Content Insider #334 - Fast, Furious, 4K
The More Intense the Content, the More Important the Storage
By Miles Weston
"This will decimate all, after you put about fifteen grand in it or more. If we have to, overnight parts from Japan." - Jesse, "The Fast and the Furious," Universal Pictures, 2001
Content was king at this year's NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), especially 4K content.
While all the servants of the king jockeyed around to see who was going to be the favorite court jester, most didn't pay a lot of attention to the power of the throne ... Queen Storage.
That's right, without Queen Storage; content would be mere fleeting bits/bytes that disappeared into the atmosphere.
And there were a whole lotta' folks walking the aisles looking to create content - studios, indies, wanna' bes, marketing types.
That's probably why Cisco is so bullish about tomorrow.
They're pretty confident that by 2016, consumer video across the Internet will be 55 percent of traffic.
Of course, if you add the OTT (over the top) content, business videos and the channels to streaming media players like UltraFlix, P2P (peer to peer), VOD (video on demand) and we're talking about 86 percent of the traffic.
That's why Dom commented, "He can find anything on the web, anything about anyone."
Last year, YouTube had one billion unique visitors a month watching more than six billion hours of video ... that's about one hour for every person on Earth!
Next year, Forrester estimates it will take five years to watch all of the video crossing the Inet ... every second!
Oh sure, occasionally someone will send an encrypted business document, but that's like chump change to ISPs (Internet Service Providers).
As you walked the caverns of the Las Vegas Convention Center, you saw a few of the old guard broadcast folks; but the majority were independent cinematographers and marketing folks trying to figure out how to sell stuff to consumers.
Marketing Videos - Consumer and B2B (business to business) marketers are finding that high- quality educational and informational videos can increase customer interest and sales. Whether the content is created internally or externally, attention has to be placed on quality that keeps the audience's attention.
According to Aberdeen, companies are finding that if you want to convince/sell to today's consumer, you have to entertain them and entertain them with quality.
Reinforcing those findings, Nielsen reported how consumers react to poor video quality:
- 62 percent of folks would have a negative perception of a brand after viewing poor video
- 23 percent watching would hesitate buying the product
- 60 percent would blow off all of the brand's social media
- 57 percent wouldn't bother sharing poor videos
Edwin simply said, "It's not how you stand by your car, it's how you race your car."
That's probably why there was so much buzz about 4K and so many new folks finding out about economical cameras, post production HW/SW and ... storage.
The 4K content we're going to see everywhere shortly is something to behold and something to hold.
Uncompressed 4K content - 24fps (frames per second), 10-bit - has a lot of weight:
- 1 sec - 253.125MB
- 1 min = 15.2GB
- 1 hr = 911.3GB
And less than 20-30 percent of the stuff shot probably sees the light of a screen. The rest is kept around ... just in case.
Can't simply send that stuff to the cloud because folks who know know The Cloud is nothing but a bunch of huge storage farms spread around the globe.
Content is King
The capture options at NAB included cameras of every shape, size and price but my favorites were RED and Blackmagic.
RED is clearly the leading-edge/bleeding-edge trendsetter in the industry. Gawd love 'em, but the price matches their position which is probably why most cinematographers (pro and indie) rent the units for their projects rather than buy them.
Blackmagic, on the other hand, offers really solid performers that marketing types, indies and yes pros can afford.
In the Blackmagic booth, I was introduced to Cirina Catania, an indie who is using three of the company's newest cameras for a project she's donating her time/talent to--the Wounded Veterans, Furnishing Hope and the United States Veterans Educational Institute.
Economic Quality - Cirina shared a photo with us of the tools of the trade she used for her recent documentary which will be released in a few months. Blackmagic's sub-$4,000 video camera is ideal for delivering 4K content on a budget. High-performance, high-capacity 6G SSDs stand up to handling and the environment. She also included two versatile OWC docking solutions in her package that enabled her team to easily move content from the SSD to external HDs in her equipment truck.
She was excited about using the unit because it captures 4K content to fast, high-capacity OWC SSD, rather than tape, film or HDs.
"For ordinary work and post production I do use hard drives because Thunderbolt-based drives provide the speed, performance, capacity and price needed," she noted. "But when you're shooting, you absolutely need storage that is super fast and ultra reliable - even in extreme conditions, almost failure proof and power conservative."
Prior to coming to NAB, she had done a shoot for a special documentary in the desert/mountain areas of Nevada and said the cameras and 6G SSDs took a beating in the rugged terrain, even though she was careful and every frame was captured/saved.
"Yes you can say SSD is more expensive than a hard drive of the same capacity and even larger," she commented, "but most people who do this for a living consider it to be almost cheap when you consider the cost of trying to go back and reshoot a few or a number of scenes ... if it's even possible. No way, Jose!"
While capturing great content is sexy the real work begins for video during the post-production phase.
Post Storage - While most of us think of post-production only in terms of adding fades, wipes and special effects; the time-consuming work is also where most of the storage devices are used. Most editors and production folks retain every bit/byte of content ... even if it doesn't make it into the final cut. Storage capacity requirements just continue to grow.
Harmonic continues its lead in this area with systems that meet the critical needs of very particular Hollywood producers and their increasingly discerning audiences.
While the company really understands collaborative post-production, they yield to their customers and use high-performance, high-capacity HDs in phases but use advanced fiber-optic networking and GB Ethernet to give them the bandwidth and low latencies 4K projects require.
Foundation - The fundamental building blocks for post-production systems such as those offered by industry leader Harmonic are pretty standard - high-speed SSDs, high-performance/ high-capacity HDs, moderate-speed/very high-capacity HDs. The secret sauce offered by a number of NAB exhibitors is the software, media management and high-speed system connectivity.
Their new MediaGrid tiered solution allows shared post-production operations to economically expand their storage as the collaborative workflow activity grows.
Combine that with their MAS (Media Application Server) and the disks are virtualized to save the production team time and money.
When time, performance and money (especially money) are major concerns, the MacPro is still the weapon of choice for most of the individuals and companies visiting NAB (although Apple doesn't exhibit at the show).
Analysts love to say that the tablet is killing the PC, but you'll never convince people who make their living producing content you stream and devour.
As Brian said, "I owe you a ten-second car."
The new high-performance computers - used in off-hours for videogames - plus Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier Pro plus really high-capacity external HDs deliver a very economic post-production solution "almost" anyone can afford.
At OWC's booth, I met Andrew Disney, director of indie film "Intramural" that will be featured at this year's Tribeca/ESPN Film Festival.
Disney said his group chose the RED Epic because "it just delivered the dynamic 5K quality the crew wanted."
The movie is all about a common problem anyone who goes to college faces - graduating and dealing with an endless list of marriage, career and debt problems. The solution for the creator, Brad Jackson, was one final, grand intramural football game.
Driven - While the content of "Intramural" that Kody Gibson finally produced was king, he also thinks the queen has to be storage because without fast, reliable storage the content would disappear.
Disney explained that immediately after the shooting was wrapped, the content would be rushed to Koby Gibson (editor) and his team who would do the post work on an array of OWC HDs.
Disney noted that in addition to the firm's new Thunderbay, they used a lot of assorted OWC drives because RAW 5K "has a real appetite for storage."
One of the folks at RED told me that RAW 5K 12-bit video produces a whopping 2.5Gbps of content that can really test the performance of systems and storage, but the combination of GB Ethernet and Thunderbolt interfaced HDs can meet the needs for online editing now as well as next-generation 8K projects.
Fortunately for the people who stream (and view) the ultra high definition (UHD) content, the industry has moving the H.265/High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression.
HEVC reduces bandwidth requirements by more than 50 percent so the content will look great when it's viewed over-the-air or IPTV/OTT. That's important if the content industry is going to meet the entertainment demands of today's audience.
Comparing content delivery to racing, Dom said, "It don't matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning's winning."
Internet of Video - The Internet may have been developed to help professionals exchange ideas/information and collaborate; but today, it has become a major source of entertainment when you want it, where you want it.
More importantly, as a storage analyst from IDC said as UHD production increases, predicting storage capacity requirements for the next two to three years is going to be difficult.
The key for storage suppliers is to develop systems that are fully scalable and easily expandable.
As Dom said, "I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters. For those ten seconds or less, I'm free."