A PC Tower of Power: HP Z820 RED Edition (with CS6 Inside)
Custom Builds Can Include Dual RED MAG Readers, RED ROCKET Cards and Up to 512 GB of RAM
If you cut and finish on a PC and have already been eyeing HP's 16-core Z820 workstations, come July, you'll have an even sweeter option: a custom HP Z820 RED Edition with Adobe CS6 Production Premium preinstalled and RED workflows at the ready. And if you're Mac-based but can't wait until 2013, when Apple says it will roll out newly configured Mac Pros, this tower may also have your name on it.
According to Jarred Land's post early this morning on Reduser.net, the new liquid-cooled custom tower will be built to spec and sold by ProMAX, which posted its store page online today, and TEKSERVE, the well-known Apple specialist in New York that is also an HP reseller. In Land's words, "these things scream" with custom dual RED MAG card readers up front—the only ones currently on the market—Adobe CS6, and NVIDIA and one or more internal RED ROCKET acceleration cards inside. "The idea is to have everything you need to get started right out of the box editing RED footage at full speed," says Dave Helmly, Adobe Technical Sales Manager Pro Video/Audio Products Americas.
I got on the phone with Terry Brown, HP Workstations Vertical Market Manager, and RED's Ted Schilowitz, who have been working on the new towers for a few years, to get more details on how the idea took shape. Brown says Adobe was a driving force in the collaboration. "This really came together when Adobe said to us, 'We need to create a system that's a reference system for RED workflows in Adobe Premiere. CS6 is coming out and we have a huge amount of questions from customers who are confused about their current platform and we need to be able to guide them to what system we think is going to do the job, especially with RED workflows, which tend to be pretty CPU- and GPU-instensive and RED ROCKET-intensive." Brown says all agreed to pick the top two resellers on both coasts that could handle this kind of build out. "ProMAX and TEKSERVE, which everyone agreed were great choices for this product, are already two of our best resellers," he says. "There's a fair amount of customization that's going on with the hardware with regard to the RED MAG readers. There will also be a custom look and feel to the system, and you will have a very highly tested set of components in there, thanks to Adobe's involvement: The NVIDIA cards for acceleration and Adobe's Mercury Playback engine, which runs on NVIDIA cards and features CUDA and OpenCL-enhanced processing in Premiere Pro CS6."
Depending on your budget—these systems will start at around $10,000—you can even scale up to NVIDIA's Maximus option and an NVIDIA Tesla C2075 board for even more acceleration. "That's primarily for things like color correction and Mercury playback," says Brown. "But I also think you're going to see some unique things from both TEKSERVE and ProMAX, with respect to helping folks adopt to a new workflow, especially if they are new to Windows. New utilities and features will help make that transition easier and essentially automate the retuning of the system when it needs it. That's one of the huge value-adds that both of those partners are building in."
Wither Mac Pro?
Although the new tower obviously fills a void in production and post left by Apple, Ted Schilowitz says this new product in no way signals RED's departure from the Apple platform. It is also clearly not, he says, a reflection of Apple or a criticism of the company overall. "I was a Mac person before it was even called Mac and I've lived on an Apple platform my entire professional career," he says. "I am very connected to the Apple world, with many close contacts and friends, and RED still has a solid, positive relationship with Apple. But over a number of years, the Mac tower just hasn't shown any significant upgrades. This last announcement was just a slight processor boost without any new architecture in the system. At some point, you have to start looking at other choices." Schilowitz explains that the new partnership with HP, which began when HP supplied mobile and tower workstations to Camp RED, a summer day program for students ages 9 – 15 held at RED Studios in Los Angeles, "is a specific thing for us and our power users. They need the maximum processing power, configurable slots and just a more powerful, more modern tower machine to do the kind of on-set and post-production RED workflow pieces they do on a regular basis. The more we talked with HP, we began wondering if we could build an integrated card reader right into the system, and make it more custom than an off-the-shelf 820. HP was all for it and they dove in head first. Within a month or so they had early prototypes, and now it's prepping for its first sales cycle."
Schilowitz doesn't think the Windows-only platform will be that big a deal to most users, many of whom have multiple-platform systems running within the same facility. "The truth of the matter is, once you're past the launch of the PC, the apps run the same as they do on a Mac," he says. "The REDCINE runs the same. In fact, it runs better; it's optimized for these new processors."
Built to Spec
Like the Z820s, the systems will be built from three different base models, each one with a RED ROCKET card and "at least one RED MAG reader," says Brown. "You can add more RED ROCKET cards and GPU as you go. Each has 32 GB of RAM standard, and we can go up to 512 GB of RAM in the z820, so the expandability is just amazing." Adds Schilowitz, "We see guys driving huge compositing jobs where they need as much horsepower as they can possibly get. This is kind of why Adobe looped into this as well. We think of Adobe now as this very modern company that's really thinking about our workflow and our mutual customer base."
Both ProMAX and TEKSERVE will begin taking orders this week, and deliveries will begin in July. If you see the new towers emerge from ProMAX and TEKSERVE with different names, however, don't be confused. "We're ready to sell it but no one's really agreed on what to call it," says Brown. "We've set it up, however, that those two partners are the manufacturers." Adds Schilowitz, "It really it up to ProMAX and TEKSERVE to put a name on their custom builds. They are essentially creating these towers, with our cool stuff on it and in it."