Q: How do I get started?
A: Go to Login, located at the top of pixelstrings.com. It will take you to the web application, where you will register as a first-time user and create an account. After registering, you will be able to log in using the username and password you created.
Q: Where do I access the tool?
A: Anytime, directly through a browser. PixelStrings will also be available soon by API, and through our various cloud ecosystem partners. The API release date is September 15th, 2018. Special instructions will be made available for those interested in the API.
Q: Where do I store my assets?
A: PixelStrings is a BYOS site - bring your own storage. This ensures you use 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 the working copy. This ensures that your assets and PxS-converted assets remain only in your control. To be clear - you pay for your own storage and egress costs out of that storage.
Q: What storage do you support?
A: Currently, AWS S3. We will support Azure soon along with other options like Wasabi and Google. This PaaS is a growing ecosystem, so look for new features regularly that improve operability and user experience in the cloud, such as the FileCatalyst data transfer systems.
Q: Where is the magical, Cinnafilm-Image-Processing compute done?
A: Currently in AWS only, in the Oregon (us-west-2), Virginia (us-east-1), and Ireland (eu-west-1) regions. Azure and Google compute will come online with the addition of those storage options. We recommend to locate your storage in one of these zones to minimize storage egress costs; however, if your S3 bucket is not in one of these regions, PixelStrings will still work with your S3 buckets, but just keep in mind you would incur inter-region egress costs.
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 is new 3rd party services, such as IMF from CineCert, which will have an associated upcharge (but still by the minute).
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 allows you to submit full, or partial, clips 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 you’ve seen in other platforms is also in PixelStrings. You will see that PixelStrings has the same settings you are already familiar with in Tachyon and Dark Energy inside other transcode 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: Right now, we are offering PixelStrings services to/from the Customer’s AWS S3 storage, with more to come. Below is a tutorial on how to get your 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.
AWS S3: Set up your cloud storage resources (right now limited to AWS and Azure);
- Create an Amazon Web Services (AWS) account (see https://aws.amazon.com/getting-started)
- Create an S3 bucket (http://docs.aws.amazon.com/AmazonS3/latest/dev/UsingBucket.html)
- Copy several test videos to the bucket
- Create an IAM role limited to just S3 access
- Have your S3 access credentials on-hand: bucket name, "Access Key ID", and "Secret Access Key"
Check back every couple months to see what storage options are 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: What version are you on, and what’s new or changed?
A: As of July 6th, 2018 we are on Version 2.1. Always check the RELEASE NOTES. V2.1 is a minor upgrade - we have added Sony’s XDCAM codec and a Video Legalizer. The Video Legalizer is from RadiantGrid and ensures color space and ranges in your video output are compliant with standards and/or studio and display equipment to ensure DPP compliance in Europe.
Q: What are the technical requirements or limits to use PixelStrings v2.1?
Q: What output video formats do you support?
A: Video support (encode) is limited to 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 2.1:
Video i/o: 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 / output to PCM WAV / or drop
Captions: passthrough (608, 708)
Next major release: MXF, XAVC, H.264
Current plan* for future releases:
Video i/o: ProRes, DVC-Pro, DNxHR, DPX, IMX, MPEG-2 TS, HUFF YUV, H.264 (8 and 10 bit), HEVC, CineCert DCP
CineCert “Advanced” IMF: - For Cinema 4K and UHD: Frame rates at 30 fps and lower capped at 800 Mbps ("IMF Mainlevel 6, Sublevel 3"); Frame rates above 30 fps capped at 1,600 Mbps ("IMF Mainlevel 7, Sublevel 4"); additional IMP features coming too.
Video wrappers: MXF, MOV, AVI, IMF, DCP
Audio Output: Pass-through and remap supported for all formats listed under “Audio Input”; Audio filtering solutions.
* Subject to change.
Q: What transcode engine are you using?
A: The RadiantGrid transcode engine.
Q: What about HDR?
A: HDR will be a supported format at some point - at this time we are still evaluating which standards to include. Feedback from customers is always appreciated, so if you have a workflow use case that demands a lot of minutes we would like to know!
Q: And DCP?
A: Yep - also from CineCert, roadmap feature.
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:
1. Copy the video from your S3 bucket to our cloud instance.
2. Convert/transcode the video.
3. Securely copy the output video back to your bucket.
4. Remove all locally cached copies of your files.
5. 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 2 to 3 minutes. If all available instances are powered up but there is still at least one queued job, PixelStrings provisions a new instances, which takes about 5 minutes.
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. In the event you have input videos that fall into that category, you won't be charged. You'll only pay for jobs that complete.
Q: What is the difference between PixelStrings and Tachyon and Dark Energy?
A: PixelStrings includes all technologies and features from both Tachyon and Dark Energy plugins for transcoders, plus new ones that are not available in those tools; we have an exciting roadmap planned for the coming year! PixelStrings will always have the very latest release of all technologies from Cinnafilm.
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 will be future features set of IMF, which will be a separate service provided inside PixelStrings.
Q: What exactly is Wormhole, and will it be included?
A: Wormhole is a professional grade retiming tool, able to change the runtime of a video by any precise amount by resampling all frames and audio. Wormhole will be another power feature set we plan to add to PixelStrings in Q4, 2018.
Q: Is there a place to find the user guide and technical specs for this tool?
A: Those will be available on the support page of the tool by Q1, 2018.
Q: I don’t see the answer to my question here….
A: Not surprising - we have been so busy getting the toolset ready I am sure we are missing something. Feel free to reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org.