Computer Graphics World

November/December 2014

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6 cgw n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 4 V I E W P O I N T can remember the day, just like it was yesterday, when I saw my first 1 gb disk drive. It was the size of a small toaster (5¼-inch wide and two full- height spaces tall). You could have used it as a boat anchor. This was amazing technology. We hadn't seen anything that large. Most disk controllers on the market couldn't support it. They didn't understand the large block count geometry. Of course, today, you can go buy 6,000 gb drives as easily as you can buy a toaster. On the day I saw that 1 gb drive, I immediately referred back to the day I saw my first 20 mb drive. It was in the used, broken PC I had received as a gi, and I was amazed at how much stuff this thing could hold! 20 mb was a lot of space. This story plays out over and over in the technology space. In fact, if you assume the late '80s as the beginning of the personal computer boom, we're approaching the 30-year mark for the standard "back when I was a kid, we had floppy disks and we liked it" comment. It needs to stop. However, there are times when these technological shis mean something. When a common technology simply going 10X faster or being 10X bigger (or 10X smaller) actually changes our lives and requires something more than just a whistle and some nostalgia about our first computer. Some things that changed my life: The mouse, Ethernet, Windowing graphics with icons (Windows obviously, but HP Vue and Irix Indigo Magic, as well), the hard disk (versus flop- pies), always-on Internet, e-mail with attachments, YouTube, and a phone with enough mem- ory to store my music library. For those in the production/ postproduction industries, 4 k digital video formats look to be one of these technological shis. When Small Tree started selling Ethernet equipment back in 2005, we didn't spend much time worrying about video for- mats. We sold 1 gb Ethernet cards, and the most anyone could hope for over a link like that was 70 mb/ sec (under the best conditions). This either meant a crum- my-quality codec or you weren't editing in real time. Then, Apple ProRes came along. We didn't know anything about ProRes. It was just another proprietary codec. Without even realizing it, our customer base expand- ed rapidly because customers could now play out, in real time, high-quality, HD video over our gigabit Ethernet ports. Storage didn't just become important; it became our main business. L I V I N G W I T H 4 K 4k digital codecs hit with a similar pattern. I certainly knew there were 4 k codecs out there. There are many cameras that support them. I even had conversations about running 4 k video tests to see how many 350mb/sec streams we could handle. However, it never struck me as a serious contender for "common" workflows since very few customers would have 10 gbE links, very few would have the capacity required to store video at 350 mb/sec, and the common demands of today's collaborative workflows pretty much ruled out 4 k codecs as a digital intermediate. Going all the way back to my days at Silicon Graphics, I've had countless conversations with customers wanting uncom- pressed HD or 4 k, but then balking at the price when we got into the specifics. 10 gbE links to each workstation (perhaps two), eight spindles (disks) for two 350mb/sec streams, a 10gbE switch, perhaps as much as 192 tb of storage just to handle six editors. It adds up. A budget sys- tem like this might run $90,000 today (and easily $200,000 just a couple of years ago). Of course, ProRes came along and changed this. At this year's NAB, it was apparent that facilities are working in 4 k, and they are doing it (sometimes reluctantly) with ProRes. Why does this matter? The main reason is the bandwidth and recent advances in the 10 gb Ethernet space. Depending on frame rate, a ProRes 4 k stream can be 150mb/sec. This means that gigabit Ethernet is no longer sufficient. It means there are now real and compelling reasons to move to 10 gbE for current sys- tems and future deployments. Last year, a workflow requir- ing 10 gb Ethernet throughout a facility might have been a deal-breaker. 10 gb cards were expensive, and switch perfor- mance was hit or miss. Many MAXIMIZING 4K WORKFLOW I BY STEVE MODICA TETON GRAVITY, A SMALL TREE CUSTOMER, ILLUSTRATES THE MAJESTY OF SHOOTING IN 4K. Photo © Teton Gravity Research (

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