Dell Precision Workstation Video Editing Guest Blog Part 1 of 4: Why this sports production house was “happy to leave Mac”

Editor’s Note: Last week, Scott Hamilton blogged about a new series of posts coming from video professional guest bloggers who made the switch from Macs to PCs. The first in that series is a guest post from Geoff Belinfante. Geoff is Sr. VP and Executive Producer at Phoenix Communications. Stay tuned for another guest post early next month.Here’s Geoff’s post:

I’m not a fan of I-Pods, I-Phones and I-Pads. You might wonder why. Well, way back in the middle of this century—‘05 I think our legacy Avid Media Composers desperately needed to be replaced. I, like lots of other facility managers, was trying to be diligent, smart, and frugal as I looked at converting our entire SD (standard-definition) post production workflow to HD (high-definition). I desperately wanted to find a solution that didn’t require me to spend big bucks every time I wanted to add more storage. We here at Phoenix Communications, like lots of other production houses, settled on Final Cut Pro (FCP) as the solution. It solved a multitude of problems; it got us started in HD; it was less expensive then Avid at the time; and my staff of editors enjoyed working with it. Add the fact that the FCP suite came with a graphics program, an audio program, and Compressor to flip files, and the Final Cut Suite sounded like a great solution for us.

Fast forward to 2011, and Apple is selling more Phones, Pads and Pods to consumers then Kraft is selling macaroni and cheese, and all of a sudden the professional community is left out in the cold. With the introduction of Final Cut Pro X (what were they thinking?) and a new operating system and all of a sudden, those of us who had invested in Apple on the professional side were wondering what was going on. I guess that’s what we get for depending on a consumer-based computer company for our professional editing software.

Yeah, we still have systems running the older FCP software on operating systems that apparently belong back in the jungle, but moving forward we’re faced with the very real possibility that these products will no longer be supported, no new software will be developed, and we will be up the creek without a paddle because Apple has decided it’s a consumer company.

But this is America and thank goodness for free enterprise. For many years Adobe has made very good software for a variety of purposes, but their editing program, Premiere Pro, never really seemed to catch on in the professional community. It’s hard to tell why this happened, but Apple’s decision has clearly renewed interest in the Premiere Pro product. We recently had a chance to work with Premiere Pro thanks to our friends at Dell and NVIDIA. The MacBook Pro that we were using in the field to produce video news releases for public relations clients had been damaged in transit and we were wondering what device we should choose to replace it. One of our big issues had always been deliverables. Some clients want SD 16X9 tape, others HD tape, others high quality HD files, others smaller review files to pass around large corporations, and still others want their material posted to You Tube. It’s a nightmare. At Dell’s suggestion, we coupled a Dell Precision M6600 mobile workstation with 16 gigs of RAM and a Nvidia Quadro5010M video card with Adobe Premiere Pro and found an excellent solution.

I know we’re in the minority on this, but we were also happy to leave Mac and their wild animals behind in favor of a Windows-based system since our entire company runs Windows. The new system has preformed perfectly both in the field and within our plant. We have even been able to integrate it into our internal workflow and share MPEG-2 files seamlessly with our large Harris server system. We have also successfully created the myriad of file formats we require to serve our clients. One of our editors, Danny Miller was so impressed with the speed and the ease of operation of the new system; he went out and bought one for himself. He said “it blows my old FCP system out of the water.”

One of the things I worry about as a manager is introducing a new editing software into the workflow. This becomes particularly challenging since we’re in the sports business and the staff is much more comfortable with Baseball stats than binary numbers. Our staff of crazy sports fans has been able to pick up the Premiere Pro program quite quickly and since it runs on Windows, they are comfortable with the Dell workstation and its operation too. I also hire freelancers from time to time to pick up the slack during particularly busy periods. Many of the people I see are recent graduates from communications programs at some well known universities. I have noticed that more and more young editors are coming in having a good working knowledge of Adobe Premiere Pro, and that makes me even more comfortable with moving to a Dell/Adobe video editing solution.In the future, we will continue to evaluate all the software and hardware out there, but I have a feeling that our commitment to the Dell//NVIDIA/Adobe combination will last a long time since I don’t think Dell is focused on phones or music players. Incidentally, I don’t really hate I-Pods, I-Phones or I-Pads. I own one of each. I just hate getting sold on a product just to have the company say—“just kidding” when it comes to the future. Oh and please—no angry e-mails from MAC lovers. We still use ours every day.


Here’s Geoff’s bio:

Geoff BelinfanteGeoff has been involved in the Television business for more years then he cares to admit. He began his career as an Advertising Agency producer and quickly became involved with sports when the agency where he worked acquired a PR firm whose primary client was Major League Baseball. Shortly, Belinfante and some colleagues left to form MLB Productions for Major League Baseball where he developed such shows as This Week in Baseball, ESPN Baseball Magazine, Pennant Chase and The Baseball Bunch. In 1985 the company became known as Phoenix Communications and added the National Hockey League to the list of professional sports it serviced. Also in 1985 Belinfante helped launch Sports NewSatellite, a syndicated sports highlight service that provided broadcast stations in the US and Canada with highlights of over 10,000 sporting events each year. While hockey and baseball have since taken their production business in house, to this day, SNS, with Belinfante as Senior Vice President and Executive Producer, continues to service 200 television stations with sports highlights.

About the Author: Phoenix Communications