The phone rang a few weeks ago at JMR Electronics, in Chatsworth, Calif. On the line was a company called Lowry Digital, of nearby Burbank, Calif., a pioneering expert in film and video restoration.
Lowry Digital was working on a rather unusual deadline job at the request of NASA: The 1969 video from the Apollo 11 moonwalk needed to be restored and put into archivable digital form for wide distribution in time for the 40th anniversary of the event on July 20.
The job, which Lowry chose to accept, was to get this brittle video data package ready for national showing at a press conference and for television networks to air that day and any time thereafter.
Here was the crux of the problem: The original film taken on the moon by astronauts Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Neil Armstrong had been lost over the course of 40 years. The video that Lowry had to refurbish was simply an analog film of the television screen images being telecast from the moon on that summer day in 1969.
And that video is-as everybody who has seen it knows-not good quality. The archival video clips of Armstrong’s moonwalk are vague, monochromatic images; it is difficult to get any sense of depth or clarity.
Again, the challenge: It all had to be ready for prime time within a mere few weeks, and it had to be archived quickly and securely. JMR, which has been in the data storage peripherals business since 1982 and now specializes in scalable storage software for large OEMs, has been doing customized data storage and other projects for the military for a long time, so it was called into action.
The Painstaking Editing Process
JMR’s BlueStor PCIe Extender, which was used in the editing process for the highlight reel of the moon landing, works especially well with Mac OS X; that was another major factor. Using this tool with its own patented restoration methodology, Lowry was able to complete the project on time and with excellent quality.
NASA officials then presented the highlight reel to hundreds of reporters during the 40th anniversary press conference in July.
“We usually use our own custom-built storage systems, but for the Apollo 11 project, we needed faster storage for our [Mac Pro] Final Cut workstation,” said Ray Mitchell, vice president of engineering at Lowry.
“The famous moonwalk video isn’t found on one reel alone; it is actually pieced together from several sources. We had four of those sources available to us, and five people working on the highlights we needed to put together for NASA before the press conference. JMR’s BlueStor PCIe Extender provided us with the speed necessary to get the job done,” Mitchell said.
Currently, Lowry plans to use the BlueStor unit with high-definition restored video files once the final complete NASA moonwalk reel is finished in September.
About 1 hour of footage was edited using the BlueStor Extender for file storage. The highlights featured the dramatic “before and after” of the video as a means of showing the company’s advanced digital-imaging techniques, called the Lowry Process.
The BlueStor PCIe Extender enables PCI express bus expansion from a host server. In addition, it provides five PCIe expansion slots in an external 3U (5.25-inch) rack mount also containing 16 hot-swappable SAS/SATA (Serial ATA) disk drive bays and a SAS Expander, JMR Vice President of OEM Sales Steve Katz told eWEEK.
Plugging a PCIe SAS RAID controller into one of the Extender’s slots builds a RAID storage system, and other slots may be used as needed for other peripherals, Katz said.
‘JMR had one of the faster storage solutions’
Mitchell said he researched other storage providers, but found them to be too expensive or not adaptable enough.
The BlueStor PCIe Extender is “a great piece of technology, and for the price, it’s definitely one of the faster solutions available. And in our industry, price is always a primary consideration when updating equipment rooms. I also thought it was beneficial to have a vendor that was located close to us, since service is the second-biggest factor,” Mitchell said.
Katz said he didn’t see the original video with which Lowry had to work.
“But it must have been awful. It’s fairly low-definition-remember this is 40 years ago. The recording equipment was probably pretty fundamental, and so were the broadcasts,” Katz said.
JMR makes a number of external attached storage products for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Apple, Hitachi and Fujitsu.