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  1. Testing with Adobe Anywhere

    March 7, 2014 by Steve Modica

    Small Tree has been working closely with Adobe to make sure our shared editing storage and networking products work reliably and smoothly with Adobe’s suite of content creation software.

    Since NAB 2013, we’ve worked closely with Adobe to improve interoperability and performance, and test new features to give our customers a better experience.

    Most recently, I had the chance to test out Adobe Anywhere in our shop in Minnesota.

    Adobe Anywhere is designed to let users edit content that might be stored in a high bandwidth codec, over a much slower connection link.  Imagine having HD or 4K footage back at the ranch, while you’re in the field accessing the media via your LTE phone and a VPN connection.

    The way it works is that there’s an Adobe Anywhere server sitting on your network that you connect to with Adobe Premiere and this server compresses and shrinks the data “on the fly” so it can be fed to your machine much like a YouTube video.  Except you are scrubbing, editing, cutting, dubbing and all of the other things you might need to do during an edit session.

    This real-time compression/transcoding happens because the Adobe Anywhere system is taking advantage of the amazing power of GPUs.  Except rather than displaying the video to a screen, the video is being pushed into a network stream that’s fed to your client.

    I tested my system out with some Pro Res promotional videos we’ve used at trade shows in the past, and did my editing over Wi-Fi.

    What I found was that the system worked very well.  I could see that the Adobe Anywhere system was reading the video from Small Tree’s shared storage at full rate, then pushing it to my system at a greatly reduced rate.  I had no trouble playing, editing and managing the video over my Wi-Fi connection (although Adobe recommends 1Gb Ethernet as the minimum connectivity for clients today).

    This type of architecture is very new and there are caveats.  For example, if you are very far from the server system or running over a very slow link (like a vpn connection), latency can make certain actions take a very long time (like loading an entire project, or using Adobe’s Titler app which requires interactivity).  Adobe cautions that latencies of 200msecs or more will lead to a very poor customer experience.

    Additionally, just because the feed to the clients is much lower bandwidth (to accommodate slower links), the original video data still needs to be read in real-time at full speed. So there are no shortcuts there.  You still need high quality, low latency storage to allow people to edit video from it. You just have a new tool to push that data via real-time proxies over longer and slower links.

    All in all, I found the technology to be very smooth and it worked well with Small Tree’s shared network storage.  I’m excited to see the reach of Small Tree shared storage extended out to a much larger group of potential users.

    For a demonstration of Adobe Anywhere over Small Tree shared storage, visit us at the NAB Show in Las Vegas this April (Booth SL11105).


  2. Buying Storage

    February 13, 2014 by Steve Modica

    I’ve been in the computer industry for quite some time.

    Back in the early days, we worried a lot about running out of space on a computer or a server. If you filled up your Novell Netware system, what could you do?  Adding drives was an option, but it was expensive and “scary” and you’d still end up with another volume you had to train your users to use (we didn’t have the ability to stripe all that stuff together). Further, it was likely your disk controller only supported two drives and your motherboard only supported a couple controllers.  If you ran out of space in that scenario, it meant buying an entirely new platform (software included) that would be extremely expensive. There was also no guarantee all of your stuff would migrate cleanly.

    This led many of our early computer system design people down the path of expandability and modularity.  We wanted SCSI and later, Fibre Channel, so we could add device after device to a system and never run out of space. We wanted expandable filesystems so these new devices could be merged in without moving data around.  We wanted clusters so as we ran out of CPU power and IO slots, we could just add more. Never again would we find ourselves sitting on the floor at 10 p.m. trying to figure out why our second IDE drive wasn’t being seen by the new controller we installed last week.  (You forgot to change its address knucklehead. It’s conflicting with the first disk you put in there).

    So today, we have lots of options.  There are blade servers, clusters, and all manner of scalable this and that. You simply buy the first bit and start using it, and if you ever need more, you just buy some more bits and plug them in and it all gets bigger.

    The problem I have with this sort of model is the price for those first bits. You aren’t simply paying for the disks.  You’re also paying for the ability to expand. This expansion capability is extremely important if your business has the chance of wild and uncontrolled growth (and wouldn’t we all like that), but most of us are running smaller businesses. We’re like pizza places, but instead of selling pizza, we’re selling services. We’d be happy to see our businesses growing at 20% year over year.

    When I think about servers and storage, I like to focus on what I expect to need this year, and what will likely get me through next year.  Beyond that, I should expect to refresh the entire system.  Even if I “could” double the storage capability, will I really want to? Will 6Gb SATA drives be fast enough for the new 4K codecs coming along in two years?  Will I want to spend “expansion capable” dollars on storage technology that’s two years old?

    My personal opinion is that things are changing far too quickly to buy for a horizon past two years, and if you really think you might need to expand that quickly, you should probably be buying that storage now rather than hoping to add on in six months or a year.

    Follow Steve Modica and Small Tree on Twitter @smalltreecomm.  Have a question? Contact Small Tree at 1-866-782-4622.


  3. What you need to know about video editing storage in 2014

    January 20, 2014 by Steve Modica

    With the New Year festivities well behind us, today seems like as good a time as any to chat about where video editing storage is (or should be) headed in 2014.

    First, I’m really excited about FCoE.  FCoE is great technology. It’s built into our (Small Tree) cards, so we get super fast offloads. It uses the Fibre Channel protocol, so it’s compatible with legacy Fibre Channel.  You can buy one set of switches and do everything: Fibre Channel, 10Gb and FCoE (and even iSCSI if you want).

    Are there any issues to be concerned about with FCoE? One problem is that the switches are too darn expensive! I’ve been waiting for someone to release an inexpensive switch and it just hasn’t happened.  Without that, I’m afraid the protocol will take a long time to come to market.

    Second, I’m quite sure SSDs are the way of the future. I’m also quite sure SSDs will be cheaper and easier to fabricate than complex spinning disks. So why aren’t SSDs ubiquitous yet? Where are the 2 and 4 TB SSD drives that fit a 3.5″ form factor?  Why aren’t we rapidly replacing our spinning disks with SSDs as they fail?

    Unfortunately, we’re constrained by the number of factories that can crank out the NAND flash chips. Even worse, there are so many things that need them, including smartphones, desktop devices, SATA disks, SAS disks, PCIE disks.  With all of these things clawing at the market for chips, it’s no wonder they are a little hard to come by.  I’m not sure things will settle down until things “settle down” (i.e., a certain form factor becomes dominant).

    Looking back at 2013, there were several key improvements that will have a positive impact on shared storage in 2014. One is Thunderbolt. Small Tree spent a lot of time updating its drivers to match the new spec. Once this work was done, we had some wonderful new features. Our cards can now seamlessly hotplug and unplug from a system. So customers can walk in, plug in, connect up and go.  Similarly, when it’s time to go home, they unplug, drop their laptop in their backpack, and go home. I think this opens the door to allowing a lot more 10Gb Ethernet use among laptop and iMac users.

    Apple’s new SMB implementation in 2013 was also critical for improvements in video editing workflow. Apple’s moving away from AFP as their primary form of sharing storage between Macs, and the upshot for us has been a much better SMB experience for our customers. It’s faster and friendlier to heterogeneous environments. I look forward to seeing more customers moving to an open SMB environment from a more restrictive (and harder to performance tune) AFP environment.

    So as your editing team seeks to simplify its workflow to maximize its productivity in 2014, keep these new or improved technological enhancements in mind. If you have any questions about your shared storage solution, don’t hesitate to contact me at smodica@small-tree.com.


  4. Tips for Happy Shared Storage Workflows

    June 24, 2013 by Steve Modica

    1.  When you have lots of media coming in from various cameras to your shared storage, make sure you are ingesting that media using appropriate software.

    We have seen a few cases where people are dragging files in from the camera using the Finder, rather than the camera vendors import software.
    When you do this, the media can sometimes have the “User Immutable” flag set.  This flag prevents users from accidentally deleting files, even if they have appropriate permissions.  You can see this flag via Right Click->get info.  It’s the “Locked” flag.

    While this makes sense if the media is on the camera (where they expect you to do all deleting with the camera software interface), it does not make sense on your storage.  However the flag is persistent and will also be set on any copies you make and any copies you make of those copies.  It will also prevent the original files from being deleted when you “move” a large batch of material from one volume to another!

    Obviously this will waste a lot of space and be very frustrating down the line when you have thousands of media files you can’t delete.  You’ll also find that unsetting the Lock bit via “get info” is way to cumbersome for 10,000 files.

    One simple answer is the command line. Apple has a command (as does FreeBSD) called “chflags”.  If you can handle using the “cd” command (Change Directory) to navigate to where all your Locked file are, you can run:

    chflags -R nouchg *

    This will iterate through all the directories and files (starting from whatever directory you’re in) and clean off all the “Locked” bits.

    2.  Edit project files from your local machine, rather than shared storage.

    There are a number of reasons to do this, and as time goes on, I seem to find more.

    First, it’s just safer.  Not all apps lock project files. So it’s possible that if you have enough editors all sharing the same space and everyone is very busy and the environment is hectic, someone could come along and open a project you already have open.  If they “save” their copy after you save yours, your changes will be lost.  It would be no different if it was a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet.  When multiple people save the same file, the last guy to save wipes out the first guy.  (This is not a problem for shared media like clips and audio since those files are not being written, just pulled into projects).

    Second, apps like Avid and FCP 7 all have foibles with saving to remote storage. Avid doesn’t like to save “project settings” over Samba or AFP (although NFS and “Dave” from Thursby work fine). FCP seems to mess up its extended attributes when it saves, leading to “unknown file” errors and other strange behavior.  (When this happens, you can easily fix it.  See Small Tree Knowledge Base solution here: http://www.small-tree.com/kb_results.asp?ID=43).

    Lastly, you may have different versions of apps on different machines.  I recently had a customer that was using FCP 7.0 and attempting to open files written by FCP 7.0.3.  The older app was unhappy with the newer format files and it created some strange error messages. While this would have been a problem no matter how the files were accessed (locally or over the network), the network share made it more confusing since it was not clear that the files came from another system.  Had the user received the projects on a stick or via email, the incompatibility would have been much more obvious from the start.

    If you have any questions regarding shared storage and improving your workflow, do not hesitate to contact me at modica@small-tree.com.


  5. Powerful Shared Storage

    June 7, 2013 by Joe DiBenedetto

    The New Titanium Z8 — 16 are pretty powerful machines. Feed 10gb to ALL of your clients without even buying a switch. Gives you huge volume that you can add to on the fly.


  6. The Impact of Shared Storage on Video Production

    May 30, 2013 by Joe DiBenedetto

    Walter Biscardi of Biscardi Creative Media talks about how Small Tree’s shared storage system impacts his full service, script to screen creation company.


  7. Thunderbolt and USB 3.0

    May 25, 2013 by Steve Modica

    Steve ModicaApple has always been on the leading edge of connectivity for their systems.

    Back in 2004, before we had formed Small Tree as a company, I can recall drooling over a Power Book laptop with an integrated Gigabit port. That was a crazy thing to have on a laptop at the time. Gigabit was still a little weird, very expensive, and not common as a drop at anyone’s desk. Yet here apple was putting it on a laptop. (more…)


  8. Best Shared Storage System for Remote Video Post-Production

    May 23, 2013 by Joe DiBenedetto

    Walter Biscardi of Biscardi Creative Media (http://www.biscardicreative.com/) gives a product overview of Small Tree’s TitaniumZ-5 technology and tells us why it’s a “pretty sweet” option for small- to mid-size production teams that are shooting out in the field.


  9. Scott Simmons on – NAB 2013: The TitaniumZ-5 from Small Tree

    April 18, 2013 by Joe DiBenedetto

    We recently wrapped up a great NAB 2013 show in Las Vegas! During the show we launched our newest products including our shared storage TitaniumZ-5. Wondering what the Titaniumz-5 is all about? We could talk all day about it but we’ll let Scott Simmons clue you in:

    TitaniumZ-5Not everyone in post-production has the need for shared storage and probably even less of those need portable shared storage but if you’re one of those that do look no further than the TitaniumZ–5 from Small Tree. It’s got some impressive specs and an eye-catching, yet useful form factor. It looks like it would be the perfect fit for certain editing situations.

    Read the rest of his blog at Pro Video Coalition

     

     

     

    (more…)


  10. Gigabytes per second or Giga-buts per second?

    March 24, 2013 by Steve Modica

    Steve ModicaEvery year as NAB approaches, the marketing once again begins.  Oh the marketing….

    As NAB approaches, I’d like to take a moment to remind people in the market for storage that Gigabytes/second is not what makes video play smoothly. (more…)