Configuring your workstation


HP Z800 Workstation With Intel Westmere Dual Six-Core Processor Review

z8w1.jpgIn 2009, Intel launched its Nehalem line of workstations, which started with three models: the low-end Z400, the mid-range Z600, and the high-end Z800; later it was supplemented by the entry-level Z200. I had a look at the Z400, a single CPU quad-core, and the Z800, a dual-processor, quad-core system. Now HP is updating its workstation line to incorporate Intel's new Westmere processor, which uses 32nm manufacturing technology to enable six cores on each CPU. HP sent me one of the first dual-processor six-core Z800 systems off the line, and I had about 2 days to run it through its paces for various digital video-processing tasks. 


My test system shipped with two 3.33GHz X5680 Xeon processors, with 24GB of RAM running the 64-bit version of Windows 7, which I like heaps better than Vista. The graphics card was an NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 with 1.5GB of dedicated memory and access to 3.5GB more system memory. With a 15K 150GB system drive and 1TB video drive, the total system price was a little more than $12,000, though Z800 prices start at $1,799.

Windows 7 performance for Premiere Pro and Vegas

If you're a Premiere Pro or Vegas editor, and you're thinking about purchasing a new system with Windows 7, or upgrading to the new Microsoft OS on a current system, you might want to check out an article that I wrote for Millimeter/Digital Content P...

Windows 7 Performance for Streaming Encoding

puget.jpgA Windows 7 upgrade can cost more than $300 for the software alone -- is it worth it if you're a streaming producer looking to shave encoding times? Well, that's what I detail in this article.

By way of background, I had a great testbed for this - a dual processor, quad core 3.33 Ghz Xeon (Nehalem-based) computer from custom workstation manufacturer Puget Systems. Puget supplied the workstation with three system drives in an easily swappable drive bay so I could change operating systems in a matter of moments. Thus equipped, I loaded a number of programs on the three system drives, including Adobe Media Encoder, On 2 Flix Pro, Rhozet Carbon Coder, Sorenson Squeeze and Telestream Episode, and ran the encoding trials on each platform. Click over to the main article to see the results.

Hewlett Packard's Nehalem-based Z400 and Z800 speed encoding performance

On March 30, 2009, Hewlett Packard announced three new workstations that leverage Intel’s new Nehalem line of CPUs. To assess the significance of these new computers to the streaming market, I tested two Nehalem-based systems against older generation dual core, quad-core and eight core systems, using a range of encoding programs, including Adobe Media Encoder, On2 Flix Pro, Rhozet Carbon Coder, Sorenson Squeeze and Telestream Episode.

Though performance varies by the task, on average, Nehalem outperformed a similarly configured eight-core system based upon the previous Intel Xeon architecture by over 40% in four of five tests, with an 18% performance boost in the fifth.

Producers in mission critical, time-sensitive encoding applications should immediately start purchasing Nehalem-based systems like the HP Z800 over systems based upon Intel’s previous Xeon architecture. If current throughput levels are an issue, you should also consider retiring your current workstations, and installing Nehalem-based systems. Producers who are considering expanding their render farm facilities to meet encoding demand should also consider swapping out current systems for Nehalem-based systems, which are more powerful and more power efficient. High volume producers should strongly consider a dual-CPU system, which typically perform much faster than single CPU solutions.

Finally, if you’re a small producer who’s been putting off purchasing a system for editing and encoding, boy, are you going to be glad that you did.

Better buy 64-bit systems from here on out

I got an interesting e-mail from Adobe today, which I've pasted in its entirety below. The key message is this:

"Adobe today confirmed that ... Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and Adobe After Effects CS4 are the last versions to support 32-bit operating systems. Future versions will be native 64-bit applications which will run only on 64-bit operating systems."

This has some interesting implications about future hardware investments and provides a preview of what CS5 will bring. You can read the full release (and my short analysis) in the complete article.

Snow Leopard for Video Producers

Apple's Snow Leopard is short of the usual bling that Apple ships with new operating systems, but for video producers, power users and others with multiple core computers, it's a very significant release -- if you don't mind waiting until software developers support the new plumbing that Apple implemented. I took a deep look at the technology for Millimeter magazine, which you can read all about here. This is the Cliffs Notes, teaser version.

Liquid-cooled HP Z800 Workstation Test Drive

I produce a lot of screencams and other narration-type recordings, and workstation noise is a constant concern. I also have multiple computers around my office, most off testing some software program or rendering some project. While "cacophony" is definitely too strong a word to apply, less noise is always good. For this reason, I was excited when HP called to offer a quick spin with its new liquid-cooled Z800 workstation.

Test Drive: Apple Mac Pro, Part 1

906MIL_RevMacPro_display.jpgWhen some people get a powerful new computer, they want to produce a new video, play games, or show it off to their friends. I just want to run as many tests as possible to analyze its performance, which I guess means that I’m well suited for this portion of my job description.

Hewlett Packard's Nehalem-based Z400 and Z800 speed encoding performance

On March 30, 2009, Hewlett Packard announced three new workstations that leverage Intel’s new Nehalem line of CPUs. To assess the significance of these new computers to the streaming market, I tested two Nehalem-based systems against older generation dual core, quad-core and eight core systems, using a range of encoding programs, including Adobe Media Encoder, On2 Flix Pro, Rhozet Carbon Coder, Sorenson Squeeze and Telestream Episode

Accelerating Encoding on Multiple Core Workstations

Have a multiple processor Mac or Windows Workstation? Here's how to make it fly when producing your streaming media files.