. This means you could plug this into your Mac Book Pro on the set, and edit at FULL BLAZING SPEED for 4K workflow on set, or in a hotel room, with a drive that you just pulled out of your pocket.
JMR's 512 gig Thunderbolt Thumb Drive
But the product that I was most excited about, and most confused about, was the JMR Data Mover. The Data Mover is a 2 rack unit box that you plug into your computer or storage system. JMR claims (and believe me, I will be trying this out) that if you have a 10G data pipe between 2 points (2 buildings, or 2 states) that they can transfer 1 TB of DATA across this pipe in 10 minutes. I dragged Disney and Universal over to see this, and they said that they could not believe it, but they wanted a demo ASAP.
If this works, every TV station or company with multiple locations will race to use this product. It would eliminate the need for cloud sites for many companies, and allow super-fast data transfer between 2 locations, just using normal TCP/IP communications. At $15,000 per box, this unit would pay for itself in FedEx fees or Aspera/Signiant licenses in less than one year, and make workflow a breeze between two locations. When I see it in action in real life, I will believe it, so JMR, you better get me my demo unit.
And then there are the "accessory" companies. These companies include Sonnet Technology, Highpoint, and Other World Computing. Where to begin?
Sonnet released the Twin 10G thunderbolt to 10G Ethernet adaptor. It is amazingly fast, and very aggressively priced (street price under 500 bucks) and ties in with all the amazing 10G Ethernet shared storage systems that were shown at NAB. This product competes with the Promise SanLink2 thunderbolt to 10G converter, and the ATTO NT2102.
Sonnet is also finally releasing the long awaited Echo 15, which converts Thunderbolt to everything you can think of, including the now discontinued optical drive, so you can make a DVD or Blu Ray disk.
But they have smaller cheaper boxes (around 99 bucks) that do single conversions of Thunderbolt to eSATA and USB3, Thunderbolt to USB3 and Gig Ethernet, Thunderbolt to SxS reader, Thunderbolt to Pansonic P2 reader, and even Thunderbolt to Avid Nitris DX and Avid Mojo!
They dropped the prices of the xMacMini Server enclosure, and they dropped the prices of the Echo Express PCIe Thunderbolt expansion chassis.
The xMac Pro Server that holds the cylinder Mac Pro was always available with 3 PCIe slots, and now you can get another module to fit into the same rack enclosure that will allow you to have SIX PCIe cards running with your new Mac Pro. Take that Apple!
And Sonnet is introducing "ThunderLock," which will become standard on all their products. This allows you to screw down the Thunderbolt cable into their products, so it doesn't wiggle free while you are using your Mac, and disconnect everything.
Highpoint, a company I never used to take seriously, has learned their lesson and has countless wonderful products on the market now, all at very aggressive pricing.
They are first to market with Apple's new USB-C (USB 3.1) converters. The RocketStor 5411D is a USB-C dock for the new Apple Mac Book, which has NO Thunderbolt or USB 3 ports! It allows you to plug in your new USB-C cable, and get normal Ethernet connection, USB 3, audio ports, SD card slot and a drive bay for regular SATA drives. Why does Apple keep doing this to us? So THANK YOU Highpoint for giving us back what we need from these new Mac computers.
But Highpoint had so much more. They had new small Thunderbolt docks for the Mac computers that convert Thunderbolt to USB3 and eSATA, a Thunderbolt to FOUR USB 3 port hub – that is four separate USB3 chips that can run four USB 3 devices (like cameras) at FULL BANDWIDTH – and assorted other docks and converters that allow you go get anything from Thunderbolt anything you need, at very aggressive pricing. And their miniSAS cards are now certified to work with LTO drives.
Well-known LTO Archive manufacturer Tolis Group, who makes the widely used BRU PE software for LTO, is now certifying and recommending Highpoint cards. And you know those Netstor drive chassis that I always talk about for large Thunderbolt drive arrays – it's Highpoint that is bringing them into the US.
SIDEBAR: A follow-up email exchange with Bob
Other World Computing, another company that I have not been kind to in the past, has become a wonderful company, and has also released a whole bunch of very aggressively-priced Thunderbolt converters.
The OWC Helio PCIe Expansion chassis that holds one PCIe card is only $299. Their Thunderbolt 2 Dock, which has 5 USB ports, normal Ethernet, HDMI, and FW800 is $249. And their well-built 4 bay empty Thunderbolt drive enclosures are $399 for the SSD version, and $475 for the SATA version.
Other World Computing has also gotten into the PROFESSIONAL storage and shared storage business, with their Jupiter series of products. Their shared storage is called Jupiter Calisto, and features a free BSD ZFS operating system, at a ridiculously low starting price.
I went up to the Intel booth to hear their excuses about Thunderbolt networking, and was pleasantly surprised to run into the guys from Open Drive. They were showing their 72 drive SSD RAID, with 40 Gig (yes, 40 not 10) Ethernet, playing back multiple streams of uncompressed 6K DPX files over their network, with Mellanox 40 Gig Ethernet cards.
Your jaw just drops when you see this. How is this even possible? But I guess if you are working with huge budget feature films, and cost is truly "no object" – well, I guess then you can have a system like this.
And speaking of Thunderbolt shared storage, yes, I went to Accusys to see the long-awaited A16S3PS Thunderbolt shared storage system. It works. For $10,000 you get a 64 TB system, which can be expanded with three additional Accusys drive chassis for a total of 256 TB.
It requires a server (like a Mac Mini) running Apple XSAN, but you can use the Tiger Technology Tiger 1 Share server as well. This plugs into one of the four Thunderbolt ports available on the box. This leaves you with three open Thunderbolt ports that you can plug in your client computers.
So to be clear, you can plug in three client computers (all must run XSAN or Tiger Technologies Tiger Share software), and they all can share via their thunderbolt cables. There is no expansion for the number of client computers. It is Accusys' hope that they will develop a Thunderbolt switch at some point, but this is currently not the case. I spoke with other companies as well, that are thinking about developing a Thunderbolt switch for expansion.
4K? TRY 6 OR 8K
With the talk of 6K to 8K video on the horizon, it's important to keep your mind open about bigger and faster storage systems.
That's why I went to look at the new 40Gig Ethernet card from ATTO, and the very fancy Facilis 24D/HA, which uses the 40 Gig ATTO Ethernet card to connect, and has 16 standard drives, and 8 SSD drives (because you soon start to realize that regular SATA drives can't keep up the speed required for 40 Gig Ethernet).
Facilis TerraBlock 24D/HA
And of course, as I mentioned earlier, Open Drives in the Intel booth was showing 40 Gig Ethernet connection with their large SSD RAID arrays doing 6K workflow.
AN OLD DOG'S VIEW OF NEW TRICKS
So what does all this mean? Was there nothing new at the show? Or are we all just getting sick and tired of all the constant changes?
Of course, young people new to the business find all of this very exciting because for the first time in history, they can afford EVERYTHING that they ever dreamed of owning at very reasonable prices. I am sure that this makes the larger, more established companies very uncomfortable.
And for old dogs like me – well yes, I am getting a little tired of having to learn about new stuff all the time. And I am sure that for facility owners, seeing all this new cheap (or free) gear being offered at an accelerated pace must make all of them nervous about their investments in high-end professional video hardware.
Maybe it's a good thing that I had no time to go into the Center or North halls of NAB 2015. I was overwhelmed with just the South hall. I am anxious to hear about other revolutionary and cheap products found in the other halls. Everything just keeps changing, and there appears to be no slowing down the pace of developing technology.