Denise Deveau is a Toronto-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology. Drawing on a wealth of experience writing for local dailies and multiple trade publications, she brings a unique business perspective to issues that are of interest to the InsightaaS audience. In the article below, for example, she outlines the business benefits to be won by thinking outside the brand box in hardware and software procurement. InsightaaS is pleased to welcome Denise onboard as contributor. (ed.)
Video production may have been an afterthought when CEO Kelly Shores founded Sparksight in 2007. The Austin, Texas-based creative agency’s stock in trade in the early years was open source web content management software. It wasn’t long before they were fielding calls from their customers for video production and photography services; so much so that video production now accounts for 70 per cent of its output and continues to grow.
"We’ve had a steady average of 50 per cent growth in video every year,” says Shores.
Sparksight started as a PC shop working with Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects. As the photo and video production portion of its business grew, like many creative agencies, it switched to Macs. “Everyone in the field expected creative shops to be on Macs. So we just fell into the mold and also switched from Adobe to Final Cut.”
With the release of Version 10 of Final Cut, it was time to rethink their choices, Shores says. “We had been on version 7, but it was coming to the end of its life and we weren’t that happy with the interface for 10. Then we heard a lot of good things about Adobe Creative Cloud.” Part of the Adobe Creative Suite 6 release, Adobe Creative Cloud serves as a hub for making, sharing and delivering creative work including design, web, video and digital imaging.
“The fact that it was subscription-based meant we could keep adding users as we grow for about $49 a month per person,” Shores said.
At the same time it opted for Creative Cloud, Sparksight began investigating hardware options and decided to return to its PC roots with Dell technology. This wasn’t exactly new territory since Shores had originally worked with Dell laptops and a custom built tower system: “dual monitors, a nice video card and good power supply – it sounded like a jet engine when it started up,” he added.
This time around Sparksight went for a Dell Precision T7610 tower workstation with an NVIDIA Quadro K5000 graphic card, Dell’s Precision M3800 mobile workstation with an NVIDIA Quadro K1100M graphic card, and the Dell precision M6800 mobile workstation with an NVIDIA Quadro K5100M graphic card.
“The NVIDIA Quadro card makes them blazing fast,” Shores says. “These systems definitely have the speed, storage and processing power we needed at a much lower price point [approximately two thirds the cost of the Macs]. The partnership with Adobe has really strengthened their abilities for rendering and processing footage. After all, Adobe and PCs play very well together.”
Dell recently announced enhancements to the Dell Precision M3800, which is now available with 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160) resolution and IGZO2 technology on a 15.6-inch UltraSharp touch display made with Corning Gorilla Glass NBT. With more than 8 million pixels, the 4K Ultra HD screen option is claimed to be the highest resolution panel available on a 15-inch mobile workstation today, offering 3.4 million more pixels than the Retina display on the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch for 59 per cent higher resolution.
Dell also added a Thunderbolt 2 port, to enable transfer speeds up to 20Gbps for viewing and editing of raw 4K video, while backing up the same file in parallel. Other enhancements include additional storage options and increased total available internal storage (up to 2TB), which is double the solid-state drive (SSD) storage capacity offered by the Apple MacBook Pro.
A study by Principled Technologies research compared the Dell Precision M3800 and the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display across a number of resource-intensive tasks commonly performed in Adobe Premiere Pro Creative Cloud. The M3800 took up to 26 per cent less time to transcode video, and was 30 per cent faster rendering video sequences.
The new systems have taken productivity to unprecedented levels, Shores claimed. He estimates that with Dell Optimizer software, which automatically configures CPU cores, graphics and other settings to maximize their performance, the company has experienced a significant reduction in rendering time.
“Dell Optimizer magically makes the computer run software better. What took us 10 hours to render on a Mac Pro tower took less than 45 minutes to render on the T7610 workstation running Dell Optimizer software,” he noted.
Previewing can also be done in full resolution in real-time which reduces delays while improving quality. “Previously we had to cut the resolution in half and wait 20 seconds for something to render,” Shores explained.
Workflow has been simplified on many fronts. For example, camera footage no longer has to be converted for editing. Rather, it can be directly sent to Premiere Pro, saving hours of conversion time and terabytes of hardware space.
The various Creative Cloud applications also allow graphic designers, animators and other team members to work on different parts of projects simultaneously and return them to a final form seamlessly.
The capability and speed of the Dell Precision mobile workstations have significantly improved productivity at customer sites. For example, during a one-day photo and video shoot on location, Sparksight crew members were able to “data wrangle” more than 100 high-resolution photos and 10 HD videos, synchronize sound on the videos, and touch up 25 per cent of the photos during the time the shoot was taking place. “In the past we would have had to wait until we got back to the office to start that kind of work,” Shores noted. “This way, we were able to deliver final results within two days versus a week.”
The combination of higher processing power at a lower price point and cloud-based access to software access is proving its worth for Sparksight’s crew members, customers and its bottom line. “The processing per dollar we’re getting today is twice what we had before.”