Q: How do I get started?
A: Head to https://app.pixelstrings.com or click ‘Login’ at the top of this page. You will see two choices for which cloud service to use - AWS or Microsoft Azure. These two clouds do not communicate, so choose the cloud service where you plan to store your media content. Once you click either “AWS” or “Microsoft Azure”, your browser will be redirect to the PixelStrings (PxS) web application site in that cloud. Register as a first-time user to create your account, then you will be able to log in using the username and password you created.
Q: Where/when can I access PixelStrings (PxS)?
A: Anytime, directly through a browser. If you are interested in the API, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send information. The API is not publicly available, and is set up on a case-by-case basis by appointment. The API is available both direct to B2B consumers and to cloud OEM supply chain ecosystems.
Q: Where do I store my assets?
A: PixelStrings (PxS) is a BYOS (Bring Your Own Storage) web service. This ensures that you are using the storage and security protocol you prefer. PxS will connect to your cloud storage, make a working copy long enough to convert the video with GPU resources in the cloud, place the output back in your storage and delete all cached copies. This ensures that your assets and PxS-converted assets remain solely under your control. To be clear - you pay for your own storage and the egress costs out of that storage. Associated costs for storage and egress for our two supported clouds are located here: AWS, Azure.
Q: What storage do you support?
A currently we support AWS S3 and Azure Blob. Soon we will add new options like Wasabi and Google. The PixelStrings PaaS is a growing ecosystem, so look for new features regularly that improve operability and user experience in the cloud, such as the coming FileCatalyst data transfer systems.
Q: Geographically, where is the magical Cinnafilm-Image-Processing compute done??
A: In AWS: in the Oregon (us-west-2), Virginia (us-east-1), and Ireland (eu-west-1) regions. In Azure, we are in (Westus2). We recommend that you locate your cloud storage in one of these zones to minimize storage egress costs that AWS or Azure will charge you; We do not currently provide options for setting up PixelStrings in other regions or for a private cloud, but please contact email@example.com if you have a specific request. NOTE: Be sure to store in one of the compute zones or the app will not connect.
Q: So, tell me exactly what my money is getting me.
A: PixelStrings is unique in that we require no sign-up fees or minimum purchase. We charge by the output runtime minute only, rounded up to the nearest minute. If your video is 10 seconds long, we charge you for one minute - same for 59 seconds or 60 seconds. This cost is fixed, and includes all the compute, reverse egress, codecs, and conversion required to perform the process. It also includes basic technical support, etc. It is truly a pay-as-you-go system, which is why it is so different than what has been done before.
Q: Does pricing change based on what conversion or codec options I pick?
A: No. Select just one conversion option or all of them together - the pricing is the same regardless of what options you pick. The only exception would be third-party services, such as IMF from CineCert, which will have an associated upcharge (but still by the minute). The CineCert IMF is currently the only way to encode to J2K, but we will update that later (i.e., encode to J2K without IMF).
Q: I’m not familiar with Cinnafim’s tools; how do I test my workflows to make sure I’m getting the desired output?
A: We have a ‘Test Mode’ to address this. In the Assets page, when your clip and workflows are selected, click the ‘Submit Tests’ button. This lets you submit full length or partial length clips (where you select “in” and “out” points) at a 50% discount. The output will contain a light watermark. If you can prep your test clips to be under $1, then you will essentially be testing each workflow run for $1. That $1 covers all the compute power, codecs, and technology costs associated with bringing you this toolset. Keep in mind that if you were to test these workflows on a demo machine or on a purchased system, or even pay for the footage at a service center, you likely would pay much more for the testing process.
Q: I have used the Cinnafilm products in other systems. Is this similar?
A: Yes. All the core functionality and resulting outputs are identical across all platforms, including PixelStrings. You will see that PixelStrings has the same settings you are already familiar with in SpaceTime (formerly called “Tachyon library” as well) and Dark Energy in other conversion/transcoding systems, so if you already know your settings from using these tools on prem, you can use them in PixelStrings.
Q: I’m new to the idea of storing in the cloud. Is it safe? Where do I start?
A: We currently offer PixelStrings services to/from your cloud storage volume in AWS or Azrure, with more to come. Below is a tutorial on how to get AWS S3 up and running. AWS even has some free trial storage. Is it safe? Well, major Hollywood studios have audited and accepted S3 storage for their own use on television and film projects. That’s a good sign.
Set up your cloud storage resources (right now limited to AWS and Azure);
– Create an Amazon Web Services account, setup IAM roles, create an S3bucket (user https://vimeo.com/287298367)
– Create an Microsoft Azure account storage (demo video coming soon)
Check back every few months to see what new storage options become available.
Q: How do I purchase PxS credits?
A: The application has an embedded purchase option that takes all major credit cards. If you wish to purchase through a standard PO/invoice process, please send us a request for credits (in $USD) at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a quote - bulk discounts are available. For Purchase Order processing, the credits will be posted to your account after the invoice is paid in full, so please take this into account. Look for promos and/or occasional discount codes provided at major trade shows! If you need more information, contact us at email@example.com.
Q: Do you store my credit card data?
A: We do not store any credit card data; we use Stripe externally, and they have a secure process.
Q: What does it cost? Is storage included?
A: See the INTRODUCTORY RATE CARD for pricing. Pricing includes compute and image processing only. All storage and egress charges to PixelStrings are your own to handle within S3 - i.e., you manage your own storage.
Q: Where can I check my balance?
A: Your account balance is kept current in "real time" in the upper right corner of the Web UI. You can view details in the "Statements" tab, which shows video filenames, job details, the cost of each job, and a running balance.
Q: Is there a way to get discounts?
A: Yes. Purchase bulk minutes, or sign up for a subscription plan. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information.
Q: What version are you on, and what’s new or changed?
A: As of November 1, 2018, PixelStrings is on version 2.4. Always check the RELEASE NOTES. Recent adds include the award-winning Wormhole retimer to the image processing workflow stack. For the time being, this retimer is clip-by-clip only, but it is the same technology as the full Wormhole stack, and will retime audio, video, and captions. With the API you can send clips to the Wormhole retimer. In addition, we have added Microsoft Azure as a compute resource for your content in Azure blob storage. H.264 and XAVC 4K have been added as output codecs, and some other improvements have been made for IMF (e.g., Netflix compliant J2K profile, UI enhancements, various bug fixes). Also, we have added the NEW SpaceTime 8 (Tachyon 8 and Dark Energy 8), and the API is now ready.
Q: What are the technical requirements or limits to use PixelStrings v2.4?
Q: What output video formats do you support?
A: Video support (encode) is limited to XAVC, H264, XDCAM, DNxHD and J2K for IMF; ProRes is disabled pending license grant from Apple for the new transcode engine. Over time, with new releases, additional codecs and features will be added; PixelStrings will grow in features as the market changes. The list below includes the current, release version of codecs, as well as the planned list of expanded codec capabilities.
Current release 2.4:
- Video i/o: H264, XAVC, XDCAM, J2K, DNxHD (limited resolutions, frame rates), ProRes is temporarily disabled pending a license update from Apple.
- CineCert “Basic” IMF Wrapping: JPEG2000 For Cinema 2k, 1920x1080, and 1280x720 resolutions: Frame rates 30 fps and below are capped at 400 Mbps (corresponds to "IMF Mainlevel 4, Sublevel 2"). Frame rates above 30 fps are capped at 800 Mbps ("IMF Mainlevel 5, Sublevel 3"); IMP includes Audio: 24-bit 48 kHz multi-channel, Subtitles/Captions: TTML format
- Audio i/o: passthrough, PCM, AAC (codec dependent). Custom Audio Channel Mapping
- Captions: passthrough (608, 708)
Current plan* for future releases:
* Subject to change.
- Video i/o: ProRes, DVC-Pro, DNxHR, DPX, IMX, MPEG-2 TS, HUFF YUV, HEVC, CineCert DCP, HDR (formats TBD)
- CineCert “Advanced” IMF: - For Cinema 4K and UHD: Frame rates at 30 fps and lower capped at 800 Mbps ("IMF Main Level 6, Sublevel 3"); Frame rates above 30 fps capped at 1,600 Mbps ("IMF Main Level 7, Sublevel 4"); additional IMP features coming too.
- Audio i/o: AC-3(c), AC-3(p), HE-AAC, LC-AAC, MP2_MP3, PCM_AES, Vorbis
- Video wrappers: MXF, MOV, AVI, IMF, DCP
- Audio Output: Pass-through and remap supported for all formats listed under “Audio Input”; Audio filtering solutions.
Q: What transcode engine are you using?
A: The RadiantGrid transcode engine.
Q: What is the functional difference between your “on-prem” offerings with RadiantGrid and the PixelStrings platform?
A: There are several technical differences, other than the pricing model:
- Codecs: on-prem provides different and more varied codecs: ProRes,H.264, DNxHD, MPEG2, J2K, DV/DVC Pro, QT, MXF (AS-02/03/11, Op1A, P2, XDCAM, XAVC), GXF, LXF, MP4, MPEG (TS/PS/Dash). Demand will dictate which codecs are migrated to the cloud solution.
- Wormhole functionality: the on-prem version of Wormhole has more options than the web UI, mainly the ability to segment and autocorrect around black or color bars. These features are available in the cloud version if you use the PixelStrings API, where your API client software can send partial clips through PixelStings, then seam them together locally.
- Dark Energy Pro templates are not uploadable to PixelStrings.
- Audio processing options are available on-prem only (except for Wormhole retiming)
- IMF is available only in PixelStrings at this time.
Q: What about HDR?
A: HDR will be supported soon. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months as we roll out HDR features.
Q: And DCP?
A: Unencrypted DCP is also coming soon.
Q: How does PixelStrings manage input videos and output videos? Where do they end up?
A: When you select a video to process, PixelStrings does the following:
- Securely copy the video from your cloud storage to our cloud instance.
- Convert/transcode the video.
- Securely copy the output video back to your storage.
- Remove all locally cached copies of your files.
- Typically, you would then download the output video from your bucket to your local computer for QA, distribution, etc.
Q: How many jobs I can process at the same time?
A: You can submit as many jobs as you'd like, and if the number of jobs you submit exceeds the number of available video processing instances, some of your jobs will be queued. PixelStrings adapts to changing workloads by booting up powered-down instances, which takes 1 to 3 minutes, depending on availability.
Q: What happens if a video can't be processed? Am I charged?
A: Some video container formats and codecs are not supported by PixelStrings, or contain invalid metadata. In the event you have input videos that fall into that category, you won't be charged. You'll only pay for jobs that successfully complete. We have improved the web UI’s error reporting to give you more details on why a job failed. Jobs fail typically due to invalid metadata in the input clip.
Q: What is the difference between PixelStrings, SpaceTime, Tachyon, Dark Energy, and Wormhole?
A: PixelStrings is a superset platform in the cloud that includes all image processing technologies and features from Tachyon, Dark Energy, Wormhole on the RadiantGrid transcoder. “SpaceTime” is the term for our image processing dll which includes Tachyon, Dark Energy, and Wormhole.
Q: Does pricing change depending on what features I use?
A: No. All features are included in the price; all codecs are included. The exception is third-party micro-services like the IMF wrapper from CineCert. More third-party services are planned for 2019.
Q: Is there a place to find the user guide and technical specs for this tool?
A: Those will be available in the support page of the tool by Q1, 2019. For now, however, we have placed technical guidance inside the application with the flyouts (click on the “?” icons).
For the API, there is an on-line detailed technical specification available for API partners - ask email@example.com for information.
Q: How does technical support work?
A: Standard technical support includes bug fixes. Report issues using the ticket system on the “Support” page of the web app. If you need workflow support or image analysis support, we can provide that, but you will need to have Advanced Technical Support coverage, which is included with a subscription or an API account. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any issues you encounter or email@example.com for general information. Later, we will offer pay-as-you go support.
Q: I don’t see the answer to my question here….
A: Please send us your questions! firstname.lastname@example.org.