At the time of the sessions that eventually became The Hitchhiker, Neil Young was slowly emerging from one of the darkest periods of his personal and musical life. Afraid of getting type cast as an acoustic lightweight, he had embraced the use of heavy-rock instrumentation, pushing away a fair chunk of his fan base from his Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Harvest period. Coupled with a melancholy mood permeating his life and music that brought on by the death of former Crazy Horse bandmate Danny Whitten, at the time, Young was clearly working through a sea-change in his personal philosophy.The opening song of Hitchhiker, “Pocahontas,” is familiar to fans of Rust Never Sleeps, but this version is infinitely more intimate than any version previously known. Young was very aware of the painful history of the native populations in the Americas and likely identified with their loss of identity. At the time of the song’s writing, these issues were once again on the minds of many Americans, and Young used his trademark nasal vocals to decry American Indians’ treatment and losses.The following tune, “Powderfinger,” continued the vision of forceful loss of culture. The uncertainty of the words is palpable and is a stunning contrast to his innate comfort on the vocals and guitar. On “Captain Kennedy,” his simple percussive taps on the hollow body of his guitar are a powerful touch that echoes the heartbeat and that fade as the protagonist faces his fate. The occasional chuckles and comments before the beginning of these tracks offer an interesting insight into Young’s mood during the recording session as well, like the self-starting thought at the start of “Hawaii.” “Give Me Strength” is the clearest picture of Young’s low emotional ebb, serving as a naked look at his disconnection. The raw nature of the track is part song, part longing for hope.By the time title track “Hitchhiker” rolls around, he seems to accept his place as a transitional force in the lives of everyone around him. With a painful divorce recently completed and a growing alienation from his friends and family, Young seemed in danger of fading away into a drug addled haze. The songs he wrote and recorded for Hitchhiker were clearly him realizing the dangers he faced and repudiating them with all the artistic fight he could muster. While fear of pigeon-holing prevented the release of The Hitchhiker at that point in his career, hearing them now is a wonderful insight into Young’s mindset at the time and moving forward. Though he was loathe to coast on his past successes, he was more than capable of making truly meaningful music in his older styles. That Young decided to fight against creative and personal stagnation and gave us one of the artist’s angriest and most seminal works. Luckily for all of us, we are now gifted with the opportunity to look at what might have been as well as what was. For his thirty-eighth solo record, The Hitchhiker, Neil Young decided to go old school—literally. All the tracks featured on the acoustic album were recorded in a single day in 1976 and have languished in archives ever since. Though some of these tracks were reworked and appeared on later albums, such as Young’s seminal Rust Never Sleeps, the songs were never heard in their original acoustic format—that is, until now. The reasons why this material ended up collecting dust for decades is almost as interesting as the music itself. You can hear The Hitchhiker in its entirety and check out our review of the album below.
When it comes to virtualization, the media and entertainment (M&E) industry has lagged other industries. For 30 years, broadcast engineers have relied on bare-metal hardware and hard-coded applications, trusting that these solutions could deliver the performance and predictability required of a broadcast network.Broadcast engineers have been wary of virtualization. But for M&E, virtualization in private, public or hybrid-cloud environments offers many tangible benefits: streamlined workflows, increased automation, lower cost of ownership, reduced production time and much more. In fact, forward-thinking media companies are now realizing that virtualization is the only way they’ll be able to compete in a new and rapidly evolving digital marketplace.However, these benefits can only be realized if all components works seamlessly together. To ensure this, Dell Technologies is partnering with many of the world’s leading independent software vendors (ISVs) to test, qualify and prove the functionality of underlying VMware vSphere-based solutions and virtualized configurations.Advantages of Media Function Virtualization (MFV)Prior to VMware, broadcast engineers relied on single-operation hardware, which was limited to one job at a time, whether it was playout, transcoding or rendering. With MFV, media companies can execute multiple tasks on a single Dell EMC VxRail hyperconverged node – an integrated system co-engineered by Dell EMC and VMware.For instance, we have a qualified solution with an ISV that enables us to get 2 – 4 compute tasks, doing either the transcode or the renders on a single VxRail, versus running each job on a separate server. So, what used to take 20 or 30 physical servers is now handled on seven or eight 1U VxRail systems.VMware vSphere can also create robust automated environments. This enables virtual machines (VMs) to move between clusters and stretch clusters to provide higher availability and reliability. If an environment goes down or is taken offline, the application can seamlessly shift to another storage array or vSphere host without any interruption or impact to the user.Now, VMware vSphere advances also allow you to run OTT client applications in VMs, as well as host the core video streaming applications for many broadcast and media solutions.Virtualization’s expanding roleAs the industry progresses toward “IP Playout” delivery, the role for virtualization continues to increase. Broadcasters must compete for audience and advertising dollars by quickly offering new services and channels with specialized content.Easy-to-deploy integrated playout solutions accelerate channel deployment well beyond the capability of traditional installations by offering a flexible, software-based architecture. This enables broadcasters to only pay for what they need and easily add new features as their business evolves.Add to that the evolution of Dell EMC Isilon scale-out storage solutions, designed for high-performance and advanced production environments, enabling media companies to shape and configure resources to meet the demanding needs of each operation in the workflow.Time is moneyTraditionally, it would take 9-12 months for a customer to get their broadcast workload environment into production. They had to size the equipment, set it up, configure and test it extensively before going on-air.With Dell Technologies, the configuration is already qualified and tested when the VxRail nodes arrive. VxRail can be up and running in a couple of days once the networking is ready. Once VMware vSphere is configured, the ISVs – who are familiar with the vSphere configurations and images – can load the base VMs that very day.ISVs have tested and qualified this technology right in their labs, so they’re able to move your operation immediately into workflow customization. This is how environments that used to take 12 months to get running become operational – and collecting revenue – within three months. We’re talking about greatly accelerating revenue from ad sales and everything else that goes along with spinning up a new channel. It also can shorten their technology investment depreciation cycle.This kind of efficiency has caught the attention of ISVs, some of which are now adopting VMware’s solutions as their underlying technology, with huge OEM potential.Broadcast challenges Uncompressed video streams with an IP playout – usually associated with live sports broadcasts – can present a significant challenge for broadcasters, who can’t have dropped frames, jitter or black space, so the requirements are extremely high.The ST-2110 standard requires 1.3 Gb/s bandwidth for an uncompressed UHD channel. To get multiple channels playing, we found it imperative to have the ISV engineering department working with our VMware vSphere Alliances & Performance Engineering team. It took a long time to solve these challenges, but we can now get two of these channels running on a single VxRail node.One of our ISV partners spent nine months working on a hardware solution to solve this problem. They had no success, because it wasn’t a hardware issue – it was a virtualization-engineering feat. They needed a virtualization solution and Dell Technologies’ expertise. When we brought our VMware vSphere performance engineers to the table, our partners were finally able to overcome this issue.Furthermore, when the next generation VxRail arrives with even more powerful CPUs, we expect to get up to four uncompressed live streams playing without any issue.Lower total costsVMware-powered solutions can help media organizations realize significant cost savings. A single VxRail – powered by VMware vSphere and vSAN – can do the work of multiple bare-metal servers. This results in less rack space, less power and a reduction in cooling requirements versus deploying server after server.Finally, we’re in the early virtualization stages with M&E, but not in other industries where we have employed this solution successfully for years. It took the banking industry, for example, a year or so to understand how well virtualization works. Once they understood the tools and their comfort level increased, the technicians’ work became more meaningful and interesting, and the possibilities of virtualization began to be realized.That’s where we’re heading with M&E, which is why it’s going to be such an exciting next phase in this industry.To learn more about recommendations and best practices, download VMware’s new whitepaper: “Media and Entertainment Workloads on vSphere 6.7: Best practices and recommendations for deployment and performance tuning,” co-authored by VMware’s Mark Achtemichuk, Bob Goldsand and Shak Malik. It is the definitive guide to successfully deploy and benefit from Media Function Virtualization.
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