Virtual Reality and 360 Video

VR headsets have been available for over a year now, and more content is constantly being developed for them.  We should expect that rate to increase as new headset models are being released from established technology companies, prompted in part by the new VR features expected in Microsoft’s next update to Windows 10.  As the potential customer base increases, the software continues to mature, and the content offerings broaden.  And with the advances in graphics processing technology, we are finally getting to a point where it is feasible to edit videos in VR, on a laptop.
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Lenovo ThinkPad P71 Mobile Workstation

Lenovo was nice enough to send me their newest VR-Enabled mobile workstation to test out on a VR workflow project I am doing.  The new Thinkpad P71 is a beast with a 17” UHD IPS screen.  The model they sent to me was equipped with the fastest available processor, a Xeon E5-1535M v6 with 4 cores processing 8 threads at an official speed of 3.1Ghz.  It has 32GB of DDR4-2400 ECC RAM, with two more slots allowing that to be doubled to 64GB if desired.  The headline feature is the NVidia Quadro P5000 Mobile GPU, with 2048 CUDA cores, fed by another 16GB of dedicated DDR5 memory.  Continue reading

NAB 2017

I did make it to NAB this year, but haven’t had a chance to post since I got back a week ago. HDR and 360 video are where the main innovations could be found this year. Everyone is announcing support for HDR workflows and files, as television moves towards utilizing the capabilities offered by Rec.2020. There are still lots of confusing aspects to the various options and color spaces to get there, but everyone is looking towards an HDR future. The was an entire VR pavilion, mostly focused on 360 video production and workflows. This is as opposed to true Virtual Reality, which requires synthetic rendering to provide the viewers perspective. 360 video allows viewers to explore the world from a fixed point, where the camera originally recorded from.
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Dell Precision 7910 Tower Workstation Review

While I started out my career on Dell Precision Workstations when I was in college, I have spent the last ten years with HP Workstations under my desk. They have served me well, which is why I used them for five generations.  But at the beginning of 2016, I was given the opportunity to do a complete hardware refresh for director Scott Waugh’s post house Vasquez Saloon, to gear up our capabilities to edit the first film shot for Barco Escape and edited fully in 6K.   We ended up with Dell Precision 7910 workstations under our desks.  After having a chance to use them for a year, I decided it was time to share some of my experiences with the top end Precision workstation.
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Windows ProRes Encoding

ProRes is a Quicktime codec that was first released in 2007. It uses DCT based compression to store 10bit 422 HD video data in an efficient format. It was basically Apple’s version of Cineform, which had offered an identical feature set and compression ratios since 2002. This trend continued as both eventually released support for 12bit 444 data with alpha, and then expanded resolution support to 2K, 4K and beyond.  As a PC based editor, I was a long time advocate for Cineform’s codec and tools.  But with a large existing Final Cut user base, ProRes received much wider industry acceptance than Cineform did, despite having no major technological advantages, and being initially limited to OSX systems, with FCP installed.  Apple released free Quicktime playback codecs a year later for both OSX and Windows, which probably accelerated adoption throughout the industry. But ten years later, and after the official deprecation of Quicktime on Windows, it is still a challenge to encode ProRes files on Windows systems. Continue reading

New Pascal based Quadro GPUs

NVidia announced a number of new professional graphic cards today, filling out their entire Quadro lineup with models based on their newest Pascal architecture. At the absolute top end, there is the new Quadro GP100, which is a PCIe card implementation of their supercomputer chip. It has similar 32bit (graphics) processing power to the existing Quadro P6000, but adds 16bit (AI) and 64bit (simulation). It is intended to combine compute and visualization capabilities into a single solution. It has 16GB of new HBM2 (High Bandwidth Memory) and two cards can be paired together with NVLink at 80GB/sec to share a total of 32GB between them.
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The Impact of Thunderbolt 3

It has been quite a while since Intel’s much awaited LightPeak technology was introduced to consumers, originally in the form of Apple’s Thunderbolt interface. It is now in its third iteration, with Thunderbolt3 being 4 times as fast as the initial release.  The newest version also changed the physical interface from Mini-DisplayPort to USB-C.  This places us in that awkward phase where many Thunderbolt products aren’t backwards compatible with each other, and all of the ones that are require adapters.  USB3.1 is in a similar place, with USB-C connectors replacing USB-A, but there are cheap cables that interface between them, there are just a lot of permutations to account for.
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6K Editing Hardware and Performance

In setting up the post-production “ecosystem” for 6Below, the first step was to figure out how much storage we would need, to keep all of the 6K footage online. Unlike our previous 50 camera productions, having only 2 Red Dragons available limited the amount of footage that was shot to reasonable levels. We initially planned for 6K wide at 8:1, which is 73MB/sec. This is 4.4GB/min or 265GB/hr, and 2hrs/day for 30 days results in 16TB of footage. So I bought a 32TB SAS array from ProAvio, the 8 spindle EB800V2, which provided over 1GB/s to my main edit system. All of these calculations, including the critical 60 hours of footage estimate were right on, but they ended up deciding to shoot at 4:1 instead, doubling the data rates and file-sizes. Needless to say, we purchased another ProAvio RAID, twice as big, before we were done shooting. This ended up being a blessing, in that it gave us local storage options on both systems, so we could render from one to another, and back, for maximium performance. We could have survived with a 2nd 32TB array, but upgrading to 64TB was worth the price, and will be useful on our next project, whatever that is.
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6Below Editing Workflow

I have been working on a project currently titled 6Below, which is the first full length feature film to be created in the Barco Escape Format.  Escape is three adjacent 2K projections, so a total of a 6K wide image. We shot for this with a single camera, the Red Epic Dragon at 6K, and extracted the individual 2K windows from there. While the finished output for Escape is 6144×858, because we also have deliveries for 4K theatrical and UHD, we edited and colored the 6K-WS sized 6144×2592 files in their entirety. All VFX and other work was done at full 6K as well. From that media, we created three separate extractions at 6144×858, 4096×1484, and 3840×2160. Escape uses all of the available width, and UHD uses most of the available frame height, so each version had to be framed and titled in separate passes. This was all accomplished in Adobe Premiere Pro (9.2 to be precise) through various project stages.
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