Dell EMC Solutions for the Media and Entertainment Industry

In the previous article, we showed at what qualitatively new level Dell EMC integrated software and hardware solutions are working with video. Now we propose to deal with the technical side of these solutions and we begin with an overview of the most mass tool - workstations.

Dell Precision Workstations

Dell has a wide range of content creation devices, from mobile to rack-mount models. For example, the Dell Precision Tower 5000 series single-socket systems are ideal for design work on Autodesk Maya or 3DS. Such a device can contain up to 18 cores in the central processor with a high clock frequency of up to 4 GHz. Graphics can be either NVIDIA Quadro or AMD FirePro.

The Dell Precision 7000 Series offers dual-socket options. For example, the T7910 model has a powerful chassis capable of supporting up to four video cards with consumption up to 675 W, and works silently thanks to optional liquid cooling. Such systems are designed to solve super-complex and resource-intensive tasks, such as, for example, 3D-modeling of complex structures in real time or photo-realistic rendering.

The Dell Precision Rack 7910 workstation is built around a 7000 Series chassis and offers the same specifications in a rack-mount format. The model is focused on virtual systems that provide the sharing of resources among several clients. It also works with PCoIP Teradici based network systems that are used to centralize workstations.

Today, few manufacturers offer such devices. It is worth noting the following advantages of the rack-mounted workstation R7910 compared to desktop systems:

For less demanding tasks, a line of small form factor Dell Precision 3000 Series with graphics cards of the lower class - NVIDIA Quadro or AMD Radeon Pro has been developed. Model T3620 is a mini-tower, built with the support of powerful mid-level graphics. This compact version is suitable for less demanding applications and can be used, for example, as a desktop publishing system. The Tower 3620 model will be ideal option when the space for the equipment costs much, and it is necessary to save the place as much as possible.

New model in the desktop lineup - Precision All-In-One. The device is equipped with a quad-core processor and AMD Radeon Pro WX5100 graphics. The 27-inch screen supports 4K UHD resolution and is 100% compliant with the Adobe RGB color gamut.

All of these workstations are adapted to work with Dell Canvas, a 27-inch horizontal touch screen, as well as a high-precision pen and stylus panel and a large-format graphic tablet with 20-point touch recognition for graphic design and content creation.

The choice of Dell mobile workstations is just as extensive. The Precision 3000 and 5000 series are 15-inch models with NVIDIA Quadro mobile graphics and memory up to 32 GB. The Precision 7000 Series model with 15- or 17-inch screen, up to 64 GB of memory and NVIDIA Quadro graphics (from P3000 to P5000) or AMD Radeon Pro will cope with resource-intensive content creation tasks.

The 17-inch 7000 series is Dell EMC's first mobile workstation certified VR-Ready. All Precision platforms are certified to work with software independent software vendors (ISVs). Users can be confident in the stable work of professional software.

Dell Precision Optimizer automatically adjusts hardware for a specific application. This provides tangible performance gains and saves time for system setup. The manufacturer also provides workstations in customized configurations with all the software that the customer uses.

Dell EMC PowerEdge Servers

The PowerEdge R730 is a Dell EMC main dual-processor 2U server with up to 24 cores per processor. It provides a balance between CPU power and GPU, supports NVIDIA Tesla M10 and M60 or AMD Stream GPGPU accelerators. This allows you to deploy high performance VDI environments. Server configuration validated for use with VMWare and Citrix software.

R730 can be used in rendering farms, but the best option in this case would be PowerEdge FX2. This 2U chassis is equipped with various modular computing units. Eight FC430 modules or four FC630 modules can be used, while the second provides more memory capacity. Since both are dual-socket, the version on FC430 supports up to 16 processors with 24 cores on a 2U chassis, which is great for rendering. There are also data storage modules.

The M1000e is a 10U chassis with support for 16 blades M630 with two processors, which allows 32 processors to be used in one package. To centralize workstations using PCoIP, you can add Amulet Hotkey DXM630 with NVIDIA graphics processors, up to the Quadro M5000SE.

Model R730XD is a specialized version of the R730 with an increased number of drives, but without GPU support. It can install 26 disks, so it is considered a server with enhanced local storage. C4130 is another specialized dual-socket version of PowerEdge, supporting up to four GPU accelerators (300 W) in a 1U-high chassis, making it an ideal platform for GPGPU applications.

Dell EMC Storage Systems

As a result of purchasing EMC in September 2016, Dell EMC can provide a complete set of components to deploy a complete solution. Storage products include Isilon network storage for the media industry and Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) cloud platform. The combination of these products provides a solution to Media Data Lake, which reduces costs by eliminating individual “islands” of storage. Each file in the project, from recording to playback and transfer to the archive for long-term storage, is in the same file system.

In addition, Isilon’s built-in replication feature allows media companies to organize content storage and access to it based on the value and relevance of data. It provides optimal storage, performance and protection of critical data. The Isilon architecture can scale to dozens of petabytes, while the high performance of the Isilon storage cluster speeds up video editing, image rendering for high-resolution 3D animation and color correction.

The Dell EMC ECS storage platform provides for archiving a local or geographically distributed archive that can integrate with cloud storage. ECS can also be used as a high-density repository, unlocking the potential of Isilon with CloudPools and other products. Finally, ECS is a cost-effective alternative to tape archives. To search and extract files from the archive on a magnetic tape, robotic libraries are required. In working with ECS, files will be available instantly, without cost and complexity of maintenance.

Dell UltraSharp Monitors

Dell PremierColor monitors display realistic colors and are factory calibrated to meet industry standards for color right out of the box. The wide range of Adobe RGB, sRGB, Rec.709, DCI-P3 and Rec.2020 colors meets the requirements of professional users. The support of 1.07 billion colors allows you to better see the gradation of colors and ensures the accuracy of shades even in dark areas.

For guaranteed color accuracy, each monitor comes with a factory calibration report. Users can customize colors as they like and save the color settings in the Look UpTable (LUT) internal table. The Dell UltraSharp Calibration software will help them in this.

Dell UltraSharp monitors with Premiercolor technology vary in screen size and resolution. All devices range, starting with the smallest 25-inch QHD-display and ending with the largest 32-inch with a resolution of 8K, designed for different tasks of the emerging industry of media and entertainment. They provide consistent and accurate color reproduction both during the initial preparation of the content and during its final editing.

Dell EMC Networking

The communication of the three types of equipment listed above is provided by Dell EMC switches. The main S4000 series is 48-port devices in the 1U form factor with a capacity of 10 Gbit / s ports and six ports at 40 Gbit / s. These non-blocking devices operate at full media speed with extremely low latency. Additional features — such as airflow inversion — allow them to fit into any cooling topology.

There are versions with copper (S4048T) and optical (S4048) ports. Due to the different connection characteristics, the S4048 switch has a delay of 600 ns, and the S4048T provides a delay of 2.5 ms. The S4000 series is designed for virtualization environments and complies with IEEE standards. For S4048ON switch versions (with support for the Dell EMC Open Networking concept), the customer can choose from six options the network operating system that will satisfy his personal requirements. Dell EMC switches also have a significant price advantage over competitors.

It is important to make the right choice.

Dell EMC has a dedicated team whose goal is to make sure that the equipment you choose meets the needs of the customer. In the media and entertainment industry, creating content goes through many stages and with the advent of new types of content (for example, VR), their number and diversity only increases. Despite the fact that they all have common features, the exact composition of the solution components depends on the direction of the company.

EMC has developed special tools to make the right product choice. For example, the Dell EMC Online Workstation Advisor will help you choose a workstation and tailor the hardware to your specific company needs. The Dell EMC Precision Optimizer solution, in turn, will provide the best configuration of selected hardware for specific tasks.

With large purchases, Dell Technologies Solution Center can help sort out. Such centers are located almost throughout the world, including North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the Far East and Australia. The Dell Technologies Solution Center contains hardware for testing and analyzing: workstations, monitors, network equipment, servers, and data warehouses.

Solution architects work with the client throughout the selection process, starting with defining the company's main business goal and types of workloads. Dell EMC then forms the solution and checks it in the context of a specific use case. The key advantage of Dell is that after the merger with EMC, a single manufacturer has all the necessary equipment for any test scenarios. The company guarantees that after installing the solution the client will not have any surprises.

Dell EMC employs engineers in all key areas. This allows them to use their expertise when creating a specific solution. For example, a client can make sure that switching to virtual or centralized workstations that are mounted in a rack will be as painless as possible and will solve business problems.

Customers can come with their own models and test them with different demo configurations, task sequences and benchmark tests to find out which option is best.

For example, you can load large architectural models from a local array into virtual workstations on PowerEdge servers much faster than copying them over a network to a physical local workstation.

You can even test equipment samples from third-party suppliers. For example, the client will have the opportunity to test the work of VR with headsets and hardware optimized for client software platforms (Unreal Engine, etc.).

Of particular value is advice, which concerns the entire complex solution. The vast majority of systems are now supplied by Dell EMCs themselves, so solution architects at Dell Technologies support centers can be sure that their hardware exactly matches their goals and is best suited for the intended workflow, both in terms of performance and ease of use.

Next, we look at a few configuration examples. They illustrate customized solutions that Dell EMC can create for the challenges of the media and entertainment industry.

Content Creation: Data Access and Nonlinear Editing

To develop video content, you need a workstation with high storage requirements. For quick access, editors often copy videos to local storage, but practice shows that this is an inefficient way. If several people work with the same files, this can lead to conflicts even with a well-organized media asset management system.

It is also inefficient to store a large number of copies of large files: for example, videos with a resolution of 4K, taken at a speed of 60 frames per second. Television shows and virtual reality videos are also unprofitable to store scattered. The best solution would be a fully integrated system with which different specialists work.

This is exactly what the Dell EMC offers. Dell Precision Workstations can be used to access video content — for example, in DPX or OpenEXR formats. The video is then transferred to a centralized repository — cluster-based storage, in which performance and capacity are balanced by using a combination of Isilon X and NL nodes.

The solution may also include an archiving layer using HD Series nodes. When post-edited using Dell Precision workstations and non-linear editing software (Avid, Adobe Premiere Pro, etc.) for which these stations are validated, the files are moved to fast Isilon S-series storage systems. All this happens transparently to the user. There are no isolated storage pools, and there is one “data lake” accessible to all employees using standard protocols.

The OneFS Isilon operating system allows Linux workstations to use NFS, Windows SMB, or the HTTP and Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) options. Active Directory or LDAP can be used to control user access no matter what system they are working with.
Thanks to SmartPool technology, all files are displayed in one place. In accordance with the policies set by the system administrator, with frequent use, the files will be moved to a higher level - to systems with higher performance, and for rare ones - to the archiving level. In this case, even from the archiving level, they will always be available, and at the beginning of active use they will again be moved to the “fast” storage level.

All system components are integrated into an Ethernet network using Dell EMC S-Series switches with a transmission rate of 10 Gb / s. Isilon storage can be dynamically expanded as data is automatically replicated when nodes are added. For example, it takes about 60 seconds to go from 50 TB to a 75 TB capacity. After upgrading, OneFS will look exactly the same to the user — it will just be a larger storage pool.

Thus, when scaling or upgrading the system, there is no need to transfer data to a new disk. In practice, the client may need to add capacity not to the upper level, which uses expensive S-series nodes, but to the lower one.

Although nonlinear editing will depend on the characteristics of the storage and workstations, the work may also include sending jobs to the farm. It consists of PowerEdge servers configured for a specific task with the appropriate software agent, for example, for Adobe After Effects, Autodesk Backburner, Luster ShotReactor, or Wiretap.

It will also provide access to the required content through the same Isilon repository with OneFS OS. There is no need to copy raw files to render servers when sending jobs to the queue. Dell EMC will help customers verify all of these aspects of the workflow prior to deployment to ensure that components work together.

Animation 3D, VR and farm rendering

The process of creating 3D content requires powerful workstations and server farm rendering, but the total content pool and reliable network are still fundamental factors. Creating 3D content is a resource-intensive task, and the method of calculation depends on the specific stage of its implementation. At the stage of modeling and animation helps hardware 3D-acceleration and a higher clock frequency of each processor core, but not their number.

However, when it comes time to display the final results, the number of cores becomes important. For game content, rendering is performed dynamically using the player’s own equipment. The 3D designer may also need to locate a frame or more locally as a test.

For these two very different stages, the combination of specialized equipment will be the perfect configuration. Dell Precision workstations, validated and optimized for 3D modeling and animation, can be supplied as both centralized rack systems accessible via PCoIP and as virtual workstations on PowerEdge servers. In all cases, hardware 3D acceleration is required.

Depending on the specific needs, Precision T5810, T7810 or T7910 workstations will be suitable platforms, and the R7910 is suitable for centralization or virtualization. For the rendering phase, the high-density racks of the PowerEdge blade servers are optimal. As a rule, the best option is to pack the maximum number of processors and cores into the smallest space with the lowest power consumption and cost per node.

This makes PowerEdge FX2 or M1000e high-density CPU servers the best choice. In the meantime, GPU-based rendering is gaining popularity, for example, using IRAY from NVIDIA. For this scenario, the Dell EMC offers a PowerEdge C4130 solution. While storing 3D data requires significant storage capacity, it is helpful to have assets available centrally on a shared resource. Therefore, the Isilon OneFS file system with SmartPool levels will provide maximum opportunities for interaction and collaboration.

The render farm will also be able to access the shared storage, so rendering over the network does not mean transferring the assets to another file system — the rendering task is simply sent to the queue.

Virtual reality does not quite match the traditional division between creating 3D content or CGI. VR production can be a combination of these options, but also has some special requirements. Creating content based on 360-format videos usually means merging files from many different cameras into a single panoramic video. The shared file system Isilon OneFS and here shows its advantages.

Content can also be created from scratch using 3D animation software and the types of Precision workstations already described above. The difference is that the preview of the final results is usually carried out through the game engine - Unity or Unreal Engine.

The workstation for creating VR content must support these engines and the corresponding software. You need a very powerful 3D graphics with multiple video cards, as in the Precision T7810 or T7910. Dell EMC Solution Centers can help you customize workstations with this and ensure that they work properly with other components of the workflow.

Content creation. Editing with Pixspan technology

Pixspan is part of the Autodesk Flame product family. Editing places a significant burden on all the hardware, but Pixspan software in combination with Dell EMC hardware eases this task.

Video processing is one of the most demanding tasks and generates heavy traffic on any network, even outside the multimedia and entertainment content industry. When it comes to uncompressed material or “lossless video” in high resolution, especially 4K and higher, the data stream reaches astronomical levels. Sometimes the load exceeds the capacity of even a 10-gigabit network.

Files must be copied to the workstation for processing, and then transferred back to the storage server or another workstation. Dell EMC Comprehensive Solution can make this process more efficient using Pixspan compression. Pixspan Bit Exact Compression Round Trip works with a wide range of standard video formats, including OpenEXR, DPX, Cineon, ARRIRaw and Canon C500 Raw. As a rule, it reduces the file size by 50-80% depending on the size of the original.

The files remain “native” to the video editing software, but in fact are converted into Pixspan compressed format for transmission over the network. Compression is designed to speed up NIVIDIA GPUs, so it’s worth considering as an option Dell Precision workstations with Quadro M6000 or P6000 cards. Models T7810 or T7910 can be considered the preferred option.

The video itself will be stored on Dell EMC Isilon storage systems with S-Series nodes, which are used for content processing, and then with X-Series, NL-Series, and HD Series nodes, as the content is archived. However, before the video becomes available for any kind of editing, it must go to the media asset management system.

At this stage, the lossless video is converted from the original format to the intermediate Pixspan format. To do this, use PowerEdge servers with NVIDIA GPUs to speed up compression. Pixspan not only halves the required bandwidth for delivering video over a network, but also reduces storage requirements. As a result, less than 50% of the capacity will be needed, which will be useful for the most expensive and fast nodes represented by the All Flash or S-Series systems.

Any file transfer will occur over the network served by the Dell EMC S4000 series switches, with low latency and high bandwidth. Thanks to this integrated solution, you can easily evaluate the quality of 4K video.

Pixspan technology is also included in the Autodesk Flame product family. There are certain options for reducing network load and storage capacity requirements, but such a system is more complicated than a simple file storage with workstations connected to the network.

Since all of the hardware components are produced by Dell EMC, in the Dell Technologies Solution Center you can deploy and fully test this configuration and then use it as a template for deployment. When the equipment is installed in the studio, it will work as expected. Administrators can also familiarize themselves with the system during the test and gain experience to support it in the future.

Content delivery

For decades, video production has been purely digital, but filmmaking has shifted to “number” relatively recently. The advantage of this format in a continuous workflow is from receiving and creating content to broadcasting and distributing on demand. The growing popularity of services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer is directly related to the processes of storage and content delivery.

Dell EMC integrated approach is relevant here. Workstations can be used for creative tasks and content creation, while Dell S4000 series switches are responsible for delivering it over the network. As in the nonlinear editing example above, the content is placed in the storage pool provided by Isilon. The PowerEdge Cluster is a tool for rendering graphics and creating effects.

In the meantime, Isilon's storage comes to the fore in the delivery process. As in other examples, S-Series or All Flash nodes can be used for production, after which data is transferred to a cluster consisting of nodes of the X and NL series. It can be directly connected to another cluster of S-series nodes with ready-made content, which is then processed for broadcasting and delivered to the viewers - users of cable and satellite networks.

PowerEdge server clusters are used for encoding and multiplexing necessary for broadcasting. The content delivery network (CDN) for streaming can use the Isilon cluster directly, and as a result, the mechanisms for delivering content for broadcast and on-demand distribution are now integrated with its production, which requires a new level of integration.

But there is also its complexity. Unlike broadcasting, where only one format is used, on-demand streaming uses many formats, resolutions and data rates that need to be encoded on the fly or in advance (for example, using a PowerEdge server cluster).

The BBC once admitted that it was necessary to create more than 20 different versions of each television program available on iPlayer to cover all types of devices and connection speeds. In this regard, the storage capacity required for the preparation and delivery of TV program files is constantly increasing.

For example, the Grand Amazon Amazon Prime series is shot at 4K resolution in HDR and requires 20–40 TB of data per episode. Services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and Hulu have their own characteristics: content can be available for a long time after most people want to use it.

High-capacity storage on the Isilon HD Series nodes can serve up to 68 PB in a single cluster. This is necessary to store a huge amount of video content on the Internet for a very long time, and such a requirement can easily be satisfied. Isilon also allows you to dynamically increase capacity as needed.

Dell provides advice throughout the system. It will become a reliable partner for companies that need solutions that will deliver content to viewers in all necessary formats.

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