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BMPC-4K: Cineroid EVF4CSE viewfinder

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[Click to enlarge photos of the Cineroid EVF4CSE; additional photos below.]

In many situations, especially when a video camera is shoulder-mounted or handheld, or when operating in daylight outdoors or at high or low angles, nothing beats using an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Not only is an EVF immune to glare & reflections, but it also helps steady handheld/shoulder shots since it makes an additional physical point of contact with your head.

This post is primarily about the Cineroid EVF4CSE viewfinder I purchased, but first a brief detour summary of Blackmagic Design’s Ursa Viewfinder.

As I discussed in a previous post, by all reports the Ursa Viewfinder ($1,495 US) is very good (info here and here). The Ursa VF is reportedly tack-sharp due to its full 1920 x 1080 resolution and high OLED contrast, and its mount is custom-tailored for Ursa cameras. The current Ursa VF design may turn off its OLED screen a bit too aggressively to save power & the lifespan of the OLED itself, but a bit of gaf tape placed over the Ursa VF’s light sensor when needed can address that. For Ursa Mini camera users, the Ursa VF requires purchase of Blackmagic’s Ursa Mini Shoulder Mount Kit ($395 US), but the latter is a good deal also, and the price of the Ursa VF is very competitive. Note: Wooden Camera sells a fantastic-looking DIY “universal” case & mounting mod for the Ursa VF, but of course that adds additional cost.

However, although the combined price of an Ursa VF, plus the Ursa Shoulder Mount Kit, is very reasonable compared to close competitors such as from Zacuto and Alphatron, it’s still out of the question for my budget.:-)

There are lower-cost alternatives. Not surprisingly, lower-priced EVFs sacrifice video image & build quality — and in some cases convenience, too, when you consider mounting, connection and power options. So if you own an Ursa camera, do yourself a favor and get the Ursa VF if you have the budget for it.

I seriously considered buying an Ursa VF for my BMPC-4K camera, but because its mount isn’t intended for use with non-Ursa cameras, and because of its cost, I eventually decided against it.

Instead of buying the Ursa VF solution, I bought a relatively inexpensive EVF, the Cineroid EVF4CSE (the HD-SDI model) for use with my BMPC-4K. It would also be a good EVF for use with a BMCC and other cameras with HD-SDI outputs, too. Cineroid also offers an HDMI version of this EVF (see spec sheet above).

To mount, connect, and power the Cineroid EVF, I also bought an inexpensive Varavon 7″ magic arm and Slik DQ10 QR plate, Wooden Camera 10″ coiled SDI cable, Watson Canon DSLR-type battery & charger, and Cineroid d-tap power cable for us with external Anton-Bauer or V-mount battery plates. Total cost: $578 US from B&H Photo Video in NYC with free shipping within the US. I bought both power solutions (add-on battery & charger, and d-tap cable), but you might only need one or the other.

The Cineroid EVF4CSE doesn’t offer anywhere close to the video & build quality of the Ursa VF or the Ursa cameras’ built-in 10″ or 5″ LCDs. The EVF4CSE screen is 800 x 480 pixel resolution, same as the BMPC-4K and BMCC built-in LCDs. The Cineroid screen isn’t OLED. However, for a $399 EVF it’s a huge improvement compared to attempting to use a BMPC-4K or BMCC LCD in daylight! On the latter point, see my previous post about how to make BMCC and BMPC-4K built-in LCDs semi-visible in bright ambient light.

When properly adjusted, the Cineroid EVF allows accurate focus & exposure using a combination of the EVF’s and camera’s screen-overlay tools.

The Cineroid EVF menu system takes some getting used to, but it’s quite flexible, and I was able to adjust the EVF’s color/contrast for use with both the BMPC-4K’s “video” and “film” monitoring output. Not perfect of course, but quite usable. These settings can be saved into multiple memory banks for recall as needed. See note below for a list of the color-adjust menu settings I use in my Cineroid EVF.

The Cineroid has 4 user-assignable function buttons which I find very useful.

A nice bonus for BMPC-4K & BMCC users: The Cineroid EVF headphone output is less-noisy than the cameras’ built-in headphone signal.

Heads-up/caution: Why the Slik DQ10 QR plate? The Cineroid EVF4CSE has a relatively delicate all-plastic case. The 1/4″-20 thread mount isn’t very robust. Remember: It’s inexpensive! To address this, I’ve glued (!) the small QR plate to bottom of the EVF (screwed it into the thread mount, too). That way there’s a much stronger all-metal point of contact & support for the EVF. Note this covers the EVF’s USB firmware update port, but I don’t think that’s much of a concern. This EVF has been on the market for a few years without any recent FW updates posted on the Cineroid semi-useless website, so I don’t expect to utilize the port anytime soon. Worse case I can remove the QR plate if absolutely necessary.

A final note: I really like the Varavon magic arm! It’s very well made and works great. To make it 100% stable I removed the included cold shoe adapter and instead screwed its 1/4-20 threaded base stud (together with a 1/4″ lock washer) into the small cheese plate mounted on top of my camera. Rock-solid support for a Cineroid EVF, small monitor, LED light, or other small accessory. Refer to the close-up photo below to see this configuration.

Below are the settings I currently use in the Cineroid EVF menus to compensate for my BMPC-4K camera’s “Film” (log), and “Video” (Rec.709), HD-SDI monitoring output modes:

Assigned to Cineroid EVF memory “Bank 0” to compensate for BMPC-4K “Film” (log) video out:

Setting2 | Color Adjust:

Red Gain: 47

Red Offset: 47

Green Gain: 50

Green Offset: 47

Blue Gain: 50

Blue Offset: 50

Setting2 | Screen Adjust:

Bright: 40

Contrast: 50

Chroma: 75

Sharpen: 5

===

Assigned to Cineroid EVF memory “Bank 1” to compensate for BMPC-4K “Video” (rec.709) video out:

Setting2 | Color Adjust:

Red Gain: 47

Red Offset: 47

Green Gain: 50

Green Offset: 46

Blue Gain: 50

Blue Offset: 50

Setting2 | Screen Adjust:

Bright: 40

Contrast: 40

Chroma: 43

Sharpen: 5

===

As noted above, these are the settings I’m currently using. As these are adjusted by eye and are very subjective, you may prefer different settings. I won’t be surprised if I change a few of these settings over time. YMMV.

[Click to enlarge photos of the Cineroid EVF4CSE below.]

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©2016 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

Resolve 12: Same Windows PC, but new case

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In a previous post I describe the DIY Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit PC I built to run Davinci Resolve 12 video editing and grading software

In my original build I used a very compact, horizontal HTPC-style ATX PC case made by SilverStone (refer to the previous post for details). I really like the small size of the HTPC case, but after using it for a few weeks I decided it was too small to be practical for my purposes. The major issue was that its small size made it difficult to troubleshoot inevitable hardware issues, and likewise difficult or impossible to do certain hardware customizations and install new hardware.

For an additional $50 (after discounts & rebates) I bought a basic “mid-size tower” style ATX PC case, the Corsair 300R, and re-installed all the components into the new case.

The new case has 3 drive bays on the front (the small case only had 1 drive bay), so I installed two of my 3TB 3.5″ HDDs in trayless (slide out) backplanes I already owned. This makes swapping drives super-easy. I also installed into the bigger case the dual 2.5″ SSD trayless backplanes previously installed in the small case.

Additional benefits of the bigger case are that all the computer components run much cooler, and it’s quieter, too, because the case  & CPU cooler fans don’t have to run as fast to maintain temps.

Here’s a look inside the new case:

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The 4 case fans are installed like this: 2 on the top (blow air out/up), 1 on the rear (blow air out), and 1 one the front (blow air in). The case has lots of ventilation.

RAID performance:

I’m using Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology RAID utility software to create and maintain the RAIDs.

Below is the Disk Speed Test results for a 480GB RAID-0 (two Kingston Hyper-X 240GB SSDs) temporarily installed the PC’s dual 2.5″ trayless bays. (Note: The numbers are megaBYTES per second, not megaBITs/sec.!) As SSDs get bigger and bigger, this type of configuration gets more & more useful:

DiskSpeedTest_480gb_240gb_x2_ssd_intel_raid-0_151004

Below are the results for the 6TB RAID-0 (two 7200rpm 3TB HDDs) in the 3.5” trayless bays. Not as fast as two SSDs, but not too shabby either — and obviously much bigger storage, and less expensive, than SSDs:

DiskSpeedTest_6tb_7200rpm_3tb_x_2_hdd_intel_raid-0_151004

These RAID speeds are quite adequate for my immediate requirements when editing 1080p and 4K UHD ProRes and RAW footage from my Blackmagic Production Camera 4K.

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

URSA Viewfinder: Want! (Updated)

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UPDATE 7/17/16: My review of the Cineroid EVF I bought for use with my BMPC-4K.

Update 11/20/15: Wooden Camera’s awesome “Blackmagic EVF Modification Kit” (see link & videos below).

Blackmagic Design appears to have another runaway hit on its hands. This is in addition to their amazing-spec, soon-to-ship URSA 4.6K and URSA Mini 4.6K cameras.

The new hit product I’m referring to, and the one I’m personally really, really excited about, is the now-shipping, competitively-priced URSA Viewfinder (at the bottom of the page on BMD’s URSA Mini site).

What’s so exciting about the URSA Viewfinder?

Many popular DSLRs & video cameras have relatively low-quality built-in electronic viewfinders (EVFs) and monitors. Most are relatively low resolution, or have inaccurate color, or have inaccurate brightness/contrast — or all three — by any reasonable professional standard. Most monitors are difficult or impossible to see clearly in bright environments. Built-in EVF/monitors are typically OK for framing, but only a few have enough resolution or on-screen tools for accurate focussing, or adequate contrast/brightness or tools for accurate exposure, and almost none offer accurate color. A few optional, add-on 3rd party EVFs and small monitors offer above-average image quality — typically the most expensive ones. Experienced camera ops have learned to make do with these tools, but most would greatly prefer higher-quality built-in or add-on EVFs, especially if they were available at a lower price.

That’s why BMD’s new URSA Viewfinder is so exciting. It features relatively high-resolution (full 1920 x 1080), far above-average brightness/contrast & color accuracy (OLED), and a relatively low price ($1,495 US) compared to the competition. New URSA Viewfinder owners report it works great (of course) with URSA or URSA Mini cameras, and also with other HD-SDI video sources such as BMD’s BMCC and BMPC-4K cameras.

The URSA Viewfinder’s on-screen focus & exposure tools such as False Color work with any HD-SDI source, and can be easily enabled/disabled using the VF’s built-in menu & function buttons. The VF’s built-in mount includes a standard 1/3″ threaded bolt for easy mounting to many cameras & rigs, or you can substitute your own 1/4″ threaded bolt if required. The VF’s BNC HD-SDI cable connects directly to most pro cams (or a small portable HDMI-to-SDI converter device can be used). The URSA VF requires power from an external source such as a 12VDC camera battery via a relatively inexpensive cable adapter (typically a short 4-pin female XLR to male d-tap/p-tap cable, available from B&H, etc.).

Note 1: The URSA Viewfinder’s record tally light feature is currently only supported by URSA & URSA Mini cameras. This feature is toggled on/off via a control signal transmitted from an URSA camera to the VF via HD-SDI.

Note 2: John Brawley confirms the Ursa VF’s built-in “Film-to-Video” LUT is optimized for URSA cameras, but can be used with other HD-SDI sources, such as the BMCC and BMPC-4K. He also confirms this feature can be manually toggled on/off using a button on the VF or its menus.

Operating instructions for the URSA Viewfinder are in the URSA camera manual (PDF) available from BMD’s site.

Why use the URSA Viewfinder instead of a monitor?

A major benefit of using an EVF compared to a monitor — aside from an EVF’s superior usability in very bright environments — is because the distance between the eye & EVF screen is essentially constant. As a result, the eye doesn’t have to constantly adjust focus on the screen, which reduces eye fatigue and greatly improves viewing accuracy/comprehension. As the saying goes, with HD, and especially 4K, “If it’s not in focus, it’s not HD (or 4K)!” That’s the single most important reason for using a high-resolution viewfinder.

Using an EVF properly doesn’t necessarily result in a loss of situational awareness. Experienced cam ops quickly learn to keep both eyes open as needed, while one eye stays firmly against the EVF eyecup. Most operators quickly adapt to this effective method of seeing the world while operating the camera.

Also, for the eye in the EVF’s eyecup, the area outside/surrounding the camera’s view essentially stays constant (black). That eye and your attention can stay locked-onto the contents of the scene, undistracted by everything else. You can selectively open & close your other eye as often as required to see what else is going on, and as a literal reality check to compare with the image in the EVF.

I understand that some cam ops prefer using a monitor instead of an EVF — such as Blackmagic’s new 1080p Video Assist 5″ HDMI/SDI monitor/recorder — and that’s cool. For less than the cost of an URSA Viewfinder, you might add a Hoodman sun hood or GRID loupe to the Video Assist and accomplish many of the same tasks. It’s great to have choices. However, the URSA Viewfinder appears to be a huge step forward in EVF design in terms of image quality, usability, and price.

Here’s what early users of the URSA Viewfinder say:

A new owner temporarily connected an URSA VF to a BMPCC.

An URSA VF connected to a BMCC.

A brief customer video about using the VF with an URSA camera.

An URSA VF connected to a RED Dragon.

Update 11/20/15:

Wooden Camera’s awesome “Blackmagic EVF Modification Kit“:

P.S.: I won’t be surprised if BMD announces a “universal” EVF as soon as NAB 2016 next April. A design based on the URSA Viewfinder, but perhaps with both HDMI and HD-SDI support, full user control without an URSA camera, and other improvement — all at a very competitive price. Who knows? It could happen, maybe.  ;-)

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

Resolve 12: My new PC’s Disk Speed Tests

Here are initial performance test results for the new Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit PC I’ve just built, as described in a previous post.

Test results are from the Blackmagic Design Disk Speed Test utility included with their products.

For these tests, and when running Davinci Resolve 12, Windows 8.1 Pro is configured to run with a “high performance”  power plan as described in the Resolve 12 beta 2 system configuration guide. The tested drives are empty (no data).

Below: Results for the internal 6TB RAID-0 array consisting of two 3TB 7200 RPM HDDs (“Seagate #ST3000DM001”). The HHDs are connected via SATA-3 to the MB’s primary SATA bus, ports #0 & #1. This RAID was set up using the motherboard’s BIOS RAID support:

Win_8-1_6tb_7200rpm_3tbx2_hdd_raid-0_test-1_hi_perf

Below: Results for a 480GB RAID-0 array consisting of two 240GB SSDs (“Kingston 240 GB HyperX 3K”) in the PC’s dual 2.5″ trayless backplane bay. The SSDs are connected via SATA-3 to the MB’s primary SATA bus, ports #2 & #3. This RAID was set up using Windows 8.1 Pro’s “Storage Spaces” feature, not the motherboard’s BIOS. If I can remember how to set up the SSDs as a RAID using the MB I’ll test that, too:

Win_8-1_480gb_ssd_2_240gb_NOT_mb_raid_test-1_hi_perf

Again, these are initial tests. I’m still playing with different hardware & software configurations. I’ll do more performance tests soon.

Concerning initial system cooling performance results: At idle, the motherboard BIOS reports the CPU temperature is 33˚C (92˚F). At idle the 3 case fans rotate at an average of 535 RPM. I’ll do further tests soon to determine its cooling performance under load, such as when Resolve 12 is performing CPU and disk intensive tasks.

I also purchased and installed Paragon’s “HFS+ for Windows” and “NTSF for Mac” software bundle. The software works as advertised — I now have full read/write access to my files on >2TB drives that I sneaker-net between my Mac & Win machines — and it doesn’t appear to cause any performance penalty. Normally a Mac would only have read-only access to Windows NTSF disk volumes, and Windows 8.1 would only have access to Mac-formatted volumes smaller than 2GB. The Paragon software allows a Mac automatic full read/write access to all NTSF volumes, and a PC gains automatic full read/write access to all HFS+ volumes. Sweet.

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

Resolve 12: My Windows PC build (done!)

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UPDATE 10/5/15: In a new post I describe how & why I re-installed my PC components into a new, larger case.

UPDATE 8/5/15: Assembly and completed build photos are posted below.

As detailed in my previous blog post, I’ve spent the past few months researching the idea of building a custom PC — for the first time in a l-o-n-g time — which I’ll primarily use to edit HD and 4K BMPC-4K camera video in the latest version of Blackmagic Design’s Davinci Resolve 12 software.

Thanks to helpful suggestions and explanations from folks on the Blackmagic user forum and the BMCuser user forumI finally decided what to buy (see list below), and now parts have started arriving.

Not coincidentally, this week the first public beta version of Resolve 12 just became available for download from Blackmagic’s website. One of the reasons I’ve held off buying parts for my new computer was to wait until Resolve 12 was close to being “ready”, and my guess is the final release version will be available within a few weeks or so.

Meanwhile, I still have a lot to learn about PC building, Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit, Windows 10 Pro 64-bit … and inevitable hardware & software troubleshooting. As a longterm Mac user/nerd, this new project has already been an adventure, and I’m a long way from done.

Here’s a list of the hardware and software I bought:

Total out-of-pocket cost minus discounts & rebates, plus a small amount for shipping: Approx. $1,800.

I’ll also install inside the case a few hardware items that I already own: A 240GB SSD as the Windows & applications disk, and two 3TB 7200rpm HDDs that I’ll configure as a 6TB RAID-0 array for Resolve data.

Later I might add a $50 Gigabyte Thunderbolt-2 card (my BMPC-4K camera has a TB port for use with its included UltraScope software, and eventually for use with super-fast TB2 external drives), and/or a $145 Blackmagic Decklink Mini Monitor card for full-screen, color-accurate monitoring on an external display while editing in Resolve.

Refer to my previous post for details about why I decided to use this particular combination of components, including relative capabilities and limitations.

IMPORTANT: Blackmagic Design considers a computer like the one I’m building to be a relatively basic entry-level configuration for Davinci Resolve 12. In the new (beta) version of Blackmagic’s hardware configuration guide for Davinci Resolve 12, especially for UHD and higher resolution workflows they “recommend”: One or more CPUs with at least 8-cores each, one or more GPU video cards with at least 8GB VRAM each, >16GB system RAM, a supported video I/O card in addition to the compute GPU(s), a calibrated high resolution video program monitor, one or more hi-res GUI monitors, a very fast and large disk storage system, and so forth. The software will run on less-powerful hardware — such as my new build, and even on many recent-vintage laptops — but more slowly and/or with limitations on project complexity. For example, using Resolve features such as noise reduction and >4K editing can require considerably more hardware horsepower. My new computer build is designed to at least meet Blackmagic’s minimum recommendations — and to to fit within my budget — but might not be appropriate for many professional-level post-production workflows. Refer to Blackmagic’s Resolve 12 hardware config guide for details. YMMV!

Following are snapshots of my new PC in various stages of assembly …

Below: The front of the mostly-empty SilverStone GD09 HTPC-style case. The dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay will install in the upper-right front corner:

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Below: The rear of the case (PSU installs on the right):

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Below: On the right of this photo you can see the SSD for Windows & apps installed in the provided mounting position on the floor of the case. (Update: See later photo below showing where I moved this SSD to, and why.) One of a total of 3 identical PWM fans has been installed on the far right. On the left, one of two 3TB 7200rpm HDDs is installed below the external drive bay; the two 3TB HDDs will be configured as 6TB RAID-0 array for data:

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Below: Close-up of the OS/app SSD and one of the 3 case fans. All 3 fans will pull cool air through easily-cleaned dust filters and push it into the case, with warm air being pushed out vents on the back & top of the case. The black cables are for the 2 front panel USB-3 connectors & HD audio I/O:

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Below: CU of one of the two 3TB HDDs:

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Below: Shown upside-down, the other 3TB 7200rpm HDD mounted on the bottom of the bracket included with the case and which mounts behind the external drive bay. The dual 2.5″ removable trayless backplane unit (e.g.: for BMPC-4K camera media SSDs) installs on the other side (top side) of this bracket. (Refer to the photo near the end of this post to see how it all fits together):

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Next I’ll install the RAM on the motherboard, install the CPU and its cooler, and temporarily install the GPU so I can do an outside-the-case hardware system boot to test for basic hardware functionality. If there’s a problem, it’ll be easier to troubleshoot before installing these items inside the case, and makes returning/exchanging a defective item easier, too.

If the outside-the-case test goes well, I’ll install all the components inside the case, but only connect the OS/app SSD, and install Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. Next I’ll update all the software & firmware (Windows, motherboard BIOS, GPU & other device driver software, etc.) And install up-to-date anti-virus/anti-malware software, too.

Next I’ll connect the two 3TB 7200rpm HDDs and configure them as a 6TB RAID-0 array. And also other odds & ends, such as connecting & testing the dual 2.5″ trayless backplane, the dual eSATA slot connectors, etc.

As noted above, I’ll probably wait for the final release (not beta) of Davinci Resolve 12 before installing the software. Likewise, I may wait for version “10.1” (or whatever Microsoft calls the inevitable first bug-fix release) of Windows 10 Pro before installing it, too.

That’s the plan anyway.  :-)

UPDATE 8/5/15:

My new PC build is complete, and appears to be working great. Following are additional snapshots taken during assembly, and the completed build.

Below: A 2nd batch of parts arrived late last week (CPU & cooler, motherboard, GPU, PSU, RAM, fans, etc.):

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Below: CPU & cooler, RAM, PSU, 1 SSD, 3 fans, and 1 HDD installed:

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Below: The 240GB SSD for OS & apps custom-installed flat up against inside of the case’s front panel. I moved it from its original “official” location on floor of case to make more room for cables & 1 of the fans. A red SATA data cable is connected to the SSD, which is mounted using a 2.5″/3.5″ drive adapter plate & one of the screws securing the case’s front trim:

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Below: The i7-5820K CPU is installed below the low-profile heatsink and blue AR02 cooler fan. The fan is mounted in a “pull” configuration, blowing warm air out the case’s rear vent opening at the left of the photo. Because of where the special drive bracket is installed (see below) there isn’t room to install the CPU fan in a “push” configuration:

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Below: CU of 2 of the four 8GB memory sticks (total of 32GB DDR4 SDRAM):

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Below: The mass of cables in the middle the photo is the reason why I moved the OS/app SSD from its original mounting location on the floor of that corner of the case. After I finished installing everything I was able to tidy-up this corner quite a bit so that the case fan is able to blow cool air into the case with minimal obstruction:

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Below: It’s alive! But not done yet. Installing Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit using an external DVD drive, and testing before final assembly (2nd 3TB HDD and dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay not installed yet), and cable wrangling is incomplete:

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Below: Two views of the special drive bracket which holds the dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay on top and the 2nd 3TB HDD below:

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And here are photos of the final completed system:

Below: Front view of my completed HTPC-style case configuration. The dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay is in the front right corner instead of an optical drive. 2 of the 3 case fan vents (intake) can be seen on the right:

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Below: 2 USB-3 ports are located at the case’s front lower-left corner, along with the HD audio I/O. Power & reset buttons are located at the lower-right. 1 of the case’s warm air vents is located on top:

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Below: The rear of the case showing the GTX 980 Ti GPU installed in the left-most 2 slots. The case’s other large warm air vent is visible on the upper-left above the motherboard’s I/O panel. I/O includes several USB-3 ports, Ethernet, USB-2, audio I/O, etc.:

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Below: Cable “mis-management”? Although it looks like a complete mess, the cables are actually positioned so they don’t block air flow very much — or as little as this small case allows. I may revisit the cable routing/bundling after using the machine for a few weeks. In the 1st photo below, 2 case fans blow cool air in from the left towards the CPU and disk drives, and another fan blows in from the right towards the GPU’s built-in intake fan. Warm air is pushed out the case’s rear vents and top vent, and also from the GPU’s rear vent. The CPU fan pulls air through the heatsink and pushes it out the case rear vent. The PSU has its own air in/out vents which don’t affect the case ventilation. The bracket holding the dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay, and 1 of two 3TB HDDs, is visible in the upper-left of the 1st photo:

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The PC runs great, although I haven’t stress-tested it yet. It’s extremely quiet at idle considering it has a total of 6 variable-speed PWM fans inside (3 case fans, CPU fan, GPU fan, and PSU fan) plus 2 HDDs. Since this is the first PC I’ve built in many years, I’m pleasantly surprised it works at all.

I’ll know soon enough how it performs when doing real work, such as editing 4K ProRes video and rendering-out h.264 files, etc.

P.S.: I could’t resist … I installed the 2nd beta release of Davinci Resolve 12!  :-)  Reportedly it still has some minor bugs (it IS a beta release after all), but it’s running fast & smooth on my new machine. I look forward to the final release of the software!

P.P.S.: In a day or two I’ll post Blackmagic disk speed test results for my PC’s two internal RAIDs (6TB RAID-0 using dual 3TB 7200 rpm HDDs, and 500GB RAID-0 using dual 240GB SSDs in the trayless bay). I’ll also post Resolve 12 frame rate and render time results. Stay tuned.

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

Resolve 12: DIY Windows PC build for 4K video, Update #12

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

[Update: Scroll down to see a different type of computer case.]

As discussed in my previous post, for the past several months I’ve been thinking about building an entry-level, “starter” Windows PC to run the full version of the Davinci Resolve video editing and color grading software included with my BMPC-4K camera. I haven’t made up my mind to buy the hardware and build it yet, but I’m getting close.

rosewill_stealth_case

I’d use the system to learn how to use Resolve (the new version, Resolve 12, due “soon”) to edit and grade 1080p and UHD 4K footage in a 1080p timeline, initially for my personal use. I might later add more hardware to the system if required to speed it up, especially for client work.

Click here for PDF.

Win_PC_5930K_r12

This configuration (revision #12!) would be a bit different from my previous shopping list because PC hardware products, features, performance, and prices change frequently.

For example, AMD’s long-anticipated new R9 Fury X GPU was finally formally announced last week, and initial gaming benchmarks (for example) show it to have only about the same speed performance as the already available, similarly-priced NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti. As of this writing I don’t know how Fury X performs as a GPU for Resolve. Meanwhile, the 980 Ti has proven to provide very fast performance with Resolve in actual use.

The main reason this configuration would include a NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti GPU because it has 6GB of VRAM, compared to the Fury X’s 4GB of VRAM. 6GB should be adequate for most of my UHD 4K editing needs, whereas 4GB might not be enough. It’s a tough call because the Fury X has the advantage of having far more shader processors (4,096) compared to the 980 Ti (2,816). With Resolve, generally the more shader hardware the better. Resolve 12 could be very fast using a Fury X with most 1080p and some 4K projects. However, with some 4K projects, the 980 Ti’s 6GB of VRAM could be more important. The 980 Ti requires somewhat less power compared to Fury X, too. My impression is NVIDIA is better than AMD when it comes to the quality & frequency of their software driver updates, but I could be mistaken. AMD’s new/old rebranded Radeon R9 390X GPU with 8GB VRAM is less-expensive, but more power hungry and somewhat slower compared to the newer 980 Ti and Fury X.

As in previous versions of my shopping lists, this config uses an Intel i7-5930K Haswell-E 6-Core CPU because it supports 40-lanes, compared to the less-expensive Intel i7-5820K Haswell-E 6-Core CPU, which only supports 28 lanes. 40 lanes should theoretically result in better performance if I later add a 2nd GPU card or other devices. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have the budget for an Intel i7-5960K Haswell-E 8-Core CPU, but maybe I’d upgrade to one later. Then again, if I get lucky and win the lottery, I could replace the 6-core CPU with a Xeon 18-core CPU, up to 128GB RAM, and a GTX Titan X 12GB VRAM GPU, and so forth. But I probably won’t win the lottery anytime soon.

This config would include an ASRock X99 Extreme4/3.1 ATX mainboard because it’s relatively inexpensive and includes a USB 3.1 card (USB 3.1 is up to twice as fast as USB 3.0). If I understand ASRock’s mainboard specs and user manual correctly: If desired I could eventually install a 2nd 980 Ti GPU, with both GPUs in full-speed x16 slots (“PCIE1 @ x16 mode; PCIE3 @ x16 mode”), and with space available for small cards such as the bundled USB-3.1 card in slot #2 , and perhaps an optional DeckLink Mini Monitor card in slot #5.

As noted in my previous post, my shopping list includes a SanDisk Extreme Pro 960GB SSD because not only will it be a relatively fast and large capacity storage drive for “active” Resolve project data, but it’s also the least-expensive 1TB SSD recommended by Blackmagic for use with my BMPC-4K camera. The 1TB project data SSD would be mounted in a StarTech dual 2.5″ trayless hot swap backplane. If desired, a 2nd identical 1TB SSD could be mounted in the StarTech bay and configured as a 2x larger and very fast RAID-0 drive.

This configuration would have a relatively energy-efficient Enermax 850-watt, 80 Plus Platinum rated power supply, which I believe will be adequate to support a 2nd 980 Ti GPU if I were to add it later. The Rosewill Stealth case in this config has a built-in drive dock on top, convenient for transferring camera footage from an SSD, making backups to bare HDDs, etc. I already own some components (system SSD, data HDD, monitor, DVD-R, keyboard, mouse) which would help keep my initial costs down.

My shopping list includes the full version of Windows 7 Pro 64-bit because I don’t currently own any version of Windows, so I can’t upgrade from a previous version. If I understand Microsoft’s upgrade policies, if desired I can upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 for free within 1 year of 10’s release. I’ll wait a bit to see if there are clear advantages (i.e.: compatibility, performance, security, stability, UI, etc.) to upgrading to Windows 10 Pro.

Lastly, as a long-time Mac user, why am I considering building a Win PC, instead of buying a new Mac? Because: A Mac configured with specs similar to the above system would cost far more and/or would be far less expandable or configurable — in other words, an expensive dead-end. And since I already own the full version of Davinci Resolve, I don’t have to buy software such as Final Cut Pro X (not my cup of tea) or Adobe Premiere (I’m not interested in renting software).

But wait, there’s one more thing …

Click here for PDF.

Win_PC_5820K_r12

This “barebones” configuration would be considerably less-expensive than the one discussed at the top of this blog post. The goal with this config is to keep the cost as low possible, but still be able to run Resolve reasonably fast — with certain limitations. This config is based on an Intel i7-5820K CPU instead of an i7-5930K. As noted above, both have 6-cores and are equally fast, but the 5820K’s 28-lane support essentially rules-out adding a 2nd GPU. Note this config features the same GTX 980 Ti GPU as discussed above, because Davinci Resolve makes full use of a fast GPU with “lots” of VRAM.

The Gigabyte GA-X99-UD3 LGA 2011-v3 Intel X99 motherboard in this config would have less memory expansion capability (32GB max. vs. 128GB max.), and USB-3.0 (not USB-3.1). This config’s “project data” SSDs would be smaller but faster (RAID-0), and there’s a smaller power supply (adequate for 1 GPU, not 2). Later, if more performance were desired, each individual component could be a candidate for replacement/upgrading — CPU, PSU, storage, memory, motherboard, etc. “Later” prices will be less, too. It’s just a different approach.

Speaking of different …

… here’s something different:

DSCF0399

DSCF0464

Click here for PDF.

Win_HTPC_5820K_r13

The configuration above is only slightly more expensive than the previous barebones config, and would be housed in a Silverstone GD09B “home theater PC” (HTPC) style ATX case. A HTPC case sits horizontally on a desk or shelf, not vertically on the floor like a traditional PC. The GD09B is a relatively compact and lightweight ATX case, measuring only 17″ wide by 14″ deep by 6.7″ high, and weighs only 10 pounds empty. Because the case’s height is small, the CPU cooler must be a low-profile design, such as the Cooler Master S524 v2 on my list or the smaller and less-expensive Silverstone AR02 cooler for example. This “small” case has room for big GPU video cards like the GTX 980 Ti. I like the idea of this case because it’s relatively small, semi-portable, and horizontal. I could put a monitor, other gear, or papers on top. I’m sure my cat would like sleeping on it in the wintertime.  :-)

This configuration would be mostly identical to the barebones config listed above it, with the same 5820K CPU, GTX 980 Ti GPU, Gigabyte GA-X99-UD3 motherboard, and other components. The Silverstone GD09B case comes with 1 quiet PWM 120mm fan and has 3 additional 120mm fan mounting vents with easily-accessible dust filters. One of the 120mm side vents is for the ATX-size power supply’s own fan. I’d add 2 quiet PWM 120mm case fans. The 3 case fans would pull cool air into the case, with warm air flowing out its rear & top vents. My hope is the case and CPU fans (all PWM) would keep the system adequately cool under load, and run relatively quietly at idle and moderate loads.

(Silverstone also sells a model GD10B HTPC case that includes 3 quiet 120mm fans for about the same price as the GD09B with its 1 fan. But I don’t like the large drop-down door on the front of the GD10B covering the external drive bay and USB-3 ports. Some users might like the door, but I’d find it annoyingly in-the-way and something that eventually might break. There are also true rack-mount computer cases, such as from Logisys, but these cases are typically larger and heavier than the GD09B HTPC case.)

As with the other 2 configs above, I’d install a StarTech dual 2.5″ SATA backplane in the case’s 5.25″ external drive opening for mounting removable 240GB or larger SSDs configured as a fast >480GB RAID-0 array for active projects. I’d install a 240GB 2.5″ SSD inside the case to hold the OS and apps, and also two 4TB 3.5″ HDDs inside to hold misc. data. The case has 2 front-mounted USB-3 ports and headphone/mic jacks. I’d plan to use my external Voyager-Q drive dock for backups onto bare HDDs via USB-3, and later maybe add a USB-3.1 or Thunderbolt card for faster backups to an external USB-3.1/TB dock.

Again, I haven’t made up my mind to pull the trigger yet on any of these systems. I’ll probably wait until after Windows 10 and Resolve 12 ship before I decide to proceed or if I need to change my plans. For example, Resolve 12 under Windows 10 might require >16GB RAM, or Resolve 12’s GUI might require a >1080p resolution monitor, etc. So, research continues …

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

Resolve 11: DIY Windows PC build for 4K video, Update #9

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

My shopping list is now up to revision _9_ (plus more; see below). A work in progress!

Click here to read a related discussion in BMD’s Resolve forum, and click here to read the discussion in the BMCuser forum.

In addition, there’s a detailed thread on BMD’s forum about building higher-end Win PC systems for editing 4K or higher resolutions for a 4K finish. This is different from the info I present below which concerns building a PC for editing 4K footage for a 1080p finish.

Click image below to enlarge, or click here for a PDF. Here’s my shopping list for a Resolve 11 “4K-capable” DIY Windows PC:

Resolve 4K Win PC build v9

Items marked with a checkmark (√) are components I need to buy. Items marked “Already own” I don’t need to buy because, well, I already have them.:-)

I’m considering editing 4K video in Davinci Resolve 11 running on a DIY Windows PC, instead of in FCPX on a new Mac.

The shopping list above is for a relatively powerful system which I hope will be appropriate for working with 4K RAW or 4K ProRes HQ in a 1080p timeline in Resolve 11. Alternatively, a less-capable and less-expensive “starter” version appears at the end of this blog post (scroll down).

The full version of Resolve (worth $995) came bundled with my BMPC-4K camera. It would be good to be able to use the software! My old Mac laptop can’t run Resolve 11 at all, or even run FCPX effectively, so I need to buy a new computer.

The cost of building a DIY Windows PC appropriate to support Davinci Resolve 11 and 4K video — specifically, 4K RAW or 4K ProRes HQ in a 1080p timeline for a 1080p finish — isn’t as expensive as I first thought. The system would be for editing small freelance and personal projects, and typically not with a client in the room. Most of what I shoot is edited by someone else using other computers.

I haven’t built a PC in years, but wouldn’t mind doing it again if I can save hundreds or thousands of dollars (with as good or better performance and expandability) compared to FCPX or Resolve 11 running on a new iMac Retina 5K or new Mac Pro. Concerning editing and grading 4K video in Resolve 11 on a new Mac Pro, this report is a bit worrisome.

As noted on my shopping list, I already own a few hardware items that will help keep my costs down.

The basic editing UI in Resolve 11 looks infinitely more sane and rational to me compared to FCPX, as discussed in my FCPX rant in a previous post. Watch BMD’s video demos of Resolve 11’s new edit features here & here. Refer also to the Resolve 11 user manual and Resolve 11 Windows Configuration Guide (PDFs). It seems likely that BMD will add to Resolve’s editing capabilities in future releases of the software.

Since I’m not a fan of FCPX, and a Mac up to the task of editing and grading 4K (especially 4K RAW) in Resolve 11 is far beyond my budget, building a Windows PC might be in my future. As a Mac user since 1984, it’s a daunting prospect, but, um, “exciting”. We’ll see.

Update 1/21/15:

There’s debate about whether 4GB of GPU memory is adequate for working with 4K video in Resolve 11. With that in mind, 8GB versions of the popular GeForce GTX 970 or 980 GPU cards are expected “soon”, but there’s no way to know when, or how much they’ll cost compared to the current 4GB versions. Instead of waiting for what may be a relatively expensive card, my shopping list now features two Sapphire Radeon Vapor-X R9 8GB cards for use as Resolve 11 GPUs. The Vapor-X R9 is reportedly very fast with Resolve 11 (see here & here), and its 8GB memory apparently a good match for 4K in Resolve 11, too.

Ideally I’d like to start with two Vapor-X R9 cards now rather than add the 2nd card later. Certainly one card is less-expensive than two. However, if I only get one Vapor-X R9 card at first, and then I later determine I definitely need 2 cards for better performance in my intended use, there’s a risk: Depending how long I wait to get the 2nd GPU, the identical model card may no longer be available. It’s OK to use different make/model cards (with certain limitations), but I’d prefer to avoid dealing with two different video card device drivers and potential software conflicts. Note: Each Vapor-X R9 card requires “2.5 slots” of space.

Originally I had a “ASRock X99 Extreme4 LGA 2011-v3” 6-slot motherboard on my list, but if two “2.5 slot” Vapor-X GPUs are installed, there’d be no room for any additional cards. So, in revision 9 of my list I replaced the ASRock MB with the slightly more expensive “GIGABYTE GA-X99-UD4 LGA 2011-v3” 7-slot MB.

Ideally I’d like to have two relatively small (approx. 21″, 1920 x 1080) monitors for the Resolve and Windows GUI to keep the text size relatively big compared to using only one GUI monitor approx. 27″ 2560 x 1440. I already own a 21″ 1080p HDTV monitor, and adding a 2nd one can be inexpensive. However, initially I’ll make do with only one 1080p monitor connected to one of the Vapor-X R9 cards, and select the Resolve Video I/O and GPU preference setting, “Use Display GPU For Compute”.

I’ve put two “SanDisk Extreme Pro 960GB SSD SATA 6GB/s 2.5-in. 7mm[H] #SDSSDXPS-960G-G25” on my shopping list configured as a RAID-0 array for maximum speed and a total capacity of ~2TB. Why this SanDisk SSDs instead of a different brand/model? The SanDisk Extreme Pro 960GB is the least-expensive ~1TB SSD that BMD currently recommends for shooting 4K RAW in my BMPC-4K. So, eventually these disks could be used in my camera after bigger/cheaper SSDs inevitably replace the ones in the PC.

As with any RAID array regardless of type, it’ll be critical that I properly backup my active edit project files frequently. I’ll use bare >2TB HDDs via the external Voyager-Q USB-3 drive dock to make backups.

My list also includes a 3TB HDD for storage of misc. non-active Resolve 11 project and other data. Windows 8.1 Pro and a small number of applications (including Resolve 11) will be installed on a 240GB SSD that I already own.

This configuration includes 16GB of system RAM to start. I’ll add more RAM at some point later, probably by removing the 16GB RAM and replacing it with 32GB RAM.

To be on the safe side with two power-hungry Vapor-X R9 GPU cards plus disk drives, etc., my shopping list includes a 1,300-watt power supply.

It’ll be interesting to see workflow/performance results using the above hardware when working with BMPC-4K RAW 4K, ProRes HQ UHD, and ProRes HQ HD at 24p & 30p.

Update 1/21/15 (“Starter” build):

Below is a less-capable and less-expensive “starter” version of my DIY Windows PC build for Resolve 11. This version simplifies my initial build and lowers its cost.

This starter system includes the same motherboard, CPU, power supply, and case, but only one GPU card and SSD drive instead of two of each.

Starting with fewer components will make it easier for me to figure out how to assemble it properly, simplify inevitable initial hardware and software troubleshooting, and help me decide ASAP which components (if any) need to be immediately returned/exchanged for a different make/model or added-on — such as a 2nd GPU, and the quantity and type of additional disk storage, and so forth.

The CPU has 40 lane support if I decide to add a 2nd GPU card later. Likewise the 1,300w PS should be able to handle later expansion.

For testing purposes I can use the 1TB SSD to shoot a few minutes of 4K RAW footage, put the 1TB SSD in the trayless drive bay in the PC, make 2 backups of the footage to HDDs in the external USB-3 drive dock, and then edit a project directly from the 1TB SSD in the trayless bay (@ SATA-3 speed). I’d frequently backup project & related files to external HDDs as I’d go along, eventually transferring everything off the 1TB SSD to HHDs so I can reformat the SSD to shoot more footage. In addition, I already own a few smaller-capacity SSDs I can use for shooting 1080p & 4K ProRes HQ.

After this starter system is up and running smoothly, it should soon become obvious if I need a 2nd GPU or not. Over time I can test real-world performance differences using a single SSD for project data vs. using a SSD based RAID-0 array.

Click image below to enlarge, or click here for a PDF.

Resolve Win PC STARTER vS9

Items marked with a checkmark (√) are components I need to buy. Items marked “Already own” I don’t need to buy because, well, I already have them.:-)

Update 1/29/15:

Sapphire has announced a new 8GB GPU, “Tri-X R9 290X 8GB GDDR5 OC(UEFI)”, that will supposedly sell for somewhat less than their “VAPOR-X R9 290X 8GB GDDR5 PCI-E TRI-X (UEFI)”. The new card has similar specs, and yet is slightly thinner (“2.2 slot” instead of “2.5 slot” width) compared to the previous card. See brief article and product info. Here it is listed on NewEgg.

And this rumor about a Radeon R9 390X GPU looks interesting if true.

Meanwhile, I haven’t decided to pull the trigger on my PC build yet. Research continues!

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

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