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HP Bridging The Borders Award, A close look at new HP Z1 and new ways of using power of HP for MAC users

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We are getting close to the Palm Springs ShortFest, one of the most successful short film festivals in the world. Since 2012 HP Bridging the Borders Award offered by Cinema Without Borders goes to a film that helps bringing people of our world closer together.

Every year and prior to the festival we introduce computer systems and digital tools that could help independent young filmmakers. The following interview with Mike Diehl and Christian Jones is about HP RGS and HP Z1 All-in-One Workstation.

Mike Diehl is a Product Manager for the personal workstation business at HP’s Workstation Global Business Unit. Mike is responsible for the product definition and lifecycle management for HP’s all-in-one and high-end workstation platforms.  During his 31 years at HP, Mike has had a diverse set of assignments in both R&D and Marketing. Prior to his current position as a Product Manager he was a lead architect and engineer in HP’s workstation R&D lab. This included the definition and design of custom integrated circuits for HP’s graphics accelerators. In the late 1990’s Mike transitioned to Marketing to fulfill his passion of focusing on customer requirements, developing customer intimacy and producing workstation products that are industry leadership.

Mike is a graduate of the University of Colorado where he earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and has been awarded 9 US Patents.  He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado and enjoys cycling, hiking and other outdoor activities.

Christian Jones is Sr. Product Manager, Remote Workstation technology. Christian Jones joined HP in 2010 and is the senior product manager over remote workstation technology at HP Inc.  He works closely with ISVs and industry leaders in oil and gas, animation, visual FX and 3D CAD defining the future of remote access and live collaboration for high-end, graphically intensive applications. Christian also manages HP’s Remote Graphics Software.
 
Prior to joining HP, Christian was the VP of marketing and business development at Open Air Cinema, a world leader in large scale, portable outdoor projection systems. He also founded a small media company digitizing, restoring and editing pictures and film. Christian has an MBA from the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University.

Bijan Tehrani: I think first if we start by giving our readers a little bit of background about this new announcement that was made the beginning of this month and what was it about and what it means for entertainment business users, mainly film related users
Mike Diehl: At NAB 2016, HP announced the HP Z1 G3 Workstation, the third generation of the world’s first all-in-one (AiO) workstation. The first generation, announced four years ago, was a 27-inch form factor, and we followed that up in 2014 with the second generation and now after four years the Z1 is still the only AiO workstation. The Z1 G3 addresses our customers evolving requirements. We brought to market the first generation of the Z1 to address the space constrained environments we saw in our customer’s work environments.  Those constraints continue to increase so what we’ve done is reduced the size, the weight, and also most notably the cost of this platform. The HP Z1 G3 is roughly 50 percent thinner, lighter, and we have reduced the cost by 20 percent as compared to the previous generations of the Z1.

These changes came out of some key trends we are seeing in the industries we serve. One of the things we have observed our customers doing is choosing form factors not based on the form factor they needed but based on cost and even though they would have preferred to go with an AiO, there was a price premium for the Z1 over an entry tower workstation, .  What we’ve done is addressed the price premium and brought the Z1 G3 in line with the pricing of the entry tower workstation platform. This allows users to select their workstation based on the form factor they need rather than price.

Additionally, even though we’ve reduced the size of the Z1 to 24-inches, we’ve increased the resolution. The Z1 G3 provides a full 4K resolution display. The Z1 G3 also supports the latest generation of Core and Xeon processers as well as selection of professional graphics from NVIDIA, the M1000M and the M2000M graphics products.  We’ve also increased the memory footprint, supporting up to 64 gigabytes of ECC or non-ECC memory. Providing support for ECC memory increases the overall system reliability..

Even though we made is smaller again we’ve increased the expandability. The Z1 G3 can support up to four storage devices including up to two PCI express drives, providing up to two terabytes worth of storage, and also up to two 2.5-inch drives. The 2.5 inch drives can be SSDs or spinning hard drives to support up to another two terabytes of storage. Those drives can also be RAIDed together to provide greater reliability for users. We also updated the Z1 to include the latest generation of Thunderbolt, providing two Thunderbolt ports on the side of the system, each having the ability to drive an external 4K display. What we’ve seen over the years is that many of our users have been feeling abandoned by their previous technology provider and Thunderbolt is a key attribute to connect very fast external devices such as high-speed networks, storage devices and graphics rendering devices.  We are also seeing PCI express storage become in high demand in our user base, which is why we’re implementing support for up to two standard HP Z Turbo drives on this platform. As with all of our platforms, the Z1 is fully serviceable, making upgrades or increasing or changing out the storage, graphics, memory, etc. easy to be done right at the user’s desktop.

The Z1 was the first ever AiO to implement support for Xeon processers, the first AiO ever to support ECC memory, the first AiO ever to support RAIDed storage, and also the first AiO to support  professional graphics . We have leveraged our 30 years of experience, in workstation development to be able to do that and that goes a long way.

BT: And one thing I noticed, I think from what I’m hearing for so many young people joining the market as young filmmakers and independent filmmakers, this is assembly is quite idea because of the price point, it begins under 1500 dollars and then they could modify and expand it if it’s needed and it is now quite powerful for doing any kind of editing job or any kind of treaty job on it and it’s affordable which is very important and the third point that I find in this is that you could do a lot of maintenance yourself if necessary and also upgrade yourself without the need of a technician. Are these true?
MD: You’re absolutely spot on all those points, basically the serviceability and expandability of the Z1 allows room to grow and makes it easier for the user to enhance the capabilities themselves by upgrading components. There’s been AiOs out there but they haven’t had the workstation ISV certifications, which are absolutely key for the professional market place, and that’s why we’ve been making great in-roads in the education desktop video editing space and also markets such as CAD and architecture.

BT: Also, as far as the accuracy of the screen on this one, I mean just the monitor, could you tell us a little bit about that and the resolution that it goes up to.
MD: Yes, the resolution is 4K, 3840x2130 - full 4K/UHD resolution. The real value there is that we’re seeing many of our users have already transitioned to 4K content and implementing a 4K display allows those users to operate in the native resolution as opposed to doing their creation on something with a much lower resolution and not really seeing what the end result is going to look like. The Z1 G3 provides a very accurate, very rich and vibrant display without a price premium.

BT: As far as the graphic card, what is the most powerful graphic card supported by this system?
MD: We offer the graphics cards based on the latest Maxwell Architecture from NVIDIA. The Z1 G3 supports up to an M2000M class device that provides four gigabytes worth of graphics memory. There is also an option for the NVIDIA M1000M graphics card.

BT: Thank you very much, and the other part which is important is what you are doing for the Mac users, if it could be explained in a way that is understandable for our readers who are quite new to the subject.
Christian Jones: Absolutely, let me introduce myself first, because I don’t think we’ve spoken before, I’m Christian Jones and I manage the Remote Graphic Software solution that I’m going to speak about. I’ve been doing this area for about five years, but my background is in film.

At the highest level, HP Remote Graphics Software (RGS) allows you to be at one computer, but actually be remote controlling a more powerful computer that is somewhere else. RGS is like remote desktop on steroids because you get a very responsive remote session with smooth frame rate. We can get up to 60 frames per second full desktop streaming from a higher end workstation to a lower powered device. What we announced at NAB is coming support for Mac OS on the receiver, or client side.  This is needed because if, for example, you had my MacBook Pro and you are trying to do some high end video editing, maybe some 4K video editing with some effect on there, the MacBook Pro isn’t really specked up to do that job. The timeline playback at full quality wouldn’t play back very well. It would probably give you maybe three or four frames per second. That’s a hard way to work. But if you had a powerful HP Z Workstation configured to do the job, a 4k timeline could playback flawlessly. With HP RGS receiver for Mac you could be working from your MacBook Pro and it feels like you’re on your MacBook pro and it looks like your MacBook pro, but you get the full performance of the HP Z Workstation. That is because when you use HP RGS to connect from a Mac to a powerful Workstation the workstation is doing all the work. So you could be scrubbing through that timeline at full frame rate and having no issues with it. It feels like you upgraded your Mac way beyond what is physically possible. HP RGS allows users to seamlessly remote in and view and control a more powerful machine.

BT: What I hear from editors who are using MacBook Pro is that they are complaining about when they get to a sophisticated scene as far as the amount of information which is in the video and everything becomes harder, especially see and do in HD, is this really going to help them to be able to do their work smoothly and with no problem when they get to the final editing of a film on full resolution?
CJ: Ultimately, you need the right hardware to get the job done, that’s why we put so much energy into our HP Z Workstations. So if you’re doing visual effects or animation, even on HD, it’s really important to get the hardware that’s going to do the job right. With HP Remote Graphics Software you get a lot more value out of that high end workstation because you might just have one powerful HP Workstation at your studio but you can share that and allow people who are working on other computers, MacBook, PC, or Linux, to remote in and use that when they need to do things that are a little more challenging or when their system isn’t up to the task.

I’ll give you an example, just two days ago I went and I took just a laptop to Starbucks and I opened an RGS session to an HP Workstation that was on the HP site and I was editing 4K video, no problem, flawlessly sitting at a Starbucks. But the software to edit and the footage wasn’t on that laptop, it was all on my workstation, but I could be where ever I was, on whatever device I wanted, and I could keep on working.

If you think about independent filmmakers, they have to work on a film while also working on promoting the film. They often need to travel and do a lot of things, so having them tied down to that workstation can slow them down. RGS allows them to go out and do the things they need to do, but remote in to that powerful workstation to continue editing wherever they. It is a great enabler to allow them to ‘Edit Without Borders.’

BT: Also, it’s very important to, for a venue working on location and you want to be able to do your editing on location so you know where you are and if you have to do reshoot and all that so I think it’s an amazing way of dealing with editing now.
CJ: It’s huge for this market, you think of the alternative and it’s like overnighting hard drives back and forth between teams or groups working on projects or having to export files or upload things to servers for use. With HP RGS you can always connect directly to that editing machine, you don’t need to export, you don’t need to dump things on a drive and send it around. It really speeds up the process and it gives you a lot more value out of that investment that you made in a high power workstation, like the HP Workstation.

I should add that HP Remote Graphics Software is already included for free on HP Z Workstations, we’ve actually been including it since 2011. The product itself has been around for over 12 years and we’ve been perfecting it ever sense. There’s a lot of tools that help you remote into your computer and check your email and share PowerPoint, but were in this business because we focus exclusively on the high end graphics markets, like the animation studios and visual FX markets. DreamWorks for example, they have their editors making their movies from home and remote in to their workstations that are in the office and they’re doing their full animation, color grading, simulations and via HP RGS. It also allows you to bounce between Windows and Linux Workstations. You could be sitting on one machine on Windows and use RGS to connect into a Linux machine.

BT: Absolutely, I think soon we should find some of the users who are using this and run their stories because this is huge and I think it’s a revolution in the way that, for both systems that you introduced that uses the system, and also for this opportunity application for using your Mac system with your HP Workstation. I think they are great use for the film industry.
CJ: This is the tool that is better known in the bigger studios or visual effects houses to create a studio without walls. It’s probably not as well-known with smaller groups or companies of filmmakers that are more independent. It’s a great opportunity to tell something that for them is probably completely new information on how they can do their workflows.

BT: Absolutely, and I think this is, as I said it’s great and it will allow a lot of work to be done in quite a faster way, which means money, and also it helps with saving the budget on films when it comes to post production.
CJ: Especially a small production house, who might not give everybody a fully capable machine to tackle their every aspect of their jobs but if you have just one or a few of those and when it’s needed, anyone can access it, it helps to stretch your money for your company. The RGS receiver for Mac expands that benefit even further. It is now announced and will be coming soon.

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