Looking back on NAB 2016 – How might this year’s trends affect your business?

As we say goodbye to another NAB Show, it’s always interesting to reflect on the questions we heard most often from customers and prospects on the show floor.  Not surprisingly, the amount of 4K+ resolutions coming in the door has grown significantly from last year for many facilities. Some facilities that have been happy to ignore 4K until now found themselves reluctantly re-evaluating workflows as 4K or UHD has become part of their growing list of deliverables. HDR (High Dynamic Range) and HFR (high frame rate) and VR were central themes.  As you can imagine, all of these questions boil down to a question of bandwidth and connectivity.  How much will I need? What might it cost me?  Can I use the storage system I already have?

Do I really need a wall of storage?

Many customers making the rounds with other storage vendors were walking around with a severe case of  “sticker shock”.  However, it shouldn’t be necessary to make huge investments in shared storage infrastructure to deliver the bandwidth UHD workflows demand.

The bandwidth requirements for basic 4K UHD TV, sometimes referred to as Quad HD are simply 4 times that of HD when using known compression codecs. However, the acquisition format coming in the door could come in as 2160p or even full frame 4K raw or uncompressed.  Looking at figure 1 below, actual bandwidth requirements may increase up to 6 times that of HD!

Figure 1

Another example of skyrocketing data rates is the introduction of 8K into production. When dealing with 8K (4320p) images, 60fps 4K, HDR (high dynamic range) 4K, bandwidth can easily exceed the storage infrastructure in place at many post production facilities today. (see figure 2)

Figure 2

Is 8K really going to become a “thing”?

Why would someone feel the need to shoot in such a format? It’s a good question that we get asked often.

If we admit that 4K is becoming a new standard deliverable for more programs, then it follows that the common practice of 4K replacing 2-camera 1080p shoots today will naturally extend to 8K replacing 2-camera 4K shoots. (see figures 3 and 4)

All of the popular NLEs on the market support the ability to easily extract regions of interest from larger source images. It gives editors limitless flexibility when framing shots in post and cuts the cost and complexity of production nearly in half!

Figure 3

Figure 4

What about VR?

Virtual Reality is a trend that’s increasingly getting more attention and at this year’s NAB, it clearly moved from specialized niche into more mainstream conversations.  One of the biggest topics when talking about VR is resolution. What is the right resolution to feel “totally immersed”?  While that battle rages on, what is certain is that even with moderate resolutions, the bandwidth demands are extraordinary. It’s possible to have a plate that is 10K pixels wide (figure 5), so we can know with certainty that playing such an image in real time is going to be a challenge.

Figure 5

Opportunities ahead

The last thing anyone wants to do is turn a project away.  On the contrary, these new resolutions and deliverables represent incredible opportunities to get ahead of the competition and offer cutting edge services! So, how do you prepare your business to handle such high data rates and capacity demands even as the industry dips its toe deeper into the expanding demands of UHD?  Is it even possible to future proof your infrastructure with something like VR production on the horizon?

The answer is yes, but it requires carefully integrated technologies.  The fastest SSD drives connected over Fibre Channel can deliver the bandwidth needed, however, it’s not financially prudent to buy racks of SSD drives to achieve the needed capacity for these ultra-large files.

At Facilis, we’ve been hard at work creating an affordable hybrid storage infrastructure that leverages the strengths of both SSDs and traditional spinning hard disks. SSDs are a necessity when delivering the challenging bandwidths discussed above in the finishing stages, while spinning hard disks give the capacity and data protection required for shared HD offline editorial.  Having the two technologies tightly integrated as an intelligent, holistic system is the best way to say “yes” to any project coming through now and in the foreseeable future.

Take a look at the new Terrablock Hybrid24 and the SSD8 from Facilis. We can help you create the perfect system to meet your needs today and tomorrow. Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to discuss your unique requirements.

by James McKenna