By Steve Hullfish
The Avid NEXIS | PRO has all the features that Avid's big NEXIS shared storage solutions have, but scaled down for producers with smaller shops but the same need for reliability and sharing functionality that makes Avid NEXIS Pro popular with bigger studios.
Some readers may know me as an author, or from various forums, or as a feature film editor, or for my Art of the Cut interview series, where I talk to some of Hollywood's top editors. But most of the time, I'm a small business owner. I run a small, one-man production and postproduction company, fortified by some great freelancers in the Chicago suburbs.
To be honest, I never thought I was the kind of guy that could use a NEXIS. NEXIS is the rebranding of what Avid used to call ISIS. It's the next generation of what began as Unity, the company’s big iron network and studio-shared storage and collaboration hardware. That’s not to say I didn't want one; the solution offers tons of storage, the ability to share media and storage and projects between multiple editors, in hardware the big boys use because it’s rock-solid.
I guess Avid has been thinking about me as much as I've been thinking about them, because a while ago they came out with the NEXIS | PRO (Figure 1, below). This model has all the features that Avid’s big NEXIS solutions have, but scaled down for someone like me with a smaller shop, but the same need for reliability and sharing functionality.
Figure 1. Avid NEXIS | PRO
Honestly though, I’ve cut feature films and this has plenty of horsepower and capability to handle the shared needs of a post team on any feature film. It’s just a couple of rack units, but that’s perfect for me. I don’t have a lot of space, and I don’t have a big infrastructure or an engineering or IT department to support it. I need something I can do by myself. I have a big project coming up where I need multiple editors and systems working together. I've bought a bunch of stuff from Videoguys, this tutorial’s sponsor. I asked them how quickly they could deliver a NEXIS | PRO, and this unit arrived FedEx a couple of days later.
NEXIS | PRO Components
The NEXIS | PRO consists of the main Nexis unit with all of the hard drives and a switch. There are more expensive switches and cheaper switches, and they’re expandable if you need more connections. The switch shown in Figure 2 (below) is a Dell N2024, which means it can connect 24 computers, which is more than enough for me. If I needed more, I could buy another one and connect twice as many.
Figure 2. The Dell N2024 24-computer switch (top)
The NEXIS has two completely redundant power supplies. If one dies, the other has more than enough power to keep the entire unit running until the bad one can be replaced. You have to plug in two power cables for the NEXIS, and the Dell needs another one.
The Nexis is pretty much whisper quiet, the Dell is a little noisier. I've had one sitting within 10 feet of me for about a week, and I've done fine. Putting it in a noise-dampening rack unit would be a good idea, or just keeping it somewhere removed will work. It’s all based on Cat5 cables, so you can move it pretty far away. There’s no reason to have the unit close to you.
With the two units powered on, you need to attach the NEXIS to a switch. Avid offers a cable that handles tons of bandwidth, yet it’s pretty inexpensive, and all you have to do is connect this between the NEXIS and the switch. The final hardware connections are between the switch and the computers, done very simply with Cat5 cables.
NEXIS is not Avid-exclusive. If you want to use it with Premiere Prom FCP, After Effects, or Pro Tools, you just plug them in. The OS doesn't matter either. I’m running a couple of Mac-based Media Composers and a PC that has an older version of Symphony, with ScriptSync and Phrase Find on it, and everything is purring along fine, even with the Adobe CC suite.
I've got one of the latest MacBook Pros with no Ethernet port, but I can just use a simple Cat5-to-Thunderbolt adapter. If you want to double the throughput, you can run two Cat5 cables instead of one, and NEXIS can use that to deliver double the data rate.
There are two pieces of software included in the NEXIS. One is the browser-based management program that controls NEXIS, and the other is client-side software that gets installed on each computer that need to connect to NEXIS.