New Year, New Decade, New Rig


Alex Macleod TV-Bay Magazine
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Some time ago I was fortunate enough to take part in a track day at Oulton Park, driving a souped up BMW M4. It was completely insane. Literally the most powerful car I’ve ever driven.

From 0-60 in 4 seconds or something like that. I’m not Jeremy Clarkson so I can’t remember the exact figure. Anyway it was a really great experience, and something I’ll never forget.

Whilst I don’t ever envision myself owning a car like that (the potential for speeding tickets is very real) it’s always been my goal to get something similar to the M4 in terms of computing power. Especially given my background is in post-production and training. So in December 2019 - I did just that.

MediaCity Training has long been partnered with Scan Pro Video, and specifically the 3XS division which builds high end systems for customers with big demands. We purchased all of our Skull Canyon NUCS training machines from them when setting up our training room.

Before I continue I feel the need to point out here that this article isn’t in any way sponsored by Scan, as I paid for the build in full - this is just my reflections after having received and used the system for a month or two.

3XS have supported MediaCity Training with systems for trade shows such as BVE (rest in peace) and the KitPlus Shows. For the trainers machine they usually loan me what we call a ‘hero system’. The spec of these machines by comparison often end up being more like a Eurofighter than an M5, so using them has always been a dream, but the unfortunate thing is that when the event is completed I’ve always had to give them back.

So I finally decided to pull the trigger and put together my own system using their intuitive configurator which you can find on the 3XS website. It allows you to start with a pre-configured system, and then add or take away elements of the build that best suit your needs. Again - other PC suppliers are available..!

I began by selecting the 3XS Evolve NLE HD Plus as my base system and then made some tweaks.

First up for consideration - the motherboard and CPU. I went with this configurations first suggestion - namely the ASUS WS Z390 Pro and the Intel i9-9900k.

This board has everything I needed. It’s got a lot of very fast I/O capability (USB 3.1 and USB C) and it also supports up to 4 Graphics Cards. I can’t even see myself actually putting 4 in it but who knows. Combined with the cutting edge intel CPU it’s as future proof a combo as you can really get in PC terms and for an editor, it’s perfect.

Next up was choosing the RAM - which is a big piece of the high performance puzzle. I decided to double the suggested amount of Corsair DD4 LPX 2666 MHz ram from 32 to 64 because why not?

In terms of the GPU itself I went with the Nvidia RTX 2060. This card has 6GB of video ram, which allows Premiere Pro to offload a good deal of its heavy lifting to the GPU.

Another crucial element of any workflow is disk-speed and so with that in mind I chose the Samsung 970 Evo M.2 for my C-drive (for the OS and my applications) and a 1TB SSD Evo 970 as a working media/project drive. I also went for a 6TB Seagate Iron Wolf spinning disk for working on bigger projects. Total cost for this was £2600 inclusive of VAT.

Once the system arrived, it was hard not to be impressed. Looking inside you can see it’s an extremely tidy build. I quickly installed all of the main apps I need via ninite.com. If you haven’t seen this check it out - it’s invaluable. Then I installed the Creative Cloud apps I needed and the beast was ready to be unleashed.

Right from the very beginning you notice everything just happening straight away. The Creative Cloud applications launch and are ready to go in seconds. It’s very cool.

Launching Premiere Pro for the first time, I was hoping to be impressed. And I wasn’t disappointed. My first edit using the new system was a short form promo cut for Adobe. I began by setting up my project scratch settings using the optimal three drive system configuration.

That being Drive 1 reserved for my OS & applications. Drive 2 reserved for all the working media & Drive 3 reserved for the Scratch, Previews & Media Cache files

This is ideal as it means at no point is a drive doing simultaneous read/writes and so you get maximum throughput. Another preference I made sure I looked at, was how much RAM Premiere Pro had been assigned. In a rig with 64GB I was definitely making sure it had the lion’s share..!

Once I had the basic elements set-up I imported the clips, which mainly consisted of FS7 UHD 25p clips shot in XAVC-I S-log3. Again - everything was just happening instantly, in no small part due to the speed of the M.2 SSD which the media was on.

One nice moment was switching to Icon View the Project window, and seeing every single scrubbable clip thumbnail appear instantly.

Adding these clips to the Source Window and playing them all back at full resolution and with ‘high quality playback’ checked gave it no trouble whatsoever.

If the need to transcode or to create proxies does present itself however, well that’s another reason why having serious hardware grunt at your disposal makes a difference. I don’t have the timings, this is very much anecdotal but I ran some 8K R3D files through Adobe Media Encoder turning them into ProRes 422 and the i9/RTX 2060 combo made short work. An absolute joy!

I began the rough assembly on a 25p timeline set-up to work with XAVC-I clips. Cutting is buttery smooth with the untranscoded material, no stickiness in playback at all.

I very often advise working with proxies or a mezzanine codec inside of Premiere Pro, as working with everything in a consistent format helps ensure you don’t encounter any issues but the fact is you are not forced to do this, as it will support pretty much any format under the sun as long as your hardware is suitable. On short form projects such as this - that's a huge advantage.

Once the cut was done, it was time to add some colour, which was done via the Lumetri panel. Grading inside Premiere with a system like this is a joy, on these UHD FS7 clips - its real time.

For the primary grade I rely on curves, and I set my first clip to loop while I played about with its luminance values. Not a single stutter, playing back at full resolution and with ‘high quality playback’ checked. Magic. It’s worth mentioning here that I was using a variety of scopes when grading, none of which here had any impact on playback. Secondary grades using tracked masks - all good. It’s so nice not to have to wait for anything.

Moving past colour and into basic vfx territory I wanted to see how quick the system allowed me to dynamic link to Adobe After Effects, and again was not disappointed. After Effects takes 3 seconds to launch, and any effect you add to a linked clip, is instantly reflected back on the Premiere Pro Timeline. The added RAM here really does make a huge difference for applications such as After Effects.

Once it came to exporting the piece, again this was an extremely quick job. The 8 core 16 thread i9 chews through any task you set it to with ease. This truly is a rig made for editors. And thankfully this time, I don’t have to give it back.


Tags: iss141 | mediacity training | scan computers | 3xs | nvidia rtx 2060 | evolve nle hd plus | Alex Macleod
Contributing Author Alex Macleod

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