Installing a small test system for the complete idiot*
*This is from my own experience of setting up a small test system as a complete novice.
I am a very experienced freelance Avid editor but I have absolutely no knowledge of Linux, Ubuntu , terminal commands or networking. So for these purposes I was the idiot!
I was looking at options for setting up a small Avid shared storage system at one of the indie’s for which I work. Unity, Isis and Editshare had all been looked at but the costs just didn’t stack up. Until now they had been sharing media and Avid bins via external Firewire and USB3 drives, but with the last big broadcast project involving upto 7 Avid editors and ProTools things had to change. Coincidentally I came across idiestor which seemed to tick all the technical requirement boxes and was free. So began this little journey:
Any system running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (server or desktop)
Suitable disc storage (Hardware RAID recommended)
Gigabit network connectivity (minimum)
For a fully fledged collaborative editing system you are going to need some pretty fast and flashy hardware but if you just want to try the system out and see if it works for you then you can put it together from the contents of your storage cupboard.
For the test system I had my kids old windows PC with a 250Gb internal hard drive to act as the server. An old Virgin superhub 100Mb router to act as the ethernet switch, a bunch of old ethernet cables. My MacBook Pro with Avid loaded on it and my Windows7 workstation with Avid loaded on it. Good to go!
STEP 1: Getting UBUNTU
So the first step was to try to get Ubuntu – which is a version of the Linux OS – up and running on a system. I first tried setting it up as a dual-boot on my Macbook Pro. If you are a novice don’t even try this – it is a minefield right from the get go – there are numerous guides on the web, but i got lost pretty quickly and became increasingly worried that i was going to lose all my Mac stuff. So don’t bother – for a test system it is not worth the effort. Get hold of an old PC or workstation with reasonable specs that you don’t mind wiping clean and start from there.
Download the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (server or desktop) installer from here:
The desktop version works fine for indiestor.
You need to choose 32bit or 64bit depending on the system you are installing on.
You will have downloaded an .iso file which you can either burn to a DVD or put it on a USB stick. I would put it on a USB stick ‘cos it is a lot quicker.This guide shows you how:
(I would stick to doing this on a Windows machine – it is a lot simpler).
Once you have it on a stick you can plug that into your Host PC and boot from the USB disk. To do this you will need to press one of the Function keys while the computer starts up – probably F1, F8 or Esc but it’s different on different motherboards so look out for the Boot Menu Option as the computer starts up.
Once you have the boot menu up you can boot from the DVD or the USB stick.
You should soon have a screen which gives you the option to try or install Ubuntu.
It’s worth trying first to make sure that it is going to work on your system.
If it works then reboot and this time go for the Install option.
This guide takes you through the installation:
If the HD in the Host machine is blank or erased or has been formatted then you should be able to install straight on to it. This didn’t work for me however, probably because I had an already mangled Hard Drive! So I had to resort to installing Windows7 which formatted the drive for me and setup Win7 and then installing Ubuntu as a dual-boot according to this guide:
Which involves partitioning the disk. This seemed to work fine for me and gives me the option of using the test machine as a Windows machine as well, but I’m sure there are ways of doing a clean install of just Ubuntu.
So, finally when you reboot you should get a nice little screen giving you the option to boot into Ubuntu or Windows. Go for Ubuntu and the Ubuntu GUI desktop should appear.
STEP 2: Getting used to Ubuntu
It is quite similar to MacOS in appearance and easy to navigate.
It is quite a cool OS in it’s own right and the desktop version comes with it’s own word processor, spreadsheet, drawing programme and Powerpoint type software as well as Firefox Browser and a myriad of apps that are either already installed or ready to download mostly for free. But that’s not why we are here!
Make sure that you have an internet connection either through wireless or wired ethernet. Both worked ‘out of the box’ for me, but you may have to fiddle about a bit to get the internet working depending on your wireless adapter and LAN card.
STEP 3: Installing indiestor
Follow the indiestor instructions for installing the indiestor software:
To do this you will have to use the Terminal in Ubuntu which is the same as Terminal on Mac or the Command line on a PC.
To access it press Ctrl Alt T or click on the Dash icon in the top left corner of the Ubuntu desktop and search for Terminal.
You can copy and paste the commands from the indiestor Installation guide but beware Ctrl V doesn’t work! You can either click the centre button on your mouse or go to the menu at the top of the screen and click Paste in the Edit menu.
There is a guide to using the terminal here:
In step 5 of the installation guide: sudo usermod -a -G indiewheel
Put in the username that appears in the Terminal window when you first start it. That will be the admin user. So mine was nick-ubuntu (make sure you ditch the < > which confused me for a while But then I am an idiot!!)
Once indiestor has installed itself you can start playing around.
STEP 4: Setting up indiestor
For the test system I started by following the instructions here:
To begin with you want to do this in the Terminal of the Ubuntu GUI. Simpler than trying to log in from a different machine.
Go to the “Working Example” half way down the page and follow the instructions copying and pasting the commands.
You should now have set up a Work Group with three users.
Now to connect up your edit machines.
STEP 5: Connecting to the server
To make any real sense of the test you need at least 2 separate Edit computers. I had my main Win7 HPxw8600 and a MacbookPro both running Avid MediaComposer. (It doesn’t matter what version)
You will also need an Ethernet Router or switch to connect these two machines to the Ubuntu server machine. I used an old Virgin superhub that I had lying around.
Connect all three machines to the “Output” ports of the Ethernet router using standard Ethernet cables.
Your router should start lighting up if it has lights!
You can check if the machines can see each other by pinging them. You need to find out the Network address of each machine. In Ubuntu go to the network icon at the top right of the screen and choose Connection Information. Choose the wired connection and you should see IP Address: and something like 192.168.1.2 – that’s the server’s IP address (you’ll need that later).
On Windows7 go to the Network Sharing Centre, click on Local Area Connection and then click details in the pop up that will show the IP address. Something like 220.127.116.11
On Mac open Network preferences click on Ethernet and you should see the IP address something like 192.168.1.4
In Terminal on the Ubuntu server type “ping 192.168.1.3” and you should see some packets of data being written to the PC if not then there is something wrong with your connection. Type Ctrl C to stop.
Having successfully proved that you have connections you can go ahead and connect your users to the server:
STEP 6: Connecting to indiestor
Mac users need to install a separate bit of software called Thursby Dave to enable the Mac to connect to the Linux server:
There is a 14 day trial here: https://store.thursby.com/evaluations/dave10.html which is enough to see if it works. Having installed this Mac users should switch to Finder and use Command + K or click Go > connect to server:
in the example above that would be: smb://192.168.1.2/indiestor-mac
Windows users should right-click on “Computer” then choose Map Network Drive. It is important that users agree to map mounts to drive ‘Z’ using the following path:
in the example above that would be: \\192.168.1.2\indiestor-win
You will be asked for a username and password. This is where you can be Edgar, Allan and Poe with the appropriate password.
You can tell the machine to remember that but the ‘Connect using different credentials’ option is handy if you want to sign in as a different user.
A drive Z should appear on Windows and an indiestor-mac drive should appear on Macs. Good so far.
Now boot up Avid. Go to the console in Avid and type “alldrives 1”. This makes sure that Avid can see network drives. Restart Avid.
Create a new Avid project on the Z drive called anything you like as long as it ends with .avid this will make the project a shared project. If this doesn’t immediately work try adding .avid at the desktop level instead. You can also do this with existing projects.
You should now see something like “AvidProject.avid”. If you open this you should get the familiar New bin and a ready-made Shared Folder which should have new Folders for “Allan” “Edgar” and “Poe” within the shared area.
Now get some media on to the shared storage. I AMA’d to some existing media and transcoded it to the Z drive at DNxHD36.
To share this bin with everyone else you need to copy it into your “Edgar’s” shared folder and it will appear in everyone else’s copy of the Edgar shared folder.
Other users need to open the copy of the Project which will be called “AvidProject.copy”. Edgar is the lead editor on this project so he gets the original and he gets to archive it when it’s finished.
Allan and Poe should now be able to open Edgar’s bin in his shared folder and copy the media or sequences etc. into their own bins.
I managed to get at least 2 streams of DNxHD36 running on the two different machines through a 100Mb Ethernet connection and a crappy internal hard drive on a kids PC. I also just about managed to pull a single stream of XDCam 50 through the network. With 1Gb Ethernet and a proper server you should be able to pull a heck of a lot more. But more of that later…
That’s it. It’s simple, it works. It is a great way of sharing your projects.
- http://blog.dothill.com/uncategorized/making-the-move-to-san-in-video-post-production interesting thoughts on a Mac based shared storage system
- http://www.xcase.co.uk/ for building a custom server
- http://www.universal-technology.com/ for CAT6 cabling and cabinets etc.
- http://www.avid.com/US/products/family/ISIS If you really wan’t to spend a lot of cash
- http://www.avid.com/US/products/Interplay-Sphere The future of Cloud based editing?
- http://michaelkammes.com/storage/choosing-the-right-shared-storage-solution-part-1-of-3-bandwidth-connections/ Great blog from the master on SAN & NAS storage
- http://www.raid-calculator.com/default.aspx for calculating the pros and cons of different RAID algorithms
- http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/datacenter/raid-5-or-raid-6-which-should-you-select/2645 Explanation of the differences between RAID5 & RAID6
- http://www.avid.com/US/resources/avid-storage-calculator How much storage do you need