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Do you have the computing power you need? by Sonnet-LaPorte I n high-pressure audio/ video production environments, adequate computing horsepower is critical for handling the volume of tracks and channels to be recorded, played back, mixed, edited and streamed. The Apple® Mac Pro® offers great performance and extensibility – but its heavy, bulky “tower” configuration doesn’t lend itself to mobile use or space- constrained environments, nor for rack mounting. The extreme opposite in form factor, the Mac® mini offers amazingly good performance in a highly portable form factor at a fraction of the cost of a Mac Pro, plus it includes Thunderbolt™ technology. But, for most professionals, the Mac mini’s extra-small footprint and lack of PCIe expansion slots limits its functionality and connectivity. Sonnet Technologies has bridged the gap between the Mac Pro’s extensibility and the Mac mini’s portability with its xMac™ mini Server, a Thunderbolt-to-PCIe 2.0 expansion system and 1U rackmount enclosure that securely holds the Mac mini in place, adds two onboard PCIe expansion slots which connect to the computer’s Thunderbolt port, and provides an additional port on the chassis to enable daisy chaining of other Thunderbolt devices. The xMac mini Server enables A/V professionals to rack-mount a Mac mini where it can be easily cabled and extended with Thunderbolt connectivity. One such professional is renowned audio engineer Hugh Healy, who provides audio workstation solutions for numerous high-profile live television productions – most recently NBC’s “The Voice.” Healy has designed and used an audio workstation with the xMac mini Server and an RME HDSPe MADI FX card providing three MADI inputs and outputs for a total of 390 channels available for recording and playback. “That’s a tremendous amount of audio I/O, and it’s a great example of how we’re able to take advantage of the Mac mini’s outstanding performance in an audio workflow,” Healy said. The xMac mini Server is not just for mobile and on-location productions, but for studio use, too – a perfect example is the Tampa Bay Arts and Education (TBAE) Network. TBAE’s Tampa Bay Education Channel and Tampa Bay Arts Channel reach over 300,000 viewers in the Tampa, Florida area. Scott Maiden, TBAE’s Director of Broadcast Operations and Engineering, recently enlisted Sonnet partner Softron Media Services to upgrade the network’s master control automation capabilities. The project required rack-mountable solutions, as well as the ability to use Blackmagic Design’s two-channel DeckLink capture and playback cards connected to Mac mini computer via Thunderbolt. Softron’s On the Air Node playout and scheduling software works with the Mac mini and the DeckLink card, connected via Thunderbolt through the xMac mini Server, and two Promise Technology RAID arrays. “To broadcast multiple video streams and ingest video simultaneously, we require speed and performance that only Thunderbolt can deliver,” said Maiden. “The xMac mini Server is the only solution that could support multi-channel playback while at the same time enabling us to take advantage of low-cost Thunderbolt- enabled Mac mini solutions.” Sonnet reseller Chip Pettit, a professional audio engineer and broadcast systems integrator based in North Carolina, has built a cloud- based broadcast service offering that includes a Mac mini housed in an xMac mini server with the ToolsOnAir “TV Station in a Mac” solution, the just: Broadcast Suite. One of Pettit’s clients is a media company using the 24/7 cloud playout solution to support its newly launched IP channel for content delivery to smartphones, tablets, and other OTT platforms. “The xMac mini Server has afforded us a unique opportunity to provide a blended playout solution in the cloud that’s very fast and easy to deploy,” Pettit said. “Our customers can benefit from channel-in-a-box functionality at a much lower cost than if they were to install these systems on their premises, and they also get engineering support from our team.” xMac™ mini Server 50 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 80 AUGUST 2013