A look at Promise’s R2+

Adding the R2+ (plus) model to their Thunderbolt2 toolset, Promise Technologies offers users an effective hardware solution to consolidate media offloading activities from a variety of camera sources, optimizing ingest from multiple types of camera media when paired with software tools like Imagine Product’s ShotPutPro or Pomfort’s Silverstack for a seamless offloading and backup experience.

Both the Reader Pods and the hard disk drives are interchangeable.

Both the Reader Pods and the hard disk drives are interchangeable.

Most people think of Promise as the first High-speed Thunderbolt Storage company, their 2nd Generation Pegasus R2 models are able to utilize the full 20Gb/s of bandwidth using Intel’sThunderbolt2 architecture across a wide range of storage devices and tools for fibre and 10gE connectivity.  The addition of the Pegasus R2+, with a MSRP under $800.00, offers users a studio quality media handling and archiving tool utilizes both Thunderbolt2 and USB3 for connectivity, yet is durable enough for location use without breaking your bank.

Each R2+ unit ships with 2 spinning discs and a removable CF/ SD Card Reader Pod for media ingest. Other options currently include Reader Pod modules for 2.5” SSD’s or Spinning disks and an additional 1TB Hard drive. Promise wisely has included both a 6Gb/s Sata interface and a Micro USB3 connector on each Reader Pod, allowing the inexpensive but well built Readers to be used in conjunction with or independently from your R2+ unit. The company is looking into creating additional versions of the Reader Pods for other types of media sources such as C-Fast, RED’s Mini Mag’s or the widely used Sony SxS Card Media.

Sustained read write in excess of 350MB/s guarantees performance in both RAID1 and RAID0.

Sustained read write in excess of 350MB/s guarantees performance in both RAID1 and RAID0

At 6” x 7” x 10” and weighing in at a hefty 13.4 lb (6.1kg), the R2+ units have a relatively small form factor but have been designed to handle the long, rugged days most of us work onset. Keeping the number of individual drives down in the unit has  allowed Promise to solidify the backplane support internally, making a for more reliable device for location and field use.

My demo unit was equipped with 2- 3TB Toshiba 7200RPM drives for 6TB of usable disk space in Raid0. The Promise Raid Utility allows the 2-drive array to be configured as RAID1 for redundancy or in RAID0 to allow for speedier transfers.
With average transfer speeds in excess of 350MB/s,  the R2+ handled SD & CF card media without effort. During my testing I found the Raid0 and Raid1 configurations to maintain fairly equivalent data transfer speeds in each config, but was unable to configure the unit as JBOD, something that I will assume should be easily achieved via a software update.

The Promise R2+ is a welcome addition to the Pegasus line, built with a production style sensibility, at a price point affordable to a wide range of users on both the Mac and Windows platforms.

Promise Technologies R2+

A Bit of Fun with Truffles

Featured

Every now and then I get to really have fun on a shoot.

Take a look at the finished video on Vimeo

Take a look at the finished video on Vimeo

In late March, with NAB looming and the James Beard Awards coming to Chicago for the first time, my crew and I descended into a cramped warehouse space on the near north side that is home to  Rodrick Markus‘ bastion of unquestionably rare and yet edible ingredients known as RareTeaCellar.

Sourcing those teas, herbs and exotic ingredients from around the world RareTeaCellar has become the go to source for Chef’s in the midwest and around the world when looking for exotic items to go on their plates.

Tough work, but someone has to set up the shot and that requires every truffle be inspected prior to going on set.

Tough work, but someone has to set up the shot and that requires every truffle be inspected prior to going on set       Photo: Adam Seger

Yet Rodrick does not stop there, he regularly collaborates with Chef’s and Mixologists and for our shoot, we would working with Adam Seger to capture some of the essence of their  Truffe Amere, the worlds first botanical truffle bitters.  We went to work, first selecting the best looking of the fungi, picking through a couple of kilo’s of Black Winter Perigord Truffles just to find the 800-900 grams of truffles (about a pound) we used for the for pouring down a luge into the waiting lens of a Phantom Flex4K so we could capture the truffles in slo-motion at the highest resolution possible.

Paul DeMarte and I discussing how our test looks onscreen

Paul DeMarte and I discussing how our test looks onscreen  Photo: Adam Seger.

An Intel camera crew captured the behind the scenes action that day then interviewed me after the shoot on how my use of Intel’s Thunderbolt technology defines my process and my workflow.

My thanks for the support on this project go out to
Bob Monaghan at GlueTools, Toni Lucatorto at Vision Research, Rob Vose at Zacuto, Paul DeMarte on Camera and Thomas and Joshua from Intel for their assistance and support.

Yet I am left wondering when the next time I will be able to muster up craft service that was comprised of hand sliced Iberico “pata negra”  ham and truffled wonton soup to feed my crew on a shoot.

New for NAB 2014 LaCie’s Little Big Disc 2

So it has been awhile since I posted here, been busy working on 3 projects, one of which included one of the new “social media clauses” so it has kept me rather limited.I will post my thoughts on some of the new gear that is already shipping prior to NAB so that people can check them out at the show.

First up, LaCie’s Little Big Disc 2

I use storage from a number of manufacturers and never have I ever opened a hard drive box and recieved this level of performance with the ease and simplicity of the LBD2. LaCie has delivered the fastest single device I have ever used with my laptop.  Equipped with Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 Technology, this 1TB  sleek black box, elegantly styled and compact for it’s 1.4 pound weight, offers users the single most powerful drive I have ever used.

The Thunderbolt 2 interface in conjunction with the raided dual SSD drives inside offer users up to an astonishing 1.3 Gigabytes of data throughput per second, easily making LaCie’s LBD2 the fastest single drive publicly available. While listed price at around $1300 USD for a 1 TB volume might be cringeworthy to some, when you have the need for speed this is the drive to have.

This shows the raw speed of LaCie's Little Big Disk 2, here showing performance  over 1 GB per second when paired  with a 2nd Gen Retina MacBook Pro with Intel's Thunderbolt 2 technology.

This shows the raw speed of LaCie’s Little Big Disk 2, here showing performance  over 1 GB per second when paired  with a 2nd Gen Retina MacBook Pro with Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 technology.

The cost vs. performance is nothing short of astronomical, because we are talking about moving Gigabytes per second with this beast. That performance, equal if not better at times than the internal flash memory found in Apple’s New Mac Pro, and is unheard of outside of a incredibly small number of Post facilities or in the massive server farms that allow ITunes, Amazon and Google to spit out information to you in realtime on the web.

However for desktop users, this is a first, when built my first 1GBps array for a client in 2007, at that time it required 2 computers just to control the 72 spinning disks and cost nearly $500,000 in time and materials when finished.

I can now walk into a store and buy nearly the same throughput off the shelf and have ready to work on in mere minutes after I am out the door.

LaCie’s Little Big Disk 2 has become my main carry around work volume, I recently used it during an extended trip, where it allowed me to cut 4K ProRes 4444 content on my laptop, well away from my office, without having to work with the associated hassles of the offline / online workflow that location editing of that much content would normally require.

There is plenty more to come. Stay Tuned.

 

HP’s Thunderbolt Announcement Changes Everything.

Yesterday HP announced Thunderbolt across both their Mobile and Desktop Workstations lines, launching a truly innovative initiative in the PC world. No longer will PC users be relegated to running Windows on a Mac just to be able to use the power and speed of Thunderbolt, nor will they be limited to only a couple of DIY motherboards and the corresponding issues of drivers and compatibility just to be able to have the power that Thunderbolt brings to the table.

HP’s Jim Zafarana shown here with the new Zbook

HP’s Jim Zafarana shown here with the new Zbook

In discussions with HP since NAB about the how and why of Thunderbolt and what it means for the industry,not just about projects working with Onset Data or the high end workflows that are the majority of projects that I work on, but that Thunderbolt also brings a host of other advantages beyond the simplicity of the connector.

Thunderbolt brings an unrivaled level of performance in a single cable, I know of no other protocol currently in use that can allow users the ability to move data in the same manner as Thunderbolt does. It is not just that, Thunderbolt can also extend the PCIe buss outside your laptop to allow users to easily access multiple kinds of media.

HP Technology Panel  (L to R) Ron Rogers, Gary Adcock,  Jeff Wood,. Vincent Brisebois , Ryan Brown

HP Technology Panel
(L to R) Ron Rogers, Gary Adcock, Jeff Wood,. Vincent Brisebois , Ryan Brown

I have Thunderbolt adopters to  eSata, Firewire, Ethernet adaptors already, but I can also access Video I/O devices from Aja, BlackmagicDesign and Matrox with SMPTE calibrated output all the way up to 4K and soon beyond. I can bridge my Thunderbolt connection to Fibre or GigE infrastructures for Enterprise users, even extend my performance with a RED Rocket or Io-Fusion for the ultimate in mobile performance.

I don’t care that it’s Xx times faster than USB, what I does impress me is that I can move data to one of my Promise Pegasus arrays at over 850MBps with the 1st Gen, 10Gbps version using a 6 drive array in Raid 6, it also means that the 2nd Gen, 20Gbps version announced by HP and Apple means that throughput on the next level could reach as fast as 1.6 GBps on a laptop.

1.6 GBps means playback of uncompressed 4K content, but  it also means that we no longer have to suffer the data rates we accepted from Firewire 800 which transfers data at roughly 1 minute of transfer time per gigabyte of data.  Time is money in modern production and post, no longer are data wranglers woefully waiting hours to move the content from a single days shoot.

Onstage with HP talking Thunderbolt.

Onstage with HP talking Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt has allowed me to be more productive in the ever tightening marketplace. I am consistently moving data at 4 to 5 times faster than my competition. I am currently working in a multi-cam production on a TV series shooting in Chicago, where I am transferring 32 GB Arri Alexa media in an average time of 7 minutes per card to 2 separate volumes in one of G-Technology’s latest offerings the G-Dock EV.  The speed of transfer has totally changed the way I work.

HP’s Thunderbolt announcement will certainly shake up the marketplace. HP brings a level of authority and backs that with a universally recognizable name in the computing world. The fact that their products across the board will offer Thunderbolt connectivity is nothing short of evolutionary, no other manufacture will be shipping Workstation level laptops as well as a fully user customizable, Thunderbolt enabled Desktop Workstation that can move data at these heretofore unheard of rates on the consumer level. With the ability to share Thunderbolt enabled storage in the office or on location.

Whether you shoot larger numbers of photographs or video, work on a DSLR or in 6K on a RED camera, Thunderbolt offers you something you have not had previously, the power and performance only seen on extremely expensive, top of the line Workstations. The only difference now is that that level of performance is now available to professionals and consumers at a price that is nothing less than astonishing when you consider what that same throughput was just 5 years ago.

A New Version of FCPX, Mavericks and the New MacPro

So, I wonder how many of you remembered that FCPX turned 2 years old on June 21st.

Yup, That’s right 2 years with a number of updates and the soon to be arriving “NewMacPro” people are wondering when the updates will happen, even though  Apple has confirmed that there is an official update to FCPX arriving at approximately the same time as the new desktop. Phil said it on stage, Apple focus on it in their PR messaging but now people are taking pictures of MacPro Screens on Apple.com and spreading them across social media.

Even Apple.com is telling us there will be a new version of FCPX this year.

Even Apple.com is telling us there will be a new version of FCPX this year.

Metadata is the new black
I am guessing most of these people did not watch the WWDC Keynote, or more specifically, the part where Craig Federighi showed the same Metadata Tagging like FCPX has had for almost 2 years at the FINDER level of OSX Mavericks. I think it is funny how that same type of info tagging was belittled and berated when FCPX  first came out 2 yrs. ago in June 2011?

Yet Apple’s engineers sought to bring it full bore into the mainstream of OSX directly, wisely so I might add, so that now the power that I referred to in the first releases of FCPX have moved forward to the point that we will be using that power invisibly while you are working. Isn’t this what we all want, instead of blindly looking around the plethora of available drives with failed searches because we have all turned off journaling for external drives.

What does this mean? 

We all watched as Apple took nothing short of a “ass-whoppin” in the media and on the internet about the changes to FCP when FCPX came to market. It took Apple months to add back some really basic functionality like outputting split audio tracks or using professional level monitoring and output for the Pro User. My Macworld.com review of FCPX was one of the more civil diatribes, while my comments on CreativeCow.net were something else altogether.

Move forward 2 years and that same Phil Schiller is talking live onstage talking at WWDC about a new MacPro and in the same breath is talking about FCPX being updated. The Metadata tagging originally featured in FCPX,  is shown in a fully operational manner at the Finder Level in demonstrations of the next generation of the OSX.

I think that this means Apple may have something else in mind, for I see a workstation that functionally remembers where all my content is, keeps track of all of my projects, media and the assorted files that traverse my desk as a working pro. No more lost images or captions, client logo’s stay organized on the server and available instantly, content pre-identified by the associated metadata. { I wonder will Adobe meta-tags from Photoshop and Lightroom might be seen by OSX at some point }

Hmmm.

WWDC and The New MacPro

OK,

Now that everyone you know has chimed in on the New MacPro, lets take a breath and look at reality, if you have been following Apple for any time at all, you know that they rarely if ever do what people think they will do.

Apple hardware has consistently gotten more unified, compact, and more refined. The iPhone has become a standard for all handsets, the Macbook Air stole the netbook market right out from underneath the PC world, then Apple finished it’s assault on the low end PC market by releasing the iPad, and even more than with the iPhone changed how we interface with devices, for the tablet was born and my computing was changed forever.

mac_pro_new

Apple’s sleek design
once more alienates.

Yes this is a radical departure from the existing product design, however some of the most Iconic of Apple’s hardware designs, The Cube, LUXO, the Candy Colored IMacs as well as the 20th Anniversary model all gave users iconic design, why does this Tube scare everyone so?

Because its different? Is that not what Apple has been about for a very long time?  Get over it.

The New MacPro offers some stunning specs, albeit in a new way. Look Apple once again defined how users will interact with hardware, if you did not seem it wise to start embracing Thunderbolt, with this new MacPro, it is abundantly clear that it is and will be the future of device connectivity, with PC companies like HP fully behind Thunderbolt, the TB2 specs on this box ( Ok TUBE) blow me out the of the water.

The 6 fully independent 20Gbps Thunderbolt v2 ports can maintain an aggregate data rate of 15 Gigabytes per second.  PERIOD!!! 

Those TB2 ports can handle up to 36 peripheral devices, that can include storage,  I/O to Firewire, Fibre or 10gE or SAS externally and the “3-4K Displays” Apple has been touting in the marketing

inline storage module on the new MacPro

Inline storage module
on the new MacPro

Memory Questions: The internal storage is defined as PCIe Flash, now for the unknowing, this is by a wide margin the fastest possible. This is accessing  your main storage at the speed of a RAM disk. One interesting thing to note in the Apple approved photos is that they are only showing 1 storage module.

The funny thing I see is that both of those fixed AMD graphics cards appear to have a place to allow for a second PCIe Flash module. I am wondering about the price and volumes for that storage, today it’s very expensive. Current PCIe Flash storage is available from companies like Fusion Io and even online retailers like Other World Computing and it’s fairly expensive for all but power users. My guess is that since Apple is changing the marketplace once again, the cost for PCIe Flash modules will reduce as the demand increases.

Note the inline PCIeFlash module in the middle of the right side Graphics card and space for the same type of module on the left is mysteriously open. When did Apple ever leave wasted space in a machine this compact

Note the place for the inline PCIeFlash module in the middle of the right side Graphics card and space for the same type of module on the left is mysteriously open. When did Apple ever leave wasted space in a machine this compact

What’s Possible 

One other thing to note is the mysteriously missing PCIe memory module that could / should be in the same location on the left side graphics card in all of the Apple PR images.

From personal experience there is never a lot of free space to waste internally on an Apple device I have opened in the last few years, so I am wondering if that “open space” might be useable as part of the yet unannounced “Build-To-Order possibilities?

The Form Factor Matters

  I am stunned by the small size, because at roughly 10″x 7″ this thing small, geez 8 of them fit in the same space as the previous tower form factor, I am just not comfortable with a rolly-poly,  tube shaped computer when a good deal of my workstation level projects happen onset or on the road and that cylindrical shape is fraught with desperation for anyone needed to physically mount the machine for portability. Rack mounted computers have become the norm for DIT’s and Loaders, yet the new form factor does nothing to solve issues for that specific market.

Cuda vs OpenCL

The Open CL vs Cuda debate is a separate issue to me completely. Adobe’s backbone  based in the Nvidia’s “Cuda” processes  is only a minor advantage over the current OpenCL code being utilized for Apple processors, now if we can add Nvidia back into the mix as part of the BTO options, this might actually keep many of those power users from finally jumping off the MacPro wagon and onto an HP workstation.

I for one am keeping my HP Z800 right where it’s at, it’s the most powerful workhorse in my office and offers me power and performance unrivaled. That does not mean I am giving up my Mac’s. It means I have to live in a performance based world and much like with my retina laptop, it may take a little time to get the New MacPro and all of the associated peripherals to make it out to be the workstation it wants to be.

Processor

Finally.

This machine can’t possible be anything more for most user, It will have the fastest internal architecture possible, the fastest external connectivity and a lot of it, while the user configurable options  will be more limited that in the past, the future upgradability is undeniable. Lost in the design debate so far is that most “power” users never add or remove parts from their MacPro’s once they are configured, the only difference with the new Apple is they want to control that at the manufacturing stage for the highest quality possible.

Apple has once again broken new ground, even if I don’t initially like what it looks like. I am thinking I will start a new biz doing skins for the New MacPro.