Tag Archives: NAB 2019

NAB 2019: Storage for M&E workflows

By Tom Coughlin

Storage is a vital element in modern post production, since that’s where the video content lives. Let’s look at trends in media post production storage and products shown at the 2019 NAB show. First let’s look at general post production storage architectures and storage trends.

My company produces the yearly “Digital Storage in Media and Entertainment Report,” so we are keeping an eye on storage all year round. The image to the right is a schematic from our 2018 report — it’s a nonlinear editing station showing  optional connections to shared online (or realtime) storage via a SAN or NAS (or even a cloud-based object storage system) and a host bus adapter (HBA or xGbE card). I hope this gives you some good background for what’s to come.

Our 2018 report also includes data from our annual Digital Storage in Media and Entertainment Professional Survey. The report shows that storage capacity annual demand is expected to be over 110 Exabytes of storage by 2023. In 2018 48% of responding survey participants said that they used cloud-based storage for editing and post production. And 56% also said that they have 1TB or more storage capacity in the cloud. In 2018, Internet distribution was the most popular way to view proxies.

All of this proves that M&E pros will continue to use multiple types of digital storage to enable their workflows, with significant growth in the use of cloud storage for collaborative and field projects. With that in mind, let’s dig into some of the storage offerings that were on display at NAB 2019.

Workflow Storage
Dell Technologies said that significant developments in its work with VMware unlock the value of virtualization for applications and tools to automate many critical M&E workflows and operations. Dell EMC and VMware said that they are about to unveil the recipe book for making virtualization a reality for the M&E industry.

Qumulo announced an expansion of its cloud-native file storage offerings. The company introduced two new products —CloudStudio and CloudContinuity — as well as support for Qumulo’s cloud-native, distributed hybrid file system on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Qumulo has partnered with Google to support Qumulo’s hybrid cloud file system on GCP and on the Google Cloud Platform Marketplace. Enterprises will be able to take advantage of the elastic compute resources, operational agility, and advanced services that Google’s public cloud offers. With the addition of the Google Cloud Platform, Qumulo is able to provide multi-cloud platform support, making it easy for users to store, manage and access their data, workloads and applications in both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and GCP. Qumulo also enables data replication between clouds for migration or multi-copy requirements.

M&E companies of any size can scale production into the public cloud with CloudStudio, which securely moves traditionally on-prem workspaces, including desktops, applications and data, to the public cloud on both the AWS and GCP platforms. Qumulo’s file storage software is the same whether on-prem or in the cloud, making the transition seamless and easy and eliminating the need to reconfigure applications or retrain users.

CloudContinuity enables users to automatically replicate their data from an on-prem Qumulo cluster to a Qumulo instance running in the cloud. Should a primary on-prem storage system experience a catastrophic failure, customers can redirect users and applications to the Qumulo cloud, where they will have access to all of their data immediately. CloudContinuity also enables quick, automated fail-back to an on-prem cluster in disaster recovery scenarios.

Quantum announced its VS-Series, designed for surveillance and industrial IoT applications. The VS-Series is available in a broad range of server choices, suitable for deployments with fewer than 10 cameras up to the largest environments with thousands of cameras. Using the VS-Series, security pros can efficiently record and store surveillance footage and run an entire security infrastructure on a single platform.

Quantum’s VS-Series architecture is based on the Quantum Cloud Storage Platform (CSP), a new software-defined storage platform specifically designed for storing machine and sensor-generated data. Like storage technologies used in the cloud, the Quantum CSP is software-defined and can be deployed on bare metal, as a virtual machine, or as part of a hyperconverged infrastructure.Unlike other software-defined storage technologies, the Quantum CSP was designed specifically for video and other forms of high-resolution content — engineered for extremely low latency, maximizing the streaming performance of large files to storage.

The Quantum Cloud Storage Platform allows high-speed video recording with optimal camera density and can host and run certified VMS management applications, recording servers and other building control servers on a single platform.

Quantum say that the VS-Series product line is being offered in a variety of deployment options, including software-only, mini-tower and 1U, 2U and 4U hyperconverged servers.

Key VS-Series attributes:
– Supports high camera density and software architecture that enables users to run their entire security infrastructure on a single hyperconverged platform.
– Offers a software-defined platform with the broadest range of deployment options. Many appliances can scale out for more cameras or scale up for increased retention.
– Comes pre-installed with certified VMS applications and can be installed and configured in minutes.
– Offers a fault-tolerant design to minimize hardware and software issues, which is meant to virtually eliminate downtime

Quantum was also showing its R-3000 at NAB. This box was designed for in-vehicle data capture for developing driver assistance and autonomous driving systems. This NAS box includes storage modules of 60TB with HDDs and 23TB or 46TB using SSDs. It works off 12 volt power and features two 10 GbE ports.

Arrow Distribution bundled NetApp storage appliances with Axle AI software. The three solutions offered are the VM100, VM200 and VM400 with 100TB, 200TB and 400TB, respectively, with 10GbE network interfaces and NetApp’s FAS architecture. Each configuration also includes an Intel-based application server running a five-user version of Axle AI 2019. The software includes a browser front-end that allows multiple users to tag, catalog and search their media files, as well as a range of AI-driven options for automatically cataloging and discovering specific visual and audio attributes within those files.

Avid Nexis|Cloudspaces

Avid Nexis|Cloudspaces is a storage as a service (SaaS) offering for post, news and sports teams, enabling them to store and park media and projects not currently in production in the cloud, leveraging Microsoft Azure. This frees up local Nexis storage space for production work. The company is offering all Avid Nexis users a limited-time free offer of 2TB of Microsoft Azure storage that is auto-provisioned for easy setup and can scale as needed. Avid Nexis manages these Cloudspaces alongside local workspaces, allowing unified content management.

DDP was showing a rack with hybrid SSD/HDD storage that the company says provides 24/7 365 days of reliable operation with zero interruptions and a transparent failover setup. DDP has redesigned its GUI to provide faster operation and easier use.

Facilis displayed its new Hub shared storage line developed specifically for media production workflows. Built as an entirely new platform, Facilis Hub represents the evolution of the Facilis shared file system with the block-level virtualization and multi-connectivity performance required in shared creative environments. This solution offers both block-mode Fibre Channel and Ethernet connectivity simultaneously, allowing connection through either method with the same permissions, user accounts and desktop appearance.

Facilis’ Object Cloud is an integrated disk-caching system for cloud and LTO backup and archive that includes up to 100TB of cloud storage for one low yearly cost. A native Facilis virtual volume can display cloud, tape and spinning disk data in the same directory structure, on the client desktop. Every Facilis Hub shared storage server comes with unlimited seats of the Facilis FastTracker asset tracking application. The Object Cloud software and storage package is available for most Facilis servers running version 7.2 or higher.

Facilis also had particular product updates. The Facilis 8 has 1GB/s data rates through standard dual-port 10GbE and options for 40GbE and Fibre Channel connectivity with 32TB, 48TB and 64TB capacities. The Facilis Hub 16 model offers 2GB/s speed with 16 HDDs with 64TB, 96TB and 128TB capacities. The company’s Hub Hybrid 16 model and SSD offers SSDs in an integrated high-capacity HDD-based storage system offering performance of 3GB/s and 4GB/s. With two or more Hub 16 or Hub 32 servers attached through 32Gb Fibre Channel controllers, Facilis Hub One configurations can be fully redundant, with multi-server bandwidth aggregated into a single point of network connectivity. The Hub One starts at 128GB and scales to 1PB.

Pixit Media announced the launch of PixStor 5, the latest version of its leading scale-out data-driven storage platform. According to the company, “PixStor 5 is an enterprise-class scale-out NAS platform delivering guaranteed 99% performance for all types of workflow and a single global namespace across multiple storage tiers — from on-prem for the cloud.”

New PixStor 5 highlights include:

PixStor 5

– Secure container services – This new feature offers multi-tenancy from a single storage fabric. PixStor 5 enables creative studios to deploy secure media environments without crippling productivity and creativity and aligns with TPN security accreditation standards to attract A-list clients.
– Cloud workflow flexibility — PixStor 5 expands your workflows cost-effectively into the cloud with fully automated seamless deployment to cloud marketplaces, enabling hybrid workflows for burst render and cloud-first workflows for global collaboration. PixStor 5 will soon be available in the Google Cloud Platform Marketplace, followed shortly by AWS and Azure.
– Enhanced search capabilities — Using machine learning and artificial intelligence cloud-based tools to drive powerful media indexing and search capabilities, users can perform fast, easy and accurate content searches across their entire global namespace.
– Deep granular analytics – With single-pane-of-glass management and user-friendly dashboards, PixStor 5 allows a holistic view of the entire filesystem and delivers business-relevant metrics to reinforce storage strategies.

GB Labs launched new software, features and updates to its FastNAS and Space, Echo and Vault ranges at NAB. The Space, Echo and Vault ranges got intelligent new software features, including the Mosaic asset organizer and the latest Analytics Center, along with brand-new Core.4 and Core.4 Lite software. The new Core software is also now included in the FastNAS product range.

GB Labs

Mosaic software, which already features on the FastNAS, range, could be compared to a MAM.  It is an asset organizer that can automatically scour all in-built metadata and integrate with AI tagging systems to give users the power to find what they’re looking for without having to manually enter any metadata.

Analytics Center will give users the visibility into their network so that they can see how they’re using their data, giving them a better understanding of individual or system-wide use, with suggestions on how to optimize their systems much more quickly and at a lower cost.

The new Core.4 software for both ranges builds on GB Labs’ current Core.3 OS offering a high-performance custom OS that is specifically used to serve media files. It allows a stable performance for every user and the best from the least amount of disk, which saves power.

EditShare’s flagship EditShare EFS scale-out storage enterprise scale-out storage solution was on display. It was developed for large-scale media organizations and supports hundreds of users simultaneously, with embedded tools for sharing media and collaborating across departments, across sites and around the world.

EditShare was showcasing advancements in its EFS File Auditing technology, the industry’s only realtime auditing platform designed to manage, monitor and secure your media from inception to delivery. EFS File Auditing keeps track of all digital assets and captures every digital footprint that a file takes throughout its life cycle, including copying, modifying and deleting of any content within a project.

Storbyte introduced its eco-friendly SBJ-496 at the 2019 NAB show. According to the company, this product is a new design in high-capacity disk systems for long-term management of digital media content with enterprise-class availability and data services. Ideal for large archive libraries, the SBJ-496 requires little to no electricity to maintain data, and its environmentally friendly green design allows unrestricted air flow, generates minimal heat and saves on cooling expenses.

Echo Flash

The new EcoFlash SBS-448, for digital content creation and streaming, is an efficient solid-state storage array that can deliver over 20GB of data per second. EcoFlash SBS-448 consumes less than half the electrical power and produces a lot less heat. Its patented design extends its lifespan significantly, resulting in a total operating cost per terabyte that is 300-500% lower.

NGD Systems was showing its computational storage product with several system partners at NAB, including at the Echostreams booth for its 1U platforms. NGD said that its M.2 and upcoming EDSFF form factors can be used in dense and performance-optimized solutions within the EchoStreams 1U server and canister system. In addition to providing data analytics and realtime analysis capture, the combination of NGD Systems products and EchoStreams 1U platforms allow for deployment at the extreme edge for use in onsite video acquisition and post processing at the edge.

OpenDrives was showcasing its Atlas software platform and product family of shared storage solutions. Its NAB demo was built on a single Summit system, including the OmniDrive media accelerator, powered by NVMe, to significantly boosts editorial, transcoding, color grading and visual effects shared workflows. OpenDrives is moving to a 2U form factor in its manufacturing, streamlining systems without sacrificing performance.

iX Systems said that their TrueNAS enterprise storage appliances deliver a perfect range of features and scalability for next-gen M&E workflows. AIC had an exhibit showing several enterprise storage systems, including some with NGD Systems computational storage SSDs. Promise Technology said that its VTrak NAS has been optimized for video application environments. Sony was offering PCIe SSD data storage servers. Other companies showing workflow storage products included Asustor, elements, PAC Storage and Rocstor.

Conclusions
The media and entertainment industry has unique requirements for storage to support modern digital workflows. A number of large and small companies have come up with a variety of local and cloud-based approaches to provide storage for post production applications. The NAB show is one of the world’s largest forums for such products and a great place to learn about what the digital storage and memory industry has to offer media and entertainment professionals.


Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates, is a digital storage analyst and business/technology consultant. He is active with SMPTE, SNIA, the IEEE — he is president of IEEE-USA and active in the CES, where he is chairman of the Future Directions Committee) and other pro organizations. 

NAB 2019: postPerspective Impact Award winners

postPerspective has announced the winners of our Impact Awards from NAB 2019. Seeking to recognize debut products with real-world applications, the postPerspective Impact Awards are voted on by an anonymous judging body made up of respected industry artists and pros (to whom we are very grateful). It’s working pros who are going to be using these new tools — so we let them make the call.

It was fun watching the user ballots come in and discovering which products most impressed our panel of post and production pros. There are no entrance fees for our awards. All that is needed is the ability to impress our voters with products that have the potential to make their workdays easier and their turnarounds faster.

We are grateful for our panel of judges, which grew even larger this year. NAB is exhausting for all, so their willingness to share their product picks and takeaways from the show isn’t taken for granted. These men and women truly care about our industry and sharing information that helps their fellow pros succeed.

To be successful, you can’t operate in a vacuum. We have found that companies who listen to their users, and make changes/additions accordingly, are the ones who get the respect and business of working pros. They aren’t providing tools they think are needed; they are actively asking for feedback. So, congratulations to our winners and keep listening to what your users are telling you — good or bad — because it makes a difference.

The Impact Award winners from NAB 2019 are:

• Adobe for Creative Cloud and After Effects
• Arraiy for DeepTrack with The Future Group’s Pixotope
• ARRI for the Alexa Mini LF
• Avid for Media Composer
• Blackmagic Design for DaVinci Resolve 16
• Frame.io
• HP for the Z6/Z8 workstations
• OpenDrives for Apex, Summit, Ridgeview and Atlas

(All winning products reflect the latest version of the product, as shown at NAB.)

Our judges also provided quotes on specific projects and trends that they expect will have an impact on their workflows.

Said one, “I was struck by the predicted impact of 5G. Verizon is planning to have 5G in 30 cities by end of year. The improved performance could reach 20x speeds. This will enable more leverage using cloud technology.

“Also, AI/ML is said to be the single most transformative technology in our lifetime. Impact will be felt across the board, from personal assistants, medical technology, eliminating repetitive tasks, etc. We already employ AI technology in our post production workflow, which has saved tens of thousands of dollars in the last six months alone.”

Another echoed those thoughts on AI and the cloud as well: “AI is growing up faster than anyone can reasonably productize. It will likely be able to do more than first thought. Post in the cloud may actually start to take hold this year.”

We hope that postPerspective’s Impact Awards give those who weren’t at the show, or who were unable to see it all, a starting point for their research into new gear that might be right for their workflows. Another way to catch up? Watch our extensive video coverage of NAB.

Cobalt Digital’s card-based solution for 4K/HDR conversions

Cobalt Digital was at NAB showing with card-based solutions for openGear frames for 4K and HDR workflows. Cobalt’s 9904-UDX-4K up/down/cross converter and image processor offers an economical SDR-to-HDR and HDR-to-SDR conversion for 4K.

John Stevens, director of engineering at Burbank post house The Foundation, calls it “a swiss army knife” for a post facility.

The 9904-UDX-4K upconverts 12G/6G/3G/HD/SD to either UHD1 3840×2160 square division multiplex (SDM) or two-sample interleave (2SI) quad 3G-SDI-based formats, or it can output SMPTE ST 2082 12G-SDI for single-wire 4K transport. With both 12G-SDI and quad 3G-SDI inputs, the 9904-UDX-4K can downconvert 12G and quad UHD. The 9904-UDX-4K provides an HDMI 2.0 output for economical 4K video monitoring and offers numerous options, including SDR-to-HDR conversion and color correction.

The 9904-UDX-4K-IP model offers the same functionality as the 9904-UDX-4K SDI-based model, plus it also provides dual 10GigE ports to support for the emerging uncompressed video/audio/data over IP standards.

The 9904-UDX-4K-DSP model provides the same functionality as the 9904-UDX-4K model, and additionally also offers a DSP-based platform that supports multiple audio DSP options, including Dolby realtime loudness leveling (automatic loudness processing), Dolby E/D/D+ encode/decode and Linear Acoustic Upmax automatic upmixing. Embedded audio and metadata are properly delayed and re-embedded to match any video processing delay, with full adjustment available for audio/video offset.

The product’s high-density openGear design allows for up to five 9904-UDX-4K cards to be installed in one 2RU openGear frame. Card control/monitoring is available via the DashBoard user interface, integrated HTML5 web interface, SNMP or Cobalt’s RESTful-based Reflex protocol.

“I have been looking for a de-embedder that will work with SMPTE ST-2048 raster sizes — specifically 2048×1080 and 4096×2160,” explains Stevens. “The reason this is important is Netflix deliverables require these rasters. We use all embedded audio and I need to de-embed for monitoring. The same Cobalt Digital card will take almost every SDI input from quad link to 12G and output HDMI. There are other converters that will do some of the same things, but I haven’t seen anything that does what this product does.”

NAB 2019: An engineer’s perspective

By John Ferder

Last week I attended my 22nd NAB, and I’ve got the Ross lapel pin to prove it! This was a unique NAB for me. I attended my first 20 NABs with my former employer, and most of those had me setting up the booth visits for the entire contingent of my co-workers and making sure that the vendors knew we were at each booth and were ready to go. Thursday was my “free day” to go wandering and looking at the equipment, cables, connectors, test gear, etc., that I was looking for.

This year, I’m part of a new project, so I went with a shopping list and a rough schedule with the vendors we needed to see. While I didn’t get everywhere I wanted to go, the three days were very full and very rewarding.

Beck Video IP panel

Sessions and Panels
I also got the opportunity to attend the technical sessions on Saturday and Sunday. I spent my time at the BEITC in the North Hall and the SMPTE Future of Cinema Conference in the South Hall. Beck TV gave an interesting presentation on constructing IP-based facilities of the future. While SMPTE ST2110 has been completed and issued, there are still implementation issues, as NMOS is still being developed. Today’s systems are and will for the time being be hybrid facilities. The decision to be made is whether the facility will be built on an IP routing switcher core with gateways to SDI, or on an SDI routing switcher core with gateways to IP.

Although more expensive, building around an IP core would be more efficient and future-proof. Fiber infrastructure design, test equipment and finding engineers who are proficient in both IP and broadcast (the “Purple Squirrels”) are large challenges as well.

A lot of attention was also paid to cloud production and distribution, both in the BEITC and the FoCC. One such presentation, at the FoCC, was on VFX in the cloud with an eye toward the development of 5G. Nathaniel Bonini of BeBop Technology reported that BeBop has a new virtual studio partnership with Avid, and that the cloud allows tasks to be performed in a “massively parallel” way. He expects that 5G mobile technology will facilitate virtualization of the network.

VFX in the Cloud panel

Ralf Schaefer, of the Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz Institute, expressed his belief that all devices will be attached to the cloud via 5G, resulting in no cables and no mobile storage media. 5G for AR/VR distribution will render the scene in the network and transmit it directly to the viewer. Denise Muyco of StratusCore provided a link to a virtual workplace: https://bit.ly/2RW2Vxz. She felt that 5G would assist in the speed of the collaboration process between artist and client, making it nearly “friction-free.” While there are always security concerns, 5G would also help the prosumer creators to provide more content.

Chris Healer of The Molecule stated that 5G should help to compress VFX and production workflows, enable cloud computing to work better and perhaps provide realtime feedback for more perfect scene shots, showing line composites of VR renders to production crews in remote locations.

The Floor
I was very impressed with a number of manufacturers this year. Ross Video demonstrated new capabilities of Inception and OverDrive. Ross also showed its new Furio SkyDolly three-wheel rail camera system. In addition, 12G single-link capability was announced for Acuity, Ultrix and other products.

ARRI AMIRA (Photo by Cotch Diaz)

ARRI showed a cinematic multicam system built using the AMIRA camera with a DTS FCA fiber camera adapter back and a base station controllable by Sony RCP1500 or Skaarhoj RCP. The Sony panel will make broadcast-centric people comfortable, but I was very impressed with the versatility of the Skaarhoj RCP. The system is available using either EF, PL, or B4 mount lenses.

During the show, I learned from one of the manufacturers that one of my favorite OLED evaluation monitors is going to be discontinued. This was bad news for the new project I’ve embarked on. Then we came across the Plura booth in the North Hall. Plura as showing a new OLED monitor, the PRM-224-3G. It is a 24.5-inch diagonal OLED, featuring two 3G/HD/SD-SDI and three analog inputs, built-in waveform monitors and vectorscopes, LKFS audio measurement, PQ and HLG, 10-bit color depth, 608/708 closed caption monitoring, and more for a very attractive price.

Sony showed the new HDC-3100/3500 3xCMOS HD cameras with global shutter. These have an upgrade program to UHD/HDR with and optional processor board and signal format software, and a 12G-SDI extension kit as well. There is an optional single-mode fiber connector kit to extend the maximum distance between camera and CCU to 10 kilometers. The CCUs work with the established 1000/1500 series of remote control panels and master setup units.

Sony’s HDC-3100/3500 3xCMOS HD camera

Canon showed its new line of 4K UHD lenses. One of my favorite lenses has been the HJ14ex4.3B HD wide-angle portable lens, which I have installed in many of the studios I’ve worked in. They showed the CJ14ex4.3B at NAB, and I even more impressed with it. The 96.3-degree horizontal angle of view is stunning, and the minimization of chromatic aberration is carried over and perhaps improved from the HJ version. It features correction data that support the BT.2020 wide color gamut. It works with the existing zoom and focus demand controllers for earlier lenses, so it’s  easily integrated into existing facilities.

Foot Traffic
The official total of registered attendees was 91,460, down from 92,912 in 2018. The Evertz booth was actually easy to walk through at 10a.m. on Monday, which I found surprising given the breadth of new interesting products and technologies. Evertz had to show this year. The South Hall had the big crowds, but Wednesday seemed emptier than usual, almost like a Thursday.

The NAB announced that next year’s exhibition will begin on Sunday and end on Wednesday. That change might boost overall attendance, but I wonder how adversely it will affect the attendance at the conference sessions themselves.

I still enjoy attending NAB every year, seeing the new technologies and meeting with colleagues and former co-workers and clients. I hope that next year’s NAB will be even better than this year’s.

Main Image: Barbie Leung.


John Ferder is the principal engineer at John Ferder Engineer, currently Secretary/Treasurer of SMPTE, an SMPTE Fellow, and a member of IEEE. Contact him at john@johnferderengineer.com.

NAB 2019: A cinematographer’s perspective

By Barbie Leung

As an emerging cinematographer, I always wanted to attend an NAB show, and this year I had my chance. I found that no amount of research can prepare you for the sheer size of the show floor, not to mention the backrooms, panels and after-hours parties. As a camera operator as well as a cinematographer who is invested in the post production and exhibition end of the spectrum, I found it absolutely impossible to see everything I wanted to or catch up with all the colleagues and vendors I wanted to. This show is a massive and draining ride.

Panasonic EV1

There was a lot of buzz in the ether about 5G technology. Fast and accurate, the consensus seems to be that 5G will be the tipping point in implementing a lot of the tech that’s been talked about for years but hasn’t quite taken off yet, including the feasibility of autonomous vehicles and 8K streaming stateside.

It’s hard to deny the arrival of 8K technology while staring at the detail and textures on an 80-inch Sharp 8K professional display. Every roof tile, every wave in the ocean is rendered in rich, stunning detail.

In response to the resolution race, on the image capture end of things, Arri had already announced and started taking orders for the Alexa Mini LF — its long-awaited entry into the large format game — in the week before NAB.

Predictably, at NAB we saw many lens manufacturers highlighting full-frame coverage. Canon introduced its Sumire Prime lenses, while Fujinon announced the Premista 28-100mm T2.9 full-format zoom.

Sumire Prime lenses

Camera folks, including many ASC members, are embracing large format capture for sure, but some insist the appeal lies not so much in the increased resolution, but rather in the depth and overall image quality.

Meanwhile, back in 35mm sensor land, Panasonic continues its energetic push of the EVA1 camera. Aside from presentations at their booth emphasizing “cinematic” images from this compact 5.7K camera, they’ve done a subtle but not-to-subtle job of disseminating the EVA1 throughout the trade show floor. If you’re at the Atomos booth, you’ll find director/cinematographers like Elle Schneider presenting work shot with Atomos with the EVA1 balanced on a Ronin-S, and if you stop by Tiffen you’ll find an EVA1 being flown next to the Alexa Mini.

I found a ton of motion control at the show. From Shotover’s new compact B1 gyro stabilized camera system to the affable folks at Arizona-based Defy, who showed off their Dactylcam Pro, an addictively smooth-to-operate cable-suspension rig. The Bolt high-speed Cinebot had high-speed robotic arms complete with a spinning hologram.

Garret Brown at the Tiffen booth.

All this new gimbal technology is an ever-evolving game changer. Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown was on hand at the Tiffen booth to show the new M2 sled, which has motors elegantly built into the base. He enthusiastically heralded that camera operators can go faster and more “dangerously” than ever. There was so much motion control that it vied for attention alongside all the talk of 5G, 8K and LED lighting.

Some veterans of the show have expressed that this year’s show felt “less exciting” than shows of the past eight to 10 years. There were fewer big product launch announcements, perhaps due to past years where companies have been unable to fulfill the rush of post-NAB orders for new products for 12 or even 18 months. Vendors have been more conservative with what to hype, more careful with what to promise.

For a new attendee like me, there was more than enough new tech to explore. Above all else, NAB is really about the people you meet. The tech will be new next year, but the relationships you start and build at NAB are meant to last a career.

Main Image: ARRI’s Alexa Mini LF.


Barbie Leung is a New York-based cinematographer and camera operator working in independent film and branded content. Her work has played Sundance, the Tribeca Film Festival and Outfest. You can follow her on Instagram at @barbieleungdp.

Colorfront at NAB with 8K HDR, product updates

Colorfront, which makes on-set dailies and transcoding systems, has rolled out new 8K HDR capabilities and updates across its product lines. The company has also deepened its technology partnership with AJA and entered into a new collaboration with Pomfort to bring more efficient color and HDR management on-set.

Colorfront Transkoder is a post workflow tool for handling UHD, HDR camera, color and editorial/deliverables formats, with recent customers such as Sky, Pixelogic, The Picture Shop and Hulu. With a new HDR GUI, Colorfront’s Transkoder 2019 performs the realtime decompression/de-Bayer/playback of Red and Panavision DXL2 8K R3D material displayed on a Samsung 82-inch Q900R QLED 8K Smart TV in HDR and in full 8K resolution (7680 X 4320). The de-Bayering process is optimized through Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics cards with Turing GPU architecture (also available on Colorfront On-Set Dailies 2019), with 8K video output (up to 60p) using AJA Kona 5 video cards.

“8K TV sets are becoming bigger, as well as more affordable, and people are genuinely awestruck when they see 8K camera footage presented on an 8K HDR display,” said Aron Jaszberenyi, managing director, Colorfront. “We are actively working with several companies around the world originating 8K HDR content. Transkoder’s new 8K capabilities — across on-set, post and mastering — demonstrate that 8K HDR is perfectly accessible to an even wider range of content creators.”

Powered by a re-engineered version of Colorfront Engine and featuring the HDR GUI and 8K HDR workflow, Transkoder 2019 supports camera/editorial formats including Apple ProRes RAW, Blackmagic RAW, ARRI Alexa LF/Alexa Mini LF and Codex HDE (High Density Encoding).

Transkoder 2019’s mastering toolset has been further expanded to support Dolby Vision 4.0 as well as Dolby Atmos for the home with IMF and Immersive Audio Bitstream capabilities. The new Subtitle Engine 2.0 supports CineCanvas and IMSC 1.1 rendering for preservation of content, timing, layout and styling. Transkoder can now also package multiple subtitle language tracks into the timeline of an IMP. Further features support fast and efficient audio QC, including solo/mute of individual tracks on the timeline, and a new render strategy for IMF packages enabling independent audio and video rendering.

Colorfront also showed the latest versions of its On-Set Dailies and Express Dailies products for motion pictures and episodic TV production. On-Set Dailies and Express Dailies both now support ProRes RAW, Blackmagic RAW, ARRI Alexa LF/Alexa Mini LF and Codex HDE. As with Transkoder 2019, the new version of On-Set Dailies supports real-time 8K HDR workflows to support a set-to-post pipeline from HDR playback through QC and rendering of HDR deliverables.

In addition, AJA Video Systems has released v3.0 firmware for its FS-HDR realtime HDR/WCG converter and frame synchronizer. The update introduces enhanced coloring tools together with several other improvements for broadcast, on-set, post and pro AV HDR production developed by Colorfront.

A new, integrated Colorfront Engine Film Mode offers an ACES-based grading and look creation toolset with ASC Color Decision List (CDL) controls, built-in LOOK selection including film emulation looks, and variable Output Mastering Nit Levels for PQ, HLG Extended and P3 colorspace clamp.

Since launching in 2018, FS-HDR has been used on a wide range of TV and live outside broadcast productions, as well as motion pictures including Paramount Pictures’ Top Gun: Maverick, shot by Claudio Miranda, ASC.

Colorfront licensed its HDR Image Analyzer software to AJA for AJA’s HDR Image Analyzer in 2018. A new version of AJA HDR Image Analyzer is set for release during Q3 2019.

Finally, Colorfront and Pomfort have teamed up to integrate their respective HDR-capable on-set systems. This collaboration, harnessing Colorfront Engine, will include live CDL reading in ACES pipelines between Colorfront On-Set/Express Dailies and Pomfort LiveGrade Pro, giving motion picture productions better control of HDR images while simplifying their on-set color workflows and dailies processes.

AWS at NAB with a variety of partners, cloud workflows

During NAB 2019, Amazon Web Services (AWS) showcased advances for content creation, media supply chains and content distribution that improve agility and enhance quality across video workflows. Demonstrations included enhanced live and on-demand video workflows, such as next-gen transcoding, studio in the cloud, content protection, low latency and personalization. The company also highlighted cloud-based machine learning capabilities for content redaction, highlight creation, video clipping, live subtitling and metadata extraction.

AWS was joined by 12 technology partners in showing solutions that help users create, protect, distribute and monetize streaming video content. More than 60 Amazon Partner members across the show floor demonstrated media solutions built on AWS and interoperable with AWS services to deliver scalable video workflows.

Here are some workflows highlighted:
• Studio in the cloud – Users can deploy a creative studio in the cloud for visual effects, animation and editing workloads. They can scale rendering, virtual workstations and data storage globally with AWS Thinkbox Deadline, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances and AWS Cloud storage options such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon FSx and more.
• Next-generation transcoding – AWS Elemental MediaConvert spotlighted advanced features for file-based video processing. Support for IMF inputs and CMAF output simplifies video delivery, and integrated Quality-Defined Variable Bitrate (QVBR) rate control enables high-quality video while lowering bitrates, storage and bandwidth requirements.
• Cloud DVR services – AWS Elemental MediaPackage enables an end-to-end cloud DVR workflow that lets content providers deliver DVR-like experiences, such as catch-up and start-over functionality for viewing on mobile and other over-the-top (OTT) devices.

AWS also highlighted intelligent workflows and automated capabilities:
• Media-to-cloud migration – Media asset management tools integrate with AWS Elemental MediaConvert, Amazon S3 and Amazon CloudFront to accelerate migration of large-scale video archives into the cloud. Built-in metadata tools improve search and management for massive media archives.
• Smart language workflows – AWS Elemental Media Services and Amazon Machine Learning work together to automate realtime transcription, caption creation and multi-language subtitling and dubbing, as well as creation of video clips based on caption text.
• Deep media archive – The new Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive storage class is a low-cost cloud storage offering that enables customers to eliminate digital tape from their media infrastructures. It is ideally suited to cold media archives and to second copy and disaster recovery needs.

Quantum offers new F-Series NVMe storage arrays

During the NAB show, Quantum introduced its new F-Series NVMe storage arrays designed for performance, availability and reliability. Using non-volatile memory express (NVMe) Flash drives for ultra-fast reads and writes, the series supports massive parallel processing and is intended for studio editing, rendering and other performance-intensive workloads using large unstructured datasets.

Incorporating the latest Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) networking technology, the F-Series provides direct access between workstations and the NVMe storage devices, resulting in predictable and fast network performance. By combining these hardware features with the new Quantum Cloud Storage Platform and the StorNext file system, the F-Series offers end-to-end storage capabilities for post houses, broadcasters and others working in rich media environments, such as visual effects rendering.

The first product in the F-Series is the Quantum F2000, a 2U dual-node server with two hot-swappable compute canisters and up to 24 dual-ported NVMe drives. Each compute canister can access all 24 NVMe drives and includes processing power, memory and connectivity specifically designed for high performance and availability.

The F-Series is based on the Quantum Cloud Storage Platform, a software-defined block storage stack tuned specifically for video and video-like data. The platform eliminates data services unrelated to video while enhancing data protection, offering networking flexibility and providing block interfaces.

According to Quantum, the F-Series is as much as five times faster than traditional Flash storage/networking, delivering extremely low latency and hundreds of thousands of IOPs per chassis. The series allows users to reduce infrastructure costs by moving from Fiber Channel to Ethernet IP-based infrastructures. Additionally, users leveraging a large number of HDDs or SSDs to meet their performance requirements can gain back racks of data center space.

The F-Series is the first product line based on the Quantum Cloud Storage Platform.

HP shows off new HP Z6 and Z8 G4 workstations at NAB

HP was at NAB demoing their new HP Z6 and Z8 G4 workstations, which feature Intel Xeon scalable processors and Intel Optane DC persistent memory technology to eliminate the barrier between memory and storage for compute-intensive workflows, including machine learning, multimedia and VFX. The new workstations offer accelerated performance with a processor-architecture that allows users to work faster and more efficiently.

Intel Optane DC allows users to improve system performance by moving large datasets closer to the CPU so it can be assessed, processed and analyzed in realtime and in a more affordable way. This will allow for no data loss after a power cycle or application closure. Once applications are written to take advantage of this new technology, users will benefit from accelerated workflows and little or no downtime.

Targeting 8K video editing in realtime and for rendering workflows, the HP Z6 G4 workstation is equipped with two next-generation Intel Xeon processors providing up to 48 total processor cores in one system, Nvidia and AMD graphics and 384GB of memory. Users can install professional-grade storage hardware without using standard PCIe slots, offering the ability to upgrade over time.

Powered by up to 56 processing cores and up to 3TB of high-speed memory, the HP Z8 G4 workstation can run complex 3D simulations, supporting VFX workflows and handling advanced machine learning algorithms. They are certified for some of the most-used software apps, including Autodesk Flame and DaVinci Resolve.

HP’s Remote Graphics Software (RGS), included with all HP Z workstations, enables remote workstation access from any Windows, Linux or Mac device.

Avid is collaborating with HP to test RGS with Media Composer|Cloud VM.

The HP Z6 G4 workstation with new Intel Xeon processors is available now for the base price of $2,372. The HP Z8 G4 workstation starts at $2,981.

AI and deep learning at NAB 2019

By Tim Nagle

If you’ve been there, you know. Attending NAB can be both exciting and a chore. The vast show floor spreads across three massive halls and several hotels, and it will challenge even the most comfortable shoes. With an engineering background and my daily position as a Flame artist, I am definitely a gear-head, but I feel I can hardly claim that title at these events.

Here are some of my takeaways from the show this year…

Tim Nagle

8K
Having listened to the rumor mill, this year’s event promised to be exciting. And for me, it did not disappoint. First impressions: 8K infrastructure is clearly the goal of the manufacturers. Massive data rates and more Ks are becoming the norm. Everybody seemed to have an 8K workflow announcement. As a Flame artist, I’m not exactly looking forward to working on 8K plates. Sure, it is a glorious number of pixels, but the challenges are very real. While this may be the hot topic of the show, the fact that it is on the horizon further solidifies the need for the industry at large to have a solid 4K infrastructure. Hey, maybe we can even stop delivering SD content soon? All kidding aside, the systems and infrastructure elements being designed are quite impressive. Seeing storage solutions that can read and write at these astronomical speeds is just jaw dropping.

Young Attendees
Attendance remained relatively stable this year, but what I did notice was a lot of young faces making their way around the halls. It seemed like high school and university students were able to take advantage of interfacing with manufacturers, as well as some great educational sessions. This is exciting, as I really enjoy watching young creatives get the opportunity to express themselves in their work and make the rest of us think a little differently.

Blackmagic Resolve 16

AI/Deep Learning
Speaking of the future, AI and deep learning algorithms are being implemented into many parts of our industry, and this is definitely something to watch for. The possibilities to increase productivity are real, but these technologies are still relatively new and need time to mature. Some of the post apps taking advantage of these algorithms come from Blackmagic, Autodesk and Adobe.

At the show, Blackmagic announced their Neural Engine AI processing, which is integrated into DaVinci Resolve 16 for facial recognition, speed warp estimation and object removal, to name just a few. These features will add to the productivity of this software, further claiming its place among the usual suspects for more than just color correction.

Flame 2020

The Autodesk Flame team has implemented deep learning in to their app as well. It portends really impressive uses for retouching and relighting, as well as creating depth maps of scenes. Autodesk demoed a shot of a woman on the beach, with no real key light possibility and very flat, diffused lighting in general. With a few nodes, they were able to relight her face to create a sense of depth and lighting direction. This same technique can be used for skin retouch as well, which is very useful in my everyday work.

Adobe has also been working on their implementation of AI with the integration of Sensei. In After Effects, the content-aware algorithms will help to re-texture surfaces, remove objects and edge blend when there isn’t a lot of texture to pull from. Watching a demo artist move through a few shots, removing cars and people from plates with relative ease and decent results, was impressive.

These demos have all made their way online, and I encourage everyone to watch. Seeing where we are headed is quite exciting. We are on our way to these tools being very accurate and useful in everyday situations, but they are all very much a work in progress. Good news, we still have jobs. The robots haven’t replaced us yet.


Tim Nagle is a Flame artist at Dallas-based Lucky Post.