Workstation manufacturers are taking advantage of the latest chips — be it from Intel, AMD, or in Apple’s case, their own M1 — to create powerful solutions for work in media & entertainment. The COVID pandemic disrupted in-studio work for many, so some manufacturers are addressing remote workflow trends with powerful mobile workstations that allow pros to work from anywhere without sacrificing performance.
This month, we look at the latest releases from some of the post production industry’s top solution providers.
Apple’s all-new iMac features a more compact design that’s powered by the company’s M1 chip. The new iMac is just 11.5 millimeters thin, and is available in a choice of seven vibrant colors.
The 24-inch 4.5K Retina display features 11.3 million pixels, 500 nits of brightness and over a billion colors. A 1080p FaceTime HD camera is joined by studio-quality mics and a six-speaker sound system. Touch ID comes to iMac for the first time, making it easy to securely log in, make purchases with Apple Pay, or switch user profiles. The iMac combines the power and performance of M1 and macOS Big Sur to help apps launch very quickly. iMac comes with a new power connector that attaches magnetically and a woven, two-meter-long, color-matched cable.
The 24-Inch 4.5K Retina Display iMac has anti-reflective coating for an improved viewing experience. Compared to the standard models of the 21.5-inch iMac, the new release offers 85 percent faster CPU performance, up to 2x faster GPU performance for certain apps, like Affinity Photo and Photoshop, and up to 50 percent faster performance than the most powerful discrete graphics in the fastest 21.5-inch iMac.
The workstation has the ability to edit up to five streams of 4K footage, or one stream of 8K footage, without dropping a frame in Final Cut Pro. Complementing the 1080p camera is a three-microphone array that helps with clearer calls and voice recordings. The mics are positioned to reduce feedback from the rest of the system, while directional beamforming allows them to better ignore background noise and focus on a user’s voice.
The new iMac also features the best sound system ever in a Mac. It has two pairs of force-cancelling woofers placed side by side for impressive bass response, while reducing unintended vibrations. Each pair is balanced with a high-performance tweeter. The result is a six-speaker sound system. All of the speaker innovations, coupled with advanced algorithms, enable iMac to support spatial audio when playing video with Dolby Atmos.
There are thousands of Universal apps available that take full advantage of M1 and macOS Big Sur, including Photoshop and DaVinci Resolve, with more arriving each week. iMac features two Thunderbolt ports for fast data transfers and support for up to a 6K display, like the Apple Pro Display XDR. The eight-core iMac configuration offers two additional USB-C ports and also features a 1Gbps Ethernet port in the power adapter, allowing for a less cluttered desktop.
Apple began taking iMac orders on April 30th and was expected to begin deliveries to customers in the second half of May.
iMac with the seven-core GPU starts at $1,299. It features an eight-core CPU, 8GB of unified memory, 256GB SSD, two Thunderbolt ports, Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse.
The iMac with an eight-core GPU starts at $1,499 and features an eight-core CPU, 8GB of unified memory, 256GB SSD, two Thunderbolt ports, two additional USB 3 ports, Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, Magic Mouse and Ethernet.
Boxx Technologies (www.boxx.com), which specializes in high-performance computer workstations, rendering systems and servers, introduced the Apexx Everest back in March, making it one of the first manufacturers to ship systems equipped with the powerful new AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro processor. The Apexx Everest workstation features the 64-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 3000WX Series processor, which is AMD’s most versatile desktop platform to date.
With support for up to 128 PCIe lanes and a boost GHz of 4.2, AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro gives Apexx Everest a high-level of multi-processing power for demanding 3D content creation workflows. Whether rendering complex 3D scenes, powering simulation or quickly rebuilding assemblies, AMD’s 64-core Ryzen Threadripper Pro enables Apexx Everest users to experience full spectrum compute capability rivaling competing dual-socket systems.
The Boxx workstation also supports up to four professional-grade GPUs: AMD Radeon Pro or Nvidia RTX (including Ampere, Nvidia’s 2nd generation RTX architecture). Additional features include multiple hard drive options, up to 2TB of system memory and IPMI for remote system management. The Apexx Everest is highly configurable and delivers a high level of performance for multi-threaded applications, such as Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya and Revit, as well as Avid, Adobe CC, DaVinci Resolve, Cinema 4D and V-Ray.
At the GTC show back in April, Boxx highlighted a number of product lines, including Flexx. A multi-node, data center-ready system, Flexx is capable of simultaneously supporting multiple types of compute nodes, providing the highest application performance for professional content creators who are working on-site or remotely. Compute nodes include Nvidia Virtual Workstation nodes that can be accessed from any connected device, delivering performance previously available only in desk-side workstations, as well as multi-CPU render nodes and multi-GPU workstation or render nodes. Flexx systems are recommended for Autodesk Revit, Maya, 3ds Max and Arnold, as well as Solidworks Simulation & Visualize, Chaos V-Ray and other applications.
Matt Allard, media & entertainment strategist, client solutions for Dell, says the company’s recent update to its Precision line of towers and mobile workstations is significantly more than just a “mid-life bump”. For example, the company’s mobile line features redesigned interiors, as well as updated CPUs and GPUs.
Allard says the Precision 3650 desk-side workstation is one of the most exciting new releases. The mini tower is the company’s first to support PCIe generation 4 graphics, bringing high performance and increased bandwidth for pros working on 6K or 8K projects, or those performing complex composites.
“This is a big deal,” says Allard. “This machine can support up to 350W of graphics power, which means we can put a dual-height, full-length card. It’s a pretty amazing machine. It supports the latest generation of Intel Core and Xeon processors.”
The 3650 also has another generation 4 PCIe slot for storage.
“We’ve bumped the memory speed on this, as well, to 3200MHz,” he continues, adding, “up to 128GB of RAM, which really covers a ton of workflows.”
This is Dell’s first machine to supports the option for Thunderbolt 4.
Dell also released the Precision 3450, a small form factor tower workstation for the entry-level creator who is working in the HD video space. The 3450 has certifications and pro-level graphics, high-speed memory and the configurability Dell’s Precision line is known for.
In the mobile workstation space, the Precision 3561 features Thunderbolt 4 and improvements to its display, which goes to 4K and offers 100 percent RGB coverage. The 3561 can be used for color-critical work, and its ComfortView Plus feature emits lower levels of blue light, making it easier on the eyes while not reducing color gamut or color accuracy. The latest model also gets a larger touch pad.
The 15-inch Precision 5560 receives extensive upgrades from its predecessor, the 5550. This includes next generation CPUs, and a move to PCIe generation 4 graphics, with an option for RTX graphics. Allard says the 5560 is well suited for AI and ray tracing, while still maintaining a thin and light profile that weights under 4lbs. The InfinityEdge screen is also improved, with almost no bezel around the edge. The 5560 also gets high-speed memory, 64GB of RAM and generation 4 M.2 drives, as well as two Thunderbolt 4 ports.
“Our whole engineering mentality is to make it as thin and light as possible,” Allard explains. “There are no USB-A ports for that reason. This machine has a high-res display — up to UHD+, 500 nits of brightness, 100 percent Adobe RGB, and 99 percent DCI-P3. For the post market, this is a big deal!”
The 5560 ships with PremierColor software that lets user easily switch color spaces based on their workflow. Like the 3561, the 5560’s display emits low levels of blue light while still delivering 100 percent Adobe RGB and 99 percent DCI-P3. Its wi-fi capabilities have been improved and it weighs approximately 4lbs.
Dell’s 5760 is a 17-inch equivalent of the 5560, sporting a thin & light profile, and similar specs, while going up a level with Nvidia RTX A3000 graphics, paired with gen 4 storage (up to 8TB).
“For users that are working with Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Creative Cloud, those products like to have a separate scratch disk,” notes Allard. “They get a performance benefit from having a separate scratch disk. This machine, you can have two NVMe SSDs, and that gives you a performance boost.”
The 5760 also has two independent Thunderbolt channels, allowing users to spread out the bandwidth for M&E workflows. The upgraded panel offers P3 coverage, and with an InfinityEdge 17-inch, 16:10 display, it can fit into a 15-inch bag. The 5760 starts at under 5lbs.
Dell’s Precision 7000 series, which includes the new 15-inch 7560, is designed to act as a desktop replacement.
“All internals of these machines have been redesigned, with the latest processors, gen 4 graphics — including the latest Nvidia Ampere,” says Allard. “How much power you give that graphics capability will determine how fast that graphic card runs. In the previous generation (7550), it was 85W. It’s now boosted to 90W of power. You get more power out of the graphics because we are giving it more.”
The 7560 goes up to 3466MHz and up to 128GB of RAM, making it well suited for virtual production workflows — which previously relied on a bigger desktop solution. Allard says the 7560 can be used by DITs on-set for playing back RAW Red files in realtime. The 7560 can be configured with a 4K UHD HDR 600 panel (800 nits), which covers the Adobe RGB and P3 specs, making it good for HDR workflows.
5G support is optional for users working in the field that might want the radio and transceiver option.
Dell’s 7760 (previously the 7750) is a 17-inch release that is similar to the 15-inch 7560. Up to 115W of power will further improve the graphics card’s performance, and up to four M.2 drives can be integrated, one being gen 4. The display supports 120Hz for users that might be shooting over-cranked footage.
All of Dell’s mobile workstations will be available in June. The 5000 Series gets a USB-C dongle for additional port connectivity.
HP (www.hp.com) recently introduced its latest ZBooks — the Studio G8, Fury G8 and Power G8 — all of which are built for professional content creators and power users who need performance, reliability, expandability and versatility while working in any environment. The new releases recognize that businesses have shifted from traditional offices to hybrid environments, and that creative professionals need pro-grade performance on the go.
HP ZCentral makes it easy for creators to take advantage of remote access to workstation power. The realtime colloboration capability of ZCentral Remote Boost software allows access to the full resources, compute power and infrastructure of the office or production studio while working remotely. ZCentral keeps data locked up and secure while still enabling a realtime local remote work experience. The HP Security Suite keeps user data safe and secure, including the new HP Tamper Lock intrusion system that will let IT departments know if someone tries remove the cover of the PC.
Eleventh generation Intel Core H-series and Xeon W-11000 mobile processors help deliver industry-leading, desktop-class performance in laptop form factors. The latest ZBook offerings are powered by Nvidia RTX laptop GPUs.
At 15.6-inches, the HP ZBook Studio G8 is one of the most powererful mobile workstations of its size. Users can render or visualize in realtime and collaborate remotely. The Studio G8 is purpose-built and engineered from the ground up to meet the demanding needs of creative applications and workflows. It features the HP DreamColor display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and a billion on-screen colors with 100 percent DCI-P3 color accuracy. HP Sound Calibration lets users get crisp audio and automatically block unwanted sounds, which is well suited for remote working environments, where conditions can be unpredictable. The Studio G8 can be equipped with Nvidia RTX A5000 or GeForce RTX 3080 laptop GPUs and 11th gen Intel Core i9 vPro processors.
The HP ZBook Fury G8 is expandable and customizable, with 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch models available, both featuring a slim design. Geared toward content creation, rendering and editing, the Fury also features HP Sound Calibration and the option for HP’s Sure View Reflect privacy screen. Multi-app workflows thrive on the Fury G8 thanks to 11th gen Intel Core i9 and Xeon processors, and up to 128GB 3200MHz system memory. Nvidia’s RTX A5000 powers graphics and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity is included.
HP positions its 15.6-inch ZBook Power G8 as the company’s most affordable mobile workstation, giving customers the option to upgrade to professional ZBook performance with enterprise-level security, serviceability and manageability. With the ZBook Power G8, a premium design is accessible with pro-grade components, including graphics certified for the leading software applications. The Power G8 has extensive ISV certifications, as well as the HP Security Suite, and Tile device location. In addition to a stylish aluminum chassis, the Power G8 features 11th gen Intel processors, up to 64GB 3200MHz system memory, Nvidia RTX A2000 laptop graphics and PCIe G4.
The HP ZBook Power G8 is expected to be available in June, while the Studio G8 and Fury G8 will both be released in July.
Velocity Micro’s (www.velocitymicro.com) ProMagix HD150 AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro workstation has up to 64 physical cores, 128 processing threads, 128 PCIe Gen 4 lanes, and up to 2TB of RAM. The system is a powerful single socket desktop workstation that’s well suited for heavily-threaded, CPU-intensive applications, such as rendering or VFX.
New Nvidia GPUs power next-gen workstations
SANTA CLARA, CA — Nvidia (nvidia.com) recently announced a range of eight new Ampere architecture GPUs for next-generation laptops, desktops and servers that make it possible for professionals to work from wherever they choose, without sacrificing quality or time. Using the new Nvidia RTX GPUs, artists can create complex 3D scenes.
“Hybrid work is the new normal,” says Bob Pette, VP of professional visualization at Nvidia. “RTX GPUs, based on the Nvidia Ampere architecture, provide the performance for demanding workloads from any device, so people can be productive from wherever they need to work.”
For desktops, the new Nvidia RTX A5000 and A4000 GPUs feature new RT cores, Tensor cores and CUDA cores to speed up AI, graphics and realtime rendering up to 2x faster than previous generations. For professionals on the go needing thin & light form factors, the new RTX A2000, RTX A3000, RTX A4000 and RTX A5000 laptop GPUs deliver accelerated performance without compromising mobility. They include the latest generations of Max-Q and RTX technologies, and are backed by the Nvidia Studio ecosystem, which includes exclusive driver technology that enhances creative apps for optimal levels of performance and reliability.
For the data center, there are the new Nvidia A10 GPU and A16 GPU. The A10 provides up to 2.5x the virtual workstation performance of the previous generation for designers and engineers, while the A16 GPU provides up to 2x user density, with lower total cost of ownership and an enhanced virtual desktop infrastructure experience over the previous generation. Combined with RTX Virtual Workstation (vWS) and Virtual PC (vPC) software, the A10 and A16 GPUs deliver more power, memory and speed to boost any workflow, from graphics and AI to VDI, so users can focus more time on working efficiently and productively.
The new Nvidia RTX GPUs feature the latest generation of RTX technology to accelerate graphics, ray tracing, AI and compute performance. The new RTX laptop GPUs also include the latest generation of Nvidia Max-Q technology, enabling a new generation of powerful thin & light laptops designed for professionals.
Additionally, RTX technology powers Nvidia Omniverse, a platform that delivers high-performance, physically-accurate simulation for complex 3D worlds and true, realtime, ray- and path-traced rendering with ease.