Mobile Workstations & film editing, an interview with Chris Convertito

Independent and international filmmakers are in a constant search for the most powerful and affordable mobile workstations for film editing. To find desirable solutions ever-so-important matter, we interviewed Chris Convertito, the Worldwide Category Manager for mobile workstations at Hewlett Packard’s Workstation Global Business Unit, which is based out of Houston, Texas. Chris is responsible for the overall category strategy, new product planning, and HP’s high-end Business Notebooks and Mobile Workstation platforms.

Cinema Without Borders: In the filmmaking market there is a growing need for mobile workstations, the issue being that most of these filmmakers are independent. Because of this they are concerned about the overall ability of the system to accommodate their needs, yet still must maintain a budget. Tell me about the HP system in that genre and what it offers to filmmakers.
Chris Convertito: Our Mobile Work Station lineup over the past several years was comprised of two mobile workstations. Our 8500 series was optimized around a 15″ diagonal display while our 8700 series was designed around a 17″ diagonal display and provided higher performing graphics. Our 8700 series was focused on delivering the most performance possible while still maintaining a relatively low travel weight, while our 8500 series is designed to be more mobile and provide a great balance of workstation power, expandability and battery life. This year we have made a new addition to the lineup, based on customer requests for a thinner and lighter mobile workstation form factor. The new HP EliteBook 8540w is a 14 inch mobile workstation that weighs only 4.9 pounds and provides entry level workstation class graphics, dual and quad core processors and supports up to 8Gb of system memory. Our HP EliteBook 8540w is about 6.4 pounds and we are currently at 7.8 pounds for our 8740w mobile workstation; so you can definitely see the relation between size and weight in the different models as well as the difference in performance offerings, battery life offerings, so users have the flexibility to choose they system that best meets their needs for performance and portability.

CWB: Many of these users are employing consumer cameras, such as hand-held HD cameras, for capturing video and editing with programs such as Adobe Premiere or Pinnacle 14. Which of the systems are compatible for HD video editing?
Chris: Well actually, all three systems will be capable of HD video editing. I think that the more complex that the project becomes, the higher up in the line you would want to go in order to get the higher end processors, graphics and memory. For example, our 14 inch workstation will support a quad core processor, but it will only support 8 GB of memory. If a user wants to increase the memory capacity of their system, the 8540w and 8740w both have 4 memory slots and can support up to 16GB of system memory when configured with a quad core processor which would help them with more advanced video editing. Later in the year, 8GB DIMMS will be available, which will provide even more memory capacity. As you move up in our mobile workstation line, you are going to find more powerful video cards with larger frame buffer sizes. There is entry level workstation class graphics on the 8440W and as you move through our line, the 8540w and 8740w have higher-end NVidia graphics cards; all of them are extremely fast and provide high frame buffering ability.

CWB: Can you give us an idea of the price points for the models? How much would one expect to spend on a model that would enable HD filmmaking?
Chris: The starting price points differ slightly. The 8440w starts at $1,425 and the 8540w starts at $1,449.

CWB: What are the storage capacities of the systems that you have?
Chris: We have a large 7200rpm HD that goes up to 500GB and you will see larger capacities become available later in the year. Our Mobile Workstations have the ability to add a second hard drive to the system by removing the optical drive and adding a second hard drive for increased storage capabilities. Users have the option to up a RAID 0 or RAID 1 array to allow them to set up their disc the way they want in terms of performance or data security. Our HP Advanced Docking Station, which is compatible with our mobile work station line, also allows users to add an additional hard drive for even more storage capacity. We’ve also done things for external storage, which I think video editors will really appreciate: we have media card readers on all three models which support five media types including memory stick and SD, 1394 support and an eSATA port. A new feature on our 8540w and 8740w is the addition of USB 3.0, which is 5 times faster than USB 2.0. So there are multiple options of internal and external storage for the Mobile Work Stations.

CWB: One of the issues that is always on the mind of an independent filmmaker is the ability to expand their mobile systems in the future. Are these systems easily expanded in terms of memory and processors?
Chris: Actually our Mobile workstations are fairly easy to upgrade and make modifications to the configuration. If a user wanted to upgrade their hard drive over time, it’s as easy as removing three screws to perform the upgrade. It’s the same thing with memory: there is a separate memory door, and the slot is empty for users to add memory. We provide easy access for other devices on the Mobile Workstation as well making it easy for users to add options like integrated wireless WAN modules by providing access to the components either from the bottom of the unit or by removing the keyboard.

CWB: How do the systems deal with heat?
Chris: We deal with it through some tremendous engineering; we have an awesome group of engineers who work to make the system as thin and light as possible, but also as cool as possible. They spend hundreds of hours looking at the thermal dynamics of the systems and finding new and innovative ways to keep the system cool. Our 8740w, which is our most powerful system, is so quiet that you can barely hear it, even while it’s in heavy use. Just like our desktop workstations, we put a lot of time intoto acoustics as well; you don’t want to hear the fan and be distracted while you are working, so the systems are cool, quiet, and also cool to the touch, so this is a major element of our Mobile Workstations.

For more information on HP Mobile Workstations please visit the HP site.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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