Building a Video Production Lab - High School - Part Six

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The computer and editing systems for a video production lab differs from the computers that are appropriate for teaching word processing or working with spead sheets. From experience I would recommend that the computers be split into two types of systems. The bulk of the systems would “regular” video optimized workstations and would include all of the software required to teach the lesson in the class that most students spend most of the time working on. There should be a few systems that have more advanced software and capabilities for few students who want to go farther than the rest of the class or who master the basics quickly. These systems would be “super systems” the instructor system should also be a “super system”. Computer system designed for editing need to bee beefed up compared to regular class room computers. Generally we recommend computers to be built and optimized for video editing. Off the shelf computers frequently have shortcomings than make them less than desirable for this use. If an off the shelf computers is to be used he software companies generally recommend the top end business class workstations for use with their software. It is strongly recommended that any workstation chosen to be configured by someone who has experience in configuring workstations for video production, especially for multi seat class room, where a mistake will be multiplied by the number of machines in the class room. Future upgrades should also be considered with video and multimedia application and technology pushing the limits a system that meets the minimum specification today will probable below specification on the next release of new versions
Working on video files requires more memory and storage than word processing or spreadsheets. A typical video file in web or multimedia resolution may be 50 Megabyte (mb) for a 30 sec file. In full standard definition resolution comparable to what you get on a DVD or VHS tape today a 10 minute file will be around a Gigabyte (Gb), compare that to a work document such a an Excel file that may have only 50 kilobytes (kb). In addition to the increased storage sizes disk throughputs need to be increased. To edit one stream of DV based footage requires a minimum of 8mb/s or eight megabytes per second sustained data transfer rate. Frequently multiple drives are arrayed together to meet storage and transfer rates.
Displays that are adequate for many applications taught in the classroom are not acceptable for use when teaching multimedia applications especially those that are taught at a vocational or career path level. Portions of the adobe creative suite require a minimum screen resolution of 1280x1024. This is the MINIMUM resolution not the recommend resolution. Using a resolution less than this and portions of the program are not displayed on the screen!!! Most video and audio editing application use multiple windows to perform the work in and when running the minimum resolution there is not enough room to actually work with the program and much of you work time is spent resizing the windows to be able to see you work. In adobe premiere to perform a series of simple edits and add transitions you have to use tools in 5 or 6 panels. Using resolutions less than the minimum are more than in a hassle, it can make the applications almost unusable. At the college where I teach the school purchased monitors and projectors that the maximum resolution was less than the minimum resolution that the applications required. There were dialog windows such as the capture window, which is important for a video editing class, that were fixed in size that could not be displayed on the projector or monitors properly because they were too large. In addition to not being able to display properly the dialog boxes could not be closed without resetting the resolution to a higher resolution each and every time the dialog box was used. The classroom should have a projector attached an instructors computer system so they can show work and teach application and techniques. The projector should also meet or exceed the resolution required by the editing software. Additionally standard business class projectors and monitors do not have the fidelity necessary for video applications. The contrast, brightness and color reproduction of a regular display make it difficult to examine, analyze and show proper exposure, color correction and other critical aspects of the video image. Poor displays will often mask technical skills and may reinforce poor work skills. It is recommended the instructor’s projector be of a home theater class projector and the “super systems” have graphics class monitors so students can properly learn to recognize quality imagery.
In the last few years computer based editing system have relied less on specialized video processing cards in the computer and more on the CPU of the computer to process the video stream. This requires a more robust CPU to process the video than what is usually necessary than say that needed for word processing. Microsoft Word requires a 500 MHz processor with 256mb of ram. Adobe premiere requires a 1.5 GHz processor with 1 GB of memory for standard DV work. If you decide to work with high definition HDV footage the requirements more than double to a 3.5 GHz processor and 2 gb of ram. There are cards that will accelerate some of the video work and reduce the amount of time a video file takes to process.
Today’s workplace video production is a collaborative event with several people working on a project or group of projects before it is completed. The ability to network and move the pieces of the project to and from workstations and workgroups is imperative in today’s job market place and students who are comfortable with this workflow will be at advantage. Once again the size of video files requires a more robust system for handling regular 10/100 networks are painfully slow and gigabit ether net is recommended at a minimum. In addition to the more robust network pipeline video edition applications are frequently sensitive to the network security software many schools place on their systems. Video application often write temporary files the system drives and products like “deep freeze” often interfere with these file making the applications unusable. We recommend that a video lab have none for the standard security soft wares commonly installed on classroom computers. The Classroom computers should be on a separate network than the rest of the school system


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