What’s in a 4K Workstation

4K has dominated the headlines for a while now, but at present there aren’t many studios that can call themselves 4K ready. VFX and post-production studio Coffee & TV were one of the first to adopt a fully integrated, end to end 4K pipeline, “from grading to delivery” as MD and co-founder Derek Moore says proudly.

4K assets contain at least four times more pixels than HD assets. That’s a heck of a lot of data for a workstation to handle, before that data even reaches the render farm. In their new offices, Coffee & TV run two 4K Flame suites with Eizo CG318 4K monitors. Not only are these client-facing, but the workstations need to be powerful enough to support creative work at high res.

As Derek explains: “the biggest challenge is to iterate… to have enough time to try different things out, improve, refine. If you can do something twice, you’ll get a result. If you can do something sixteen times you’ll get a much better result…. And at 4K, with that kind of resolution size, that bandwidth, that data rate, you can struggle to iterate, to change, and be as efficient as you used to be on smaller resolutions.”

The longer it takes for the technology to process the data, the less time there is to create, hone and perfect. Aside from the size of the render farm, the workstations themselves had to be able to carry the load.

So we recommended Samsung Pro SSDs. While two 512GB Pro SSDs run the operating system in each workstation, a further twelve 960GB SM863s enhance the speed of the Flame. The Escape Technology engineers had already tested the workstations with the SSDs to make sure that their performance and capacity were up to snuff.

According to Derek the results are impressive: “Not only are they quiet and small and compact, but also super-fast. Our Flame artists describe them when they’re working now as like a knife through butter. So they’re really that good.

“We were really grateful when the Escape boys had been testing that set up in advance, and we’ve proved that it’s amazing.”