My Active Studio

WorkingShot

Steve Choo’s boutique design, VFX, and animation studio, My Active Driveway, goes big with BOXX, creating national commercials for high profile clients.

By John Vondrak

Awhile back, BOXX Technologies’ Inside Sales Manager Dustin Leifheit approached me regarding a customer named Steve Choo. ”He has a company called My Active Driveway,” Dustin said, “and I think it would make a great customer story.” Dustin, like all of our performance specialists, occasionally feeds me the names of BOXX customers (or BOXXers as we like to refer to them) that other BOXXers, and those who wish to be BOXXers, may enjoy learning about. Since we try to alternate our customer story subjects to equally represent our different industry segments I’ll confess that my response to Dustin’s suggestion was decidedly lackluster. I had just completed an architecture/construction customer story and was not keen to immediately follow it with another. “I just wrapped an AEC story,” I said, “so I may hold off on this one for awhile.”
“It’s a VFX and animation studio in New York,” Dustin replied. I was having trouble reconciling the name My Active Driveway. It sounded as if they were into concrete, building driveways or roads. “Interesting name, I know,” he smiled.

So, when I first reached the perpetually busy Steve Choo, my first question was obvious. “What’s with the name?” I inquired. After first insisting that it was “really not a great story,” he relented. “When I first moved to New York,” Choo said, “I was trying to go to a friend of mine’s art gallery opening. I was driving around the Lower East Side just looking and looking for a parking space and every time I thought I had found one, there was a ‘No Parking: Active Driveway’ sign there. So I said to myself, one of these days, if I ever open my own company, I’m going to have my own active driveway.”


MAD_01Making a Go

Steve Choo arrived in the Big Apple right after graduating with a BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute. He went to work as a Flame artist, then a 3D Maya artist (prior to its existence as a power animator) in the production department at BBDO, the worldwide advertising agency. Yet in the wake of 9/11, he decided to start his own company.” It was a time when a lot of my friends were leaving,” he recalls. “They just left town, some going as far as to leave the country, but I decided to stick around. I was going to try and make a go at starting my own company in New York— try to rebuild a little bit here and keep the work local. It might have always been in my subconscious, but after that day, my thought was ‘You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so if I want to do this I should do it now.”

So My Active Driveway INC. a boutique design, VFX, and animation studio, was founded in New York City in 2001. According to Choo, the past 15 years have seen the studio scale up and down in staff size, property, square footage, machinery, and equipment. “We’ve made ourselves adaptable to the industry’s climate, says Choo. “Having come from an agency background at BBDO NY, I had a solid understanding of the ups and downs of the industry. When business is good, we’re running on all cylinders, pumping out work as fast as possible. But when there’s downtime, you want to make sure you’re not just burning fuel.” Choo believes that this level of experience and understanding ultimately led him to BOXX. “It’s why,” he says, “after trying so many other products, we stick by BOXX as the backbone of our studio.”

At one point, Choo and his My Active Driveway team did what a lot of other studios have tried. In an effort to save money, they built their own systems instead of adding to or upgrading from their existing Dell computers and BOXX workstations (in this case, a 2008 model 3DBOXX 8404 and a 3DBOXX 4860 purchased in 2011). “Workstations, custom render farms, and custom servers,” Choo recalls, “you name it, we tried it. We always thought, we can save money by just doing it ourselves and that sort of worked for awhile—until it didn’t. Then we were in a deadline and panicking because there was no support for our custom-made equipment that broke down during the job.” To make matters worse, there were other mitigating factors that Choo had never really considered. “Honestly, in the long run, if you calculate all the hours and research, as well as enormous electric bills, we wasted a lot of time, money, and frustration,” he admits. “Not to mention, every freelancer that worked with us was always fighting over who got to use the BOXX workstations, rather than our custom builds, or even the Dell systems.”

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DE Reviews APEXX 1 1401

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We have reviewed quite a few workstations from BOXX Technologies over the years, most recently the BOXX APEXX 2 2401 and 2402. But we have never reviewed anything like the APEXX 1 1401. In photos, it resembles a typical tower, yet this new system — billed as the world’s smallest workstation — is less than 9-in. tall and weighs just 7.6 lbs.

Our BOXX APEXX 1 came housed in a white case with black plastic strips along its four angled corners that serve as feet so it can be positioned horizontally. The system measured a mere 4.7×9.6×8.8 in. (WxDxH), 75% smaller than the APEXX 2. The APEXX 1 requires an external power brick, similar to a laptop computer. The 300-watt power supply included with the APEXX 1 is quite large, however, measuring 7.7×3.9×2 in. and weighing more than 2 lbs. That power supply connects to the rear of the case via a square 6-pin connector similar to those typically used to route power inside a conventional workstation.

An angled panel along the top front edge of the case provides headphone and microphone jacks, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, and a round power button along with a reset switch and indicator lights for power and hard drive activity. In addition to the power connector, the rear panel houses six more USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 Type A port, a USB 3.1 Type C port, an RJ45 network jack, two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort for the CPU’s integrated graphics, a PS/2 mouse/keyboard port, S/PDIF out port, and three audio jacks for microphone, line-in, and audio-out.

The APEXX 1 includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The rear panel includes two screw-on connectors for a small external antenna. The antenna provided a fast, wireless connection to our LAN on either 2.4 or 5GHz bands in lieu of the gigabit Ethernet port.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REVIEW
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DE REVIEW OF APEXX 2 2402

DE Reviews APEXX 2 2402

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After testing the diminutive APEXX 1 from BOXX Technologies, it seemed only fitting that we follow up with a look at an updated version of the more conventional BOXX APEXX 2. When we reviewed the original APEXX 2 last year, it proved to be one of the fastest single-socket workstations we had ever reviewed — not a big surprise because the company has consistently delivered some of the fastest over-clocked workstations.

Our original APEXX 2 2401 came with a 4th generation Intel “Devil’s Canyon” CPU, a processor featuring 22nm lithography and improvements in thermal efficiency compared to the previous Haswell and Broadwell processors. The new APEXX 2 2402 is based on a 6th generation Skylake CPU. The new APEXX 2 gave us a chance to compare two nearly identical workstations to see for ourselves whether Skylake lived up to Intel’s performance improvement claims.

The BOXX APEXX 2 2402 came housed in a custom-designed aluminum chassis measuring 6.85×16.6×14.6 in. (WxDxH) and weighing 19.75 lbs. As in previous BOXX workstations, the front grille conceals a pair of 4-in. diameter cooling fans and holds a filter to trap dust before it can enter the interior of the case. On the APEXX 2, one of those fans is actually part of the CPU liquid cooling system.

A single 5.25-in. drive bay above the front grille housed a 20x dual-layer DVD+/-RW optical drive as well as a panel containing two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, audio jacks for headphone and microphone, a round power button with bright-white LED power indicator, a blue hard drive activity light, and a small reset button. A Blu-Ray R/W drive is a $212 option.

The rear panel provides four additional USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 Type A port, a USB 3.1 Type C port, an RJ45 network jack, HDMI and DVI ports for the CPU’s integrated graphics, a PS/2 mouse/keyboard port, an S/PDIF out port and five audio connectors (microphone, line-in, line-out/front speaker, center/subwoofer, and rear speaker).

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REVIEW
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DE REVIEW OF APEXX 1 1401

The great “APIs, GPUs, and drivers: CAD graphical conspiracy” – A Blog from NVIDIA Solution Architect Rachel Berry

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About the Author

From Suffolk, UK, Rachel Berry has been a Datacenter Ecosystem Solution Architect since joining NVIDIA in January 2016. Having never worked for a GPU or hardware vendor before, Berry began her career as an astrophysicist in academia, then became a CAD kernel engineer (Parasolid kernel at Siemens PLM) working on applications such as SOLIDWORKS, Siemens NX, Ansys Workbench, etc. She eventually moved on to hypervisor and VDI engineering including virtualized GPUs at Citrix working on XenDesktop/XenApp and XenServer. Berry’s background and experience is in enterprise software development and (due to her passion and said experience) primarily follows CAD and 3D blogs. We are publishing her article in three parts. Part II and III can be downloaded at the end of Part I.

The great “APIs, GPUs, and drivers: CAD graphical conspiracy” Part I

A few weeks ago I saw a new post from Ed Lopategui at GrabCAD (I’ve blogged about them before – awesome company!) a 3D-printing/CAD company entitled “APIs, GPUs, and drivers: CAD graphical conspiracy?“. Ed’s customers are often the same customers the GRID GPUs and virtualization technologies I work on are designed to suit—professional graphics fit for enterprise run from the Cloud/Datacenter on mobile devices powered by GPUs in the server. Ed is also someone I once was or would have been if career paths had been different. We also share a lot of the same “upbringing” in CAD (as well as previous employers). I think Ed and I probably share the same insight into how stringent the requirements and high the expectations from software are on tier 1 CAD suppliers from their customers in high-end automotive and aerospace. I’d like to think I knew exactly what Ed’s customers would demand in terms of support, reliability, and traceable process, as well as product quality and testing, to risk putting a supplier’s product within their environment, so it was very interesting to read Ed’s take on GPU pricing. Continue reading

BOXX Had No Shortage Of High-end Systems To Show Off At GTC 2016

BOXX-At-GTC-2016-APEXX-5R-and-FLEXX-680x510NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference is all about showing off cutting-edge technologies and looking to the future (near or far). That being the case, if you appreciate the working side of graphics technology, GTC is some sort of geek heaven, with NVIDIA showing off what it has coming, and its partners doing the same. One of those partners this year was BOXX Technologies, a company that like NVIDIA aims to give customers the best possible solutions revolving around workstation graphics.

I was actually quite lucky to end up meeting with the folks at BOXX at GTC last week as various meetings kept me off of the show floor. I managed to catch them right before the show floor was about to close, and I’m sure glad I did, as the company had some great stuff on display. That includes its brand-new APEXX 5R and FLEXX.

If you’re familiar with BOXX’s current lineup, the APEXX 5R won’t be hard to wrap your head around: it’s an APEXX 5 in rackmount form. That’s what you can see on the top of the system in the shot below, right above the new FLEXX.

Click Here to Read the Full Article from Techgage
and see more photos from GTC 2016