Computer Arts

Motion pros: why swapping Mac for HP can boost your productivity

When My Little Eye TV, the independent company behind Channel 4's Live at Abbey Road, made the leap from Macs to HP Workstations, the boost to productivity took them by surprise. The company's owner and founder, Jon Walton, explains the whole story...

Jon Walton has brought some of the biggest names in the music business to our screens, including The Killers, David Bowie, Alt-J, Kings of Leon, and Paul Weller. Working on multi-cam music shows for the likes of Channel 4, ITV2, NBC, and the Sundance Channel, his production company, My Little Eye TV, requires hardware capable of supporting high-performance editing software. But recently they found themselves at a crossroads, where they realised they'd have to upgrade their aging software and hardware to improve their productivity and maintain industry leadership.

For the first four series of 'Live From Abbey Road', a show for Channel 4 featuring live performances and interviews and filmed with up to five cameras, they'd been using Final Cut Pro running on Mac Pros. "But by series four the kit was starting to struggle," says Walton. "It was effectively four years old. My Mac Pro was crashing up to 10 times day, and every time I needed to use an effect it was taking an age to render."

My Mac Pro was crashing up to 10 times a day

Software-wise, he decided his option would be to switch to Premiere Pro, so he decided to speak to Adobe about the best hardware to run it on. "Adobe's advice was that we could still run its software on the Mac Pro, but performance would be comprised," he says. "They suggested switching to HP Workstations." Walton decided to take the plunge, and hasn't looked back.

The new hardware means My Little Eye TV is now able to render graphics more quickly

The new HP hardware means Walton is now able to handle real-time playback, with five or more streams of HD content and render graphics more quickly. "At this end of the market you need 30GB of RAM to get through the work," he explains.

"In the three months I've been using the HP machines, I've increased productivity," he continues. "It's saving me an hour a day during busy production days – and that makes life a lot less stressful."

Despite Walton being a long time Apple user, he says he's had no issues with switching to HP, or moving from Final Cut Pro to Adobe. All the company's previous content has transferred across smoothly, with minimal software walkarounds.

So what does this magical kit consist of, exactly? Here's what My Little Eye TV is now using:

HP Z820

  • Intel Dual Xeon E5-2680 processors    
  • 256GB primary SSD     
  • 3x 300GB SAS drives    
  • RAID 5    
  • 64GB RAM    
  • NVIDIA Quadro 6000 Graphics 

HP Z1

  • Intel Xeon E3-1245 processor    
  • 1TB HDD    
  • 32GB RAM    
  • NVIDIA Quadro
  • 4000M Graphics 

The benefits

So those are the specs, but what exactly were the benefits of this new hardware? The advantages to My Little Eye TV, says Walton, include:

  • Smooth rendering of graphics and real-time playback of multiple content feeds, improving production times.    
  • Minimal crash incidents - from up to 10 per day, helping increase productivity and decrease stress levels.    
  • Improved mobility, using HP Z1, allows editing to be done on-site, brings production team closer together.    
  • Faster production times allows for more new projects to be taken on. 

If the HP Z820 (being used as the primary editing suite) is Walton’s new workhorse, the HP Z1 (doubling as the Assistant Edit machine) has proved to the biggest revelation. "It has the performance and the mobility; I can use it in the edit suite or take it with me," says Walton.

"It means I can work on-site, which has been great for business. I can edit while the production team is filming and show live feedback of shots. The director appreciates it, the camera operators appreciate it and it's generally helped us to work better as team."

It's generally helped us to work better as a team

Just to give you an idea of the quick fast turnaround My Little Eye TV is working to, they recently filmed a 45-minute special featuring Paul Weller on a Friday, and the edit needed to be completed by the Monday. In such a hothouse environment, HP's new kit has proved invaluable, says Walton.  

"We'll work 'til 4am if necessary, but we have to know the kit can handle the workload. The HP machines can," he explains. His conclusion? "Without the right kit, we can’t run the company," he states simply. "With HP Workstations, we now have the right tools."

Learn more about HP Workstations at the HP website.

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