Lead With Speed

Avid's server improves edits, storage, and broadcasts
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Avid is focused on speed, especially in its server lineup. Which is why the company is rolling out AirSpeed, a new ingest-and-playback server. It's fast and cost-effective, and it has solved the "N+1 scalability" problem. That's when adding an additional channel to a server system is as expensive as adding the previous five or six.

"The cost is the same for each channel, and that makes it more predictable [to forecast cost] and makes odd-channel configurations more affordable," says David Schleifer, director of Avid Broadcast and Workgroups. The server will be available later this quarter, priced at $18,000. It will come in a one-channel-in or two-channel-out configuration.

AirSpeed ingests media directly into the Avid Unity, the company's shared-storage system. AirSpeed storage itself is cache-based, so, if the network connection is lost, the content that has already arrived won't be lost. That's an important feature for news operations, which may have only one chance to record. As content is aired, it's flushed out of the cache, releasing processing power to handle recording without slowing the server down.

That approach differs from standard servers, where content is stored on the standalone unit and must be copied to a shared server whenever users need access. With AirSpeed, the content is stored only once, on the Unity system, and can be played back by anyone tied into the network. That reduces the need to copy files back and forth and also makes it easier for multiple users to access the content after recording starts.

AirSpeed has a front panel with controls similar to a VTR's. The front panel also allows video monitoring, eliminating the need to buy separate monitors for checking video quality.

Also new from Avid will be Workgroup 4.0, a group of tools designed to help manage media, whether searching, transferring, or archiving. For example, a new unified search function for MediaManager enables a user to find content over an existing wide area network.

"Whether they're searching their own system on the same floor or storage across the country," says Schleifer, "the system gives them a thumbnail of the clip, drops it in the [users] bin, and moves the high-resolution version to them."

Avid Prolog, another new MediaManager tool, enables users to view video at full-screen resolution while content is being logged. "If they need to log a feed onto AirSpeed, they can use Prolog to mark in and out points so, when they get into the edit session, the clips are already selected," says Schleifer. Users can also add notes and metadata. "This is a big bump to the real-time collaborative environment we support," he adds. Pricing on MediaManager is $15,995 for server software and CPU. The select option, with ProLog, adds $10,000.

Also new to Workgroup is TransferManager, a $14,200 CPU system designed to make it easier for users to move files to third-party archive systems like those from StorageTek. The result is faster transfer speeds and unified search functions.

Another Workgroup tool that promises to be particularly useful as users move to high-resolution formats like HDTV is Avid DMS. The $4,995 system automatically transcodes high-resolution clips into low-resolution "proxy" versions and keeps the two in sync. That allows editors to edit packages in less bandwidth than the full-resolution version would require.

Such a feature could come in handy when widespread HDTV production takes hold or if large facilities decide to deploy a couple hundred browsing seats. "Our need for browse resolution isn't as strong as others because of the raw horsepower on the Unity system," adds Schleifer, "but it could be used in special situations like HD."

And HD demand is starting to heat up, particularly in news. "The next step," he says, "is to see what works and what doesn't."

All of Avid's standard-definition products are compatible or upgradeable to HDTV. Working in HD, stations will want to use the same tools and processes they use for SD. The rendering time may be longer, but faster processors will make that a non-factor soon.

Helping that along is Avid DNxHD, a non-proprietary 10-bit encoding technology that enables collaborative HD news editing and production from an Avid Unity for News system. More important, the storage bandwidth and capacity requirements are the same as for standard-definition. It will be available for NewsCutter Adrenaline FX systems in late 2004.

Two new versions of NewsCutter, Adrenaline FX 5.5 and XP 5.5, will also be introduced. Adrenaline FX will be able to support Panasonic's P2 card and Sony's XDCAM. Both it and XP 5.5 will also support DV25, DV50, and the MPEG IMX format at 30, 40, and 50 Mbps. A new feature on XP 5.5 is Avid Marquee, a 3D titling tool.