IBC: This month Maximum Throughput showed the new GUI for their MAX T Sledgehammer. Networked storage and content management is starting to breakthrough as the benefits and data wrangling options can make such a huge difference to a medium to large scale problem.

The principle points with the MaxT SledgeHammer are -
- it’s a high performance NAS system
- with HD & SD video I/O
- and media management

what this means is one box that can be a virtual VTR, a direct file system server, and allow easy media asset manipulation, such as filewire export. With changes to Discreet’s file systems that allow for third party disc solutions this means you could go from Telecine HD direct to the SledgeHammer, immediately have those files available for compositing – without time wasting importing, – your 3D team can render files directly to the same server, and you can transfer a bunch of files to a firewire for a freelancer all without breaking a sweat.

Data Centric Workflow (the current holly grail for media management) requires a central data storage facility and while there is much debate about SAN vs NAS, they both provide a similar user environment – shared file system (everyone sees the same file structure) across multiple operating system clients (typically (XP, OSX, Linux, Irix). Homogeneous and Heterogeneous. The difference is price / performance or even simpler ethernet vs fiber channel. SAN provides more bandwidth and it can scale, but it comes at a cost (FC HBA,s, client software, FC switches, higher performance disks, more raid controllers). NAS has no client software, it uses the most common interface standard (Gig-E) and provides the most cost effective central storage option.

Sledgehammers primary function is to provide the maximum possible throughput for a NAS system (hence the companies name) delivering bandwidths close to SAN performance without the high cost. And they have added video I/O right inside the NAS box differentiating Sledgehammer from all the other boring NAS systems by providing realtime HD & SD at one central point in the facility and available to all the desktop users that would have traditionally needed dedicated video cards and disk systems to get realtime I/O. Files rendered to a Sledgehammer can be played out immediately without hopping onto another system. Only one centralised digital VTR deck is required, and this can be controlled by Sledgehammer via an EDL. In fact, Sledgehammer can be connected as a slave VTR for applications like telecine transfers or adding a DDR to an online room.

Sledgehammer is a completely open system, allowing many types of tape drives or disk drives to be added (eg a FireWire drive) for exchange with other facilities.

maxT/SH2At IBC Max T showed the new GUI for the Sledgehammer, “we’re definitely moving more into the content management domain, including the Xstoner-style additions to MAXmin. I guess, in a sense, we’re developing media-aware shared storage.” comments MaxT’s Mike Hughes.

What makes Sledgehammer really interesting is the addition of the Xstoner media management software. Xstoner is in addition to the Sledgehammer GUI, MaxT recently bought the company and now you can have a high performance central data repository capable of real time video I/O with a clip browser and on the fly format converter making a very easy data centric workflow product for both 3D and 2D professional media users. Xstoner allows you to directly browse your inferno from your Mac or PC, immediately and directly loading or viewing clips, making quicktimes and managing your work from your laptop.

At Fxguide we are increasingly of the opinon that Xstoner should be given away free with any new discreet flame or smoke suite, and this is especially true for discreet’s Linux options which can not currently export quicktime.

We put this to MaxT’s Mike Hughes, who had this comment ” as far as Xstoner on Linux, it’s not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when. We’re driving to get v2 done, and getting a Linux-based Xstoner out the door tomorrow isn’t yet at the top of list because the demand to date hasn’t been there. I’m sure this will change over the coming months as Discreet ships systems in volume.”


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