Dell SMB

May 28
I finally had a chance to use the system on a project that I felt would be a good test of the capabilities of Premiere and After Effects. Plus I had just upgraded to Adobe Production Premium CS6 and was itching to give it a try. I edited a promotional video for PFLAG’s Care with PRIDE™, a new campaign in partnership with Johnson & Johnson and Walgreens to help support their “Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools for All Initiative” and the work being done by PFLAG chapters in their communities.

This multi-pronged campaign will help earn PFLAG a minimum of $200,000 to support their work, including efforts in communities to work directly with schools providing support, resources, training, model policy and creative programs to create an environment of respect for all children.

The video stars Betty DeGeneres, Ellen’s mom, who is involved with PFLAG, which promotes the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends.

The spot was shot by Matt Alcorn, a great D.P. and owner of Image River Films, who we use when for many of our productions. The piece was shot using his Panasonic 3700 P2 camera, and using Premiere, I was able to quickly create a new project without trans-coding and start to edit right away. I had a rough cut done quickly and went to to get the stills I needed. I really like how I can cut in a picture then create an after effects comp right in the timeline and it opens up after effects and links to the new comp. With the help of our graphics wizard Rik Bogusz we were able to get a rough cut out to our clients in one day, and then quickly make the changes they asked for. The system worked really well and was very fast and efficient. I am really getting comfortable with using a PC and so far it has been able to do as good a job as my MacPro. The real test will be when I have to do a more complicated job that involves using some of the programs that are not integrated into the CS6 package…

Mar 12, 2012
After waiting in suspense and at one point thinking that they might have dropped me from the program, the Dell has arrived.

(sorry two weeks ago-it’s been busy…) It was delivered by FedEx at about 2 PM, so I was not able to throw myself at it- I had some other work to do – but during “lunch” I unboxed the system and set it up. It was pretty straightforward, but they definitely don’t care about packaging like Apple.

Some people might think this is a little detail but part of the Apple appeal to people is how nicely the products are presented The non-nondescript brown boxes with parts swimming around them is a little random for me. I know I got this system as a demo but if I had laid down a good chunk of cash for it I might be a little put off by how bland the packaging is. Now perhaps because part of my job IS presentation I am putting too much value into it…

Before I actually hooked up the cables, I had to take a look under the hood. I opened it up and this is what I found:

Again, quite a difference between it and my MacPro.

However I realize that Dell is more of a corporate computer manufacturer, more geared to making bulk machines that go into rooms filled with cubicles, not edit suites that are incorporate esthetics tailored to impressing clients coming in from outside or catered to picky design professionals. I have to say they really pack a lot of stuff into the medium size tower – my only concern is that there are a lot of heat generating components like 3 hard drives and 2 video cards including the massive Tesla card and there isn’t a cooling system that I can see.

For me part of this program will be learning about windows and PC’s in general. I have been a Mac guy since the mid-eighties. I did not use computers much as a kid-never had a Commodore or Radio Shack computer and I was away at school so I missed out on the video games of that era. We had Digital Rainbow computers in college and they were awful so I was not really drawn to computers til I saw an original Mac in around 1984. I really was drawn to the mouse interface and eventually saved enough to get a Mac SE which I loved. It was because I was a Mac guy that I got the nod when I worked at First Edition in NYC to be part of the beta testing program for the original Avid One Media Composer in 1988, and I have been a Mac/Avid guy since then. I started using Final Cut on a project back in 2001 but it was still in it’s infancy and very slow, but it was so much cheaper than an Avid system I had a feeling if they kept improving it would have an impact on the industry. We started using FCP in conjunction with Panasonic P2 cameras in 2007 and have been exclusively been cutting on FCP since. So my experience with PC/Windows over the years has been minimal-I have only ever owned one Windows machine, an Acer net book, so this is certainly new territory for me.

After looking on the inside it was time to hook it up and see how it worked. I installed the Firewire card that was included and it was relativly simple once I figured out how to open up the PCI card holder.

It si inda crowded with the 2 video cards; the Tesla card takes up 2 slots, which leaves only the one slot which now has the firewire card. I may have to swap that out if I get an external RAID set up for mor than 1 TB of storage space.

The machine certainly boots fast with it’s 250 GB SSD, and I went through the process of creating a new user account with no problems. I spent the first couple of days installing software like QuickTime, MacBoot so I could use footage off mac formatted drives and I added Chrome and Firefox because I am more familiar with those apps and also wanted to use my gmail account on this machine. Installing programs was as easy as it is on my mac. The tricky part came when I wanted to RAID the two 500 GB internal drives so I could get better performance using them as media drives. Unlike Drive Utility on Mac which is a one stop shop for setting up drives, I found out that with windows it was a 2 step process using Intel’s Matrix Storage Manager and then having to activate the array using the device manager. Thanks to Google and some people with similar challenges I was able to figure it out… Installing Adobe Production Premium went smoothly and I had AfterEffects and Premiere running in no time. Everything is very similar to the Mac version so there was no problem getting started with those programs. I have been trying to edit on Premiere since it first came out in the early 90’s since it was always a software only alternative to the (then) very expensive Avid systems, but it was always a disappointment, mostly due to the lack of horsepower provided by computers back then-you needed the thousands of dollars in high end cards to get the computers to be able to play back video. Even Avid’s at that time compressed the heck out of the picture and for many years in the beginning of non-linear editing you had to do a tape conform of your cut to have something presentable to show your client, check lip sync and have a broadcast-able master.

I was able to see the Dell from my MacPro and ferry some footage over so I could give Premiere a spin.  In my next post I will relay my first experience with Premiere  and some of the tests I ran on it.