NAB 2007 From the Sidelines

The Apple and Mac application user community basked in the announcements from The National Association of Broadcasters 2007 Electronic Media Show (NAB2007). Participating in the NAB2007 show from a distance gives one an opportunity to forage the web for podcasts, webcasts, blogs, and news from the show. Final Cut Studio 2 will once again transform the industry with an impressive toolset including the new applications Final Cut Pro 6, Motion 3, Soundtrack Pro 2, Color, Cinema Tools 4, and Compressor 3, along with stalwart applications DVD Studio Pro 4 and LiveType 2.

The Final Cut Studio 2 suite introduces long requested features like surround sound, 3D support, and a post production HD codec, which Apple calls ProRes 422. Apple leveraged its intellectual property acquisitions like Shake and Logic to bolster it’s core Final Cut Studio 2 products. As Final Cut Pro burst the barriers to afford HD, Apple Color may just open the door to color grading for the rest of us. Previous systems working on 2K digital intermediates like Autodesk Lustre, IRIDAS SpeedGrade, and Silicon Color FinalTouch started at $24,995 and with control surfaces and hardware requirements easily topped $100,000 value, but Apple in its pursuit to make high end production tools affordable, decided to include Color, based on the FinalTouch acquisition, in the Final Cut Studio for no premium beyond the $1,299 asking price (upgrades begin at $499).

Other developers like Avid, Adobe, and Autodesk have various product support for Mac OS X, but none can compare to the value and tight integration of the Final Cut Studio 2 bundle.

For your Listening, Watching, and Reading Pleasure

Software Announcements
Apple Final Cut Studio 2
Adobe NAB2007 Webcast
Microsoft NAB2007 Site

Hardware Announcements
Panasonic NAB2007 USA Site
Panasonic NAB2007 Global Site
Sony Virtual NAB2007 Tradeshow
Sony NAB2007 Global Site

Color Grading Software
Apple Color
IRIDAS SpeedGrade
Autodesk Lustre
Autodesk IBC Lustre Demonstration

Post Production Codec
Apple ProRes 422 White Paper
Avid DNxHD
CineForm CineForm Intermediate

NAB2007 Blogs
Avid Savannah College of Art and Design Blog
Zoom-In NAB2007 Blog
HD for Indies Blog
Digital Content Producer NAB2007 Blogs
FreshDV Video NAB2007 Blog
CineForm Insider Blog

NAB2007 Podcasts
Digital Production Buzz NAB2007 Podcasts
fxguide NAB2007 Day 01 Podcast
fxguide NAB2007 Day 02 Podcast
fxguide NAB2007 Day 03 Podcast
fxguide NAB2007 Day 04 Podcast

Apple Delivers First Intel Mac

It’s 2006 and the wait is over for the next generation Intel and Apple products. The many months of anticipation brings some interesting news. Intel used the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as it’s launching point for the Core Duo processor, based on the Pentium M processor. The two cores can process information simultaneously, or used by the operating system to extend multitasking for rapid media creation.

The Core Duo was designed for high performance, but at low power, extending the life of a portable computer, or reducing the cooling load on a lightweight desktop. At CES 2006, Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel, announced the rapid adoption of the Core Duo technology. It took Intel one year to ship the first one millionth Pentium processor, but plans to ship the one millionth Core Duo processors in just three weeks.

Core Duo will land in Microsoft Windows PC’s, the new media platform called VIIV, and the newest family of Apple Computer products called MacBook Pro and iMac. In previous incarnations of high penetration desktop and laptop computers, the highest volume processors included the Pentium and PowerPC lines of chips, but with Apple coming aboard the Intel train, only AMD stands alone.

In June 2005, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, announced that every version of Mac OS X since its inception has been compiled and performance tested to run of both PowerPC and Intel processors. In order for Mac developers to reap the full benefits of the Intel transition, a new type of application called a Universal Binary will have to be delivered, which will have the ability to run natively on either a PowerPC or Intel architecture. Applications from legacy PowerPC systems will run using a code translation technology called Rosetta.

At Macworld 2006, Apple released the Core Duo iMac and Core Duo MacBook Pro. Each machine shares the same family of graphics engine, the ATI Radeon X1600 GPU, and both have memory expandable to 2 GB. Both systems have a built in iSight cameras for video conferencing, quick snapshots, or rudimentary podcasting. The performance increase from previous systems is astounding, with at least 2X performance increase on the iMac and perhaps as much as 4X increase on the MacBook Pro as compared to the PowerBook G4. Apple has two major product leaps.

macworld 2006 intel universal binaries
macworld 2006 intel universal binaries
macworld 2006 apple booth banner
macworld 2006 apple booth banner
iCES 2006 intel keynote dual core advantage
iCES 2006 intel keynote dual core advantage
macworld 2006
macworld 2006

iSCSI on the Mac

On the Microsoft Windows OS, iSCSI has reached a very mature level. On Linux, the Linux-iSCSI project has a refined iSCSI initiator. On the Mac, there are only a few vendors, and most are on their first generation iSCSI protocol drivers for Mac OS X Panther 10.3 and Mac OS X Tiger 10.4 OS. This is all going to change in the next several months.

Apple Computer has a SAN solution, compatible with ADIC’s StorNext File System called xSAN, a new disk paradigm that supports Mac OS X application only. In order to use the xSAN file system, one needs to erase completely and reformat any attached drives, including RAID subsystems.

Currently xSAN is supported through fibre channel networks only, and requires a dedicated ethernet port for metadata. iSCSI allows a traditional gigabit ethernet (GbE) network to become dedicated to storage with a moderate performance decrease. One can install a dedicated single or multiple port PCI card for dedicated GbE storage networking and internet traffic.

ATTO Technologies offers the Xtend SAN and Studio Network Solutions offers the GlobalSAN product. In the near future, expect D-Link to have products ready for market that go beyond the 1 GbE connection, stretching the storage platform to 10 GbE, beyond the range of 4 Gb fibre channel.

Window vs. Mac War Over?

Using computers and information technology (IT) in general comes at a great price. It may consume electricity, human power, or intellectual curiosity. To become good at using something, usually takes many repeat failures and certainly many hours of study and operation.

In the IT space, just two major companies control the worldwide computer desktop: Microsoft with it’s Windows operating system, and second runner up Apple Computer with Mac OS X. Sure, niche players like Sun Microsystems Solaris, Red Hat Linux, or SUSE Linux are available, but are not being distributed on millions of desktops every fiscal quarter. So far there have been at least six releases of Windows counting all the way back from Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. Microsoft recently announced Windows Vista, to be released sometime in early 2007. All of these operating systems has evolved from the earlier release, and as the adoption rate increased worldwide, so did the various problems.

Apple Computer has released five Mac OS X products: Mac OS X Cheetah, Mac OS X Puma, Mac OS X Jaguar, Mac OS X Panther, and Mac OS X Tiger. Apple recently announced Mac OS X Leopard, to be releases sometime in future, probably in mid 2007. In the early days of desktop computing, there was a rapid one-upping, as each company bundled features, services, and support to hold parity. Prior to Mac OS X, under the Mac OS Classic environment (i.e., Mac OS 8 or Mac OS 9) there was competition, but with the release of Mac OS X, and especially after Mac OS X Jaguar, Apple pulled ahead and had never looked back.

The investment in Mac OS X is paying off now, as very high level support is now included in the operating system for OpenGL, content creation, and visualization unheard of in previous releases.
Apple Computer Mac OS X Development Milestones
Date Event
12/20/1996 | Apple Announced NeXT Deal
09/13/2000 | Mac OS X Beta Available
03/24/2001 | Mac OS X Cheetah 10.0 Available
09/29/2001 | Mac OS X Puma 10.1 Available
08/24/2002 | Mac OS X Jaguar 10.2 Available
10/23/2003 | Mac OS X Panther 10.3 Available
04/28/2005 | Mac OS X Tiger 10.4 Available
Q2/Q3 2007 | Mac OS X Leopard 10.5 Available

With added services also came added security. There is not a single instance of a Mac OS X virus released in the wild to take down Mac machines. On the Windows platform, it’s a regular spectator sport to see how many machine go down on a weekly basis due to spyware, malware, and computer viruses.

Operating system viruses and spyware cripple machines on the Windows side consistently. Antivirus and antispyware tools are not just available, but essential subscription based software to get the machines up and running on a daily basis. In a hypothetical scenario (actual hardware prices are today very competitively priced when performance is compared, i.e., oranges to oranges), if a company saves 10% to 20% on the initial purchase of commodity x86 hardware (or AMD), capable of running Microsoft Windows software, and in the course of the machines life gets hit not by one virus, but by multiple viruses, how much money was actually saved? It may be that the liabilities associated with the commodity hardware and a ubiquitous operating system like Windows actually cost 50% more than a Apple Power Mac G5 or iMac G5 networked system, when the cost of virus software, added security programs, salaries of MCSE technicians and engineers, and the regular system corruptions due to hackers and virus authors are taken into account.

Intel and NVIDIA Inside

Apple Xserve

Apple is moving the Mac to an Intel chipset. Until that day in 2007, where all new Mac machines will be Intel inside, expect many surprises. The glue to any good chipset deployment is not only the underlying semiconductor design, but the application environment to write to the hardware, or application program interface (API). Apple Xcode is the technology that drives the software engine. When the multicore comes out with hyperthreading, then we’re talking a good move toward Intel. The chip will have at least two onboard processors, and two virtual processors. All eyes are watching the Intel Fall Developer Forum, to see the processor roadmap.

Along with advanced processors, comes 64-bit computing, which allows access to more than 4 GB of RAM (the 32-bit limit). Today’s Power Macs can hold 8 GB of RAM. I was told by Adobe, that Creative Suite 2 needs around 2 GB of RAM for all it’s applications, and Apple Motion definitely needs all it can get (4 GB at least). the future is always in flux.

At the end of spring and now into the summer, the GPU market has reached an inflection point. Unlike the 90 nm and 65 nm semiconductor barrier, both NVIDIA and ATI chug along with product announcements and advancements. ATI announced at Computex CrossFire, a method to bond multiple PCI/AGP video cards together for near double the performance. NVIDIA had already announced a similar solution they called SLI. NVIDIA stirred the pot again with the GeForce 7 series. if the GeForce 6 series did not scream enough, we have the latest and greatest with more transistors and higher performance.

NVIDIA spurs on interest in its product and introductions with unique characters, usually buxom women scantily clad to attract the gamers and young folk of the planet. if you recall NVIDIA creates these female persona to demonstrate the real time rendering of characters in cinematic motion. all in all we have luna, nalu, dusk, and dawn (summary below). Will these chipsets make it the Mac?

GPU NVIDIA history

GeForce 7800
luna demo woman

GeForce 6800
nalu demo woman

GeForce FX 5900 series
dusk demo woman

GeForce FX 5800 series
dawn demo woman

NVIDIA digital production pipeline
NVIDIA digital production pipeline

Networked Storage Basics

Almost since the beginning of desktop computing, the ability to share has been essential. Flash forward 30 years, and not only are computers networked, behold the pervasiveness of the internet to every workstation and laptop, but soon every computer will have shared storage. The simplest form of sharing would be networked attached storage (NAS), where you use built in networking protocols (TCP/IP, SAMBA, NFS, AppleTalk, etc.) to mount a remote volume over the internet or over a local area network (LAN) to a client system. You can now parcel files, using the file sharing aspects of the operating system.

A more robust system in the NAS space, uses an intelligent controller, or server (Mac OS X Server, NAS head, etc.) to deliver storage connectivity.

Companies like NetApp and BlueArc have mastered the front end of the storage array, and allow on the fly configuration, modeling, and allocation of storage resources as the needs of the enterprise change. Certain applications, like databases, require block level access to storage devices, as if they were directly attached to an individual computer. Application performance may suffer if the program is looking for block level access, but only sees NAS, however, in general, NAS is fast and is a completely viable storage platform.

Be it a NAS environment or a storage area network (SAN), most likely SAN is the storage subsystem architecture anyway. Currently there are three ways to attach a SAN to a workstation or workgroup:

Fibre Channel
Gigabit Ethernet, GbE (iSCSI)
IEEE 1394a or 1394b (FireWire)

Each methodology has is benefits and pitfalls, but all offer rugged access to shared storage resources. With a shared storage solution, the workstation can boot from the SAN, share files and applications (if the software licensing agreement allows it), and make the backup and restore aspect of data management easier.


Do you do Wintel?

Cloak Media offers many services, and simple Windows XP integration (setting up a printer, networking, shared storage, etc.) into the Mac OS X environment is one of them. I know there are certain vertical applications that only run on Windows XP or Windows 98. On the Mac, Microsoft has VirtualPC, but it does not operate as fast as a true PC, since every service needs to be emulated. There is nothing like using an actual PC, but also expect the standard PC headaches, like viruses, spyware, malware, and regular instability.

I choose to concentrate on Apple Mac technologies. You can focus on what’s important, the applications and the workflow, not trying to get a square peg into a round whole, as is often the case on commodity hardware from the traditional Windows/Intel (Wintel) world (looking for drivers, registry fixes, scan disk, etc.). It’s worth a little more money upfront to get a system that works out of the box, without a lot of futzing, and that’s why Cloak Media works primarily with Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server.

Likewise, support costs are dramatically reduced on the Mac, since it does not break as often. In the history of Mac OS X, there has not been a single virus in the wild, but only theoretical attacks.