Davinci Resolve – 4K Real Time. It’s the kind of hardware performance colorists and studios want to make the leap to right now. We recently interviewed the staff at Illuminate Hollywood to recount their experience with Davinci Resolve before and after acquiring their GPUx Server, and last week Director of Engineering John Louder outlined their journey, from the not-so-distant past to today using their new 28-core, 128GB RAM, 4x Titan X GPUx Server from mediaworkstations.net. As you might expect, selecting the GPUx was about clearly understanding their goals and how they could most efficiently realize them.

Rather than a simple review, I thought it might be helpful to provide a full before and after accounting of our grading work leading up to our purchase of the GPUx.

  1. Resolve, the Early days:

Our test bed for our first Resolve was a minimal system. Our operators were trying to learn the basics, so performance wasn’t paramount. They did some importing of files with one of our very early Macs, with a Hex Core Xeon processor, 32 GB of ram and ATI video card. The software did run on this minimal platform, but the performance was dismal at best, as we would expect. A later attempt was made with a new “stock” un-optimized Mac Pro. This was significantly better but again we were just importing/converting files. Without any video card hardware acceleration and panels, doing a 4K project in real time was out of the question.

  1. Influx of 4K projects:

We have had several projects come in at 4K or higher resolution. While most of our color correctors and video processing systems can handle these large files, none of the systems played out UHD or 4K files reliably in real time. This was especially true when outputting quad SDI to our Barco DP4k projector.

GPUx - 4-x-Titan-X-mediaworkstations.net-24-SSD-Hot-Swap-b

  1. GPUx time:

We knew we needed more hardware to make a Resolve system run properly with large files. We talked with a few post houses and to Black Magic to see what we needed to make a solid 4K / UHD system. We found mediaworkstations.net online and saw they had the right gear and good pricing. Originally we only budgeted for a system with 2 Titan X cards, but Chris from mediaworkstations.net recommended a new motherboard configuration called a GPUx. This allowed us to utilize 4 Titan X cards (or up to 8 if we decide to expand) for just a little more than we had originally budgeted for. Once we got the system in house, it only took a short period of time to get it online and making pictures (and money!).

The system performance is simply stellar. Extremely powerful and extremely loud! It effortlessly glides through the toughest shots with ease. The hardware complement is awesome. Our GPUx is powered by dual Xeon (2 x E5-2697 v3) 2.6 Ghz CPUs running a total of 28 cores(56 hyper threaded), 128 GB of DDR4 ECC ram, Black Magic Decklink 4K Extreme 12G I/O Card and 4 Titan X Graphics cards sporting a total of 12,288 CUDA Cores. We can use the HDMI output for monitoring, output HD-SDI single and Dual Links to both SDI monitors and DVRs, or write files directly on to its internal 16TB SSD array, fiber or 10Gb LAN connections. Our previous coloring system could process 4k/UHD files, but couldn’t go to back out to tape for any HD/SD projects. This is a real issue since we still have tape based clients.

All these components work in concert with one another to make the Resolve experience a memorable one for both the operator and the client.

John Louder
Director of Engineering
Illuminate Hollywood
Los Angeles