Thread: Combining the power of 3 laptops

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  1. #1 Combining the power of 3 laptops 
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    Hi, I believe we can combine 2 or more laptops for more processing power but have no clue how. would appreciate any suggestions.

    I have 3 old laptops with the following configuration:
    (1) HP G50 Notebook PC, Memory (RAM) 2.00 GB, 32 bit OS,
    Intel (R) Pentium (R) Dual CPU T 3200 @ 2.00 GHz

    (2) Dell Intel (R) CPU T 2050 @ 1.600 Hz, RAM 1.99 GB, 1.60 GHz

    (3) Dell Inspiron 9300 Intel (R Pentium (R) M processor 1.73 GHz, 1GB RAM


    I am not in a position to buy the mac immediately so I was considering using these laptops on set.

    As there is no express card what is the best alternative for this scenario and what else do I need to upgrade for a workable system.
    Last edited by Prabhat; 05-10-2010 at 05:44 PM. Reason: Excuse me for posting in a different forum
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  2. #2  
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    Wow, it would be really good to be able to do that.
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  3. #3  
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    Its called a cluster.

    You can get all sorts of software to do clustering... but be warned its mostly for supercomputing. The #2 use for clustering is rendering 3D animation/models. (Well actually that's often how its used in science applications too...)

    OK, so you can google that if you like.

    The good news is that rendering video is what computer scientists call an "embarrasingly parallel problem." That means its relatively easy to split the job up into lots of bits for a computer to share out to other computers.

    The simple bad news is that it won't give you a lot of benefits for RED video work. The slightly more complex bad news is that what a bunch of computer scientists think is "relatively easy" can still be stupendously mind bogglingly hard. When I worked briefly on Beowulf (the clustering technology not the movie) in the 90's... well this is a problem that makes folks at NASA feel dumb.

    In fact because of various issues it will most likely be slower than just assigning a third of the work to each of the laptops. (Laptop A reels 1-5, laptop B reels 6-10 etc.)

    Solving some of these issues is expensive... and its something that is a hot topic in computer science, has been for a decade or so.

    The main issue, is reading out RED footage and writing it back over the network, which is a big pile of overhead even on gigabit ethernet.

    In fact to avoid using ethernet a variety of network topologies have been invented, like InfiniBand. An InfiniBand setup easily costs more than all your laptops put together... when they were new. I'd estimate $7500 for a low end off brand switch and three used PCI-E interfaces. Due to the expense of connecting the computers typically only modern high end computers are used when assembling a computing cluster.

    What tools like Renderman do is parcel pieces of each frame out to multiple processor cores/computers and then reassemble the pieces. They do this so the data going over the network is small compared to the computations going on in each node of the cluster.

    You don't want to cobble together a solution for that... not unless distributed parallel computing is your PhD concentration in computer science. Even then you may want a team of very smart people backing you up.

    Put another way, just buy a computer that can handle the work. A single mid priced computer (ANYTHING with a Core i5 or i7) will seriously outpace that entire jumble of computers when processing RED footage, and do so with far less headache.

    Better yet, you could dump the cash you saved on that Infiniband network into a Mac Pro and a RED Rocket
    Alexander Ibrahim
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    http://www.alexanderibrahim.net
    http://www.zenera.com
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  4. #4  
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    Alexander, Thank you very much for taking out time for the input!

    The problem is I want to shoot a short film with canon 5dMII, but I was not able to make use of the Adobe Premiere pro on my 2Ghz HP laptop.

    But if I am left with no option, I wanted to buy the Mac Pro 8 Core instead of the Mac book pro, so basically I wanted to use the other laptops on the set (but that seems unachievable now) and the Mac Pro 8 Core for the editing/vfx. That way I will be able to use it for the future RED projects as well.

    Can you let me know if its "mandatory" to have the laptop on the set / if so which laptop (if there are others cheaper than Mac) is just enough for the on location job?
    Last edited by Prabhat; 05-11-2010 at 09:36 PM.
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  5. #5  
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    My simple solution to you - and I'm not being crass at all:

    Sell two of the old laptops on ebay. If they are in decent working condition you will do okay with the sale.

    Take the money, shoot your short film. Pay a friendly editor to work with you cutting the footage on their high end PC or mac system. You'll get two advantages: 1- you can cluster your brain power to have better editing capability , and 2- you will save time and money and still be able to finish your film.

    This requires taking on a mindset I call Technical Producing. As a producer of your own film you have to think outside the box a bit and use all the resources you have available (which sounds like quite a bit if you have two or three unused laptops)...You might even find an editor willing to trade an edit for one of your old laptops!

    My other advice (with my limited knowledge of editing) is to Offline the HD edit. An older computer can cut standard def footage and then conform/render the footage to an HD file after you make your cuts...

    Anyway - best of luck. I hope your film turns out nicely.
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  6. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prabhat View Post

    The problem is I want to shoot a short film with canon 5dMII, but I was not able to make use of the Adobe Premiere pro on my 2Ghz HP laptop.
    On set all you need is a computer with which to copy/backup the files from your camera media.

    Almost any computer will do. I recommend using a laptop with Firewire 800 or an expresscard slot with which you can add Firewire 800. Use a Sandisk or Lexar CF card reader.

    You could also use a RED Station CF reader with eSATA. The Red Station has more i/o options, so its the way to go if you can get one in time.

    In post you will have a lot more time.

    If you do have to use a slower computer you can render your 5Dm2 footage to a less compute intensive codec like DNxHD or ProRes and get real time performance. In fact, Canon just released an application to do exactly that with Final Cut.

    Good luck with your film.
    Alexander Ibrahim
    Director & DP
    editing/color correction/compositing/effects
    http://www.alexanderibrahim.net
    http://www.zenera.com
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