Monday, December 18, 2017

Behind The Scenes

                The stock version of the UltraNEXUS is designed to play Mpeg files located on one of 4 locally attached usb hard drive. This presented a problem for us here at WRCT. We needed more capacity as well as redundancy. So we purchased Leightronix's network attached storage option called TOTAL SHARE which enables, as the name implies, the use of network attached storage. We also purchased Leightronix's 4TB network attached file server ($4,495). Now that was great! However, it still had many limitations.

                The first limitation was that it was only 4TB. To run 2 channels worth of 24/7 content we would need to be constantly moving content to and from the server. This presented another limitation/problem the only way to move content to and from the server was through the Nexus via FTP which was very slow!

                So after doing a little investigating into the sever we purchased from Leightronix we found that there is nothing special about it. It's a normal SuperMicro SuperServer running FreeNAS, a free open source NAS (Network Attached Storage) solution based on Free BSD, a free open source OS. It has standard cheep SATA hard drives, a low end cpu, and some cheep ram. I failed to mention that Leightronix says it is to be run on a dedicated Gigabit network and they offer to sell you a Gigabit switch for only $545. So, having learned all that I upgraded the hard drives to 3TB drives and added more ram. Next I set up a separate v-lan on our router and set up the NAS port on the Nexus and one of the 2 network ports on the server to user that v-lan. I then set the other port on the server to use our normal network.

                Now having done all that we are able to access the mpeg playback server from within windows as a networked drive and thus am able to send files to and from at Gigabit speeds. The addition of more ram prevents "choking" or stuttering of files during playback while moving files. The FreeNas file system uses ram to "buffer" data prior to writing it to disk and the hard drives are the limiting factor in this setup. So, the more ram you have the more you can transfer before the hard drives bottleneck.

                Ok, so we solved one problem, we can now send files to and from the mpeg server at high speeds from within windows without choking the currently playing file. We have also helped our other problem of not enough space by upgrading the drives to 3TB drives. But, we have lots of videos and still need more space!

                So we need more servers! We could buy another 4TB server from Leightronix for $4,495. I did not like that idea either! So we bought an 8 bay SuperMicro SuperServer, 10 3TB SATA drives (2 for spares, you know they do die on occasion! The drives are mirrored for redundancy too.) 16GB ram, a low end Xeon processor, and a 4GB thumb drive (for the OS) all for under $3000! Put it all together and installed FreeNAS and it all works like a charm! So basically we got a 12TB mpeg server for our Nexus for under 3K! We have since built 2 more similar servers for normal file storage. By the way did I mention we don't delete much!

                So in review we build our own mpeg servers for our Leightronix UltraNEXUS to save money and to increase hard drive capacity! You should theoretically be able to use any server or shared drive for the Nexus, I have played files from a shared drive on a windows machine through the Nexus without problems but I would not recommend it! You probably don't need the v-lan but it surely does not hurt. It should limit network traffic going to and from the Nexus and prevent network bottlenecks. In all of my testing with our setup I have found it to be completely stable. The only time it chocks is if you copy many large files to it at once. I normally would not transfer more than 3-4 4GB files at once(through windows). Remember when the ram fills up you have problems! If you need to transfer many files use FTP.

                Well I hope you found this to be helpful or at least an interesting read on how we like to save money! For the record we love Leightronix and our UltraNEXUS! Please feel free to leave comments if you would like!

                Upon receiving our Tricaster 855 we realized that it does not provide the typical contact closure tally light output that most video camera CCUs (Camera Control Unit) accept. Rather Tricasters output a positive 3.3v when the particular tally light is to be lit. To circumvent this problem we built a small box that consists of the following: (one for each tally light needed) 5VDC Reed Relay and a 1N4004 diode (or similar). So basically the 3.3v powers the relay and causes the contact closure for the CCU. Then put the diode in reverse direction over the + and - pin on the relay coil to dissipate any energy from the collapsing magnetic field at deactivation. This will prevent any damage to the Tricaster's circuitry.tally1tally2

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