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Microsoft Positions Surface Pro 2 for 4K Workflow

At Launch Event, System Handles 6K Dragon Footage in Assimilate Scratch Play

Microsoft made a play for the content creation market yesterday, when it positioned its forthcoming Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet as a full-fledged mobile workstation with horsepower to spare. Specifically, Microsoft Surface General Manager Panos Panay [pictured, top] showed off a Red Dragon Carbon Fiber camera, then proceeded to scrub through some 6K raw R3D footage in Assimilate Scratch Play.
"I'm using raw 6K footage … and I can do what I want with it here at my workstation as a full-powered PC," Panay said, using the Surface Pro 2 in notebook mode with attached keyboard. Then, he undocked the computer and detached the screen from the keyboard to carry the system across the stage in tablet mode, describing it as having "the full power of a PC in a tablet form factor."
The complete launch presentation is available for viewing at Microsoft's website (the Red Dragon is introduced at a little more than 14 minutes in), but the YouTube video embedded below is conveniently trimmed to feature only the segment dedicated to Scratch Play and Red workflow. 
So what were audience members really looking at? In a post on reduser.net, Assimilate VP of Business Development Lucas Wilson explained: Scratch Play was running 1/4 debayer R3D footage at 6144×2592 on stage. In a demo area, one Surface Pro 2 was outputting 6144×2592 R3D Dragon footage and Ultra HD (UHD) DPX files to a UHD display at 3840×2160/24p in real time. Another was playing Epic and Dragon footage at 1/4 and 1/8 debayer resolution from a Red Drive connected via USB 3.0. 
Wilson also vouched for the Surface Pro 2's improved battery life, noting that one of the systems was playing footage constantly on battery power for roughly four hours and only used up a little more than half the battery.
Experienced Red filmmakers Jason and Josh Diamond were also on hand to lend their bona fides to the proceedings. Jason Diamond told StudioDaily that Scratch Play running on a tablet is a powerful tool, partly because it allows you to create CDL-compliant looks that can be passed off to any number of other applications, and especially because it offers an easy way to look at raw output and apply some basic looks to check the exposures. But he said it's not a replacement for the DIT system on set. 
"To have a powerful touch-screen tablet that can output 6K Dragon footage out of Scratch Play into a 4K display on set is pretty cool," Diamond said. "I don't see it as something that's meant to replace proper storage and proper data-management tools. What it does well is it gives you a full production environment in your hand."
Looking at the Surface 2 Pro's utility, Diamond noted that one limiting factor is storage, since the system tops out at 512 GB of solid-state storage in its top configuration. "If you were going to pack it to the gills with 5K Epic footage, you'd be looking at — just off the top of my head — two hours of footage," he said. "Would you do that? It's possible. Maybe you shot a commercial and want to run foootage through Scratch Play on the plane home, or even to use Media Composer, Creative Cloud or some other actual Windows 8 application that works with Red files. It's totally do-able, and that's the value. It fits the pre-production-through-post toolset without being the heavy lifter."
So, for those who like the form factor of a tablet, this will do way more on set or after the shoot than an iPad.
The Surface Pro 2 has a 10.6-inch 1920×1080 display with 10-point multi-touch enabled. It's powered by a 4th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and has USB 3.0 and Mini DisplayPort connectivity. Pricing starts at $899 for a system with 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM, but video pros will want to spend the bucks to upgrade to 8 GB of RAM and either 256 GB ($1,299) or 512 GB ($1,799). Accessories, like a docking station ($199) or click-in keyboard ($129), are extra. More information on specs, accessories, and pricing is available at Microsoft's pre-order site.


Categories: Editing, New product, Post/Finishing, Shooting, Technology
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  • Paul

    Something critically missing from this article (and indeed, from the Surface Pro 2) is anything about the vitality (and arguable necessity) of a discrete hardware graphics processing unit in the editing workflow. Adobe Premiere Pro CC’s use of hardware GPUs has finally opened up to OpenCL and more than the limited nVidia cards previously cultivated by a collusive/wicked exclusivity agreement. Having a discrete GPU isn’t just a gamer’s paradise, and these hardware manufacturers need to figure that out — last year.

    • Jeff Chandler

      Since this would not be your primary workstation, there would be no need for discreet graphics. This would be a fantastic portable system for checking footage and rough edits. I will definitely be adding these as a tool for my video production business.

      • Paul

        I want the highest performance possible, to scale, everywhere. Manufacturers have an adversarial relationship against consumers (as capitalism works best). So let’s not make excuses when they cut corners, especially at premium price points.

        When you say “there would be no need for discreet [sic] graphics,” you’re speaking only for yourself — or you don’t even know what’s best for you . . . OR, you’re using Final Cut Pro!

        • diik0nn

          Discreet GPU in a tablet…?
          This is obviously a mobile solution, highest performance possible will never be delivered from a mobile chipset, discreet GPU or not.

          • Paul

            Perhaps this is a language barrier problem; you must know that saying “highest performance possible will never be delivered” is circular — because highest possible is relative phrase to begin with. The notion is that Microsoft failed to go there/got lazy/went cheap/underestimated its customers.

            Again: manufacturers only deploy as far as customers demand. Why make excuses? It’s an adversarial relationship.

          • diik0nn

            It may indeed be a language barrier problem; you must know that complaining about lack of discreet GPU for an editing workflow on a tablet doesn’t sound right…

            Not even making excuses here, how do you expect any type of decent GPU to be shoved in there?

          • Paul

            I’m a non-Mac, Windows PC user with a power workstation in-studio and a Windows RT device (a la Surface) for light mobility on the road. For heavier tasks on the run, there’s the Asus Zenbook UX32VD-DH71 with a discrete nVidia GPU in roughly the same size/weight/form factor as a Surface if you include a keyboard that actually has keys. So it’s well past possible, especially after Haswell that is just (belatedly) deploying into powerful Ultrabooks.

            Our common objective is to spend the least amount possible on the best available (and best implemented) technology, plain and simple. You either drink the Kool-Aid or you don’t. If you’re worried about Microsoft making a profit, tell them to try harder for the mutual benefit that they’ll finally eclipse Apple again through volume sale of superior hardware.

          • Brad

            Razer Edge pro had a discrete graphics card in their tablet. I was also hoping surface pro 2 would offer this option.

          • Weever

            If you want to spend laptop prices on a tablet, you’ll get what you want. Most users don’t want to pay that, so probably the reason it’s not mentioned.

          • terje

            >> The notion here is that Microsoft failed to go
            >> there/got lazy/went cheap/underestimated its
            >> customers.

            Wow. as diik0nn is trying to explain to you, this is not meant as your primary workstation. Building portable, battery-powered units is always a trade-of. If you want discrete graphics, lots of memory, big hard drives, you go get a 17″ laptop. With the resulting (quite short) battery life and quite significant heft and weight.

            If you want an ultra portable solution this is it. It’s about the size of an iPad. You can edit video on it easily. I edit video on the current Surface Pro with Premiere CC, and the new one is lots faster. It’s about the right tool for the job.

            Sure, you can’t have the latest, fastest graphics solution, you can’t have 2TB drives. This has nothing to do with Microsoft being lazy or incompetent, it has to do with the fact that it can’t be done. At the moment. Not for any price at all. Faulting a product for not being able to do the impossible is absurd. Hating on a company for not accomplishing something impossible is more than a little childish. This is one of the possible tools out there. What you are asking for is a 17″ high-end laptop. If that’s what you want, go get it. If you don’t need this particular tool, don’t buy it. For those of us who are able to distinguish a hammer from a screw driver, we’ll use our reason to select what we want.

            Me, running around the mountains of Greece, I’ll take this in my backpack any day of the week. For me, hauling a ten times heavier 17″ laptop around would be absurd with this product on the market.

          • Valter Pinho

            Hey, Paul, please….tell me…With Premiere CC you have Open CL Mercury Engine Playback activated????????
            I neeeed to know…
            I have Surface Pro 1, the graphic card has Open CL but i just have Premiere Pro CS6….wich has no Open CL….:( If you wanna 2TB,,,find out on google or eBay for an RAID 0 dock to USB 3.0….there are so many choices!

          • Weever

            You assume manufacturers are solely responsible for this adversarial relationship.

            Most users want affordable hardware and manufacturers want profit.

            It’s obvious to keep the costs reasonable compromises had to be made.

            Manufacturers won’t be making tablets for a super niche that won’t satisfy an ROI.

          • Paul

            I advocate that this so-called “super niche” make their voice heard stronger, especially when Microsoft flaunts their Surface Pro 2 as a candidate for professional video editing.

        • Jeff Chandler

          Yes, I misspelled discrete. I don’t use FCP (although I’ve used it and had to teach it, but I hate it). Obviously I wouldn’t be looking at the Surface if I my workflow was Mac centric. I use multiple NLE’s. Yes I’m speaking for myself, but I’m certain I speak for others as well. I absolutely do know what’s best for me (I’ve been in video production for 25 years, as both a teacher and producer). Not only has Microsoft not cut corners, this is a very reasonably priced device. Show me anything else with the flexibility and portability of the Surface. Again, this would not be my primary workstation but, for most of what I do, I could . The work I do involves very little graphics that would require a discrete GPU. To put a discrete GPU in this device, given current technological limitations, would make it a thicker and marginally heavier device. I think it’s clear that you want to be condecendeing to both the Surface (which is a remarkable piece of thechnology) and those making comments here, so I will respond no further.

        • Jordan

          You obviously know nothing of economics, management, or wealth.

          • Paul

            OK, if you say so!

            Couldn’t think of anything else?

        • Anonymous

          “I want the highest performance possible,” – than what you want is PC, not a tablet.

          • Paul

            Highest performance possible in a tablet. Obviously.

          • Anonymous

            Well, than it’s Surface Pro 2. Original Surface Pro was already most powerful from the popular tablets, and Surface Pro 2 only improves on that.
            Whatever you think something is mission or not is irrelevant. There’s on real competition to Surface Pro, certainly not with that computing power.
            Yes, PCs are more powerful, yes – laptops can be build with better specifications, but on tablets market nothing comes close, so it’s not like MS would be bothered by few people complaining about lack of dedicated GPU. There were more important issues with Surface Pro – like the battery life (which apparently was addressed – we’ll see how well).

  • Jim

    One of the problems I see is the lack of a high speed interface beyond USB 3.0. I would prefer to see the docking station have Thunderbolt to provide video and storage connectivity. As a video editor I am really not impressed with latency and performance on USB 3.0 devices.

    • Anonymous

      No worries, adapters will come sooner rather than later (I’m not sure if there aren’t any already)

  • Iyke

    Truly there’s no need to argue a product that almost half of the people arguing, have no experience on real demanding projects with high budgets. Surface Pro 2, is no way a substitute for your professional workstation, but a vehicle to get you from acquisition into main post. Everything from rough cuts in media composer or Premiere, to one light color manipulation, and creation of LUTS and CDL’s, to word processing. If you desire an all-in-one powerful workstation, this is definitely not a product for you, that simple!

    • Dylan

      And how the hell would you know that, all empty air coming from your mouth unless you can post a video of you actually working on one you own in your own bedroom.