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High Speed SAN via Ethernet. It's True!

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : High Speed SAN via Ethernet. It's True!
To paraphrase a famous author, "I have seen the future of shared storage and his name is Ethernet."

Last month we invested in the new Final Share system from MaxxDigital and after some tweaking, we now have 16TB of shared storage supported a high definition workflow with 6 workstations all running Apple's ProRes HQ in high definition, both 720p and 1080i. And actually it's not "workstations" in the traditional sense of the word, since we're running ethernet, we can connect any Mac computer to the array.

So in our case, we have three Final Cut Pro desktop workstations and three iMac's all connected. In our testing today we configured the three FCP workstations to capture approx. 3 hours of 720 and 1080i ProRes HQ material each. As that was happening, all three iMacs were playing back 20+ minute clips in Quicktime Player in a loop. After all the capturing, we had all three FCP workstations set up with 90 minute timeline playing in a loop while the iMacs kept playing their clips. We left it all alone for several hours and all way still playing. 6 streams of high definition from one storage array and all via simple ethernet cable!

We plan to use the iMacs both to allow Producers to review footage immediately upon capture and also for Assistant Editors working on upcoming series. Once the footage is in the system, anybody can access it at any time and since it's not Fibre Channel, I don't have to invest in top of the line desktop editing systems for the assists.

Watch for a full article on this system coming up shortly, but wow, this thing really works and it's really affordable!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 16, 2009 at 8:38:33 pmComments (13) storage, final cut pro, editing, san, maxx digital


Full article is up
by walter biscardi
Here's the full article with more details about the SAN.
by walter biscardi
The graphics could all be on the SAN as well. We do one of two things. Put all the graphics in the Capture Scratch folder of the project or in a top level "Graphics" folder and inside of that a folder for each project. Basically all media can reside on the SAN. All audio files always go into the Capture Scratch folder of a project.

I normally put all the graphics on the internal AUX drive of a machine (which actually we did install an AUX drive on the SAN machine) but with the SAN, now you want everything out there.

As for pizza, we use a Semolina based dough. Anyway you make it, pizza on the grill is a thing of beauty!
by Martin Jaeger
One thing I would NOT do is micromanage these drives. Do as few folders as necessary and always name folders by PROJECTS not by suites

Basically how we organize things anyway. I understand letting FCP do it's normal project management. Will have to designate Color's default media and render directories to the SAN then. I'll be happy when Apple releases a new version of Color with project management more similar to FCP.

So should the other files for a project i.e. audio files, photoshop files, AfterEffects projects etc. ALL reside on the SAN too? Or should these remain local or on another server and the SAN reserved for high-bandwidth media only? Apologies for being so thick-headed about all this. Probably owe you a consulting fee by now... Just send me a bill.

BTW, doing some pizza on the Weber today. Bought my first pizza peel. Been using whole wheat flower in the dough... Highly recommend it.

Thanks again for all the help with this!
by walter biscardi
Where to allocate scratch and render directories. etc. etc... Am hoping your article touches on some of this too.

I think I touched on some of this but how you set it up is really up to you. What Bob likes to do is create a partition for each workstation or set of workstations. In our case we have a single 16TB Array that's broken into two partitions. SAN 1 and SAN 2.

Edit 1 uses SAN 1

Edit 2 and 3 use SAN 2

Why? Because Edits 1 and 2 run daily while Edit 3 runs maybe half the year. So they can easily share those two and not fill up the 8TB partition.

BUT, all the Edit suites can capture / edit to either one of the SANs. On each SAN we simply let FCP create all the partitions like Capture Scratch, Render files, etc... and then of course each project just resides in there.

So don't go creating all sorts of special folders for the suites, just let FCP handle the project management as it already does, by creating a new set of folders for each project. An additional folder we have added to both SANs is an Animation Folder and inside of that we'll create a new folder for projects. That's something we need to do.

One thing I would NOT do is micromanage these drives. Do as few folders as necessary and always name folders by PROJECTS not by suites. When you have a SAN the suites don't matter. So what you're wanting to do is a perfect example of a great use of the SAN. Capture and edit in one suite, create some graphics in another, maybe color grade in another, even lay off to tape in a fourth. You'll probably have some starts and stops in your organizational plan, but don't overanalyze it. FCP does a great job of managing folders and projects for you so I would just follow its lead.
Coming soon
by Martin Jaeger
OK, great... Wish they'd go ahead and publish it already. Took your advice and conferenced with Bob Zelin and John at Maxx. Darn good guys to take so much time with me! I understand how the system works and is configured. My quandry now is best practice workflow and organization... We do mostly :30 commercial work so we're not digitizing and editing a project across multiple editors simultaneously... The goal is to be able to digitize (if needed) in one room, pick up the project in another room to edit, pick up the project in another room for Graphics or finishing and finally pick up the project back in the dub room... without duplicating any media or creating multiple project files. Since it's AFP it should be simple enough but I'm unsure if the drive should be partitioned with volumes for each bay or kept as a single volume with individual project directories for media, project files, graphics files and audio... Where to allocate scratch and render directories. etc. etc... Am hoping your article touches on some of this too.

Thanks so much for the advice!
Coming soon
by walter biscardi
the article has been submitted to the Cow, that's all I can say at this point. I'm not sure if it's being released as part of the next magazine or on the website.

If you want to contact folks who have been running it in real world situations for I believe over 6 months, contact Bob Zelin directly and he'll put you in touch with the folks at Nickelodeon, David Nixon Productions and others.

After all the shakedowns and installation, we've had it running about 6 weeks now I think. One thing about Maxx is they will stand behind this. If it didn't work, they were going to pull it out and give us a refund, they're very confident in it. And I know it works better now than it did when we got it because adjustments were made in the drivers to increase the speed and create a better network protocol for the formats based on our input and testing.
Ethernet SAN
by Martin Jaeger
Really considering pulling the trigger on this. I put considerable stock on your (and Zellins) opinion of this solution. Waiting for your eval article... Would love to hear how the system holds up under real-world use over time. I realize your probably busy but uh, any idea when we might see something??
dropped frames with Fibre?
by walter biscardi
that should never happen. DVCPro HD runs fine on Firewire 400 drives.
Ok thanks. We have fibre channel
by Andy Lancaster
Ok thanks. We have fibre channel with DVCPro HD 720p and have some drop frame problems.
Seagate Drive Issue
by walter biscardi
just do a search of the Final Cut Pro forum among others or visit and read their tech bulletin on that. There was a run of 1.5TB and I believe 1TB drives that had issues.
What is the Seagate drive issue?
by Andy Lancaster
What is the Seagate drive issue?
All a part of tweaking
by walter biscardi
At first we did, but that was all a part of tweaking and getting everything set up just right. We also discovered a few bad cards along the way which needed to be replaced which was very weird. And we got bit by the Seagate 7200.11 drive issue. I forgot to check to see if there was a blue moon outside when we installed everything! :-)

But Ron and the gang at Maxx and Steve at SmallTree have been incredible in tracking down anything that popped up and we now have a very solid media SAN right now.

Obviously working with an ethernet SAN does not give you the throughput of a FibreChannel SAN so there are limits to how much data you can push through, but it also costs about 1/3 of a FibreChannel array, so I'll take that!

I'll be covering all of that and much more in my article.
Drop Frame?
by Andy Lancaster
Have you had any drop frame issues?

Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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