NAStronaut
Production with GB Labs
4K Shared Storage

4K WORKFLOWS

 

For many users in the animation and motion graphics world, very high resolution and high frame rate media is nothing new. GB Labs customer Crystal CG, for example, is frequently called on to create such content for sports venues using Adobe After Effects and Autodesk 3ds Max. 

However, 2K and 4K content is still a relatively new concept for videographers and TV producers. Cameras such as the ARRI Alexa and Red Scarlet are targeted at the higher end of production or are used by broadcasters primarily to capture HD. Only now with the arrival of the relatively affordable Sony PMW-F5, the Canon EOS C500, and the inexpensive Blackmagic Production Camera and Sony FDR-AX1 is UltraHD shooting a practical reality for most producers.

As with any form of tapeless production, there are two ways of transferring data from the camera to safe storage for editing. Either the Director of Photography can use an on-board recorder, capturing files to solid state disk or fast media cards, or use a workstation equipped with a 4K PCI capture card, such as Blackmagic Design’s Decklink 4K Extreme. In either instance, state of the art hardware is required to deal with the massive data rates.

 

 

DATA RATES

10-bit 4K (4096P), uncompressedmeans huge file sizes and demanding bitrates at 24fps:

  • Raw RGB + Alpha: 1 GB/s or 3.8TB/hour
  • YUV 4:4:4: 796MB/s or 2.9TB/hour
  • YUV 4:4:2: 530MB/s or 1.9TB/hour

Compressed 4K files are also challenging:

  • Apple ProRes 422 (HQ): 110MB/s
  • Sony XAVC (60fps 4:2:2): 75MB/s
 
 

WORKFLOW IMPACT

Editing workstations, data ingest devices and graphics adapters all have to be top of the line to cope with these data rates. Arguably, however, the biggest obstacle to adopting 4K is storage.

The biggest obstacle to adopting 4K is storage


Firstly, sheer volume size is critical. But before considering the editing platform itself, Tier 2 nearline and tape archives have to be readied to manage the massive influx of data. After all, there is no sense in filling a primary system with UltraHD footage, cutting a project but having no place to safely offload the files once it has been completed. Unlike with HD, where primary RAID systems can often hold a number of projects before space becomes an issue, in the 4K world, the capacity of tier 1 storage must be a consideration from the outset.

To prepare customers for this big data moment, GB Labs devised Echo 36, an easily expandable, fast nearline that ranges in size from 32 to 128TB and can be expanded to as much as 3PB. Echo 36 includes RAID protection and 2 global hot spare disks to give a high level of security. A recent addition to the GB Labs portfolio is the Cluster Manager that delivers huge capacities (up-to 30PB) with no single point of failure: entire storage nodes can be kept for parity to safeguard against any node failure.

Cluster Manager with capacities up-to 30PB


GB Labs has also been quick to adopt LTO-6 in its multi-drive tape system. As a result, it can copy 4 2.5TB tapes at an astonishing aggregate data rate of 640MB/s over a network.

 
 

NETWORK INFRASTRUCTURE

The final issue to address before addressing the primary storage system is the network architecture. Many Ethernet-based storage networks do not fully saturate network connections. This inefficiency hampers the incredible transfer speeds that 10 and 40-gigabit connections are capable of. Additionally, many storage products are optimized for a particular network type, such as AFP or NFS but do not necessarily give users the best experience in their preferred protocol. Finally, we have found that many systems are problematic when faced with mixed OS networks. This is a common failing and can be a major drawback as customers increasingly want to roll out – say – Mac-based edit stations, Linux transcoding nodes and Windows effects, graphics and audio systems. 

Space supports multi-OS networks


Space from GB Labs was designed to overcome each of these issues. Data transfer speeds are class leading, network connections are fully saturated and system architecture was specifically developed to support multi-OS networks. Every system in the range from super tier 1 to off-line tape systems share the same operating system, giving users a seamless and consistent experience at every stage of the production process and throughout the workflow chain.
 

 

EDITING PLATFORM

multi-OS

Without blistering read / write speeds, non-linear editing 4K resolutions is extremely difficult. Editors now totally immersed in real time online editing expect the transition from HD to UltraHD post production to be smooth and problem-free. 

Fortunately, in the last 2 to 3 years, solid state drive (SSD) technology has progressed rapidly. It now offers excellent reliability, a relatively low cost investment and lightning fast performance. RAID-configured, SSD is the only answer to 4K post production. There is a drawback: although the technology addresses the speed issue, the capacity of individual drives, compared with 4TB HDDs, means that space is comparatively limited (see above section on workflow impact). 

Sustain in excess of 3000 MB/s


GB Labs’ Super Tier 1 NAS storage systems (Space SSD, Midi Space SSD, 4K Duo and Mini Space SSD) are carefully tuned to deliver extreme performance. With our new Blue Shift technology and Core 3 OS, we are confident that our systems outperform every product we have tested on the market. Space SSD, our flagship product, for example, can achieve in excess of 3000 MB/s. This can be increased with use of affordable EX SSD units which add capacity as well as speed. Even the portable Mini SSD delivers a sustained read/write performance above 1GB/s. 

All Space storage supports collaborative editing environments and include Avid project support. Shared 4K editing is fully enabled for Apple Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro and Grass Valley Edius Pro.

 

 

ON SET

Manufacturing systems in a variety of formats, users can select rack-mounted, desktop or portable devices best suited to their needs, whether that is for a facility-based editors, boutique style workgroup or small teams working on location or on-set. 

With Space 4K Duo, the DIT has a complete single box 4K workflow that gives users and their insurer the confidence that rushes are protected from the outset. The system’s SSD RAID delivers the speed needed for producing quick edits and dailies, and instant grading. This is combined with twin LTO-6 drives that can copy (manually or automatically) data from the primary 4K NAS storage onto secure tape. A USB 3 port and optional eSATA to connector enables crews to use fast card readers, such as Sonnet’s Qio.