Inspired by the possibility of Thunderbolt Bridging and the accidental discovery of Mavericks and FCPX 10.0.9 accepting growing EVS streams, we put the combination to the test. Did it work?
Love them or hate them, EVS LSMs are probably going to be your main source for media if you work in the quick turnaround sports or news sectors of broadcast television. Born as a low quality RAM replay to analyse golf swings, EVS and its servers has grown to providing the video backbone for major sporting events and newsrooms around the world.
They did get a shock when Picture Ready from The Gallery made the availability of a growing QuickTime file possible within Final Cut Pro 7. EVS answered by providing the ability to write IMX, DVCPRO and ProRes 422 files from the machine on to storage attached to an NLE.
There are two different types of media that can be sent from an EVS to an NLE. An archived clip is a closed Quicktime file that an LSM operator marks the in and out of and then initiates the send. These work fine as they are plain QuickTime files and one is shown on the screengrab below next to the arrow.
The second type are streams, a long duration 'placeholder' is made and then the EVS fills up the media as it is recorded. This means that you can start editing with a growing file immediately, or in other words, start editing a football match without having to wait until half time!
EVS writes four files per stream. A QuickTime reference file and then two audio PCMs and a video component. You can see the four components for one stream in the rectangle.
The problem with the HD ProRes 422 streams is they don't 100% conform to the Apple specification. An example of this is the inability to use Quick Look to view the files. (This works fine on other software that splits video up into components.)
With FCP7, the streams are perfectly suitable for editing, even though early combinations of the software and streams caused massive beach balling problems if you had a large number of them loaded at once. Thankfully that was sorted and you can even do multi camera cuts with multiple streams.
Final Cut Pro X is a different matter. The support with streams inside the new NLE has been patchy. EVS say that there is no demand from customers to support FCPX. We beg to differ and are more than welcome to get into a conversation with EVS to get this fixed.
Then a job came up that required clips to be uploaded from an OB truck at an event to YouTube in the quickest possible time. It seemed that FCPX was the ideal candidate. A bit of accidental experimenting proved that the combination of 10.0.9 and Mavericks would support growing EVS streams. Big cheers all round. Couple that with Thunderbolt Bridging so that one laptop could act as a server and the other for editing/uploading and it seemed we had a clever and inexpensive solution on our hands.
So we tried it. Two MacBook Pros connected together with Ethernet with one MacBook Pro sharing out a Thunderbolt GRAID that the EVS was writing the streams on. (If that worked then we would try Thunderbolt Bridging)
And it worked. For a while. It worked until we ran out of disk space. The EVS was allocating 100GB of space per second to the GRAID for the QuickTime file. Considering HD ProRes 422 has a file size of about 1 Gig per minute, something was up!
Our conclusion was a mismatch between the EVS and the new SMB2 protocol in Mavericks. There are hacks available, but we did the easiest and quickest thing we could, which was change the server to a Mac Pro running Mountain Lion. That worked correctly at the right file sizes!
Note to self: Mavericks and EVS do not play nicely together.
So on to the editing and the growing streams in FCPX worked like a charm until refusing to advance past an arbitrary point in time. The file would grow, then stop growing. What was going on?
A few fixes from a lot of clicking and a lot of swearing!
1) Deselect and reselect the stream in the Event Browser.
2) Skim up and down the stream from the beginning to the end and back multiple times.
3) Delete the clip and reimport. Everything should link back up together. (The actual media not being imported or optimised in the project.)
4) As a last resort, restart FCPX and the clip should be updated.
How well did it work out in the end? Editing in FCPX and exporting directly off the timeline has to be one of the quickest ways to get material on to YouTube. A two minute clip took four and half minutes to get published via a 25Mb internet connection. Then YouTube took a few seconds to do its internal processing.
Getting the media into FCPX is a different matter and the setup used is not something we would use in a mission critical situation. EVS need to address their file compatibility problem and we need to test out the Mavericks Samba fix. If you do need to edit a growing file in FCPX today, be sure to check out Movie Recorder from Softron which we have seen in action and tested on Xsan.
It also struck us whilst sat in the OB truck that the new Mac Pro would make a cracking machine to have on a live event. The Mac Pro is qualified to run on its side, so a third party 19 inch rack not too far off some thing like this would make a very small but powerful 'cluster' if Thunderbolt Bridging allowed file sharing and/or distributed processing.
Hook a few up together, add some Promise Pegasus RAIDS, a few Blackmagic UltraStudios and you have a video server and NLE that will cut 4K with ease. If I worked at EVS, I'd be looking at the new Mac Pro very closely.