Boosting Creativity Is As Easy As “DPPO”

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I just returned from the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas and the theme of the event was “The Changing Face of Media & Entertainment.” This topic seems particularly relevant due to the insatiable demand for content via traditional media outlets such as televisions, movie theaters and the myriad of new devices including tablets, smart phones, and gaming devices that are all connected to the internet. This demand is driving tremendous complexity in content creation and distribution, which in turn is placing ever-increasing demands for higher quality and faster delivery.

Dell is helping the industry make this transition by developing some of the most advanced workstation solutions on the market.

We design Precision Workstations to deliver high productivity and reliability using the best components on the market like Intel® Xeon® processors and best in class design features such as the newly released Dell Precision Performance Optimizer (DPPO). With DPPO we have seen performance increases by as much as 61% with some functions in Adobe Premiere. Our advancements in design and build quality have been noticed in the industry with such awards as Videomaker's Best Products of the Year Award for 2012.

DPPO is one of our newest tools for Precision Workstations featuring Intel® Xeon® processors. DPPO can help your system achieve optimum performance for professional media and content creation software such as Autodesk Maya, Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, and Media Encoder. Having DPPO on your system is like having an IT pro always on hand to ensure your workstation with Intel® Xeon® processors is performing at its peak. 

DPPO has three key capabilities: Automatic Performance Optimization, System Maintenance, and Tracking & Reporting.

We know applications such as Autodesk Maya, Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, and Media Encoder don’t always follow a “one size fits all” approach and “tweaking” a number of hardware and software parameters can directly benefit the user experience. The beauty of the Automatic Performance Optimization module is this is done automatically. In some cases, we have seen performance increases as much as 61% with some functions in Adobe Premiere. With Automatic Performance Optimization, many features within the BIOS, Operating System, and drivers are compared and adjusted to determine an application profile. The profile contains settings specific to performance and optimization of a particular application. Once the profile is activated and the corresponding application is started, DPPO will change the system to the optimal configuration automatically. You select the profile for the application you are using, and DPPO takes it from there.

With DPPO, you also know that your system will always be up to date. More than just getting updates to the operating system, the System Maintenance module provides the latest drivers and firmware for all the hardware components you have — you can even determine when you want updates and for which parts of your system. 

With the Tracking and Reporting module, information such as the amount of free memory, Intel® processor utilization, and even thermal sensor data is all available over a custom timeframe. You (or your IT department!) can get a fully detailed system report while your workstation is compiling code or rendering frames. DPPO lets you get a glimpse under the hood during the most important times you are utilizing your workstation.

We are very excited to offer the Dell Precision Performance Optimizer to our Precision Workstation customers working in the media and entertainment industry! For more information about the DPPO and how it can boost your creativity, please visit – Dell Precision Performance Optimizer.

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NAB Top 10: Big Ideas in Production and Post

As always, picking the top products at an NAB show is a tricky task. Yes, some technology is an obvious game-changer right out of the gate, while other innovations either founder on their way out of the factory or stumble and fall when they're put to use in real-world environments. So you should take this list, and any other, for what it's worth at this stage of the game. Most of the new products we first saw at NAB won't be on the market until later this year, so we'll learn how they perform under pressure at that point. But the following are the products that really caught our eye this year, whether they're just simple and usable options on any production (like the PAGlink batteries), extensions to existing post workflow (like The Foundry's Nuke Studio), or part of bigger strategies that look to the future of production and delivery (like Harmonic's VOS platform). 
Another reason to treat "best of NAB" announcements with a grain of salt? Nobody sees everything. The show is too big to cover in fine detail, and there were doubtless some excellent offerings this year that evaded our gaze, especially around the periphery of the show floor. If you found something terrifically exciting or just plain useful at the show this year, don't hesitate to let us know about it in the comments section.
Most Intriguing New Camera: AJA Cion
AJA earned the lion's share of NAB buzz with a carefully thought-out camera system that offers exactly the right kind of connectivity. "There’s not one proprietary connector or mount point anywhere on this camera,” said AJA President Nick Rashby, announcing the Cion. The specs are incredibly impressive: 4K APS-C sensor with global shutter. 12 stops. ProRes support up to 4444. Raw 4K at up to 120fps over 3G SDI or up to 30fps over Thunderbolt. It's a PL-mount camera, so glass won't be cheap. Neither will AJA's recording media, the Pak, which starts at $695 for a 256 GB cartridge. Then again, CFAST media would cost a lot more. ("Never go with off-the-shelf media," AJA's Bryce Button said. "You're going to have footage get lost.") There are still big questions — AJA hasn't said much about the raw implementation beyond a suggested workflow using the Corvid Ultra, and the camera was developed in secrecy so it'll be interesting to hear what a broad universe of users think of the ergonomics when it starts getting used out in the field. AJA
Most Innovative Idea for Production: Andra Motion Focus
Cameras were big at NAB, but the closest thing to a game-changer in the trenches of production was the Andra follow-focus system. It uses a magnetic field and sensors to track motion of a subject, controlling a motor that keeps it in focus, or that rack-focuses quickly and precisely to a pre-determined point. It might not put focus-pullers completely out of business — there's still a lot of work that needs to be done to get the feel of the focus shifts just right, using the system's spiffy iPad interface — but it should come in handy, especially for shooting wide open where depth of field is very shallow and focus can be hard to dial in quickly. Andra
Best 4K Price Break: Assimilate Scratch
This is at least the second or third "Year of 4K" at NAB, but solutions have been evolving to make 4K more affordable, meaning the universe of 4K production and post really has opened up to more customers each time around. The team at Assimilate says they put a tremendous amount of effort into driving down the price of 4K workflow this year in order to get boutique DI facilities on board with Scratch. The result is a turnkey system created with Versatile Distribution Services. A basic configuration runs Assimilate Scratch 8 on a 12-core HP Z820 workstation with Nvidia Quadro K6000 graphics, 32 GB of RAM, a 1 TB SATA boot disk, a 10 TB SATA disk array, a 1.65 TB Fusion-io PCIe acceleratorm and a Blu-ray Disc writer. The best part is the price — at B&H, we're told this system starts somewhere between $18,000 and $21,000. That's a great deal when you consider B&H was selling software licenses for Scratch 7 by itself for $21,000. Icing on the cake? Assimilate has been doing Red workflow longer than anyone, so they know Red, and 4K, inside and out. And with licensed ProRes encoding new to Scratch 8, a Windows system can hold its own against a Mac for all deliverables. Assimilate
Most Flexible Tool for Post: Blackmagic Design Da Vinci Resolve 11
The king is still the king — it's possible there is no greater value in all the realm of post-production than DaVinci Resolve, which is available at no charge in a powerful "Lite" version and for just $995 in a software-only version. (Bring your own control panel.) The latest Resolve is more editorial-friendly than ever, with new features making it a more usable editorial tool, including dual-monitor support, audio crossfades, independent audio and video in and out points, dynamic JKL trimming, a new title tool, the ability to use plugins on the timeline, and the ability to collaborate on a single timeline, not just the same project. Resolve's media management game has been upped, and a new auto-grade feature lets you get started quickly by lining up an on-screen grid on a color chart in a scene to set a base grade. Best of all, it's a free upgrade for existing customers that's due in June. Blackmagic Design
Biggest News for VFX Artists: The Foundry Nuke Studio
The Foundry came to NAB with a dramatically expanded workflow for its flagship Nuke software. The new product, Nuke Studio, will combine collaborative VFX, online editing, and finishing in a single application, giving Nuke artists control of an end-to-end workflow for node-based VFX, including the ability to share composites among a team as well as 4K real-time playback for client review. Building on NukeX, Nuke Studio will feature real-time effects, with Nuke nodes right on the timeline. Nuke Studio represents the culmination of recent thinking at The Foundry, which last year had started promoting the use of Nuke together with its shot-management, conform and review tool Hiero together as part of a comprehensive workflow for editorial and compositing. The Foundry says Nuke Studio will ship for Windows, Mac and Linux by the end of 2014. The Foundry
Best Look at the Future: Harmonic VOS Platform
Looking to leverage the move to IT-based infrastructure for video delivery, Harmonic unveiled its new VOS software platform at the show. The VOS platform is designed to bring costs down dramatically by performing encoding, graphics, and playout tasks for broadcast on generic computers, networks, and storage instead of specialized hardware. A key component is Harmonic's Pure Compression Engine software, which runs on Intel processors in a virtualized blade architecture and supports highly effecient HEVC compression in addition to MPEG-2 and MPEG-4/AVC encoding for SD, HD and Ultra HD. The first VOS-based product, Elextra XVM, combines graphics and branding, compression, and playout, allowing data center capacity to be scaled up and down on demand, depending on the horsepower required. That will allow Harmonic to implement flexible, time-based pricing models based on how much processing power is actually being used. Is this a preview of the future for broadcast and video post-production? "It's a trend, quite frankly, that we're betting our company on," said Harmonic's Krish Padmanabhan, senior VP for video products. Harmonic
Best Deal in Displays: HP Z27x and Z24x DreamColor Displays
The original HP DreamColor monitors are coveted in post-production, especially in VFX and animation, where color accuracy is critical. Well, HP's two new DreamColor monitors have better color and a lower price. Power users who need a very high quality image will probably opt for the $1,499 Z27x (2560×1440), which offers an integrated calibration engine and Ethernet connectivity for remote management, and which now covers 99 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut compared to 97 percent on the original model. However, many users—editors, especially—will probably be very happy with the $599 Z24x (1920×1200), which looks like a very good deal even though it only reaches 96 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut. Both monitors have 10-bit color and offer presets including Adobe RGB, BT.709, BT.2020, and DCI-P3. The more expensive display has some perks, like support for 4K input and native sync to 50 and 48 Hz sources (the Z24x is 60 Hz only), but the Z24x promises to be an exceptionally good value for users on a budget. HP
Densest Storage for 4K: LaCie 8big Rack
LaCie came to NAB making big claims for its 8big Rack — its website proclaims, "Fibre Channel DAS has been dethroned" — which offers incredibly dense rack-mounted storage for 4K video workflow. A single 8big unit can hold up to 48 TB of disk capacity and provide a screaming 1330 MB/sec of sustained data transfer, the company said. That makes it a formidable performer, especially for studios who are trying to build out a 4K pipeline without having storage take over the entire facility. Thunderbolt I/O is key to the system's scalability, since it means you could, in theory, daisy-chain six devices on each available Thunderbolt port on a computer for really big amounts of capacity and throughput. (New Mac Pro, we're looking at you.) LaCie
Smartest Idea in Batteries: PAG PAGLink
London company PAG's intelligent, stackable Lithium-Ion batteries have been around for a couple of years now, but they're just starting to attract attention in the U.S. You can stack two or three of them off the back of your camera, and they're hot-swappable so you can pop a dead battery off and replace it with a fresh one at any time. Individual batteries are 94Wh/10A, but when two or more batteries are linked you can get 188Wh/12A out of them. The battery closest to the camera acts as a kind of traffic cop, drawing power from one or more mounted batteries to meet demand. Even better, the new "3-Stud" version is compatible with the Gold Mount/Snap-On camera plate and Anton/Bauer Li-Ion chargers, making charging up multiple batteries an easier, intervention-free task. And PAG says the batteries are unrestricted for air travel — each one comes with documentation and an "Air Transport Safe" sticker indicating its UN certification for flight. Best of all? They're available right now. PAG
Little Low-Light Performer: Sony α7S
Hybrid still and video cameras continue to generate an enormous amount of buzz among shooters who value high-quality images in a small form factor. Sony's big NAB surprise announcement was the α7S, a new full-frame camera that outputs 4K UHD via HDMI for recording with the forthcoming Shogun 7-inch IPS-display monitor/recorder. The selling point of this camera is not just the 4K capability, but also the ability to record using Sony's XAVC S codec and especially its low-light capabilities. With an expandable ISO of up to 409600, should be quite capable of shooting in the near-dark. How capable? Just watch the demo video, above. But don't start planning that night shoot yet — pricing and availability are still to be determined. Sony

NAB Day Four: Grab Bag

I went to the show a little misty-eyed today knowing it will be another year before I can hang out with 100,000 professional video-nerd friends again. So, today I was mainly wandering around looking for interesting things I may have missed. I found a few.  
The one appointment I did have before wandering was with Atomos. It was tough to miss Atomos, as their advertising was all over the inside and outside the building. Their booth featured a near-naked model having her body painted with the Atomos logo, which people could practice recording to on one of the Atomos recording units. I actually found their recorders more enticing. New for NAB were the Shogun and Ninja Star. The Shogun records 4K to removable removable hard drives, SSDs,  or CFast drives with adapter. This recorder features a 7-inch touch screen with 1920×1200 resolution. What sets the Shogun and the other Atomos recorders apart from other recorders is that you can preview and even create a rough cut that you can export as a FCPX XML file. (It can be converted by a third-party program for imported to FCP or Premiere Pro.) MSRP is $1995.
On the other end of their product spectrum is the Ninja Star. This pocket-sized HD recorder does not have an LCD screen, but it can be attached to one. It is for acquiring the highest quality video where size and weight are an issue, such as on a drone. It also records only to CFast media, which is quite expensive at the moment, but in time they should come down. MSRP is $295. I hope to review one of the Atomos recorders in a few weeks.
I finally made it to the Sony booth, since Atomos was saying the Shogun works perfectly with the Sony α7S Mirrorless Digital Camera. The α7S can only record 1080p internally, but can put out a 4K signal over the HDMI to the Shogun. The footage looked excellent. Pricing has not been announced.
Ikan showed PD Movie, a 2.4 GHz wireless follow-focus system that is available in kits from $1599 to $2599. The only other one I saw at the show was from Schneider Optics, in the $25,000 range, so this is a huge cost savings if it does the job.
Matrox Video showed off the Monarch HD ($995), which allows the streaming and recording of HD programming without a computer. While you need a computer to do the initial settings, once they are set, you plug in and stream. (Many pro users will probably team this up with the Matrox MC-100 SDI-to-HDMI converter, which will get an HD- or 3G-SDI source into the Monarch's HDMI input.) You can record a higher bit-rate version of the program for editing on an SD card or via one of two USB ports that you can use with a hard drive or even a USB stick. I think being able to record on to readily available and easily transportable USB drives that many of us already have on our key rings is right up their with sliced bread.
Matrox also showed the VS4 ($1495), a card that can capture four HD-SDI streams to their MPEG-2 I-Frame codec or several others under the Quicktime wrapper. Using the VS4 control software, you can capture an unlimited number of sources by networking several VS4 systems.
Zaxwerks' Pro Animator has always been a favorite of graphics gurus making 3D openers for network programing. The new version being released has been overhauled to take full advantage of the GPU and CPU, allowing for real-time preview for the first time ever. This will show up in the Pro Animator After Effects plug-in at the end of April and in the standalone version at the end of May. The MSRP is $499 for standalone or plug-in versions.
Last but not least for me at this NAB was Digital Anarchy, which was showing Flicker Free ($149) even after the show was officially closed—possiby the last product demo of NAB 2014. The problem with flicker in footage can happen a lot with time-lapse and high-speed recording, as lighting may change between record intervals, or due to something electrical with lighting. Several years ago I used my 60 Hz video camera overseas, where the fluorescent lights were 50 Hz, causing a flicker in the video. There aren't any real settings. You just drop it on a clip and it detects and fixes the problem. This can help a lot of people.
Swag report: Three t-shirts today. Thank you, Zaxwerks, Digital Anarchy, and Rowbyte (I didn't know who they were, but they were sharing the booth with Digital Anarchy and wanted to take home one less shirt. Turns out they make some pretty cool motion graphics tools.) Coolest swag of the day? Zaxwerks pen/flashlight combo. A pen on one side, flashlight on the other. I also found my only tweaker of the show at Markertek. You can't have too many of those little screw drivers. 
Look for some in-depth reviews of some of the items I previewed at NAB 2014, right here at
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NAB 2014 Wrap-Up: 4K for Broadcasters

Without a doubt, the big buzzword at NAB 2014 was, once again, 4K.  While 4K (4096×2160 or higher) has been available to feature filmmakers and commercial productions for years, the broadcast industry has been relatively unaffected due to the lack of cameras and 4K consumer displays. But that has clearly changed.  As leading camera manufactures and consumer television sets adopt the UltraHD format (3840×2160), the broadcast equivalent of 4k, broadcasters are scrambling to prepare for a rapid migration.
However, the transition to UltraHD isn’t just about getting some new cameras and displays. Since UltraHD is actually four times the bandwidth of a 1920×1080 signal, broadcast facilities are quickly realizing that broadcasting UltraHD means upgrading their whole infrastructure, including cabling, routing and switching systems—unless they're lucky enough to have some future-proof equipment. On Monday, Ross introduced the latest software for its Carbonite live production switcher series, enabling 4K resolution as well as higher frame rates and progressive image processing for free.
“These updates make Carbonite the perfect tool for users who want to adopt the very latest full HD progressive standard and make sure their production system investment is protected for years to come,” said Nigel Spratling, Marketing Product Manager for Ross Video. “To upgrade to 3G, users simply download the free software. Once in 3G mode, Carbonite’s MiniMEs can be used for UHD (4K) production by turning on MultiScreen mode.”
Other companies showed their UltraHD solutions, including an impressive demo from Sony and Cisco, who used the Sony F55 camera system with Cisco’s Videoscape AnyRes platform to stream live UltraHD content on the show floor. The demo was shot live from a Time Warner studio in New York, where an F55 camera was shooting 4K. The 4K broadcast was encoded by a Cisco AnyRes Live encoder at 60 fps using HEVC and delivered over an IP network to the Las Vegas Convention Center. According to Sony, this represented the first live public broadcast of 4K content over a cable backbone.
We all remember the painful migration expenses and challenges associated with the upgrade from SD to HD. Clearly, 4K or UltraHD represents the evolution of that continuing challenge. This time around, it’s refreshing to see so many manufacturers not just creating products but focusing on the workflow to provide an end-to-end solution for consumers and content providers. The next few years are sure to be loaded with many glitches and gotchas, making life interesting for those of us on the bleeding edge.
But the reward, in the end, is in seeing our sweat and hard work displayed for the masses in incredibly pristine, 4K resolution, a moment for which I can hardly wait. Especially at the start of football season.
Nathan Adams is a freelance Post Supervisor and Production Technology Consultant in Los Angeles specializing in camera to archive workflows. Nathan is the owner of  Cinematomic, a popular post production company specializing in "facility free" post production for television, theatrical and web projects.
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NAB Day Three: Camera Support and Audio

Day three had me back in Central Hall, looking at products to complete a camera kit—including tripods, camera/audio bags, field monitors, lenses and a few other things.
While everyone is talking about 4K cinema cameras on one hand and POV/GoPro-type cameras on the other, it is easy to forget there is still a segment in between. Canon hasn't forgotten the videographer/newsgatherer. They introduced the XF200 and XF205. They both record to dual CF cards in a 50Mbs XF codec, and can also record a low-bit-rate proxy video to an SD card, four-channel audio, 20×1 lens, 1 million dot viewfinder, and infra-red recording. The 205 adds Ethernet and Wi-Fi and HD-SDI. The XF200 MSRP is $3900 and XF205 is $4400, but the street price is expected to be about $3499 and $3999.
While it was hard at times to ignore the spectacle of GoPro's very loud booth, there was another POV camera company in the hall called RePlayXD. Unlike GoPro's boxy plastic body, the RelayXD “Prime X” is a 3.8” tube made out of machined aluminum. It has a clear lens protector that can be replaced for $2 if damaged. (On a GoPro that would be very costly.) It is waterproof to 10 ft/3 meters out of the box without any special enclosure. It records 1080p at up to 60fps and 720p at 120fps. It comes with three different mounting options and a 4 GB miniSD card to get you started for $299.
This year one of my favorite equipment bag makers, Petrol, was swallowed up by Sachtler and isn't showing anything new. One of Petrol's designers went to the new Orca bag company. Orca’s bags have a number of distinctive features. All camera bags, backpacks, and audio mixer bags have aluminum frames, making them very crush resistant. Like some Petrol bags, all camera bags will have LED lights inside to help you in dark areas. The backpacks have a USB power tap on the shoulder strap, connected to a rechargeable battery in the pack. This allows you to charge or power a mobile phone or tablet if you can't recharge it in the field.
Anton Bauer introduced a new Digital Battery series and Performance Charger. The batteries have a new blue/gray color scheme and are optimized for today's digital camcorders and cinema cameras. The new charger is 40% more efficient, using less power. Sachtler introduced its own batteries, which are almost exactly the same except they are purple and gray and have the “V-mount” connector instead of Anton Bauer's AB stud mount.
Sachtler also added a line of accessories to the Ace tripods that includes a matte box, base plate and focus assist. The focus assist is unique in that you can set two hard focus points for a rack focus. By using this, the focus puller won't have to worry about overshooting the mark.
K-Tek, best known for boom poles and Nautilus mic mounts, introduced a new Stingray line of audio mixer bags, Stingray 1 and Stingray 2.The two bags accommodate popular-sized mixers and feature a crush-proof, modular design that helps keep all of the cables neat while allowing easy access to all components.
A newer lighting company called Lumos introduced the Hawk 150 LED Fresnel light. It puts out the equivalent of a 1000-watt tungsten light, but only uses 150 watts of power. It has no fan, for quiet operation, and built-in dimmer and focus control as well as DMX connectivity. I tested it by shining it on the dark ceiling of the convention hall that was about four stories up. The illumination from the Hawk 150 was bright and obvious.
Nexto DI showed the NSB-25. This unit features two removable hard drive/SSD caddies and a changeable flash media slot. It comes with P2 and SxS slots, but other slots can be purchased separately. It features a 7-inch display and an HDMI port that allows you to play back the transferred footage with sound. MSRP is expected around $3000.
Small HD was showing the new DP7-Pro series of three monitors. They are all 7-inch and mountable on cameras, with built-in waveform and vectorscopes, but what makes them really unique is that you can start your color grading process in the field, on the monitor. You save your LUTs to an SD card that allows you to transfer it to most color-grading systems.
Swag Report: Two t-shirts. Thank you, K-Tek and Blackmagic Design; I can put my laundry off a couple days. Coolest swag? Pocket screwdriver with four heads/flashlight/level from K-Tek. The “Holy @%#*^, I cant believe anyone would give away anything so useful as swag award” goes to Markertek. They gave away car cigarette-lighter-to-USB adapters for charging cell phones and tablets. I recently bought and use some of these!
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NAB Find: Wayin Broadcast Integrates Social Media into Broadcasts

Every NAB I try to discover at least one small company Introducing the next runaway success. This year, I discovered Wayin. Their product, Wayin Broadcast, is the most thorough, intuitive and efficient tool I've seen yet to manage social media feeds for production. 

Wayin Broadcast gives production companies a comprehensive tool to ingest and manipulate social media feeds and the associated metadata, then display posts, tweets, and/or related material as live production graphics.  Using a proprietary algorithmic filter, Wayin is able to retrieve relevant terms and hashtags organically surfacing from online social conversations, so users get a better picture of the whole discussion happening in the Twitter-verse.
Using this extensive pool of cloud based data, Wayin then creates impressive real time graphics for air using JSON, XML, RSS or by integrating directly into industry standard hardware graphics systems including VizRT, Chyron and Ross Xpression.
In an era where social media often directs the events on screen, Wayin seems to have created an intuitive tool to distill the truly relevant information down to digestible elements for broadcast graphics. I am excited to see a small company like Wayin really deliver such a huge product. And they did it right, by announcing their product and their first client simultaneously at the beginning of NAB: Wayin was the chosen partner to power social media interaction with the Weather Channel's Americas Morning HQ broadcast.
Wayin Broadcast can be seen in the Sprockits, AccuWeather and VizRT booths (as an integrated solution), as well as in their own booth in last row of the Lower South Hall.
Nathan Adams is a freelance Post Supervisor and Production Technology Consultant in Los Angeles specializing in camera to archive workflows. Nathan is the owner of  Cinematomic, a popular post production company specializing in "facility free" post production for television, theatrical and web projects.
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