IBC 2017: HP launch HP Z workstations with up to 3TB RAM

IBC 2017: HP launch HP Z workstations with up to 3TB RAM

In news that we’re sure will be of interest to IBC attendees , HP have announced a new line of HP Z workstations, the Z8, Z6 and Z4, that are designed to be the most powerful, scalable workstations on the planet.

And when we say “most powerful”, we mean that the top of the line Z8 promises “realtime 8K editing” and contains 24 RAM slots, giving you up to 3TB – that’s three terabytes – of RAM. Unsurprisingly, it’s already been certified by major software vendors, including Avid, Adobe and Autodesk, and can be configured with CPU and graphics options from HP’s VR Ready range, should you want a workstation optimised for VR.

In an age where other computers are leaning toward high-speed, low capacity Flash storage, the HP Z8 can hold up to 48TB of internal storage in addition to its 3TB – again, three terabytes – of RAM, a spec we will not be getting over any time soon. This is all driven up by dual Intel Xeon chips that have up to 56 cores between them, and any graphics work you throw at it is handled by three NVIDIA Quadro P6000 graphics cards by default, although AMD configurations are available. You can expand your Z8 by making use of its nine PCIe slots. We are not making any of this up.

When you get to the Z6 and Z4 things calm down somewhat, with the Z6 topping out at a mere 384 GB memory, 42 cores, 22TB of internal storage and dual Quadro P5000 GPUs, while the Z4 offers up to 18 cores, 256GB of memory, 22TB storage and dual Quadro P4000 GPUs.

The Z8 and Z6 are due to join us in October, with UK pricing still on the horizon. The Z4 will follow in November.

If you want to know more, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter‘Like’ us on Facebook or take a look at our IBC roundup.

The view from the front: Post with the Pros tackles virtual reality

The view from the front: Post with the Pros tackles virtual reality

Post with the Pros pulled together its most impressive roster yet for our virtual reality showcase. Demos from manufacturers HTC, NVIDIA, HP, Imagineer, Dolby and EditShare were followed by an expert panel led by our very own Jamie Allan, featuring Mike Davis (Creative Director at Alchemy VR), Oliver Kibblewhite (Head of Special Projects at Rewind), The Mill’s Creative Technologist Kevin Young and Halo’s Head of Audio Operations, Richard Addis. 

Highlights of the night included workflow tips from EditShare (above and beyond “use EditShare”, they recommend an Adobe editing workflow aided by Mettle’s SkyBox Studio 2 plugin), previews of of NVIDIA’s upcoming offerings (a VR WORKS 360 Video SDK that enables realtime stitching of 4K; Pascal architecture that’s up to 95% faster than the previous generation and capable of rendering out both ‘eyes’ of content for a head mounted display simultaneously), and the chance to try out immersive content from a range of our customers, as well as sampling content from the manufacturers themselves.

Story telling vs story living

While the VR market is growing massively, it’s still a relatively new medium, and our panel were keen to pin down how it should and shouldn’t be employed. Our experts were cautious of projects that treated VR like a new version of 3D TV rather than a unique medium, insisting that it needs to be applied to projects where “you think ‘there’s no way this could be any better in any other technology’.”

Rewind’s in-house philosophy makes a clear delineation between story telling – linear narrative, often delivered via 360 video – and story living – immersive experiences delivered via devices like Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE, where the user chooses their own path through the world and the creator’s job is to make sure that a) there’s somewhere for them to go and b) it can be rendered quickly enough when they get there.

Know your technology

Another challenge posed by VR, and often not realised by clients, was the cost of post-production. Not only is there a lot more footage to process, as rigs can run up to dozens of cameras, but as Mike pointed out, “A lot of people don’t think about the cost of painting things out of shot [when shooting 360]”. In Richard’s experience, “VR is rarely longer than 20 to 30 minutes, but the time you spend in post is far in excess of what you’d spend on a 60 minute TV show.”

The challenges aren’t limited to post-production, however. Different cameras will have fractionally different start times and colour differences that need to be compensated for; different brands have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to stitching several shots together to make a single VR space, and lengthy testing is needed to find out whether, for example, your actors can walk across one of these stitch lines without their face warping, or if you need to set up very specific marks and limits.

There’s also the fact that stitching the individual camera outputs together to make the final shot can take several days, so a director used to seeing instant playback will have to deal with long delays before they know whether they have the shot they want. (This can be sidestepped by strapping a handful of secondary cameras on top of your rig to give them a very rough onset stitch, according to Oliver.)

Devices and delivery

Richard predicts that over the next few generations, the hardware market for VR – which is currently very segmented – will coalesce, allowing for content to be delivered to multiple devices, or be optimised for one platform “so it’ll be like delivering for PlayStation or Xbox” rather than the current system, in which you need to know your target device and its limitations before you begin pre-production.

Oliver’s hopes for the future include “a target baseline level of controls – your HMD should include some sort of haptic feedback, it should have positional tracking, and you should make sure that you can meet a minimum level of experience, especially for interactive content.”

Is it worth it?

While Mike and the rest of the panel were aware that we hadn’t found “the ‘must-have’ content for home VR, like the Queen’s coronation was for television”, they were adamant that tackling the challenges of VR was worthwhile, and that rather than “3D, which got in the way of TV, which people were already comfortable with”, it offered a unique experience for the viewer that was distinct from any other media they have access to. “People are moved by VR in a way that they’re not by TV,” Kevin told us. “It’s something quite special.”

Here’s the full panel, for anyone interested:

Want to know more about how we can help you incorporate VR? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Video: Jigsaw24 at the Media Production Show 2016

Video: Jigsaw24 at the Media Production Show 2016

Back in June, we were at the Media Production Show, demonstrating our key solutions and services around Avid, Blackmagic Design, HP and Rohde & Schwarz (as well as dishing out the pic’n’mix and playing splat a rat). Catch up with everything that went down on day one in this official video from the Media Production Show…

Day 1: The Media Production Show from The Media Production Show on Vimeo.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Thanks for making our So Ho Ho Soiree such a great night!

Thanks for making our So Ho Ho Soiree such a great night!

On Thursday 10th December we transformed our Soho service and customer experience centre into a Christmas wonderland complete with mulled wine, hog roasts, chocolate fountains and our best selection of Christmas jumpers for our So Ho Ho Soiree. We welcomed plenty of vendors and customers to celebrate with us, and boy did we have a good evening!

With a HP-sponsored Harry Potter themed room, more cocktails than you could shake a wand at, a magician and a candy floss machine, we hope our guests had a great night. So, on behalf of everyone at Jigsaw24, we wanted to say a massive thank you to you all for coming round to celebrate with us, and a special thank you to G-Technology, HP, Avid, GB Labs and Wacom for sponsoring our event!

Whether you came along or you missed it, here are just a few highlights from the evening. Remember, if you’d like to attend any of our events in the future, keep an eye on our events page for more information!

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As guests arrived, they were handed a copy of our own Jigsaw24 Marauders Map before making their way through to our welcome drinks reception where mulled wine, prosecco and mince pies were on offer. The rest of the ground floor played host to a cocktail bar serving appropriately themed Christmas cocktails, a DJ and a hog roast.

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Upstairs, our boardroom (also known as Nonsuch) was decked out with a chocolate fountain, candy floss machine and another cocktail bar – this time serving Harry Potter themed cocktails (the ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ being our favourite).

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We also had a photo booth available for a bit of light tomfoolery and plenty of Harry Potter sweet treats including chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans.

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Jigsaw24 Events

Want to find out more about our upcoming events? Get in touch with the team on 03332 409 306 or email events@Jigsaw24.comFor all the latest news and tips, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

 

Avid qualify new HP Z840 workstations

Avid qualify new HP Z840 workstations

We realise this blog can get a bit Mac-heavy, so here’s some good news for PC users: Avid have qualified (and released configuration guidelines for) HP’s latest generation of Dual 8, 10 and 12-Core Z840 workstations.  

“The new HP Z840s use the latest in component architecture, including the new Xeon v3 and DDR4 memory,” explained our specialist Joshua Mace when we asked why this was exciting.

“These upgraded parts allow users to take advantage of higher frequency memory – up to 2133 MHz at the moment – and can support up 512 GB of memory for the absolute ultimate workstation. The new Xeon v3 processors can go all the way up to 36 processing cores using two 18-Core processors. The Z840 is also available with up to 512GB storage if you use the HP Z Turbo Drive (an ultra fast PCIe SSD based on Samsung’s M.2 technology), leaving space for four 3.5 drives.”

“We’ve already had interest in the 840 systems from some of the major facilities in the UK, for both editing and VFX work. The upgrades from previous Z-Series systems are significant and are going to really boost your capabilities for high resolution work in both your edit and compositing pipelines,” said our Avid specialist Jamie Allan.

“It’s great that Avid have qualified the 840 so quickly after release. We’re certain the smaller 440 will be hot on its heals in the new year so we can look at having a fully upgraded range of PC editing systems. Of course if you want to have a look at the new systems before investing and see how it will affect your workflows, get in touch to book a demo in our Soho facility.’

Media Composer 7, Media Composer 8 and NewsCutter 11 have all been qualified for machines running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1, as are the Nitris DX, Mojo DX and ISIS storage units. You can see Avid’s full config guide here.

Want to know more about wireless audio? Call us on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Are you using the right hardware for your Autodesk software?

Are you using the right hardware for your Autodesk software?

Whether you’re sculpting in Mudbox, animating characters in Maya, whipping up pre-visualisations in 3ds Max or drafting like billy-o in AutoCAD LT, some of the basics of what makes a good Autodesk workstation stay the same (stock up on RAM and pack in as many cores as possible), but with so many different software suites and qualified components out there, it can be difficult to work out which workstation is best for you. To help make things easier, here are our top tips for choosing Mac and PC workstations for your Autodesk software of choice… 

For AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT for Mac users

We have good news: virtually any Mac will run AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT, from the beefiest of Mac Pros (ideal for handling big models quickly) to the smallest Mac mini (great for setting up freelancers with temporary desks, or if you want to take your setup with you to meet a client, as it’ll plug into any keyboard and display).

We know that a lot of users are sticking to their ageing Mac Pros in order to keep using NVIDIA Quadro 4000 or Quadro K5000 cards due to their higher fidelity, but the latest models have a huge amount to offer. With powerful 12-core CPUs on offer, the latest Mac Pro can help you create and navigate simulations far faster. The fact that the usual lumbering hard drive has been replaced by a fast, agile SSD means you’ll also be able to work with huge models far more efficiently.

If you’re really itching to customise your workstation, we’ll say it again: you can never have enough RAM. Get in touch with our team to find out how easy it is to pack your Mac with some extra memory.

For 3ds Max users

Autodesk 3ds Max 2014

If you’re working in a field like games development, odds are you’re using 3ds Max or a 3ds Max-based Entertainment Creation Suite (if you’re not, you might want to drop us a line…). You’ll want plenty of processing power, so we’d recommend opting for a 16-core HP Z820 for maximum responsiveness, although a high-spec Z620 will do the trick if you’re budget-conscious. While the new Mac Pros look promising, we’re still waiting for Autodesk to qualify a configuration, so if you need an interim Mac workstation go for a 27” Quad-core i7 3.4Ghz iMac with at least 8GB of RAM – preferably more.

If you invested in iMac before the latest Mac Pro was announced and are wincing at the cost of replacing them, remember that you can use the iMac screen as a second display and harness the internals as part of your rendering setup, meaning that artists can continue working on their Mac Pro while their iMac takes care of rendering work, rather than sitting and watching the progress bar.

When it comes to graphics, you need to bear in mind that Autodesk recently rewrote 3ds Max’s viewport engine, moving it over to DirectX from OpenGL. This means you’ll get faster performance for your money using gaming cards than you will using traditionally professional cards – which is great news for your wallet, and means you can design your work on the same card your end user will be playing it on.

One good choice for working with Autodesk software is NVIDIA’s 6GB GeForce GTX Titan, as it has the kind of stamina you usually only see in pro cards and so is least likely to melt under constant use. However, it’s not qualified yet and is also pretty expensive, so you might want to opt for Autodesk’s qualified card, the lower-spec 4GB GeForce GTX 680, which delivers a surprising amount of power for such an affordable card.

For Maya and Mudbox

For areas like graphics or post-production work, we’d typically recommend Autodesk Maya or a Maya-centric Entertainment Creation Suite (Autodesk’s Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate gets you Maya, 3ds Max, Motionbuilder, Mudbox, Softimage and Sketchbook Designer, so it’s a good option if you want to make sure you’re covered for every eventuality). The main difference between Maya and an application like 3ds Max is that you really need a NVIDIA Quadro card to get the best possible graphics performance. The Quadro drivers are optimised for Maya, and going for something like the ultra-powerful Quadro K5000 or the K2000 if you’re kitting out an assist station will give you the smoothest, most accurate viewport performance.

While we’re still waiting to hear how Autodesk plan to handle the dual GPU potential of the 2013 Mac Pro, if you need a Mac in an interim then your only real option is the top spec 3.4GHz i7 iMac, with 8 or 16GB of RAM depending on the size of project you think you’ll need to handle (this can always be repurposed as a combined second display and a render node if you decide to upgrade to a Mac Pro further down the line). For PC workstations, we’d recommend going no lower than an HP Z620 (ideally a Z820) with as many cores and as much RAM as you can pack in, as both will help you complete projects in the fastest possible time.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email Autodesk@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow us on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

3D benchmarks: New Intel E5 CPUs and HP Z workstations

3D benchmarks: New Intel E5 CPUs and HP Z workstations

Being cynical, ultra-geeky types, the first thing we did when HP announced their new 8-16 core, 32-thread workstations powered by Intel Xeon E5-2600 CPUs was run our own benchmarking tests. After all, HP’s press release promised that “the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 product family allows for up to 16 physical cores in a single system, and lets 32 threads run at one time when using two processors, each with eight cores and Intel Hyper-Threading Technology enabled”, and that these new CPUs would be capable of “megatasking”. Who wouldn’t want a go?

The workstations

First things first: what are these workstations promising? Here’s the official word from HP:

“Engineered for the most demanding and compute-intensive visualization needs, the HP Z820 is ideal for customers in oil and gas, mechanical computer-aided design (CAD), mechanical computer-aided engineering, medical, video and animation. The HP Z820 provides up to 16 processing cores, up to 512 GB of ECC memory, up to 14 terabytes (TB) of high-speed storage and up to dual NVIDIA Quadro 6000 graphics.

“For quiet environments with minimal space, the HP Z620 is a great choice for customers in financial services, video, animation, architecture and midrange CAD. Updated to support both single- and dual-socket processors, the powerful and versatile HP Z620 provides up to 16 processing cores, up to 96 GB of ECC memory, up to 11 TB of high-speed storage, and up to NVIDIA Quadro 6000 or dual NVIDIA Quadro 5000 graphics.

“Engineered to meet mainstream computing and visualization needs for customers in CAD, architecture, video editing and photography, the HP Z420 includes up to eight processing cores using the latest Intel Xeon processor E5-1600 and E5-2600 product families, providing up to 64 GB of ECC memory, up to 11 TB of high-speed storage, and up to NVIDIA Quadro 5000 or dual NVIDIA Quadro 2000 graphics.”

Our 3D consultant Ben Kitching, who spent most of BVE chained to a Z800, saw the new models recently and notes that, CPU aside, the upgrades are largely incremental. However, key things to bear in mind include a unified chip set family over all models. This means that a single OS image will work on everything from a Z220 to a Z820 making it nice and easy to manage large estates. There are also larger PSU options on the Z620 and Z820, meaning that you can now have up to 3 GPU’s or a GPU and 2 Tesla boards, though the Z620 is now slightly bigger, which could pose a problem if you’re keeping it in a cage.

The tests: render times and Cinebench scores

Full disclosure: we couldn’t get our hands on a Z820, Z620 or a Z420. However, a supplier did lend us a server blade to do some benchmarking on, so 3D Consultant Ben Kitching slotted in two of the new Intel Xeon E5-2670s (eight cores each, top speed of 2.6Ghz). For comparative purposes, he also ran the same tests on a previous generation system based on two Xeon X5660s (six cores each, 2.8GHz).

3ds Max render test

The first thing Ben did was render interior and exterior scenes in 3ds Max. “I used two architectural scenes,” he explains. “One is an exterior scene lit with a mental ray sun and sky, the other is an interior scene lit with daylight portals. I rendered them both with iray inside 3ds Max at 1920×1080. I set the exterior scene to 500 iterations and the interior to 250. Setting the iterations like this ensures the results are comparable across different machines.”

– 3ds Max Interior scene render – average speed 6 mins 24 secs (previous generation: 13:59)

– 3ds Max Exterior scene render – average speed 13 mins 55 secs (previous generation: 28:41)

As you can see, the E5s get the render done in half the time of the previous generation – a big jump, even when you take into account the extra cores.

Cinebench benchmarks (higher is better)

Maxon’s Cinebench test suite, available for free here, uses various algorithms to stress every available core while it renders a photorealistic scene made up of about 300,000 polygons. Results are given in points – the higher the better.

– Cinebench multi-threaded benchmark: 21.44 points (previous generation: 15.24)

– Cinebench single threaded benchmark: 1.34 points (previous generation: 1.08)

Ben explains, “This shows that not only are the new 8-core Xeons ballistic in multi-threaded benchmarks, they are pretty good in single-threaded benchmarks too. This proves that the cores are more efficient than the previous generation, as they can do more work even though they run slower. Some of these results are actually more than 20% faster than the previous generation, but we are talking about 8-core models going up against 6-core ones. Looking at other benchmarks around the internet and extrapolating those results, it looks like the 6-core models of the new generation will be around 20% faster than the models they replace at the same price point.”

Want more results?

You can also see more E5 benchmarking tests for 3D and CAD work over at Tom’s Hardware – he’s not testing a HP machine, but the internals are very similar and they produce some interesting results, with the dual E5 system blazing through Premiere Pro and Photoshop tasks but flailing when it came to After Effects. (“This is probably due to the single-thread nature of After Effects and the fact that the new cores run a little slower than the old ones,” is Ben’s explanation.)

Pricing and availability
If you’re thinking you can make do with fewer cores, Ben has some sound financial advice: “Not many benchmarks focus on the 6-core models but, looking at the pricing we’re getting from our suppliers, the 6-core chips are priced to match the previous generation of 6-core models but they are faster. A nice win for the mid range.”

However, if you need the full eight cores, the HP Z420, Z620 and Z820 workstations are expected to be available worldwide in the first week of April. Estimated U.S. pricing starts at $1,169 for the Z420, $1,649 for the Z620 and £2,299 for the Z820.

Want to know more about HP Z workstations? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. To keep up with the latest news (‘Z820 available now!’, for example), follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

Looking for a print solution for your drafting workflow? There are dozens of large format printers out there which will all produce good quality results, so we’ve pitched two of the top offerings from HP and Epson against each other so you can see what kind of printer is best for your needs…

HP DesignJet T790

HP are primarily known for producing technical CAD printers for use in architectural, engineering, surveying and construction environments. Their 44″ DesignJet T790 is a plug-and-play large format printer which combines high-speed results with intuitive use. The real stand-out points here are the ability to easily create print-ready PDFs with the optional AutoCAD plug-in and the collaborative aspect of HP’s exclusive ePrint & Share application. This free web-printing solution allows you to select, print and share files directly from the colour touchscreen.

Epson Stylus Pro 9700

Epson’s range of photo and graphics printers have a heavy emphasis on print quality, and so are mainly used in the print for pay, production graphics, pre-press proofing and photographic sectors. They may seem a little over-qualified if you only need a printer that’s adept at producing 2D drafts, but if you’re working in an environment where you work with a range of designs and media, the flexibility of the 44″ Epson Stylus Pro 9700 could be what you need. ENERGY STAR-qualified, it also boasts plenty of eco-features such as a fixed printhead and low power consumption to boost your green credentials and keep printing costs down at the same time.

How they stack up

The stats you need to know, at a glance.

Printer HP DesignJet T790 Epson Stylus Pro 9700
Printhead HP Thermal Inkjet Epson Micro Piezo TFP Variable-sized Droplet Technology
Max resolution 2400x1200dpi 1440x1440dpi (special line mode)
No. colours/cartridges Six cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black, Matte Black, Grey) Four colours, five cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black and Matte Black), ten ink channels
Nozzles 2,112 nozzles per colour, 12,672 nozzles 720 nozzles per colour, 3,600 nozzles
Minimum droplet size 6-9pl 3.5pl
Max print speed 50m^2/h 50m^2/h
Best quality print speed 2.8m^2/h 4.2m^2/h
Paper thickness 60 to 328g/m^2 up to 0.8mm 0.08 to 1.5mm
Memory 8GB 256MB
Power consumption 120W 85W
Warranty One year onsite ex printhead One year onsite inc printhead

The verdict

In terms of initial cost, there’s little to separate the two printers (both have an RRP of around £3000), but the Epson does just edge the HP in terms of consumables, with printheads included in the guarantee and ink costing nearly half per ml. The real decider should be what you want your printer to achieve – for a dedicated drafting printer, you may be better off with the quicker, more accurate Epson 9700 and its collaborative tools, but if you need your printer to do more flexible colour design work, the HP T790 could clinch it for you.

To find out more about large format printing, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.