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Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...

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Todd Terry
Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 2:59:38 am

Hi guys...

I'll probably post this in Premiere or elsewhere, but thought I'd ask in here first... hope this is not too long, bear with me.

We're probably going to upgrade our two main suites this year, and I'm not sure what to do. When we had the last computers built we told the vendor we wanted "the most powerful badass machines they could build" (sorry for the technical computer-speak), but they are approaching five years old... so, unfortunately they are dinosaurs.

So, we're getting to the issue at hand...

The last two generations of suites have been based around Matrox machines... the first ones were AXIO, and the current machines are Matrox MX02 machines (both Windows computers, Premiere CS6). The internal Matrox voodoo provides hardware acceleration, which is tethered to a big breakout box that has all the ins and outs... component, composite, HDMI, HD-SDI, balanced audio, etc. These are ins-and-outs to the decks, and feed the rooms' monitors (a couple of desktop broadcast monitors and a big screen for clients in each room).

Here are our two suites, showing how the monitors are fed...



So here's the quandry...

The two center montiors on each are the regular computer dual montiors, the computer GUI desktop. The three other monitors in each are broadcast monitors.

We've loved Matrox products for years, but they no longer make anything equivalent to the I/O boxes that we've used in the past. And our current Matrox hardware does not support Premiere CC, which we would be moving to.

We probably no longer need hardware acceleration, computers being much more powerful these days... so that's not a big deal. Nor do we need to feed decks anymore (not a single deck in the racks has been even turned on in years). But we still need to feed broadcast monitors (not just the computer monitors).

So... I need to know what kind of hardware, software, configuration or whatever I can use to feed the rooms' monitors. My editor says "You just need a graphics card with HDMI out"... but, no... that would only (I think) feed external monitors the full desktop, the whole GUI. I need to feed monitors only Premiere's "Program" signal (24p, 60i, whatever the project specs are)... exactly as we've been doing for 20 years.

I've visited a few friends and colleagues' suites where they don't seem to need to worry about this... they don't use anything but their computer monitors. But 99% of what we produce is for broadcast television, we have to be able to see it on a "real TV." Heck, our suites even still have standard-def CRT monitors so we can see what our projects look like on those. Component or SDI would be great, but even HDMI out would be fine as long as it is just the "program" signal coming out of Premiere.

Any new machines we get will definitely be Windows PCs running the Adobe CC suite.

Any thoughts on how to make that happen these days? There's probably something easily out there, but I've lived in the Matrox world for so so long now, I'm totally unfamiliar with any other ways to do this.

Wisdom appreciated,

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Craig Seeman
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 3:26:40 am
Last Edited By Craig Seeman on May 23, 2018 at 3:28:57 am

Are you thinking about the possible future need for HDR? That might be a factor in output and monitor choices. This would also mean UHD of course.
Are you just delivering broadcast and cable or are any of the online services possible delivery targets?

You may want to look at some AJA solutions for monitoring which will certainly work for HD Broadcast but you'll be future proofed especially if you're only doing a major system rebuild every five years.

https://www.aja.com/solutions/hdr



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Todd Terry
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 3:41:24 am

Thanks Craig, I'll give AJA a look....

We were AJA users quite a few years ago, before the Matrox systems, before the Canopus systems that were before that. Or did Canopus come first here?... don't remember. Either way, I'd completely forgotten about AJA.

No, not concerned at all about HDR or any other delivery for now... virtually all of our work winds up on the boob tube, either broadcast or cable.

We just need to be able to isolate and feed Premiere's program output on "real TV" monitors.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Todd Terry
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 2:43:10 pm

Very possibly, Mike...

Will definitely check them out. I've never used any Blackmagic products, we've been so immersed in nothing but the Matrox world for a decade that I'm woefully uneducated about what else is out that... precisely the reason for my post. I need sum learnin'....

Appreciate it...

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Craig Seeman
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 4:13:22 pm

If you're using Resolve, BMD would be the (only) way to go for output.
It's just anecdotal but I've heard a number of people complain about output issues with BMD cards ranging from latency to jitter, etc. They update their drivers frequently which in and of itself can create a bit of the "chasing your tail" feeling on some issues.

BTW it might be worth looking at Magewell. They seem to be very aggressive in moving their card features forward. Not quite as well known as the others but like so many formerly obscure companies, they seem to be making some headway in the market with a good professional product line.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 4:34:03 pm

We use the BlackMagic Ultrastudio 4k breakout box to feed broadcast monitors and the rest of the plant playbacks from our imacs and pac pros, using both FCPX and Premiere CC


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Craig Seeman
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 7:36:07 pm

How are you finding live playback from the timeline (both FCPX and Premiere)?
Any latency or dropped frames issues?



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Mark Suszko
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 8:10:23 pm

No issues so far, then again we're not doing very high-performance work with it. Mostly we work in 720, though It hasn't choked on higher-rez 2k either. We have no 4k stuff to work on so can't speak to that. Once you get it configured and all the apps talking to each other, it seems pretty dependable.


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Craig Seeman
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 23, 2018 at 10:04:40 pm

Have you tried 1080i59.54 out (that would be 1080 Broadcast)?
Of course 720p59.54 is for a select few networks but 1080i is more common.



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Todd Terry
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 24, 2018 at 1:40:22 am

Thanks all... genuinely appreciate the responses.

I knew there had to be an easy solution out there, was nice to get some good advice to point us in the right direction.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Todd Terry
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 25, 2018 at 3:38:05 am

Just an update...

After just the briefest research... thanks to the recommendations in here from you guys it looks like one of the BlackMagic cards will work nicely. They seem to be able to do all we need, and more.

Another upside, is price. The Matrox MX02 cards we have in these computers were not cheap. If I recall they were in the $4,000-$5,000 neighborhood... times three computers. The BlackMagic cards are a tiny fraction of that. Bonus!

Of course the BM cards only do a fraction of what the Matrox cards can do, too...but they will do all I need them to do. And that's the important part.

When buying anything new in the electronic realm, that always gives me an opportunity to get on my "Worthless?? But it's practically new!" soapbox like the cranky old man I'm quickly becoming. It just chaps me a bit that I have what were pretty darn expensive computers that now probably are barely worth carting to the curb after only four years. Ah, electronics. Conversely, when I stopped shooting film a few years ago and got rid of my film cameras, I sold every one of them for more than I originally paid for them.

Hey at least my lenses are still appreciating.

Thanks again to all for the wisdom....

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 25, 2018 at 5:41:30 am

Meh, put the old computers to work mining bitcoins; everybody's doin' it :-)


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Todd Terry
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 25, 2018 at 3:14:50 pm

Despite Mark's excellent suggestion, that does beg the question... what do you guys do with old editing systems, or computers in general? How do you dispose of, liquidate, or find new lives for them?

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but this is our 21st year and we have never gotten rid of an editing system here. In the studio behind the cyc are bunches of deep shelves (I call them the bunk beds), and there are all the old editing computers... lined up in a sad lifeless row.

I even have the very first system that I started with. It was the size of a small refrigerator, cost four times as much as my first car, and had a whopping 15 gig hard drive that even high-end computer geeks would come in and literally marvel at, slack-jawed and eyes agog at trying to conceive of something so huge... like it was a Cray Supercomputer or something. Times have changed. Actually, I've hung on to that computer for forever because it was a DPS Perception-based system which used a really crazy setup (it renders AVIs that actually only contain audio and pointers to the actual video frames which live on a separate RAID in a very proprietary format), and I would need that if we ever needed to restore any projects from "back in the day." So far, of course, we haven't.

But it could happen... a couple of weeks ago I got a call from an old client that I literally do not remember. At all. None. I didn't recognize their name in even the faintest way. They were wanting to update a commercial spot we did for them with a new logo. They sent me a low-res version of what we had produced for them. I do not remember it at all. I have no memory of producing it, directing it, or being on location when it was shot. We looked it up, and it was from almost 10 years ago. So old stuff does come back around again.

This is why our props and costume rooms look like an episode of Hoarders. But with less organization.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 25, 2018 at 4:04:53 pm

We have a local charity called Computer Banc: they accept old computer hardware, clean and fix/restore it, and give it to schools, churches, the poor, and charitable institutions that can't afford computers... even nursing homes, where the oldsters can use it for web surfing, video conferencing with remote family members, games, etc. What the Computer Banc can't use, they responsibly recycle. I'm sure you have something similar near you somewhere and can possibly get a tax credit for it.

It has become harder to donate to such outfits as they tend to like and need stuff that's windows-compatible and relatively new. They can't do much with an old VAX or your IMSAI from high school. And donating to schools directly is problematic, as their struggling IT departments really want stuff that's closely compatible and standardized, not a mish-mash of incompatible hardware and operating systems that are obsolete and which their students do not wish to learn on.

There's always ebay I guess. Somebody may want it for the cost of shipping, for the nostalgia lulz, as the kids say.


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Ralph Hajik
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on Jun 16, 2018 at 2:43:48 am
Last Edited By Ralph Hajik on Jun 16, 2018 at 2:44:29 am

Hi Guys

I know what you mean about old stuff. I gave my old Dell computer to Good Will and let them worry about who gets what and where should it go.

Happy Travels
Ralph Hajik
RJTravelMedia
http://www.RJTravelMedia.com


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Ronald Lindeboom
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on Jun 16, 2018 at 3:03:01 pm

Todd,

Reading your post makes me want to throw out the suggestion that due to the length of time in which you use and amortize your gear, I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss looking hard at the 4K/HDR gear as that is coming far faster than many may wish to admit. It may not be here today but it is definitely on its way and HDR is going to soon be the measure on whether something is truly broadcast worthy or not. It's a ways off, for sure, but in the case of a system like yours that is an investment that will be around for quite a while, if it were me, I'd sure think long and hard before I'd let go of HDR and 4K capability. You may not use it right away but I'd sure like the feeling that it's there when I need it.

A friend here in the COW had a production a couple years ago in which he was trying to get some mileage out of a successful show he had done a while back and I wrote him privately and told him to get it upconverted and uprezzed into 4K as quickly as he could and offer it to Netflix and a few of the 4K rental services on smart TVs because they were needing content. He did it and sure as eggs is eggs, he got new life out of the old show.

Many will argue that it's going to be a long and fitful transition and they would be right but for the extra cost, I am not sure I'd want to close my door to seizing opportunities that might otherwise arrive.

Just a thought...

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC

Creativity is a process wherein the student and the teacher are located in the same individual.


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Tom Sefton
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 28, 2018 at 8:38:56 pm

A late weigh-in but another plus 1 for black magic ultrastudio 4K systems. One of the cards they make is even future proofed for 8K work too. Resolve works perfectly with them, but if you do plan on getting into resolve, Aja cards don’t play so nice with it...

The only thing to be careful with is to use the blackmagic output to route your audio as you can run into latency issues when your audio is either run from computer output or a separate usb audio card.

Most of the blackmagic units connect via thunderbolt 2 or 3, or you can get an internal PCIE card - it’s whatever floats your boat and sits best with your editing needs.

It’s also worth looking at some nice jellyfish or qNap raids for your suites which I’m sure Mr Zelin would be able to help with.

Co-owner at Pollen Studio
http://www.pollenstudio.co.uk


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Bill Davis
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on May 30, 2018 at 8:57:59 pm

Hi Todd,

This is just a generalized comment.

The last 4 years I've been associated with first the FCPWorks and then the Lumaforge Team at NAB - and as you might know, they happen to be based around FCP X. (No, this post is NOT about that, at all.) It's a post about what I've seen in the rapidly changing topology of facility video distribution, in general.

I've had to make a HUGE change in my thinking about wiring systems. Virtually all of the editing systems for live content creation and manipulation has rapidly evolved AWAY from baseband video running on Coax or XLR sources - and now the lions share of the workflow systems I've used for capture, editing, and mastering is all digital signals over IP, now.

It's been a HUGE perspective change from what I"ve been doing for the past 30 years. Very little of this gear even "speaks" baseband video anymore.

These are typically BlackMagic hardware instillations. But I think AJA is playing a similar game.

This REALLY seems to be increasingly the way all video will be handled in the future. Everything a network mounted computer peripheral - with the key connective skill managing machine IP addresses.

You may already be totally there in your thinking, but the last 4 years of transition have been so stark to me that I thought it was worth a mention.

If I was wiring ANYTHING today. The central thought of mine would be that if I was doing ANYTHING like I would have done it 4 or 5 years ago - that ALONE would cause me to be concerned that I was designing something for the past - and not for the future.

Just my my 2 cents. YMMV.

Good luck on your journey.

Creator of XinTwo - http://www.xintwo.com
The shortest path to FCP X mastery.


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Bob Zelin
Re: Upgrading our suites, seriously need some advice...
on Jun 17, 2018 at 1:02:41 pm

Bill is completely correct. I have not read thru the entire post and all the threads, but the game has totally changed. Everything is based on IP today. Believe me, for someone who comes from a background of broadcast monitors, scopes, patch bays, routing switchers, etc. and to see all of this "out the window" is hard for me to take, but it's the reality of what is going on. When you see demos from Adobe and Blackmagic for Resolve and Premiere and After Effects, they are not outputting to Sony and FSI broadcast monitors. I recently did an install for a company with all new iMac Pro's, and they had to get new thunderbolt 3 Blackmagic products, because they "had to " feed their antique Sony LMD 20" 1080i monitors that look like a joke compared to anything you get at WalMart or Best Buy. "But how are we going to see an interlaced signal". Hey - they paid me. But this is 2018. The world has changed, but some people don't want to change.

Today a modern facility is your computers (Mac's or Win PC's) and a big shared storage system, all interconnected with a network. While you can get out to your monitors with AJA and Blackmagic products, you can feed the 4K signals today via HDMI or Display Port to monitors from HP, Eizo, Dell, as well as consumer LG and Samsung products. WHAT ! you say ? I am in the same boat you are in. I don't come from that background, but that's how it goes. The reality of plugging in a thunderbolt to HDMI dock from OWC, Promise, Sonnet or CalDigit to feed an HDMI monitor, instead of dealing with the more established AJA, Blackmagic, Matrox, etc. is a common reality. Scopes ? What's a scope ! And of course, everything ties back (usually with 10G ethernet, and occationally with fiber channel) back to a shared storage system. That's a modern post production facility.

Just keep your mind open, and accept the fact that its nothing like the way it used to be.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com


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