Color Correction Gear Head: November 2017 Edition

November 1, 2017
Robbie Carman C.S.I.

In this installment of Color Correction Gear we take a look at Intel NUC mini computers, Procool Rackmount fans, & Cinemaquest LED Bias Lighting


It’s Been While. So, Here Are – 5 Awesome Pieces Of Gear!

You know when you start a new exercise plan and for the first few weeks you’re going to the gym every day and feeling pumped?  But then just a few short months later you’ve fallen off and are eating Cheetos on the couch again?

Well, that’s how the Color Correction Gear Head Series has been in 2017 – bang out a couple months in a row and then I’ve been absent in the series.  My sincere apologies!  One of my goals for 2018 is to never miss a Gear Head article – consider this warm up!

In this installment of Color Correction Gear Head, I’d like to cover 5 new pieces of gear including a micro PC, some useful rack cooling fans, some new LED bias lights and more!

Intel NUC

An Intel what? NUC – Next Unit Of Computing

Intel NUCs are very small footprint PC’s – available as complete builds or just the motherboard that you can build around.  They’ve been popular for custom home theater builders for a while (think Plex Server), as they can handle with ease home theater transcoding duties.

 

The latest generation of Intel NUCS come in two sizes to accommodate different configurations. I chose the ‘tall’ to have room for a 2.5 SSD. Image courtesy of Intel.

 

For some time, I’ve depended on Mac Mini’s for lots of tasks around the studio like an FTP server, Resolve Database server, running Scopebox and more.

The fact is that Mac Mini’s have fallen behind the curve with the last model release in 2014, coupled with the sad loss of a Mac Mini in my machine room that was acting as my FTP and Resolve Database server (logic board died), I was looking for a replacement.  However, I wasn’t keen on purchasing another Mac Mini that was already 3 or 4 years old.

While I’m sure Apple will release new Mac Mini’s sometime soon as Tim Cook has even said the Mac Mini is important to Apple, I had an immediate need a month ago. Just before I was about to suck it up and order a new (2014) Mac Mini, a friend of mine mentioned the Intel NUCs.

After some research, and swayed by the compelling price and performance, I decided to order one.

 

Super small in form factor the Intel NUC can handle a wide variety of tasks – I’m using mine for FTP and as a Resolve database server. Image courtesy of Intel.

 

The NUC that I ordered is what they call the bare bones ‘tall’ model.  Bare bones meaning that all it has is the processor, motherboard, ports and case.  It’d be up to me to add memory and storage. Tall refers to the case design – this model allows for both an NVMe SSD and a 2.5in laptop HD (including SSDs) For $479.00 for the base unit, I was content to do a little more building myself.

Here are the specs:

  • Dual Core  i7-7567U
  • Intel Iris 650 Graphics (there is no discreet GPU)
  • Up to 32GB of RAM
  • Headphone Jack
  • 4x USB 3.1 ports
  • HDMI 2.0 (will run 4k monitors)
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Thunderbolt 3

A few things to keep in mind.  First, there are no dedicated PCIe slots but the addition of the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port allows for expansion of all sorts.  Right now, I’m using an Akito Node Thunderbolt 3 box with a 10GBe card in it to get to my SAN.  But, you could use eGPU boxes and other Thunderbolt gear to make this machine more than capable for many tasks.

 

Because of its Thunderbolt 3 abilities, expansion boxes like the Akito Node TB3 expander box work great with the Intel NUC. Image courtesy of Akito.

 

Second, I mentioned the machine didn’t come with RAM or storage.  I added a Samsung 960 M.2. NVMe SSD and for RAM, I went with 16GB of Crucial RAM.

For less than $1000 (not including the 10GBe card and expansion box that I already owned) I got a machine that can run circles around the currently shipping Mac Mini.

The only bad thing I can say is that under heavy load this machine is about 25% louder than a Mac Mini running with fans on high.  This doesn’t bother me as this machine sits in my machine room, but if it’s in your room with you it might bother you if you’re sensitive to fan noise.

Procool Rackmount Fans

Staying back in the machine room for a few more minutes, the next product I want to tell you about this month is the amazing Procool/Rackfans.com rackmount fan.

We all know the importance of keeping gear cool, and air flow around that gear is vital to its health.  Especially in tightly packed small racks heat can be a real issue.

Available 1U & 2U form factors, the Procool guys have a lot of different models available. The two factors that separate their products are Airflow (listed as CFM, or Cubic Feet Per Minute) – essentially how much air the fan can move, higher numbers mean more airflow.  The other factor is noise rating (in decibels).  The lower the dB rating the quieter the fan.

 

The 2U TV 480 can pump a lot of air through a rack which is critical for keeping gear cool.  Image courtesy of Rackfans.com/Procool. Image courtesy of rackfans.com

 

For the racks in my machine room where noise isn’t an issue,  I wanted the maximum amount of airflow in and out of the racks, so I went with a few (different racks) of the 2U TV480 and TV480-E.  The E part is important.  While you’ll want to pull cool air into the rack you’ll want to get hot air out of the rack too. The exhaust model is the same physical model with the fans reversed – pumping out hot air in the rack.

While I wouldn’t classify the TV480s as ‘loud’ they’re not silent either, and at 2U they take a up a good amount of space, especially in smaller racks.

In my home setup I don’t have a machine room, but rather a small TBC consoles rack that sits next to my TBC desk.  So having a big 2U loud fan wasn’t going to work.  Luckily Procool has some great 1U options. I went with SX640 and SX640-E

 

The much smaller and virtually silent SX640 is a 1U 6 fan setup that I use in my home mini rack next to my deck.  It keeps my gear in a tight rack nice and cool.  Image courtesy of rackfans.com.

 

While these fans don’t pull/push as much air as their larger cousins, a rating of 36CFM is still a good amount of airflow and they are silent (21.77 dB)!  Seriously, my computer case fans make more noise!

Because I have a ductless A/C unit in my machine room I wasn’t expecting to see huge temp reductions, but I was wrong!  Over 7 days using Open Hardware Monitor I saw my average machine temp go down about 4.96 C degrees compared to a week before without fans – that’s significant.  At home, I saw a smaller drop (3.11 C), but that’s nothing to balk at either.

If you put your gear in rack, and want that gear to last for a long time, I can’t recommend the Procool fans enough!

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