Author Archive

October 10, 2011

Mercury Playback Engine

Earlier this year we decided to upgrade our two Mac Pro editing suites with Mercury Playback Engines. I had been impressed with the demos I’d seen at the AEL Summer School and set about trying to source two NVIDIA Quadro’s. After trying for 3 months to get a price out of NVIDIA and many fruitless e-mails we bought directly from Apple. The difference has been staggering, after a slight issue installing the cards they have worked faultlessly and have handled everything we have thrown at them.

Perhaps the most remarkable project was last July, I designed an installation for the BA(Hons) Digital Media Production course end of year show. I wanted 24 iMacs synced together running video showreels of our graduates work. This was going to be quite a tall order as all the videos would have to be edited frame accurately and all be exactly the same length. I wanted to put in our course logo and branding, synced to appear at the same time at regular intervals. 24 iMacs were chosen so that we could actually spell out he name of the course 1 letter at at time on each screen. Each video was 15 minutes in length and featured 3 students short videos with motion graphics in between. How to edit them in Premiere Pro was a bit of a nightmare to work out, but eventually we came up with the solution of setting up 24 layers of video and turning on and off the layers that required rendering for each movie. We could sync up the motion graphics across all layers and drop the videos in between. We had 24 separate videos to render, each one took about 7 minutes and we were able to set up batch renders of all 24 movies movies together in Media Encoder. The edits, encoding and syncing were performed by our Tech Demonstrator Jason Watkins. The Mercury Playback Engine worked perfectly with no errors at all and apart from a bit of tweaking to get the right combination of videos it couldn’t have gone smoother.

The only problem was then how to sync 24 Macs? Fortunately we had been researching this area for some time and managed to sync 4 Macs for another project a while ago using Max MSP. This led us to an application called MultiScreener, this small application is loaded on to each machine and one machine is set to the master clock, all the others are set as slaves and immediately lock on to the signal generated by the first machine. All the machines are connected by network hubs daisy chained together.

When we set up the installation there was a little trepidation because of the time spent editing and rendering the 24 videos but the whole show ran perfectly. The show ran for 9 days without a hitch with several thousand people viewing the final piece, we received excellent feedback.

The syncing was the easy bit but with out the Mercury Playback Engines I don’t think we would have been able to edit so many videos so accurately. Our Mac Pros have been given a new lease of life and we have managed to achieve solutions that we had never considered feasible before.

You can see a video of the installation here:

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April 7, 2011

Changing Education Paradigms – Sir Ken Robinson

I thought I would share this animated youtube video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about reforming public education.  Sir Ken has some interesting views on our current education systems and the problems we all face. Through the use of animation and his wry sense of humour he asks some very challenging questions about how we deliver education and what the future may hold. Please click on the link below.

Changing Education Paradigms

“Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with governments in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’ (The Robinson Report) was published to wide acclaim in 1999.

For twelve years, he was Professor of Education at the University of Warwick in the UK and is now Professor Emeritus. He has received honorary degrees from the Open University and the Central School of Speech and Drama; Birmingham City University, Rhode Island School of Design, Ringling College of Art and Design and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. He has been honored with the Athena Award of the Rhode Island School of Design for services to the arts and education; the Peabody Medal for contributions to the arts and culture in the United States, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for outstanding contributions to cultural relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2005 he was named as one of Time/Fortune/CNN’s Principal Voices. In 2003, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts. He speaks to audiences throughout the world on the creative challenges facing business and education in the new global economies.”

Phil Beards April 2011

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