FrameGlide Software™ with Spin Browser Dial™ System Elements Explore at the speed of your imagination

Audio-Visual Hardware ›› Computer ›› Details

  1. For installations presenting pre-produced HD 720p (1280x720) video less than 30 minutes in length (at 30fps), virtually any (non-"netbook") machine one can buy today (2011), laptop or desktop, will be more than powerful enough. It is in situations with large pixel resolutions (e.g., 2160x1280), live capture - particularly with multiple and/or HD video streams, long content lengths (e.g., multi-terabyte, year-long video capture sets), and high speed capture (up to 1280x1024 at 500fps), where choosing the appropriate hardware and OS is critical.

  2. We recommend getting "Workstation" grade systems with ECC (error correcting) memory.

  3. The FrameGlide software has an optional Timing Log that benchmarks essentially all operations of relevance and writes the results to a file. So if you wish to assess a system for bottlenecks, you may readily do so.

  4. Unless space or aesthetic constraints prevent it, we strongly recommend using full size tower systems. Such systems typically run cooler, are easier to maintain, are less costly, and allow for use of a wider range of hardware (including replacement parts down the road) than alternatives. If you are pushing the limits of performance, such full-size systems are a virtual necessity.

  5. The software is a Windows-only application. There do not exist Mac or Unix versions.

  6. Video content such as moving-camera point-of-view flyovers, or stationary-camera footage of a runner in motion, requires much faster frame update rates to appear smooth, than (say) timelapse of a flower blooming or building going up. Thus, content, as well as other factors, affects required hardware.

  7. For certain installations, including multiple screen output and/or live capture input, concurrent operation across multiple cores is employed and thus the more cores the better. Please contact us for additional detail.

  8. We do not discuss below systems with computation and I/O load distributed across multiple computers. For such ultra-high performance configurations, please contact us.

  9. Consider whether you plan, in the short term (for long term, better to purchase new hardware at the time), to upgrade the system in a manner that would affect hardware requirements.

  10. Each application is unique, and we encourage you to email us your planned system specs for review before finalizing the purchase.

 

CPU

  1. We recommend Intel processors, in large part because our testing/benchmarking of AMD CPUs is much more limited. (Should you wish to use AMD, you should definitely test before final purchase if you are planning to push performance limits.)

  2. The Intel Core 2 architecture runs much faster than previous Pentium 4 cores, and we strongly recommend it. (The new Intel Core i7 is faster yet, but as of this writing, does not offer ECC memory support, and so unless you are pushing the extreme limits of speed, we do not recommend using it.)

  3. CPU cache size is also important, and we therefore recommend you choose a processor with the largest practical cache.

  4. Specific FG|SB installation scenarios and recommended CPUs:
    1. Pre-produced content only, single stream, pixel resolution up to 720p (1280x720): Virtually any processor of any brand.
    2. More than one stream, and/or live capture, and/or pixel resolutions exceeding 1280x720, but not more than a total of say two streams (e.g., two pre-produced or one live capture with review): We recommend an Intel dual core CPU somewhere between a Core 2 Duo E7300 (2.66GHz/1066MHz/3MB L2) and Core 2 Duo E8500 (3.16GHz/1333MHz/6MB L2), depending on how far you are pushing the limits of things. And particularly when you are requiring maximum performance, we recommend employing the highest FSB (Front Side Bus) speed (e.g. 1333MHz in the above) that is practically affordable.
    3. For the maximum number of streams (pre-produced, live capture, or both), where the stream quantity trumps the speed needed per stream, we recommend at a minimum the Intel quad core CPU a Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.40GHz/1066MHz/2X4MB L2), with the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 (2.83GHz/1333MHz/12MB L2) being a safer choice. (And of course if you are really pushing the limits, more and faster cores are available.)
    4. In terms of choosing Xeon processors (several manufacturers have stopped offering ECC memory with any systems other than Xeon), or from a list of Core 2 processors not including the above, compare performance to the above Core 2 guidelines using a site such as www.cpubenchmark.net.
    5. We generally do not recommend Intel's "Extreme" series because, looking at the specs, it would not appear the premium add-on cost is worth it.
    6. We have not ourselves experimented with Overclocking, but in certain cases, that could be a good route to choose (particularly since Dell's XPS series support that as a factory-configured option).

  5. In the rare event that a 64 bit version of Windows is required, be sure your processor choice supports it.

  6. As mentioned below, we have not experimented with multi-CPU motherboards. If you do go that route, likely Xeon processors will be needed, and relevant research and testing will need to be performed.

 

Motherboard/chipset

  1. We recommend getting a motherboard/chipset that allows use of ECC (error correcting) memory. While there continues to be a debate as to how important that is, in most situations we encounter, the cost of corrupted software and system downtime so dwarfs the small additional cost of getting a system ECC-equipped, that we recommend always doing so.

  2. We also recommend systems that provide for RAID using the onboard SATA ports (virtually all systems do these days).

  3. If the motherboard/chipset provides for SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) drives at essentially no additional cost, great. However, unless you are pushing the very upper levels of performance, such availability is not necessary.

  4. We recommend motherboard/chipsets that support dual (or above) channel memory configurations.

  5. We have not experimented with multi-CPU motherboards, but obviously if you are pushing performance limits and cost is secondary, such options are worth exploring.

 

Memory

  1. Amount of RAM:
    1. For up to 24 hours (at 30fps) of pre-produced content (HD or SD), 2 Gigs is adequate for most 32 bit OSes, 3 gig for 64 bit.
    2. For over 24 hours (at 30fps) of pre-produced content (HD or SD), and/or HD high speed live capture systems that write directly to RAM, we typically recommend 3 Gigs for 32 bit OSes, 4-6 Gig for 64 bit OSes.

  2. We recommend using ECC memory, as previously discussed.

  3. We encourage getting dual (or above) channel matched memory module pairs.

  4. And finally, the faster the memory speed, so long as prices are not exorbitant, the better.

 

Graphics card

  1. Virtually any current graphics card, that is a separate PCI-Express x16 bus card, is fast enough. (High end cards are more costly typically because of their 3D capabilities, which we essentially ignore at this time.)

  2. The above said, two areas that are hard to predict, and thus risky, are:
    1. Using graphics chipsets built into the motherboard. In most cases, such as with well designed laptops, these chipsets are plenty fast. However, in other cases, such as "Server" motherboards, the graphics can be surprisingly slow. You can always try the integrated motherboard graphics, just so long as you are prepared to purchase a secondary card if necessary.
    2. Using a very low end graphics card that shares system RAM with the CPU (as opposed to having all its memory onboard).

  3. We generally recommend getting nVidia chipset cards, because our experience with them has been good. We have at times had a bit of trouble with ATI. (The "trouble" we refer to has to do with handing non-standard resolutions and/or monitor spanning; for simple setups, likely almost any chipset is fine.)

  4. While the nVidia configuration software itself handles many standard and non-standard resolutions, for special situations, you may wish to also check out the great utility Powerstrip by EnTech.

 

OS

  1. Windows XP, 32 bit, SP2 & SP3: Tested extensively with both pre-produced and live content. No incompatibilities seen.

  2. Windows XP, 64 bit: One system installed with Imaging Source live GigE WDM camera capture and pre-produced content. No incompatibilities seen.

  3. Vista, 32 bit: While our experience is more limited, it is likely this OS would work in most situations as well as XP 32 bit. It has been used on at least one live capture installation with no obvious incompatibilities seen.

  4. Windows 7, 32 bit: Tested extensively with both pre-produced and live content. No incompatibilities seen.

  5. Windows 7, 64 bit: Tested extensively with both pre-produced and live content. No incompatibilities seen, except with Dalsa CameraLink high speed capture card with Basler camera, because the application that talks to the camera driver must itself be 64 bit native (which as of Q4-2011, the FrameGlide software is not - however, we would love to work with you on a project that needed/funded the switch :-).

  6. Because in general hardware driver support for 64 bit OSes is still (2011) somewhat more limited than for the 32 bit versions (for example, drivers must be signed or they will not install - at least not without great machination), all else being equal we generally recommend 32 bit OSes in situations where esoteric hardware may be used. (See point directly above as well.)

  7. Windows 2000: When last tested (cursorily not fully, as the OS is so old) in 2010, current application version appeared at first glance to work for pre-produced content. Experiences suggest however that it will not work reliably with live capture. (Symptom was, after about 24 hours of live capture operation, dramatic slowdown of perusal from undetermined causes.) Also, certain features of the system will not be available as the relevant OS functions only became available with Windows XP and following.

  8. Windows 95/98/ME: Not supported.

 

Disk drives

  1. Obviously, the drive (or drives) selected must provide adequate storage for the desired content.

  2. It is often the latency, rather than average bandwidth, that is the most important drive feature. Therefore, do not necessarily assume a RAID setup with 7200 RPM drives is preferable to a single 10,000RPM drive.

  3. If your system is a high speed live capture to RAM one, any OS hard drive is fine.

  4. If your video content is particularly visitor-sensitive to temporal "glitches" (examples discussed earlier), or you are using a laptop system, we recommend using a second non-OS drive for the FrameGlide application and video content, lest OS background disk read/writes cause trouble

  5. If your system is a single stream pre-produced content only one, with pixel resolution 1280x720 or less, any current 7200 RPM drive is fine. (The only exception to this is for installations where content is such that visitors notice even the most minor temporal stutters - for example, helicopter point-of-view fly-overs. In such situations, we recommend 10,000RPM or SSD drives.)

  6. If your content includes SD live capture at 30fps, or HD live capture in timelapse, or has pre-produced content in pixel resolutions exceeding 1280x720, we recommend using a 10,000 RPM SATA second content drive. Our preferred choice is Western Digital's VelociRaptor series (we recommend trying Amazon or Newegg as source). You may also use an SSD Flash drive if content size is not too large.

  7. As disk read/write performance requirements increase, as they do for HD 30fps/60fps live capture, high speed capture streamed to disk (e.g., 200fps SD), multiple concurrent live capture streams, etc., a SATA SSD drive or RAID array is required. If you are pushing performance limits to the absolute max, and need more space than SSD drives offer, creating a RAID array with 15,000 RPM SAS drives is recommended (this may require purchasing a PCI Express SAS card, as well as the disks themselves). Otherwise, because of the dramatic cost savings, SATA 10,000 RPM VelociRaptor drives are recommended instead.

  8. For certain configurations, having content spread over multiple drives is recommended - e.g., where each screen update requires reads from multiple data sets comprised of video and/or audio, the system employs multiple screens with distinct content, etc. SSD SATA drives will also typically work, if content size allows such to be cost effective.

  9. For pre-produced systems with resolutions up to 720p (and sometimes properly compressed 1920p), we have found, even for systems that are particularly sensitive to temporal stutter, that fast USB Flash drives may be used. We have tested and recommend the Patriot Xporter XT Boost series, going to the Magnum series if you need more than 32 Gigs (we recommend trying Amazon or Newegg as source).
    If you are using more than one or two such drives in a single installation concurrently (e.g. for a multi-screen installation), be sure you do not for example plug all into a single PCI bus card, as we have experienced slowdown in that instance, presumably due to the PCI bus limited data rate; we imagine a PCI Express USB card would not have this issue
    Live capture is generally out of the question with conventional USB Flash drives due to their very slow write times. This is generally not an issue with SATA SSD Flash drives.

 

Ports

  1. For permanent installations, or other situations where high reliability is required, at least one RS232 serial port is needed for the Spin Browser dial itself, and a 2nd one is recommended if use of a "soft" UPS-initiated Windows shutdown is called for (as it is with live capture installations spanning long time periods). (We have found USB, particularly for the dial connection, to be less reliable. The issue is most acute in the presence of large electrostatic visitor-generated discharges; grounding wires are only partially effective in preventing disconnects.)
    Should you need to purchase a PCI bus serial card, one reasonable option is the SIIG unit JJ-P20511-S2.

  2. If providing a direct RS232 connection is impossible/impractical, and you must use a USB>RS232 converter:
    1. We recommend Keyspan, model USA-19HS.
    2. Put the adapter very close to the computer, and make the serial connection the longer cable.
    3. Use the PCI static rugged USB card noted below.
    4. If necessary, wrap the adapter securely and completely in aluminum foil and ground the aluminum foil to the computer case.
    5. And of course, as always with all adapter methods, be sure to ground the dial itself!

  3. For systems that rely on USB for anything other than the within case, not used by visitors, keyboard and mouse, we recommend purchasing a static-rugged USB port add-on, both because such devices can be dramatically more reliable than motherboard ports in terms of software disconnects, and because if a large static discharge actually does physical damage to the device (as opposed to the much more likely software disconnect with no hardware damage), they are quick and inexpensive to replace. (Many motherboard USB ports we have tested are sadly lacking, both in terms of hardware resistance to static discharges, and their ability to automatically re-initialize the USB port in the event of a static-generated disconnect.):
    1. For desktop systems with PCI bus: The static-rugged USB PCI card that we have extensively tested - I/O Future Koutech/IOfuture PU520 (we recommend trying Amazon or Newegg as source).
    2. For laptop systems with PCMCIA slot: Link Depot PCB-U22 (we recommend trying Amazon or Newegg as source).
    3. For laptop systems with ExpressCard 34/54 slot: Rosewill USB 2.0 ExpressCard Model RC-611 NEC chipset uPD720114.
    4. For laptop systems with no slots: USB unpowered hub CP-U2H-01. (However, note that this solution is typically not sufficiently reliable, and should be used only as a temporary measure in "emergencies".)

  4. Installed systems should always have both an Ethernet connection to the outside world (to allow TechnoFrolics and clients the ability to logon remotely for support), and a separate network connection to any live capture camera requiring one. When a second card is needed, for certain situations the PCI Express Intel PRO/1000 CT Desktop Adapter is a good choice (and required for Imperx GigE cameras mentioned below), and for others the PCI Intel PRO/1000 GT Desktop Adapter.

Expansion slots

  1. PCI Express slots are often quite useful, and for many live capture systems, a requirement. So, the more you have available, at least some 4x speed or above, the better. And of course PCI slots are important as well.

  2. Specific system elements and their needs :
    1. Typical 10/100 IP camera: PCI or PCI express slot for 2nd Ethernet port (unless motherboard already has two, and even in this case, ability to use field-tested NIC cards is prudent).
    2. Imperx GigE cameras: PCI express card X1 or above.
    3. Dalsa Camera Link capture card of the type we recommend for the Basler 500fps 1280x1024 high speed camera (that we also recommend): PCI Express X4 or above.
    4. USB-based UI devices. PCI slot for static resistant USB card mentioned above.
    5. External drive bay(s) requiring more SATA ports than computer provides. PCI Express or PCI slot, depending on number of drives and their data transfer requirements.

 

DVD drives

Always purchase a drive that can write as well as read. You will not regret it.

 

Audio

For all the projects we have done to date, we have found the computer motherboard's built in audio to be more than adequate. (If the motherboard has no audio, we recommend getting an inexpensive card to add it - should your installation employ audio at all.)

 

Manufacturer-specific comments

  1. Dell:
    1. We have generally had excellent experience with Dell's Precision Workstation series.
    2. Note that with a Core 2 Quad unit we purchased in late 2008, model T3400, with XP SP2 there was a bug in which Intel's power saving C1E mode was turned on by default in a manner that significantly slowed down overall system operation, and could not (to the best of our knowledge) be disabled within the Dell environment. (Symptoms include such things as lost frames in high speed camera capture.)
      Installing SP3 made the problem go away, but before discovering that, we had located a utility called the RightMark CPU Clock Utility which, by unchecking the "Enable Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST)" (see screen capture below), we were able to fix the problem. Unfortunately, a side effect is that the computer hung on shutdown due to the utility not properly closing, and thus required manual intervention at each power cycle.



    3. On a Dell computer we purchased in Q4, 2010, with 64 bit Windows 7 thereon, we encountered unexplained temporal glitches 100-1000ms in length occurring every 30 seconds or so. After much painful research, we tracked it down to a preinstalled auto drive encryption service called “TdmService”. Go to the “Services” section of the OS and disable it.
    4. Our experience with Dell tech support, in terms of their speed of responsiveness when a rare hardware problem occurred, was superb. (System repair took less than 24 hours for complete on-site motherboard replacement under warranty.)

  2. Lenovo:
    1. Our experience with the Lenovo ThinkStation S20 has been excellent.
    2. Our experience with Lenovo tech support, in terms of the depth of their responsiveness to our RAID problems, has been outstanding. (The tech support person spent 2 hours with us on the phone, reinstalled the OS on his own in-house system to confirm what he told us re RAID was correct, and then called back the next week to follow up.)

  3. HP:
    1. While several of our partners swear by them, in particular appreciating their large expansion slot offerings and local retail stock, we ourselves have found HP as a company sufficiently difficult to deal with (hours traversing tree-structured phone directories, long wait times, and then the person who finally picks up knowing little, telling us we were in the wrong department, or both), and the quality of the system we received being sufficiently problematic (a power supply whose voltage ramp-up curve was apparently incompatible with the installed Intel processor requirements), that we cannot, at this point in time, recommend their company or systems.

 

Additional items

  1. UPSes:
    1. Background:
      1. UPSes that simply maintain power for a short duration during a power loss, omitting a controlled OS shutdown, are relatively inexpensive and there are many usable models. It is when one needs a graceful, controlled shutdown, as extended-duration live capture FG|SB systems do, that issues get trickier.
      2. Controlled shutdown software, in our experience, as supplied both with Tripp Lite and APC units, is hardly clear or user-friendly. It is not infrequent that proper configuration of scripts, and overall system testing thereafter, can easily take 6-12 hours.
    2. We recommend, in part because we are more familiar configuring it, and in part as the result of research generally, the APC SUA1500 Smart-UPS. (We initially experimented with a Tripp Lite UPS model, but a defect in the design caused battery leakage to cause the system to fail to function at all in the event of a power failure, and in response we simply switched to APC.)
      (The SUA1500 is for 120VAC systems. We imagine there is a comparable unit for 230VAC, but have not as of this writing researched it.)
    3. To add RJ45 Ethernet port protection to the SUA1500, we recommend the L-COM Ethernet surge protector HGLN-CAT6J. (We have found APC's ProtectNet unit PNET1GB unreliable due to flakey connectors. We are unsure of the quality of Tripp Lite's DNET1 unit, but have similar concerns.)

  2. Surge-protected, filtered, power strips:
    1. In the case where a UPS is not needed, and a simple surge-protected, filtered, power strip will do, we recommend Tripp Lite's TLP810NET unit, with both 120VAC and RJ45 Ethernet protection. (We have not, as of this writing, researched comparable 230VAC units that integral Ethernet protection. A solution with two separate pieces is: Tripp Lite IEC-base 220/240V surge protector EURO-4, in combination with L-COM Ethernet surge protector HGLN-CAT6J.)

  3. Backup of live-captured content:
    1. If automated, scripted content backups for long-duration live capture systems are required, such items as a second computer, external drive bays, and the like may be required.

 

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