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Silicon Imaging SI-2K
2/3" 1080p IT-integrated 10-bit digital cinema w/direct-to-disk recording.


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Old September 24th, 2009, 10:12 AM   #1
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3GHz laptop with Intel Pro NIC?

What current laptop model would be recommended for SI-2K?

I tried Toshiba M750, but it came with non-Intel built-in NIC (although their web site said differently), touch screen was dim and low quality, and 2.8Ghz Core 2 Duo T9600 was barely fast enough for 30p capture.

In fact sometimes I could get 30p and other times RAM would overflow within a minute. So there was some inconsistency. I did program processor to be at max performance all the time, but it felt like it still fluctuated.

Also there still was not enough horsepower to drive 2nd monitor.

Back to square 1.

The idea is to ensure:

1. Ability to capture 1080p30 with safe headroom to spare
2. Hopefully drive 2nd monitor if possible
3. Mobility: compact (no larger than 13" screen ideally), has its own battery
4. Reliable operation

Granted, desktop PC has no issues with horsepower - but is not mobile.

So I'm thinking maybe I should go super power laptops like Sager? Anything else? Any suggestions of tested solutions?
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Old September 24th, 2009, 03:47 PM   #2
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Alex,
At the moment we don't have a suggested laptop. I've been using an older Dell M90 with an expresscard for the ethernet. A number of our customers are using MacBook Pros but they can overheat.
One way around this is to get a laptop with a second bay and put a fast SSD in to stream RAW data. This reduces the CPU load but is not as smooth a workflow.

Your buffer overflows. That means that either the CPU or the disk isn't keeping up with the continuous data stream. To keep up with Quality 4 (3.5:1), you need about 24MB/sec continuous to disk. As you decrease the quality setting, the CPU load goes down and the disk bandwidth goes down. At the extreme, Quality 1 is 10:1 and 10MB/sec. I suggest turning on the CPU load meter and trying different quality levels.

Please be sure that:
- You have no memory resident stuff running (antivirus, firewall, IM, windows update).
- The CPU, disks are all set to maximum speed - no power saving settings
- Set the display to 800x600
- Be sure you have the latest DirectX loaded.

If you are willing to do the packaging yourself, there is a Commell motherboard that works well:
COMMELL LV-679 Intel Core Duo/Core Duo 2 Mini-ITX Motherboard
in a Mini-ITX configuration. At least then you have control over cooling.

Regards,
Steve
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Old September 24th, 2009, 08:28 PM   #3
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Steve,

Many thanks for your detailed reply.

Yes, I have a lot of experience building my own PCs, since that's what I used to capture HD-SDI signal to (from EX1).

However, how do you provide *mobile power* for such Mini-ITX -based PC?

I just shot outdoors on location 2 days ago, and the only way to do so was because we did have a laptop.

With the DIY PC, I have two problems:

1. Don't know how to power it without an outlet.

2. Size/weight become an issue.

#1 is critical, #2 not so much so, especially with your suggested MOBO. which brings us to:

3. What is the smallest *case* that can host that mobo?
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Old September 25th, 2009, 08:04 AM   #4
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The remote power is easy - that is why a number of our customers have selected the motherboard:
Power Requirement
Standard 20-pin ATX power supply or
9V ~ 24V full range DC input (8 ~ 30V is operative)

The size is small: * 170mm x 170 mm (L x W) (6.7" x 6.7")
This is what people are building the wearable computers from.

Heat is the real issue. It is not so bad if you are treating it like a laptop and shooting outdoors where a quiet fan won't be an issue.
It does have a good ambient temp range: 0 ~ 60C (32 ~ 140F)
but that doesn't help in a backpack or other restricted airflow.

There are lots of pre-made portable enclosures for mini-ITX, for example: mini-itx.com - store - mini-itx cases
2.6liter volume.

You will have to decide whether to have fixed disks and pull the data off by ethernet or go for an enclosure that uses 3.5" drives and put a CRU-dataport frame in place.
-Steve
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Old September 25th, 2009, 08:16 AM   #5
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Awesome! It would appear that Tekkeon battery I have could power the mini PC + SI-2K cam + monitor for a short time - maybe 15 min - all together; and it should be easy to find a more powerful replacement. Will look around for power alternatives (motorcycle battery??)

Cooling: I have a couple of fans from the HDD cages, they are large and very quiet, I use them a lot for cooling cards that are too hot. Maybe they will help here too.

What processor should I buy with this mobo to be able to sustain Quality 4, with Quad preview?
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Old September 25th, 2009, 01:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Nordhauser View Post
decide whether to have fixed disks and pull the data off by ethernet or go for an enclosure that uses 3.5" drives...
Actually I'd go with an external eSata drive, which makes recorded data easily movable to the main editing PC after the shoot...
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Old September 25th, 2009, 01:39 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Raskin View Post
Actually I'd go with an external eSata drive, which makes recorded data easily movable to the main editing PC after the shoot...
A fine idea, you could buy two identical drives and do a swap. I don't believe eSata is hot swappable but I'm not sure. I would put an SSD in the system for ruggedness for the OS and application.
Also, strain relief the eSata cable - they don't lock in place.
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Old September 25th, 2009, 02:20 PM   #8
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In fact both system and data drives should be SSD.

Looks like 64GB SSD buys me 1 hour of 1080p24 recording at highest quality setting.

I use NexStar enclosure for the external eSATA one - works great, uses USB to power the drive, I'd recommend it to everyone.
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Old September 25th, 2009, 02:50 PM   #9
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I'm with you on that - Seagate makes the only spinning drive I would trust important data to: the EE-.25 Just a few cautions with SSDs. First, not all are the same speed by any stretch. If you are doing CineForm RAW, it won't matter. If you do uncompressed, many will not keep up with the 80-100MB/sec continuous.

Also, we have found that they should not just be erased but need to be initialized prior to use. Each vendor has their own tools. Some of this is from our use of the drives at the high end of performance but you should be aware that continuous rewriting can slow them down quite a bit.
-Steve
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Old September 25th, 2009, 02:58 PM   #10
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Thanks Steve, great info as always!

I particularly use this SSD: Super Talent 64Gb

Super Talent MasterDrive 64 GB Internal hard drive

It is insanely fast as either system OS drive, or in the external enclosure.

No problems so far whatsoever. I'm treating it just like any regular HDD.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 10:14 AM   #11
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Any new news on this topic?

Here in Western Australia, the two SI2Ks look like they might get a workout on an action feature which may start as early as mid February.

For a gang streetfight scene, we are looking at doing a Slumdog rig with a laptop with SSD or two even in a backpack, padding up the operator and the camera head with a wide lens inside a padded shield and turning him loose inside the enacted streetfight.

We might alternatively dress this onto one of the actors or stuntmen and mount the Mini head on the side of a boxing helmet or motorcycle helmet, again with the wide lens, all suitably padded to protect the actors.

There is a new Dell laptop with i7 processor which seems a bit exciting however this thing might not be on its best behaviour degraded back from Windows 7 to Windows XP. There is apparently an emulation mode for XP in Windows 7 but this might not be happy with Silicon DVR.

I am a bit of a luddite when it comes to computer tech. Give me a box of PC bits with plugs and sockets to jigsaw together and I can do it, albeit with a bit of cursing and swearing and foaming at the mouth. However laptops are a dark art I have not the knowing of.

Any advice at all will be appreciated especially if it points to an already working solution with solid state drives which apparently are more resistant to shaking or vibration than hard disk drives.


Regards to all for the New Year.

Last edited by Bob Hart; December 31st, 2009 at 10:19 AM. Reason: can't spell
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Old May 8th, 2010, 11:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Nordhauser View Post
I've been using an older Dell M90 with an expresscard for the ethernet
Which Expresscard NICs, specifically, support SI2K?

Thanks.
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Old May 9th, 2010, 06:15 PM   #13
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FOOTNOTE.


They got the Dell Elite working as a recorder. Apparently there was some issue with sending outgoing data back to the camera. They report it is fine at 2K highest quality but I think that is indoor testing only. I will see it record a cliff face full of high texture with waving shrubs or an ocean full of wave surfers before I am sold on it.

Steve Rice is in Bangalore shooting a feature, so proving will have to await his return as it is his kit.

Will report the outcome.
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Old June 8th, 2010, 10:01 AM   #14
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After intially encouraging signs, the HP Elite as we have installed things has shown some vices.

It records uncompressed to its C: drive and these plays back fine in DVR.

It seems to record a cineform .avi file but when play clip is selected, the clip will not replay and DVR will lock the computer up. It seems that the cineform codec has to be added.

The free Neo Player was installed but the clips within DVR still not not play if they are cineform .avi files.

Any hints or advice will be greatly appreciated. The Bangalore shoot was delayed but the portable rig remains needed to be working for this project.


Regards.

Bob Hart.
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Old June 8th, 2010, 10:52 AM   #15
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It is my understanding that Cineform codec (including playback) comes as part of the SiliconDVR installation.

Thus, correctly installed DVR will provide the OS with the means to play back the recorded Cineform files.

Did you try Cineform AVIs with other players, such as MPC (media player classic), WMP (windows media player) etc.? What are the results?

Last edited by Alex Raskin; June 8th, 2010 at 07:23 PM.
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