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Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device

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Robert L. Kopf
Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Feb 28, 2011 at 12:17:27 am

I'm considering taking the plunge and buying the latest Media 100 system and a new Mac Pro to run it on. I have a couple of "seat of the pants" choice questions for you seasoned users out there.

1.) Without going into all the myriad options and choices, what is your recommendation as to I/O hardware and CPU configuration? I am leaning towards using a current 6-core Mac Pro, but would consider using a base model quad-core, if it will prove sufficient for ordinary tasks. For I/O, I would probably get a Matrox MX02 Rack with Max.

2.) If I do upgrade myself to a current Media 100 system, I will also consider forsaking tape as a recording medium. But rather than dump my existing analog cameras, I would consider using a Macbook or Macbook Pro, along with a Matrox MX02 LE, to just record the outputs (video and XLR audio) from the cameras directly into the laptops running Media 100. Naturally, I'd connect external drives to the laptops for storing the media. Has anyone done this? I'm wondering if I can do this, then move the files to a "real" Media 100 system.

I know that making choices regarding computers and I/O can involve lots of things. What I'm hoping for is to have someone who has been doing this for awhile, help me avoid things that have been superseded, including things like data formats, etc. I will be creating long form videos for release on DVD, and also for online viewing. I've been immersed in traditional (Betacam SP) work, using old Media 100 8.2.3 systems for years, and only recently have looked up to consider where to go next.

Thanks in advance to anybody willing to help me start figuring out which way to go.


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Floh Peters
Re: Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Feb 28, 2011 at 10:12:56 am

[Robert L. Kopf] "1.) Without going into all the myriad options and choices, what is your recommendation as to I/O hardware and CPU configuration? I am leaning towards using a current 6-core Mac Pro, but would consider using a base model quad-core, if it will prove sufficient for ordinary tasks. For I/O, I would probably get a Matrox MX02 Rack with Max."

Of course it depends. If money does not matter, get the biggest, fastest Mac you can buy. But usually money does matter, so I personally would recommend looking at the Quad core. Probably you should look at your current usage and decide if you wait for renders to finish often right now.
The Matrox MXO2 Rack is interesting, but you should be aware that the integration between Media 100 and the Aja cards is a little bit better than with the Matrox and BlackMagic devices. If you do need the MPEG4 encoder on the Matrox there is not much alternative to the MXO line, but if you "only" need solid I/O options I would suggest having a look at the Kona LHi, which should be cheaper than the Matrox.


[Robert L. Kopf] "2.) If I do upgrade myself to a current Media 100 system, I will also consider forsaking tape as a recording medium. But rather than dump my existing analog cameras, I would consider using a Macbook or Macbook Pro, along with a Matrox MX02 LE, to just record the outputs (video and XLR audio) from the cameras directly into the laptops running Media 100. Naturally, I'd connect external drives to the laptops for storing the media. Has anyone done this? I'm wondering if I can do this, then move the files to a "real" Media 100 system."

You definitely can do this and move the files to a "real" system. The question is if this setup is flexible enough for your shoots. Laptop with MXO2 LE and external drives sounds like a lot of stuff to carry around and to set up for recordings. If you are recording in a studio all the time (or at least close to a power outlet) this probably works fine. If you are out in the field, then probably something like a Firestore (for DV-based cameras) or an Ki Pro Mini (SDI) or Ki Pro (SDI and Component inputs) from Aja or something similar is more compact.



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Robert L. Kopf
Re: Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Feb 28, 2011 at 1:14:47 pm

Thanks for the reply. I very much appreciate your time and perspective. It feels funny to find myself a noob again.

Naturally, if money is no object (and it isn't the deciding factor in this case), bigger usually isn't worse than smaller. But what I am thinking is that a six-core Mac Pro isn't necessarily appreciably faster than a quad-core, unless one is effectively utilizing the cores.

Going by my present usage (which has been running 8.2.3 on G4 systems with P6000-type boards), isn't going to provide me much perspective on this. I've been creating long form videos from tape sources, utilizing practically no effects, nor doing much else that requires rendering at all. In some cases, I have moved the Media 100 files to Bitvice and Purifier, and to DVD Studio Pro to make DVDs. But in those cases, I've been doing that work on newer, multicore Macs, which is probably what I'll continue to do unless they work faster in the background on this new Mac Pro. Having said that, I am aware that I just don't know what new processes and workflow issues will arise. That's a big aspect of what I need guidance on.

Thanks for the tip on the Aja stuff. I'll look at that. As for using laptops with I/O and external drives for shoots, that wouldn't be a lot of stuff at all, to carry around (from my point of view). I will be mostly shooting in studio, using camera carts (that roll around next to the cameras, holding large monitors, mic preamps, etc., and which can be adapted to incorporate the Ki Pros).

Depending on the cost of a Ki Pro (I haven't looked yet), it may make sense to instead use the laptop/Media 100 setup. One of the latest bottom-end Mac Pros can be had for $1200. That combined with some kind of component I/O, an external drive, and a copy of Media 100 wouldn't be a bad camera recorder package for not very much cash. And of course when not shooting, those Media 100/Mac systems could be used for other things. Rough edits, shot selection, etc. could be done on them, even before the media gets moved to the "real" systems. And it would seem that over a Gb Ethernet LAN, the file copying would be fast.

I need to educate myself on things like which format to capture to, how to move the media files into Media 100, etc. Got any leads on good sources for perspectives on this sort of thing? It seems that practically everything I see is focused on Final Cut.


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Floh Peters
Re: Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Feb 28, 2011 at 1:22:01 pm

[Robert L. Kopf] "Going by my present usage (which has been running 8.2.3 on G4 systems with P6000-type boards), isn't going to provide me much perspective on this. I've been creating long form videos from tape sources, utilizing practically no effects, nor doing much else that requires rendering at all. In some cases, I have moved the Media 100 files to Bitvice and Purifier, and to DVD Studio Pro to make DVDs. But in those cases, I've been doing that work on newer, multicore Macs, which is probably what I'll continue to do unless they work faster in the background on this new Mac Pro. Having said that, I am aware that I just don't know what new processes and workflow issues will arise. "

Media 100 is pretty well optimized for Multi-CPU and Multicore usage on the newer software versions. So more cores will give you better performance. But of course if there´s not much to render at all you won´t see big differences. Encoding in BitVice definitely will benefit from the extra cores as well, but again it depends on how often you are going to need it to make it worth the money.

[Robert L. Kopf] "One of the latest bottom-end Mac Pros can be had for $1200. That combined with some kind of component I/O, an external drive, and a copy of Media 100 wouldn't be a bad camera recorder package for not very much cash. And of course when not shooting, those Media 100/Mac systems could be used for other things. Rough edits, shot selection, etc. could be done on them, even before the media gets moved to the "real" systems. And it would seem that over a Gb Ethernet LAN, the file copying would be fast."

Right. If having this thing mobile is not an issue then you would have a pretty good setup there.

[Robert L. Kopf] "I need to educate myself on things like which format to capture to, how to move the media files into Media 100, etc. Got any leads on good sources for perspectives on this sort of thing? It seems that practically everything I see is focused on Final Cut."

Codec wise, we do most of our work in some ProRes variant these days, which gives great quality for reasonable data rates. It can be used natively in Media 100, and you are pretty open to the rest of the "world", since the ProRes decoder is free with QuickTime anyway.
Regarding files and compression: most stuff that can work with QuickTime files is more or less compatible with Media 100. Not all codecs are supported natively, but nearly everything can be transcoded to work with Media 100.



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Robert L. Kopf
Re: Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Feb 28, 2011 at 1:45:08 pm

So how do I decide on which ProRes variant to use?

In the case of the Kona Ki Pro, what's involved in moving the "captured" media to the Media 100 or into something like Final Cut or DVD Studio Pro? Does one simply copy the files into some directory and then they just magically appear?

It would seem that copying bins of shots made while using the laptop Media 100 systems would be fairly trivial over the Gb Ethernet LAN, and would mostly eliminate the problems of waiting for copying over Firewire or whatever.


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Floh Peters
Re: Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Feb 28, 2011 at 2:27:34 pm

[Robert L. Kopf] "In the case of the Kona Ki Pro, what's involved in moving the "captured" media to the Media 100 or into something like Final Cut or DVD Studio Pro? Does one simply copy the files into some directory and then they just magically appear?"

The KI Pro can be mounted as a harddrive on your Mac. Simply copy over the media from the Ki to your local harddrive, and drag or import it into Media 100 from there then.

[Robert L. Kopf] "So how do I decide on which ProRes variant to use?"

ProRes 422 for "normal" footage, ProRes 422HQ for e.g. difficult chromakey footage or for stuff that needs heavy colorcorrection. Coming from BetaSP or other analog sources the "regular" 422 variant is more than enough in 99,9% of all cases.

[Robert L. Kopf] "It would seem that copying bins of shots made while using the laptop Media 100 systems would be fairly trivial over the Gb Ethernet LAN, and would mostly eliminate the problems of waiting for copying over Firewire or whatever."

Remember that you not only need to copy the bins, but also the associated media directories. But yes, it should be pretty quick over Gig ethernet. If you want you even could acquire over Gigabit ethernet onto the media drive of your stationary edit system (mount the HD over FileSharing and then use it as your media drive).



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Robert L. Kopf
Re: Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Feb 28, 2011 at 5:40:26 pm

[Floh Peters] "ProRes 422 for "normal" footage, ProRes 422HQ for e.g. difficult chromakey footage or for stuff that needs heavy color correction. Coming from BetaSP or other analog sources the "regular" 422 variant is more than enough in 99,9% of all cases."

Are these probably the only two codecs that I should bother with? I will practically always be acquiring footage through cameras like the Sony DXC-D30 to -D50 (in both 4x3 and 16x9). And if I go with this tapeless paradigm, I will almost always bypass Betacam SP tape, going instead directly (component analog from a studio-style back) into the Ki or into the Media 100 machines.

I realize that there are many reasons why all the other codecs exist. But being completely self-contained and not for hire, I'm not going to have to think about being compatible with various other standards. The only desire that I have along these lines is that I choose a codec (or two or whatever) that will best suit my own internal needs here.

If the only drawback to using any "better" codecs is a trade off for disk space for instance, I'd choose the better codec, since the cost of disk space is negligible. Of course I realize that in such cases there may likely also be an increase in render time, etc. I understand that the best plan is to try various things, to see how they work for me. And I intend to do that. But opinions that help point me in the right direction are appreciated. There are just too many choices out there for me to try out empirically. What way might you recommend for me to acquaint myself with such things as which resolution standards are compatible with these codecs?

On another subject (I promise to leave you alone for awhile after this post), I haven't done so in the past. But I may want to jump in and learn many of the very cool things that exist in the software arena like After Effects, compositing, color "correction," etc. Do you think I should pop for the six-core Mac rather than the 4-core for running such things? I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the six-core outperforms the 4-core when doing such things. That goes without saying. But since I suspect that the next iteration of Mac Pros will be even faster and likely have the new Thunderbolt I/O, it seems prudent to wait for that. If people are generally satisfied with the 4-core performance, I can no doubt live with it for a year.

The idea of being able to acquire footage using the Media 100 laptop scenario, and designating a media destination drive that's in the edit room computer (over Gb Ethernet) has some appeal. Have you ever done that? I wonder how fast that drive needs to be, and whether or not it would be possible to share a couple of drives there, to capture from two cameras simultaneously that way. It would be interesting to test the limits of such a system. It would be pretty slick to be able to use three cameras simultaneously, sending all three video streams to the edit room computer, even if that would require a fast array. Having Thunderbolt I/O on the Macbook Pros would likely make that perfectly doable, given a Thunderbolt-connected array. Hmmmm...


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Floh Peters
Re: Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:30:36 pm

[Robert L. Kopf] "I realize that there are many reasons why all the other codecs exist. But being completely self-contained and not for hire, I'm not going to have to think about being compatible with various other standards. The only desire that I have along these lines is that I choose a codec (or two or whatever) that will best suit my own internal needs here. "

Unless you are expected to deliver something else, I personally would think that ProRes 422, and ProRes 4444 or Animation codec for clips with Alpha Channel should be more or less all you need. As I said, we do 99% of our work in one of the ProRes family codecs.

[Robert L. Kopf] "If the only drawback to using any "better" codecs is a trade off for disk space for instance, I'd choose the better codec, since the cost of disk space is negligible. Of course I realize that in such cases there may likely also be an increase in render time, etc. I understand that the best plan is to try various things, to see how they work for me. And I intend to do that. But opinions that help point me in the right direction are appreciated. There are just too many choices out there for me to try out empirically. What way might you recommend for me to acquaint myself with such things as which resolution standards are compatible with these codecs?"

Harddrive space and I/O throughput are 2 of the aspects that can make a difference. Plus, initially there were some issues with the ProRes HQ variant that did not exist in the "normal" flavor. But I think for SD material coming from Component sources you won´t see a difference between 422 and HQ.

[Robert L. Kopf] "If people are generally satisfied with the 4-core performance, I can no doubt live with it for a year."

We bought one of the current 4 core MacPros for one of our edit suites, and we do quite a lot of AE work. Of course the 6 core systems are faster, but for us it was not worth the extra money. But of course the decision is up to you, and it depends on how long you think you are using this system.

[Robert L. Kopf] "Have you ever done that? I wonder how fast that drive needs to be, and whether or not it would be possible to share a couple of drives there, to capture from two cameras simultaneously that way."

I have done that in a controlled environment. With ProRes422 in SD you should be good to capture at least 2 streams onto a "small" Raid system attached to your edit system, and still be able to continue editing on the same machine. ProRes SD data rates are pretty low for the current Mac systems. Now if you are talking HD, this changes dramatically.



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Robert L. Kopf
Re: Macbook Pro with M100 as a live capture device
on Mar 4, 2011 at 12:22:07 am

[Floh Peters] "I have done that in a controlled environment. With ProRes422 in SD you should be good to capture at least 2 streams onto a "small" Raid system attached to your edit system, and still be able to continue editing on the same machine."

That sounds good. I wouldn't even need to use the system containing those drives to edit at the same time. I'd just dump the streams to them as it was being shot. I could certainly live with not editing on that machine while the shoot was in progress. Do you have an opinion about what kind of "small" RAID we'd be talking about? Could I just stripe two drives (using disk utility) hooked to an internal SATA card, or would I need to use some kind of RAID-specific card?


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