Heavy Lifting

Coined by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, Moore’s law is an observation that, over the history of computer hardware, chip performance will double every 18 months or so. Although the claim may sound outrageous (imagine 50 years from now), it’s indeed a reality. For example, approximately 15 years ago while editing my first feature, I had to rent an external SCSI hard drive (aka Scuzzy drive) to store my footage, which I was editing on a now-extinct D-Vision NLE system. We had to rent the Scuzzy drive by the day, and it was the size of a mini-refrigerator. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the drive was that it held only 7 gigabytes of data—a figure that would be laughable on today’s smartphones.

As you well know, we’re living in the golden age of digital filmmaking, with new cutting-edge cameras and all-in-one NLEs being released in much shorter cycles. But with complex workflows, 4K (and soon 8K) RAW capture, transcoding and visual-effects rendering, not to mention 3D, you’re going to need one high-powered computer to finish your magnum opus.

The ProMAX Z-Series are HP workstations that are tuned for video editing. When ProMAX receives the units from HP, they wipe the systems clean and set them up to fit editors’ needs.

One company that has pushed Moore’s law to the brink, especially in the postproduction world, has been California-based ProMAX, who develops high-end computer workstations, network servers and storage devices targeted directly at filmmakers. The company started up in 1994, when editing on a computer was in its infancy and difficult to accomplish due to limited hard drive space, CPU power, memory chips, etc.

In 2008, current CEO Jess Hartmann bought the company and returned it to its roots in developing new products for high-end workstations for production. They currently have more than 2,000 clients representing professional editing groups working in entertainment and advertising, as well as corporate, education, finance, pro sports and government agencies such as the American Film Institute, CNN, NBC/Universal, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Playboy, Nissan, Citigroup, Honeywell, Harvard Medical School, the Anaheim Angels, UPS and the U.S. Air Force.

HDVP recently spoke with Hartmann on working with video, ProMAX workstations, and the new and long-awaited Mac Pro, as well as postproduction trends in the future.

HDVideoPro: What kind of hardware requirements are professional filmmakers coming to you for today?

Jess Hartmann: When you look at the film industry, in a lot of ways, they’re on the bleeding edge of technology, and in a lot of ways, they’re way behind. I come from a Fortune 500 IT background, and when you compare the two sectors, the film industry is far behind. I say that as an introduction to your question in that most of the smaller editing shops are now just getting into shared storage. They’ve been dragging around their FireWire drives from project to project and then sticking them on a shelf. Finally, they’re just getting to a place where they want to centralize their assets on a shared storage device. On the bleeding edge, we have the studios with more money and companies that are pushing technology by playing in higher-resolution sizes—4K, uncompressed, DPX sequences. But, I guess if you’re looking at it from a majority standpoint, one of the biggest trends people are coming to us is for shared storage and asset management.