Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The URL has changed to blog.dv411.com

The company that hosts our web site now allows custom DNS settings - and that means a new and better URL!

blog.dv411.com (the old one was dv411.blogspot.com, just in case you were wondering)

Let's celebrate! Order an HP Z800 workstation at 10% off from now until end of October. Just mention "the blog".

Friday, July 9, 2010

YouTube Goes 4K: Why?

YouTube started hosting 4K clips, and I am stumped: why offer something that very, very few people can use? Here are my tops reasons to not host 4K clips:
  1. My monitor is too small. The official YouTube blog post says that "the ideal screen size for a 4K video is 25 feet". Yes, 25 feet. That's 6 times your average Joe's 50-inch TV and most apartment walls are 10 to 14 feet unless you feel like finding an empty wall at Ralph's... good luck.

    Wait, here is an idea. You go buy a 4K Red One camera ($25-50K with lenses and accessories), shoot an awesome 4K video, upload it to YouTube and... watch it on your iPhone? Oh wait, it's less than 4 inches and you need 25 feet of real estate to view it. Then go to your nearest Imax theater - they should let you fire up your 4K YouTube video after hours, right? Or, rent one of those 4K projectors and a 25' screen for something like $5K a day... There, enjoy your 4K movie. Don't forget the popcorn.

    Seriously, most high resolution monitors max out at 1080p and there are very, very few monitors or projection screens out there that can display 4K. None of them are accessible to regular mortals outside of 4K post production houses and Malibu celebrity row. People attempting to view 4K clips on their supposedly high end systems will be disappointed to not being able to see the 4K quality.


  2. My computer is too slow. The vast majority of computers will choke on 4K. My 3-year-old office machine (Intel Core 2 6600 2.4GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, GeForce 8800GTS graphics, Vista 64) sure does choke: choppy playback, severe compression artifacts. The monitor is the 30-inch HP LP3065 with 2560x1600 resolution. In 1080p mode, it's smooth and gorgeous. In 4K mode - horrible. Here is the 4K clip I tried - see if your results are better. I hope they are.

    Ouch 2.

    (Added 2010-07-10 10:57am) Current computers with high performance multi-core Intel and AMD CPUs will likely play back 4K videos in their "original" mode smoothly. HP Z800 with dual Xeon E5530 CPUs and NVidia Quadro CX card had no issues although the visual quality of the video in the original mode is still noticeably worse than in 1080p mode and even 720p mode: not as sharp, with visible gradients and pixelized lines. According to Pavel P who commented on this post, his 27" iMac with Core i7 CPU had no issues either. I can only guess that the "original" 4K mode is worse than 1080p because of Adobe Flash player processing: it may simply not know what to do with such high quality video.

  3. YouTube says you need a "super-fast broadband" to video 4K videos although my crude calculations show that they stream at about 6Mbs, which means even a home-brew 3Mbs DSL is fast enough if you don't mind a little waiting. It took me about 4 minutes to fully download a 3-minute 4K video over a 6Mbs DSL. So to me, broadband speed isn't that big of an issue. The real issue is that most people can't enjoy the 4K quality.
Bottom line, virtually nobody can enjoy the full 4K quality. Why offer this 4K support then?

For YouTube, it's most likely a test of the potential market, a somewhat cruel tease akin to putting you in an F-22 Raptor and taxiing you around the airstrip but no flying. Lots of tease, no release, excuse my parallel. These 4K videos may be useful to few of us with access to the right display and computer equipment, and to ubergeeks to stress-test their uber-duper gaming or editing systems - but certainly not to the vast majority of YouTube users.
(F-22 Raptor image by Rob Shenk)

Another reason is future-proofing YouTube. Making the 4K option available today rather than sometime in the future, eliminates the inconvenience of re-uploading 4K clips in the future. After all, there aren't too many 4K cameras out there; 4K production (and post-production) is expensive, and the impact on YouTube's servers because of hosting 4K will be minuscule. Letting users upload 4K clips today is a smart move even if few people can enjoy them at full quality.

Have you tried YouTube's 4K videos? How do they look? Can your computer play back YouTube's 4K videos smoothly in their "original mode"? Is that "original" mode better quality than the 1080p mode? Let me know - post a comment, and tell me this:
  • which 4K clip(s) you tried, and in what mode (original, 1080p, etc.)?
  • the resolution of your monitor
  • the CPU, RAM and GPU in your system
  • What OS you are running (e.g. Windows Vista Business 64-bit), and Flash player version (right-click on the video, click on "About Adobe Flash Player")
  • What was the effective frame rate of the video, and how many frames were dropped during playback? (Right-click on the video during playback and choose "Video Info")
  • How is the quality of the video in "original" mode vs. 1080p and 720p?
Enjoy your tests!

Sample 4K video below. Click to open it on YouTube page and select "original" quality.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

HP Z800: leaps and bounds over predecessors; still could be better

HP Z800 has a rather subdued exterior. It doesn't manifest its power by chrome accents, edgy or flashy design. Yet its heft and build quality manifest themselves even before you pop the cover open to peer inside.  And then you are really in awe.

Ever peaked under the hood of a BMW M6?  That's what Z800's inside looks like.  CPU/memory and card bays have separate plastic covers and are compartmentalized for efficient airflow.  Hard drives are in removable trays on a backplane.  Which means no wires or cables.  In fact very few cables are visible - a huge departure from its predecessor xw8600.  The Z800 is the only system that is better designed than a Mac Pro.  Finally, someone did it.

The unusually shaped power supply at the top can be removed and swapped without any tools, much like almost anything else in this system: aside from CPU heat sinks, everything is tool-less.  Yes even the hard drive trays.  Among other features are gobs of RAM, PCIe slots, SAS and SATA ports, RAID5 on SATA ports. HP on-site support, its responsiveness and quality are also unmatched.

The Z800 leaps not only over its predecessors the xw8600 and xw9400 in design, features and power, but also over competitors. There is nothing like the Z800 in the market. Not from Dell, not from Lenovo, not from Apple, not from custom system integrators.

Can Z800 stand improvement?  Of course - I have a shortlist. If you do, post a comment.

Noise: not as quiet as a Mac Pro. Z800 is still practically silent, even under load, despite all of its 8 to 10 fans.  Mac Pro only has 3 or 4 larger ones which spin at slower speeds and therefore generate less noise.  Granted, Mac Pro is radically more limited than Z800 on PCIe slots, available power, RAM and storage expansion - but still, a part of me wishes the Z800 could be as silent as the Mac Pro.

Hard drive activity lights. You can put up to six 3.5" drives in a Z800, four of them into swappable bays connected to the SAS backplane. However there is only one HDD activity light for all of them. A hard drive that is about to die or has problems, often has much more activity than it should.  Having an individual activity light for each hard drive would make it much easier to trouble-shoot and diagnose.  On HP servers, there are two diagnostic lights for each drive bay - for a good reason.

Storage expandability: there is room for more! There are 14 hard disk connectors on the motherboard (8 SAS, 6 SATA), but room for only 6 drives, 4 of them on a SAS backplane. How about an option for 8-10 SFF drives vs. 4 LFF ones?

Save for a few very minor gripes, HP Z800 is today's best workstation, the top dog, unmatched by anyone else.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Matrox codecs now available free of charge

Video captured using Matrox products can now be viewed and editing on non-Matrox Windows systems without having to buy anything. Just download the codecs.

Fresh from Matrox:

In the past, Matrox has offered the Matrox M.Key/100 USB device that unlocks the Matrox MPEG-2 I-frame HD, DVCPRO HD, HDV, and other Matrox Video for Windows (VFW) codecs for use on 32-bit systems that don’t have Matrox editing cards. Since the launch of this product, M.Key/100 has supported only 32-bit Windows operating systems. With the recent surge of 64-bit operating systems, M.Key/100 is now incompatible in many environments. The popularity of Matrox codecs has also grown, which has increased the market demand for open codecs from Matrox. Therefore, Matrox will no longer be offering the Matrox M.Key/100 USB device. As an alternative to M.Key/100, Matrox is pleased to announce our new Matrox VFW software codec package, which will be available for download free of charge from our website. This package provides the following VFW software codecs for use on 32-bit and 64-bit Windows operating systems:

  • Matrox DV/DVCAM
  • Matrox DVCPRO
  • Matrox DVCPRO50
  • Matrox DVCPRO HD
  • Matrox MPEG-2 I-frame in SD and HD resolutions, with or without alpha
  • Matrox Uncompressed in SD and HD resolutions, with or without alpha
  • Matrox Offline HD
  • Matrox M-JPEG and HDV (playback only)

The new Matrox VFW software codec package will allow any system to use AVI files that have been captured on Matrox Axio, RT.X, and MXO2 systems, and to also create these AVI files for use on Matrox systems. This flexibility lets you use any workstation to do a rough cut, then copy the project and assets to an Axio, RT.X, or MXO2 system to finish the job. There is no need for time-consuming recapturing. As well, dedicated compositing or animation workstations can render finished elements that will play back in real time on Matrox editing and playout systems.

The new Matrox VFW software codec is available to all Matrox Axio registered users as a free download from the support section of the website.

Thank you,
Matrox Video Product Group

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Intel's new Xeon 5600 series processors

Intel announced new server and workstation processors last month: up to 40% faster than the current 5500 series, more cores, more features, at about the same prices. Their published benchmarks show a performance improvement ranging from 21 to 48%. The processors use the same technologies Intel introduced with the 5500 series:
  • The Hyper-Threading Technology doubles the number of execution threads to increase performance for workloads optimized for multiple threads, such as simulation-based design, ray tracing, rendering, etc.
  • The Turbo Boost Technology "overclocks" the core frequencies under heavy load, to increase performance.
  • The Smart Cache dynamically allocates cache resources based on the demands of each core so data is managed more efficiently to optimize execution across all cores.

The new processors will work with the same chipsets, motherboards and memory as the 5500 series making the upgrade seamless.

HP announced servers (link, PDF) with the new 5600 series processors, but not workstations yet.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Matrox Axio 4.2.1 to be released March 19th

Release 4.2.1 for Matrox Axio will be available for download on March 19. The Release will provide the following new features:
  • Support for creating 1080p @ 29.97 fps sequences.
  • Support for XDCAM EX split clips and XDCAM EX metadata.
  • Overall stability improvements.
Additional resources:

DV411 Digital Signage Solutions