planetMitch note: a guest post from my friend Michael Artsis about melting PCs trying to edit 4k video…
About two years ago, my good friend planetMitch asked me to write a 4K article. I was doing a ton of 4K camera reviews at the time. I said sure. Then he asked me to write a chapter in the 4K camera book. I did.
In both cases I asked why we needed 4K and also warned of the tremendous infrastructure needed to create true uncompressed 4K content. I said unless you're ready to go all in and realize what that means, which I laid out, then don’t bother. Stay away. Save yourself the pain and agony and money.
1080p looks amazing, right! It does and at NAB this year, Mitch and I discussed why anyone would ever want 8K and if we would ever really want or see 4K in mass distribution. We discussed with our good friends and amazing filmmakers and cinematographers, Eric Fletcher and Jason Aron that YouTube and Netflix have a highly compressed kind of fake 4K and that cable operators might never get us 4K.
Then Jason Barak of D3 sat with me and explained that 8K and 4K are both great for large scale LED displays. The kind D3 sells and installs and programs and the kind that graces Times Square New York and Vegas as well as many places around the globe.
Those signs are only becoming more prevalent. He was right and I was thrilled we found a use for 4K and 8K in a very practical way, even if it seemed niche for now.
Fast Forward to May. I received a call from a friend, Robin Lathrop. She owns an event production company called ByRobin. Robin asks if we can shoot a music video/video invitation for an event she is working on. She has a great idea and while it seems easy to execute, it wasn’t, but we got out the drone, an Inspire, and the Osmo, some GoPros and a C500 (which we recorded internally to).
We shot mostly in 4K and had no problem really editing the footage (albeit some stutters and stammers along the way) with our beefy PC editing machines or our Mac trashcan with 6 cores. Everyone loved the invite and Robin called back asking if we could create content for the massive video walls for the event (more on this whole thing in another article coming soon- it’s a great story). We discussed the walls and the size and talked to the installers about the content creation and it was decided 4K was necessary to look good.
We had the ability to shoot 4K – Full 4K uncompressed. But I was worried about being able to handle the edit so I consulted my team. My team is amazing! But they made a fatal mistake.
They said it was no problem and we could handle it. Everyone of them dismissed my concerns, my articles and my experience. They said we have been shooting 4K for years now and handling it is no problem.
Then I made a fatal mistake. I listened. I listened when I knew better. I listened when I had written the article. I listened when I had struggled to edit the footage from camera reviews, even the GH4, which I was the first one to do a review while shooting uncompressed with the YAC breakout box to an AJA Quad KI Pro. It was a nightmare to cut.
I basically did it blind without being able to see the footage. I listened without taking into account that the 4K they were talking about was all from an Osmo or Inspire with an X5 or a GoPro or an A7S II or something else compressed.
So we rented some cameras and took the drone out and shot amazing footage – stunning beach shots, fireworks mid air, the ocean, etc., 22 different videos each with several angles for the walls.
The walls were supposed to surround you, floor ceiling and all walls and we were supposed to bring you into different locals and environments. The plan was genius. The footage after 3 days of shooting was amazing!
We began to edit on a Friday and had to have it all color corrected and edited for delivery on Monday for the video wall team to map and test with the event the following Saturday night, exactly 7 days before the party.
The PC Meltdown!
Saturday night the week before, 2 days until the footage is due, I am walking out of BJs with my wife and son in town, my editor on the project, the amazing and Multi Talented, David Kleinstein calls me and says, “I need you! I have overheated my computer. It’s melted and it can’t edit anymore. We also melted one in the studio trying to cut this footage. It’s impossible.”
Now some people might have become Spacely from the Jetson’s at that moment. I could have. I was a little hot under the collar. I also was upset that we toasted some serious hardware. I was nervous that the clock was ticking and I was upset that we might run out of time. Just a pure fact. I also was ready to kill myself for listening to the team and not myself and I was like, “Why did I take this project?” Ok, that was all a split second.
I said to Dave, “Meet me at Micro Center in Paterson in 45 minutes. They close at 9. I will be there at 8pm. I will drop Jack and Jill off and head there. We will make this work.”
He said. “What?”
I said, “Just meet me there. We are building a computer.”
He said, “Can we?”
I said, “Yes!”
He said, “Have you?”
I said, “Sort of. We can do it. I have to make a call.” Before hanging up, I asked him to call the 24 hour Apple store in NYC and see if they had anything better than 6 Core Mac Pro’s in stock. I knew the answer. But I wanted to try anyway. Maybe someone made a custom order and didn’t pick it up.
No such luck. Mac Pros are only stocked in 6 cores. Not enough. Okay. So I called every place I could think of to rent or buy one. No one had stock and B&H Photo was 13 hours from opening… 13 Precious hours and who knew if they really had one in stock. Well, I did I look at their site. But they were old Mac Pros, sitting there for years and I read of 4K video overheating them.
So I went to Micro Center. On my way, I called Rory O’Donoghue of World Gamer Nation and SRK Media. He is a good friend and does a lot with us at BeTerrific! He builds machines and is an IT genius. I said, “Tell me what to buy and get in the car on Long Island and meet me at the Studio in NJ and lets work overnight and build a machine. Please.” He didn’t hesitate. I had a list and he was on the road.
Micro Center was great! They had everything and this amazing guy named Alfred worked with us way after they closed to help us get the parts. We did a special 10 core i7 chip that was hyper threaded. 2 Nvidia 1080 liquid cooled graphics cards and an X99 motherboard from Asus. We did 64GB of Corsair DDR4 ram, most/best they had. We did a 500GB SSD and (2) 4TB HDDs. We did processor liquid cooling and lots of fans too. Keyboard and mouse and a 4K monitor later and we were unto $6,300.00. Wow! More than what I wanted to or expected to spend but let's get the job done.
Failure is never an option. Rory and Dave had never done a custom loop for the graphics cards before. But hey – this is gonna be fun. Right! So lets do it! I said, “Alfred, I want to make something to run a space shuttle.”
A guy who was shopping tried to talk me into some random stuff. I knew this was the way to go. My only concern was, do we go Xenon processors like the Mac Pros or stick with i7? Rory and Alfred both said i7. So I did. Alfred was awesome!
We began to build “The Beast”, as we call it. It’s huge to fit all that stuff. It has to be. Well, the team of Rory and Dave began to build it.
I ran to Walmart for some stuff and snacks to keep the team working hard and happy (man, the lines to checkout at Walmart at 1am are soo long- what is up with that, and on a Saturday night?) and I also supervised.
It was then we realized that Alfred accidentally grabbed the wrong tubing for the custom cooling loop – The graphics cards, the only 1080 ones in stock. Micro Center was now closed. What to do? I thought about it and Googled 24-hour plumbing in NYC.
So Dave and I went to Nuthouse plumbing in NYC while Rory worked. It was a nuthouse for sure. But they had the tubing we needed. We finished the build 7 hours in, having had to stop for plumbing supplies and one other issue. We also had to build a custom loop for the first time and had an issue loading windows. So not that bad.
At 6AM I began color correcting and editing. By 10am we blew up the i7 processor and motherboard. Knowing it was the only 10 core processor Micro Center had, I ran to B&H and Rory consulted me and agreed to meet me back at the studio for build round 2. B&H Photo guys also consulted me. I asked if I should buy the Mac Pro or continue the build. They said continue the build, that the Macs they had in stock had been on the shelf a while and also weren’t the way I would have customized them.
So, okay. I said, “i7 or Xenon?” They said Xenon and I bought the 18 core hyperthreaded Xenon processor. I also bought the same X99 motherboard but a new one and I triple checked everything else with them. I thought about changing the RAM for more. But they had no stock. So I left.
Before meeting Rory at the studio I stopped at Best Buy and bought 2 4K monitors because the one I bought at Micro Center, the only 4K monitor they had in stock was an open box and didn’t for some reason realize it was 4K or see it.
Now the total price was $9,300. God bless American Express and their faith in me and BeTerrific and the fact that we would pay the bill even if at that moment, I wasn’t entirely sure how. But as I said, not for the faint of heart.
So an hour later, Rory had the Xenon and the new X99 installed and I had the monitors running perfectly. Dave and I took turns editing and color correcting and exporting.
By Monday evening, right on time, everything was done and on a 4TB external for the video wall guys. We also had 1080p backups at their request. This machine is awesome! It works great!
We used Creative Cloud and Premier. We made it work and “The Beast” is working like a champ now but still, we monitored all the components constantly with all sorts of real time heat and other diagnostics.
Could a Mac Pro do this? Yes it could too. But we saved a little bit of money and a week of waiting for a custom order. We also built this awesome machine that can also do 360 Video and act as a switcher.
I am so thrilled and excited about this project. It came out amazing! Robin loved it. So did the end client. We made Robin look amazing, and she is, which is all that matters.
Failure is not an option, we never give in and we never say die, we do whatever it takes to get the job done.
In this case 4K is a beast and it takes a mega computer to do it and unfortunately people underestimate that. Infrastructure is everything from the start through the finish – from the media and cameras and recording method you choose, to the computers and servers and software. Don't forget that and don't try to short cut it. Don't cheap out either. Set it up right, do it right and go for it, or don't bother.
Either way, price the job accordingly. Better quality begets higher pricing. So if you're going to do 4K, be prepared, don’t be scrambling and know what you are in for. Don’t underestimate it. We made Robin’s idea come to life and I couldn’t be more proud of that.
If you want to see the final result, check out these two videos from the event.
Margate Cake By The Ocean Thank You 360° Video
Margate Cake By The Ocean Highlight Reel Thank You!!
In the meantime, I am going to work on two more articles for you. One, ironically enough, on how we wound up using Mac Pros to save this actual event I wrote about here a week after building this machine, as we had to scramble again and work through the night again to take over the video wall the night before the event (with some help and guidance from our friends at D3 and Pro Video Player), and save the video walls and the event, it’s an amazing story I can’t wait to share it with you and talk about how you can do the same thing.
The other article will be about how I turned the Mac Pros I just told you about into a PC, running Windows 10 on Boot Camp so we could run livestream studio on it and have a very mobile, yet very capable mobile video switcher with my favorite switching software, livestream studio for a live broadcast from Hubbardston, Mass from the best Back to the Future Museum/private collection ever.
Special Edition of The Michael Artsis Show with Back In Time Director Jason Aron & the Sheas!
Stay tuned for that and watch BeTerrific.com in the meantime. See you at and from CEDIA.
Please check out our app: app.BeTerrific.com Thanks!!!
(cover photo credit: snap from source in post)