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High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers
A How To Guide for Digital Filmmakers
Welcome all! This is my blog to share my latest research,
thoughts, etc. on utilizing HD for independent filmmaking.
YES, I am available for consulting
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Did you see that DV Magazine article * I wrote (cover story April '07) about uncompressed HD workstations?
Did you wish there was a simple way to get exactly that gear in one place, from one vendor, customizable, who could sell & support it all?
Meet the HD for Indies configurations over at Silverado Systems!
I've been buying my own gear for a couple of years from Torrey Loomis over at Silverado, and we've partnered up to offer the configs I wrote about in the article. They are:
System 1: for the truly starving indie type - the bare minimum to capture, edit, & monitor uncompressed HD.
System 2: for the moderately budgeted indie who wants a proper setup but doesn't have tons of cash.
System 3: for the well heeled solo operator that needs bulletproof reliability, or perhaps for a small single room facility.
System 4: Probably (I hope) of most interest to a lot of readers - my Best Bang For The Buck recommendation on a system to do feature length uncompressed HD editing & finishing (up to 1080p RGB 4:4:4) on a budget.
They are all accessible from this page on Silverado Systems' website.
The configs are a little different than what I wrote about in the article, I've tweaked & improved since I originally wrote it.
I've been formally & informally recommending systems to clients, employers and friends for about 15 years or so. For a brief time during the desktop publishing revolution, I was a VAR (value added reseller) myself, but I don't do that any more as that isn't where my interests and passions are.
But in the meantime, I've been recommending system configurations for HD editing for a few years now, and it usually boils down to me recommending a list of gear. Then the client asks where should they get it, and I say say try this that or the other vendor, and inevitably the client comes back to say that they can't get all my recommended gear in one place from one vendor. All too often it seems there's always a substitution or two, or a vendor recommended substitution or upgrade is of dubious value, or more likely a component or three that simply isn't available from that vendor. Which means if there's trouble, it is all the more likely that there will be finger pointing between Vendor A & Vendor B and much gnashing of teeth will ensue. And nobody wants that.
So I decided that the only way to get simple, turnkey, one click, gimme-that-one-right-there simplicity was going to be to partner with a VAR and give them the mandate that they'd need to provide exactly the spec I recommend without substitutions, and ALSO offer the upgrades that I wanted to provide, in the order that I recommended them. And after a LOT of work from both sides, that's what Silverado and I have worked out.
If you go to, for instance, the Indie Bang for Buck system, you'll see a list of gear and options. All of the upgrade options are ONLY those that I recommend - I've deleted a lot of what I consider bogus upgrades. The upgrades that ARE offered are also in the order that I recommend them - so while a 17" JVC HD CRT is the recommended monitoring choice, there's also a 24" professional LCD listed, as well as both, or a "step down" option of the JVC CRT and an HDLink/Apple 23" LCD option listed as well. I recommend a 2nd internal drive, but if you want to remove that you can. Or if you want to step down from the default 8GB config to 4GB of RAM, that's possible as well if it makes sense for your setup.
If any of this doesn't make sense, just scroll down the Silverado page for the config you're considering and each of the optional categories is explained in depth, with recommended options for different usage scenarios, when it is worth getting those, etc.
So you're getting the benefit of my latest and best advice, as well as turnkey solution from a known & trusted vendor. I was buying my own gear from Torrey at Silverado for two years before we set this up, hopefully that carries some weight with you folks.
What do I get out of this? Yes, I do get a cut out of the deal, which is why I've spent many days and late nights getting all this set up, but it comes out of Silverado's end - you're not paying any more than if you approached them with this parts list on your own.
Over time, I'll be putting up other configurations for other usage scenarios, and I'll be announcing them here. The options listed here will work for most folks for most scenarios, but as always, if you'd like a fully customized solution to your particular project's unique challenges, I'm available for consulting.
Personally, I'm really excited to offer this service, I think it makes for a good marriage of good advice, a trustworthy single source vendor, and solid gear that can get the job done - at an entirely reasonable price - that should make everybody happy.
And yes, this is that bigger deal I was mentioning several days ago about buying a new Mac editing setup. But I also still have at least one more announcement to go...
* For the record, DV Magazine is not involved in this deal, nor do they officially endorse, recommend, or have any role in this in any way shape or form. I'd just received a lot of requests about where to buy such a config, and folks were having difficulty getting all those exact parts in one place, so this just seemed like a good idea.
There's still at least one pricing glitch on an option we're chasing down, but it is up and rolling and ready to go!
Until then...SD ALL THE WAY, BABY
I'm a MacBook/DVX100B user. I make video art for art venues that won't have HD for a while--it really pays to be behind the times.
Can i suggest something? could you find another partner in Europe? Maybe in some country like germany or spain with low VAT. I would really digg into this idea, but i can't buy directly from US, without payng bogus of taxes.
Anyway good job, keep them updated and i think people will love it :)
This is (almost exactly) the other foot I was waitin' for to fall on the heels of the Amazon announcement! Dynamite. Good move.
The are a lot of indies (my guess is 40-50%) running Windows systems for post and basically no source of expertise.
While a good amount of info, especially cameras is useful here, this is still really "Mac HD" for Indies as non-Mac users don't get much useful post information since FCP is the only NLE and post-workflow discussed.
While I do spend most of my NLE time on FCP, I do touch on others from time to time, and hope to do so more in the future - I now have Media Composer and want to dig into that, for instance.
As for not what you expected - I'd look at your own comment - it isn't what you hoped for. I don't think I gave any indication that this would be a PC centric announcement, or at least I don't think that is a linear extraction from what I posted.
One thing I noticed about the system recs is the lack of audio monitoring equipment. Is there a reason for this?
Just two thoughts (and I know there is more coming) but you may want to add an Option Zero for College Kids and High School students.
Then maybe a lap top travelers option for those of us that have to work on the fly in weird locations.
Definitely more configs scheduled to follow, we're just launching with these.
1.) Yes, you can set up 3 extra internal drives as a RAID, BUT....
2.) This would be a three drive RAID 0, NOT a RAID 3
3.) There is no software RAID 3 solution for internal drives
4.) Even as a three drive RAID 0, it would not be a sufficient solution for uncompressed HD. Between the highly variable data rates of uncompressed HD (anywhere from 45 to 240 MB/sec depending on frame size, frame rate, bit depth & color sampling), and the performance falloff of a RAID in general (drives are slower writing to inner tracks as they fill up), this wouldn't be a good solution as a general purpose uncompressed HD storage setup. If your data rate needs were for, say 720p24 8 or 10 bit 4:2:2, it MIGHT suffice, but I haven't chugged the math on such a setup yet.
Congrats, Mike - and best wishes on your new venture!
That might not be complicated enough to warrant a custom package, though... but it sure would be sweet to put all that in your shopping cart.
I wouldn't recommend an uncompressed worflow to a "truly starving" indy . And Pro Res 422 should give more reason to rethink the hardware requirements that come with uncompressed.
Also, I got an LTO-3 tape backup system (BRU) that I now can't imagine living without. I know that this may be considerred to be more of a server componant than part of the editing systen equation... but I feel these rigs need an immediate disclamer that backup is not addressed. It otherwise can give a skewed number for indies putting together a budget.
The are a lot of indies (my guess is 40-50%) running Windows systems for post and basically no source of expertise.
Apple has some advantage with the smaller configs available as well as the fact that they've been supporting a lot of HD codecs for years "out-of-the-box" with Quicktime et al. It's not perfect but you can do basic HD with iMovie - which gets pretty indie if you ask me.
So realistically it would take Mike or anyone else a lot more time to do Windows support given the larger hardware options available.
Of course a lot of things cross over now, plus Macs can run Windows too, but it's still a whole lot more to consider when coming up with configs like this.
And Mike, these announcements are a good thing - really no different than what you have always been doing with the site, just more targeted and organized (and financially supportive of you).
The lack of backup is specifically addressed in the RAID 0 configs.
I agree that FCP 6's ProRes may change the game for starving indies, but it isn't out yet and I haven't tested it yet and, again, it isn't something that can be used today.
Once it is out and available I'll be promptly evaluating it for these kinds of usages and will be adjusting configs based on my findings.
For now, these configs work with the version shipping TODAY. And while Apple said it'd ship in "about a month" - EVERYBODY says something like that, and it typically takes longer. We'll just have to wait and see.
Second, if all HD you are going to use is HDV / DVCPRO HD (today) or RED (maybe in a year), then why have an HD I/O card at all. I thought you could plug the REDsomething disk into your Mac via Firewire, pull the files over to your RAID and then edit them.
Where did my train of thought leave the tracks?
JAN - because any TV set won't be color accurate at all, broadcast CRTs were picked to at least have a common standard to color to. Otherwise anyone could make anything and say it is right, your TV is wrong. All consumer TVs "stray" from where they "should" be, but they hopefully center around a given target -a calibrated one.
LCDs at present all (that I have seen) have elevated black levels, making it difficult to do accurate work in deep shadow - is it black or mostly black? The LCD probably can't display the difference.
A broadcast CRT also displays an interlaced image which a computer display does not, plus issues of brightness, contrast, gamma, white point, etc. that can only be partially addressed by screen sucker calibration. Look at an image on computer vs. calibrated video display and you'll instantly see why. (Color space & gamut is another reason.)
As for HD I/O - these systems were being touted as general purposed uncompressed HD capable systems - that was the purpose of the article. If you are doing formats that allow for FireWire/IT based ingest and don't need to master via HD-SDI, then you're right, they aren't necessary. But you still need a monitoring solution, and that puts you back into a card of some sort.
System configurations for HDV/DVCPRO/etc.? In time....this is just the first round of systems I'm offering, based on all the research I did for the DV Magazine article.
Just Round One.
Also - what made you choose the macguru over the sonnet? Price? Warranty/Reliability?
MacGuru vs Sonnet - Sonnet only offers enclosures, not enclosures with drives. Easier. Same price. Sonnet does look nicer though, IMHO.
Do you plan to add the Intensity Pro as an option? Since it has component I/O, would that suffice for accurate colour monitoring with a broadcast CRT?
The most painful purchase I made was buying an HD monitor (19" JVC $2800, ouch) . It deffinitely has come in handy from time to time (and we haven't even gone online yet), but I'm not convinced it was worth it. For less $$ I could have gotten a HUGE fancy rear-project HDTV and callobrated that as much as I could. While it is not official broadcast color, you also have to condider the plus of being able to see something on a big screen. When it is big, you see things you may not on a tiny monitor, you are closer to the experience of a festival/living room. My question is: how far off is an expensive tv like the one Mike got? If its real close, why not use that? It would be cool to see a lab test of various consumer tv's on the market to see how they really compare to broadcast monitors.
1.) How to calibrate that big sucker - no blue gun only mode
2.) standardized image - if it looks good on that, what if your white point is different? Throws it off.
3.) Crushed blacks etc.
4.) best of both worlds - HDLink/Apple 23 for pixel level detail (or a big screen) as well as the CRT.
Perhaps you are right - "expected
vs. "hoped". Perhaps I was reading too much between the lines, but I though the announcements were geared about broadening the appeal of the site which would give you a wider financial base - thus my "hope" or "expectation" of broader app/platform support.
While it is certainly not aimed at the "budget" setup in any capacity, Sony showed an engineering prototype of an LCD Luma monitor at NAB that could "correctly" display interlacing. They didn't have the best footage chosen to demonstrate visible fields. I would have preferred to see a white line moving over black to see the fields or something like this, but their engineers assured me that you will be able to accurately see fields displayed.
The speculated pricing on the display is around $20,000. Basically in line with their high-end BVM-series CRT pricing.
Did you see the setup Sony had in a darkened room with two crt and one of the new lcd displays. I actually thought it was pretty easy to pick out the lcd display, but maybe the type of footage made this easier.
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