NBC UltraHD

Mike Fernandes and his team from NBC are no strangers when it comes to post production with FCPX. It was used on their Emmy winning show George to the Rescue.  He's now looking forward by upgrading the company's hardware to allow for a 4K workflow.

Mike's article about how FCPX helped NBC win an Emmy for George to the Rescue is one of the most popular articles here on FCP.co. It is still a fabulous read and really does answer the question of 'Is FCPX ready for professional use?'

The hardware that Mike uses needed to be upgraded to allow for expansion as 4K or ultraHD acquisition and post production is on the horizon.

We will let Mike take up the story in part one of a three part series on the upgrade process:

 

Take a moment to imagine that you will need to survive for the next 5 years. Now imagine you had to buy it all today.

Part of my job is to look at the landscape of everything that is going on in the world and make decisions for future workflows and technology purchases that will help us maintain a competitive edge in a market that is growing and changing each and every day.


So what’s next in video production?

It’s hard to tell for sure. We are an industry tied to technology which can seemingly pop out of nowhere and forever alter things. But based on conversations within the industry, current product line ups and things yet unseen, I am betting on UltraHD ( 2K,4K 5K ) being the next big wave in media industry. So at NBC we are building out a full end to end 4K production facility.

Now most people think of production in a liner mindset starting at acquisition. But before you can really make those choices you have to think about where you’re going to store all this footage.

4K is large and when you have multiple programs being worked on by a large group of people it's better to have a little wiggle room. So we took apart and built out a new SAN system.

After a lot of meetings, a trip to Vegas, a lot more meetings and few dozen emails, we had the system we wanted configured.

We partnered up with Tekserve here in New York City. Which, for those who may not be familiar with them, were the first Apple repair shot in Manhattan. They are the best in customer relations, service and support in all things technology. I don’t want to sound too fluffy but I know that I am a pain in the behind when it comes to getting what I want and these guys deliver every time. ( Tom Kehn & Brian Pollack specifically I’m sure have to take a few more aspirins on days that I call, but they are rockstars of Tekserve’s Business Services. )

Before, we were running an XSAN off Apple XServes to Promise Storage with about 42TB of useable space. Which for our group was barely enough. We were constantly monitoring the storage capacities and have more than once gotten system emails with drives are nearly full warnings, so we needed to go REALLY big if we want to get to 4K.

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So piece by piece we started getting more and more stuff in.

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And like a kid around Christmas I was counting down the days until we finally went to install. All the show's editors had copied all the media they needed for the week onto either local or firewire storage. Then we pulled the plug on the entire system and started taking things off the racks.

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Some parts were being decommissioned from use. Which as my fellow nerds can probably relate to the pain that one experiences when a computer is no longer being used!

Our server room is not very large, so space is always something we are mindful of. Promise came out with the V-Trak 60′s which is 60 x 4TB hard drives in a 4U rack space. (240 TB total)

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This was key to our upgrade process as it allowed us to get the storage that we wanted in the smallest footprint possible. What one doesn’t think of though when ordering something like this is how HEAVY this thing is. To install, we had to pull out all of the hard drives in the unit then reinstall all the drives back again. This is actually a very easy process but my back was a little sore for the next few days.

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To replace the XServes we went with Mac Minis and connected them to the QLogic switches through Thunderbolt and Promise San Links. They were installed in a MK1 Rack-Mount which just keeps everything nice and tidy.

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Now managing all this media is not an easy feat on the finder level alone. So we added a Media Asset Management system from an awesome company Levels Beyond called Reach. Now this will not only allow us to ingest and archive footage but it also talks to Final Cut Pro X and from this application we can check in and check out our projects for sharing between edit stations as well as archive out of Final Cut Pro X to our LTO-6 tape drives.

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I had wanted to make this all one long article on the entire system but we are currently still installing and configuring the Reach engine so that will have to be a part two.

So with that I’ll leave you hanging but with two little tidbits to hopefully keep you interested in the meantime.

We migrated all of our groups productions to Final Cut Pro X. After training our staff the week after this install was complete, the transition went even smoother than I anticipated. Once we get everything up and running I’ll deep dive into those work flows and concepts ( We started using a few tricks with SYMlinks to keep all 24 of our edit stations in Sync and the results are surprising. )

And also the entire SAN upgrade project gave us a total of over 1 Petabyte in RAW disk space and 800TB of useable shared storage. So when we get our new cameras in, we will be ready. Let the 4K revolution begin!

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Many thanks to Mike for sharing the first part of the story. We have the other two parts (including some tutorials) coming soon. You can find out more on Mike's blog Loud Yeti.