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What equipment are professionals using that you haven't even heard of?

A post by David Mellor
Sunday March 20, 2005
You might think your computer is pretty powerful, but it's nothing compared to what people use in video post-production. And systems like this may be coming your way...
What equipment are professionals using that you haven't even heard of?

In the 'good old days' of sound engineering and music recording, the professionals had all the equipment they needed, and people outside of the industry had none. Or if they did have a studio setup, it was technically far inferior to a pro studio.

All that has now changed and it is now possible to afford equipment to have at home that is as good as the best.

Or is it?

The state of the art in professional video production is showing us the way audio will go. They use computers just the same as we do, but they take things a long way further in the capability of their equipment and sheer professional practice.

To give a couple of examples, whereas a music composer working at home may record on a single computer, a video post-production studio would use clusters of computers, such as the Apple Xserve system.

With this, several computers can work together, vastly increasing their power and speed. An Xserve cluster might typically consist of eight Xserve rack-mounting computers. However, the scalability of such as system is massive - Virginia Tech, USA, has a genuine supercomputer built from 1,150 2.3 GHz dual processor Xserves. It is claimed to be the fourth fastest computer in the world.

Imagine what that could do for your track and plug-in count!

Things are going this way for music too. Already Logic Pro can take advantage of multiple computers - not just multiple processors but multiple computers. Of course, Apple wants to sell hardware, so this is a natural approach. But it's not just a marketing gimmick.

With enhanced processing power comes the need for enhanced storage. Hard disk storage needs to be fast (for more tracks), big and reliable. And easily backed up of course.

Once again Apple (which is not the only game in town, but a useful indicator) has a solution in their Xserve RAID system. This rack mounting unit starts at a base level of 1 TB (1 Terabyte = 1000 Gigabytes) and rises to 5.6 TB of storage using 14 x 400 GB hard drives. I'll leave you to calculate how much audio this can store. It's a lot!

A RAID system, by the way, can be made failure-proof, so that if a drive fails, it can be replaced and the data restored from the other drives.

So the professional industry is once again moving ahead, because it has the opportunity to do so. But this technology will undoubted filter down in price. If you think your computer is powerful now - you just wait to see what it will be like in a couple of years time!

A post by David Mellor
Sunday March 20, 2005 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)