Bob Pank starts counting cores...


Bob Pank# TV-Bay Magazine
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Once again BVE hosted its one-day Cloud seminar. The new ExCel location meant that the room was away from the show floor and ideal for concentrating on the words flowing from the experts. Full-on attention was needed as squeezing in nine sessions between 10.00 and 17.45 meant that each would be short, sharp and to the point, which was certainly the case for the two I attended.
First to catch my eye was ‘How can HPC be delivered through the cloud?’ moderated by Roland Brown of AndCubed. High performance computing is, of course, widely used in the post production industry which, in the UK, is centred on Soho. But it was an eye-opener to learn the scale of these operations, the challenges it produces and how the cloud can help. It was immediately clear that any cloud use is always to lower costs – no surprise there. The other point that came up several times was security; there still seems to be some worry there.
It appears that Soho locations cannot always easily get all the electrical power and cooling needed to support sufficient computing power to produce results fast enough in-house. Considering the speed and efficiency of modern processors, this was quite a surprise to me. While the TV industry now firmly into HD (nearly 2K) and taking a serious look at 4K, the movie business already widely uses 2K and starting to look at 4K. The latter may not just represent a quadrupling of picture area, and the computer power needed to render an image. Roland Brown pointed out that many experts are of the opinion that bigger pictures may well need higher frame rates. This was recently used as an experiment in The Hobbit movie (48 f/s), and it is thought maybe necessary for 4K TV sports coverage. For a movie, that means eight times the computations of 2K (24 f/s). Rates if 120 f/s are talked about for 8K.
So what does this have to do with the cloud? At the post production house the computations are executed by the ‘cores’, as FrameStore’s CTO Steve MacPherson pointed out. The company’s recent work on ‘Gravity’ required more than the 12,500 cores that were available in house. Adding more to cover this peak load over a two-month period proved not to be the most efficient solution. Negotiations with neighbouring post houses quickly solved the problem adding an extra temporally spare 2,000 cores made up the difference. The cores did not move but were accessed via the Internet. These ran 24/7 over the two months and created an HPC cloud.
MacPherson said that “We can use the cloud only where it makes sense.” With the wealth of post companies in the Soho community there is plenty of potential for sharing cores, which is a benefit to all involved parties.
Chris Johns, Chief Engineer BskyB, presented a broadcaster’s perspective of the cloud in which he identified the need for transcoding – an operation that has rapidly expanded with the proliferation of pads, pods, smart phones and other viewers. Apparently FOX has identified a requirement for 31 different formats to be delivered from the master. As the coding schemes tend to be asymmetric, with one necessarily complex coder that allows simpler decoding in the many viewing devices, coding takes a lot of computer power but can be run live. However, the computer power increase to code HD verses SD is not just the difference of pixels (about 5:1) but is also multiplied by the complexity of the of coding; H.264 verses MPEG-2... and next up, HEVC will require another level of power.
The cloud also adds a new degree of freedom. Mr Johns mentioned that BskyB’s very efficient production centre at Osterley is now running on limits of heat (a restriction that is also affecting many in the Soho community). He advises, “reinventing your green credentials” and so “off-line use outside is good... provided you have the bandwidth.” However he also urges caution, as sometimes it can be quicker to send a disc rather than using bandwidth.
Harry Stover, Chief Enterprise Architect, BBC compared the broadcaster’s statistics with the cloud, such as the 250 billion (if I counted all the 0’s correctly) TV frames it produces per year, and tape storage at 20p/GB against the much higher cost of cloud storage. He also pointed out that no cloud provider offers tape storage. A single one-hour programme may comprise 1.3TB of data and that is probably a million times the size of the normal cloud object. These and more statistics clearly proved that there are big differences between what a big broadcaster needs and what the cloud can offer. Which then means you must make absolutely sure that your cloud provider really does understand exactly what performance you need.
Stover also pointed out a one-off need arising from the immanent closedown of the BBC Television Centre. At which time the new Salford centre will need access to the material at the old London base. In retrospect, using the cloud for storage, rather than discs and tape, would have made the logistics of the move much easier.
Yes, the cloud does have its place in broadcast TV and Soho – but it only fits where it can save money. The cloud sessions I attended were packed with interesting information, and full-house audiences. No doubt BVE will run a cloud day again next year. If they are anything like as good as those I saw it would be well worth the time – and entry this year was again free!

Tags: iss075 | counting cores | bve | cloud seminar | security | files | the cloud | Bob Pank#
Contributing Author Bob Pank#

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  • Argosy at BVE North 2011

    Argosy at BVE North 2011

  • Audio Developments at BVE North 2011

    Audio Developments at BVE North 2011

  • Autoscript at BVE North 2011

    Autoscript at BVE North 2011

  • Autocue at BVE North 2011

    Autocue at BVE North 2011

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    Avid at BVE North 2011

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    Cirrolite at BVE North 2011

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    IDX at BVE North 2011

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    Holdan and DaVinci at BVE North 2011

  • Hireacamera at BVE North 2011

    Hireacamera at BVE North 2011

  • Holdan and Teradek at BVE North 2011

    Holdan and Teradek at BVE North 2011

  • Holdan and Panasonic at BVE North 2011

    Holdan and Panasonic at BVE North 2011

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    BVE North 2011

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    HHB and TC Electronic at BVE North2011

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Articles
Sony HDC-4800 Review
Andy McKenzie First announced at NAB 2016, the Sony HDC-4800 is a studio camera system capable of shooting 4K/UHD at up to 8x or full HD at up to 16x. With a price point upwards of £250,000 it is a very high-end product with a wide feature set. In Sony's own words, "This is the future of live production, designed to satisfy the storytelling aspect of modern sports production.” Deliveries began in mid 2017 and, after careful preliminary evaluation, we invested in several systems for our hire fleet ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Tags: iss134 | review | hdc-4800 | sony | finepoint | Andy McKenzie
Contributing Author Andy McKenzie Click to read or download PDF
University and Mental Health
Rhiannon Jenkins University study and mental health has been in the media quite a bit over the last year, and I’m sure there are many people wondering what is going on? The issues are complex, and I suppose the focus of employability off the back of a degree course has raised the stress stakes for a lot of young people. I’m only qualified to talk about this from my perspective, and my story began when I joined a course not knowing I had a mental health condition.
Tags: iss134 | portsmouth uni | mental health | student | tvfutures | Rhiannon Jenkins
Contributing Author Rhiannon Jenkins Click to read or download PDF
An Epiphany Moment
Peter Savage 2 I had been negotiating the sale of my company and had reached the really hard end of the bargain. We were close to agreeing the final sum after a lot of too-much-give-and-not-enough-take negotiation. The solicitors were calling me, keen for a deal. It had come down to one sticking point and, in my hard ball “I am the Wolf of Wall Street” guise, I wasn’t going to let it go. It would make a value difference of 1.5% on the total outcome. Not much, you might think, but I had already nearly fallen out with the solicitors over their fees and I was giving my advisors an extremely hard time because the corporate adviser couldn’t see how I had already given more than an inch and the buyers were taking more than a mile. I was not going to let them win.
Tags: iss134 | azule | finance | Peter Savage 2
Contributing Author Peter Savage 2 Click to read or download PDF
Giving Welsh sport a global audience
Adam Amor From the Ospreys Rugby Union team, to the Football Association of Wales, as well as national cycling, swimming and boxing coverage, Port Talbot based Buffoon Film and Media has been heavily involved in putting Welsh sports on the world stage.
Tags: iss134 | blackmagic | atem | buffoon | micro studio camera | Adam Amor
Contributing Author Adam Amor Click to read or download PDF
GoPro HERO 7 Review
Tim Bearder When I heard I was filming a nature restoration project in the pouring rain this week I was excited. WHY? No Cameraman enjoys the rain, surely but this time I was enthusiastic because I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to try out the brand new GoPro Hero 7 Black Edition.
Tags: iss134 | gopro | hero 7 | review | liberal media | Tim Bearder
Contributing Author Tim Bearder Click to read or download PDF