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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive

Archive for November, 2006

While I am spending the day doing Maps (with that terrific Curious World Map software that I FINALLY understand) and have a bit of free time as I render them, I would like to talk a bit about the current project I am working on. I haven’t had much opportunity to do that of late as I have been working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week and offtime is devoted to sleep, eating, and making sure my family recognizes me.

Before I get into workflow, I would like to talk about “journalistic integrity.” Making sure that what you put up on the screen is a true representation of what you are discussing at that particular time. Often times one might tend to ignore this a little as you just need footage that LOOKS like what you are talking about. For example, you might have narration that says “General Kearny approached several indian tribes in New Mexico and California in hopes of reaching a peaceful resolution.” Now, some might just throw up pics of Indians without realizing nor caring that the pictures they showed were Plains Indians, not Indians of the Southwest. Or, to get even pickier, they might be pictures of Hopi Indians, but Kearny never talked to them, he dealt with the Navajo and several California tribes. Even pickier still, yes those are pictures of the correct tribes, but not of indians Kearny dealt with. One might just use those photos to relate the “idea” that Kearny talked to the Indians of the area, and that might be good enough. I am guilty of not getting specific with the actual people who met, because you might EASILY not have a picture of the people involved, but getting the tribes right is very important.

In my current show, BLOOD DIAMONDS, we have several militant groups that are fighting, and we have to be sure that we show the right people. This is tough when not all the government soldiers wear uniforms, and the some of the rebels are wearing the uniforms of the soldiers they kill, and ANOTHER group of goverment soldiers from another country join the fray and then a warrior tribe not associated with the rebels fight as well. It is knowing who is who, and this is when you have to rely on the documentation that is supplied with your stock footage.

We are being EXTRA careful (not that we aren’t careful enough anyway) because this show will garner a lot of attention. Not only from Amnesty International, but from several news organizations as well…CNN, NY Times, Time Magazine. A lot of people from these and other organizations, or people from the area who watch it will know if we show something that isn’t right, and we don’t want that. Not only is it distracting, but, well, it is not accurate. We want accuracy because, well, I for one am all for truthful documentary storytelling…but also so that the show doesn’t get picked apart by people because of these inaccuracies. This is a powerful topic, and one that needs more attention paid to it, so the less distractions the better.

This really is an important documentary…an important topic to know about. The trade of diamonds from several countries in Africa led to civil war, human rights attrocities, millions of deaths, and poverty like you wouldn’t believe. How can countries so rich in diamonds leave it’s citizens so poor? Gotta watch.

OK…Tomorrow if I find myself rendering more I will get into some technical issues we are dealing with.

It was Christmas in November for me. A whole bunch of things arrived today. The silent PC case arrived, my SATA cables arrived, the new 500GB Hitachi drive arrived (so that I can have a 5 drive array for a total of 2.5TB and over 350MB/s read/write)…and a new iPod arrived today.

Yes…it was a HAPPY day. The iPod was for some consulting I am doing. I jokingly asked for an iPod and I got one. Hee. I needed a new one anyway. THANKS!

Now, I am not going to be installing anything in this case just yet. Not until mid December. Why? Well, currently I am working on a show and using those drives so that I can edit at home. I don’t want to risk losing the RAID and all the data by moving the drives.

Besides, I ordered the wrong size SATA Cables. I got 20″ unstead of 40″. Too short.

But the case looks cool. Soon…soon I will have my RAID.

IMPORTANT NOTE!

I just crashed…hard. The edit machine. Took a big of finagling to get it to chime and start up. When I opened my project…I had lost 2 hours of work. DOH! Oh, wait…the autosave vault. Whew…only…crud, I lost a half an hour of work. OK…not bad. Only that last half hour was VERY productive. I accomplished in that what normally takes me an hour to 2 hours. So…I went into my preference and set my autosave to every 10 min. I don’t care how annoying it will be to have it autosave that often. To not lose this much work would be worth it. LORDY!

If you use Final Cut Pro, and you have a favorite set of filters and plugins you might store them in the FAVORITES folder in the Effects tab…or in another bin in your project.

But, what if you want to take these favorite set of filters and plugins with you on other jobs? How can you bring them with you WITHOUT installing them on another machine, which is most likely against the legal agreement of the plugin manufacturer?

This topic came up at the Creative Cow:

http://forums.creativecow.net/cgi-bin/new_read_post.cgi?forumid=8&postid=913612&threadid=913508&pview=t

Matt G. had an elegant solution. Create a bin in a new project and copy all your favorites into that folder. Then save that project file (you can call it FILTERS…just an idea) and then bring it with you. Have it open when you are editing and you can use the plugins in what ever project you are working on, and not leave them on the system when you are done.

As you may know, I am editing on my home system on this current job. And as you know I copied all of the footage from their D-Raid onto my Popsicle Raid. (If you don’t, scroll down.)

So I will work…edit, render, edit, render. Then I will need to bring the cut into work so that the other editor can see it and make sure we aren’t using the same footage. I need to do the same, so I copy his cut. I also copy all the render files I create for that day. I use a little firewire powered drive to transport the projects (we have separate projects for each editor) and the render files (easy to locate as they are in the specific project render folder) back and forth. I copy everything onto the Raid, and since the name of the RAID and the file structure are exactly the same, the projects open up without having to reconnect.

Any new footage he captures I copy over…and when I do, I label the footage I copied RED. So when I go back into the folders and look for new footage/renders/stills/music…anything that ISN’T red…I grab.

Simple. And it works.

OK…my partner in crime…er, editing…has found a rack mountable drive case. This is the same case that the DR Group must use to make the D-Raid (what the work setup has), because it looks EXACTLY the same. Anyway, it is just a bare chassis, that looks like this:

iStar Rackmount Cases (look at the D-400)

And only costs $185. So that can take the 5 bay SATA docks from say, the same company:

iSTAR Cage

for $135 each…so that….hmmm…means that you will have 10 drives and the Rocket Raid and Tempo controllers only go to 8 connections without getting into port multiplication…soooo…

Use this:

4 Drive Enclosure

For $116…so times two that is $236 plus the chassis which is $135 for $371, just for the chassis and drive trays…no drives….no controller card.

So get one from Sonnet or High Point (all the options I am linking to are direct SATA to SATA and all PCI-X…but PCIe cards are available) and your 500GB Hitachis should now be under $200 each (look at www.otherworldcomputing.com…great deal right now) you should get a fairly cheap SATA Raid. One that is rather Do-it-yourself, but this is how you save money.

As for Port Multlipication…still digging into that.

OK..cheap. I’ll say it…cheap DIRT cheap. I am looking for an inexpensive drive chassis for my four Hitachi drives that I have currently installed in my G5 via Popsicle sticks (see, I want dirt cheap options)…and four more that I might possibly buy. Eight drives. I am looking for an 8-drive SATA chassis…cheap. Sure, there are the usual suspects for cases: Burly Box, Sonnet, Weibetech, D-RAID. But for the 8 bay Burly you have to shell out $1075. For the other solutions, you’d have to buy two chassis for $400-$450 each…approaching $1000. Now, why are these so expensive? All they do is hold drives, cool them and supply them power. Why is that so expensive?

Really…that is a question. I would like feedback.

Well, here is a solution that I and Patrick Sheffield, my partner in DIRT CHEAP crime, have been mulling over.

We looked at a couple PC cases. Yes…PC cases. Cases that you bought to start building your own PC. They have power and they have cooling. Here are the two we are looking at:

This one costs $30…

10-Bay ATX Case

Then there is this one, which is said to run quiet…thus the $90 price tag:

Quiet Super Mid Tower

Both are 10-bay machines…so up to 10 drives. The only drawback? The drives aren’t removable. They are mounted inside the case. I think these must be server cases…why else would you need 10-bays? ANYWAY…why not use these to store, power and cool the drives? Then I’d send the SATA cables from my computer into this one and connect them to each drive. That should work, right? Heck, it would be worth $30 just to test this theory out. BUT…again, between projects.

Want removable trays? Well…lookee here:

ICY DOCK
ISTAR Cage

These would be put in the front slots of the cases that I posted, as they both have 3 5.25″ slots. Then there is additional cooling for those 5 drives. PLUS…the quiet tower has SIX front slots, so I can put in two of these removable tray chassis into the front alone!

Am I just being a basement-level hacker with this? Tell me, what are the professional chassis other than a place to mount the drives with power supply and cooling? Or is there more involved.

Wait, I only have an 8-port SATA card, the Tempo 4+4. How am I going to control 10 drives? Hmmm…need a port multiplier…this one is $99:

Coolgear Port Multiplier

Then I might need a new SATA controller card that is Port Multiplier aware for $265:

Tempo SATA X4P

So for less that $1000 I can get a 10-drive port multiplied chassis and controller card…just about the cost for the chassis only if you go the pro route. So a savings of about $300? Is that worth it…for 10 drives? It is cheaper if you just go the 8-drive route.

OK…talk amongst yourselves…BUT HERE. I wanna see comments.

I have a Kona…

Kona LH to be precise. Sure, I won’t be able to upconvert in SD to HD in real time (something I really need to do for this current project) nor will I be able to cross convert 720p to 1080p when I output (I will always output at a post facility under the watchful eyes of engineers who know HDCAM and D5 decks seeing that I do not) but I will be able do do so many other things. Like output my show with burned in code to a DVD burner instead of taking 8-12 hours burning a DVD. I’ll be able to capture from analoge sources and output TO analoge sources which I have needed to do on small side projects constantly but have been unable due the the HD SDI only outputs I had on my Decklink HD. The decklink has served me well, and still is a very handy card. But my needs are more than it can provide. I think I will put it to work on the otehr G5 I have here in my office.

Who knows…maybe I’ll see about working with HDV footage using the DVCPRO HD settings. Play with other formats of HD for once. I certainly know that I’ll be better equipped to handle the Standard Def projects that I need to tackle. So…WOOT!

Why the Kona LH Shane? Why not a Kona 3 and do ALL that you need to do? Well, mainly…cost. I have a PCI-X G5, and the Kona LH comes in a PCI-X flavor…the Kona 3 is only PCIe. And for me to get another G5 with the amount of RAM I need will set me back another $4000…and I am still paying off the system I have now. No, the LH will serve many other purposes I need to get served. And as I said, for the output of shows I always want to go to post facilities who have smart technical guys who can handle complex decks that cost more than Magnum PI’s Ferrari. They can run the show at this point…I don’t mind.

As for the need to upconvert SD footage to HD…well, that is a GREAT need we have on this show. Much more footage than my little Compressor Droplet can manage, even with multiple machines. We have a LOT of footage to upconvert….you have no idea. I’ll go into that on the next blog entry…this weekend. My wife is out of town (VEGAS!) and I will have the kids…and evenings to myself. Evenings wondering what my wife is up to in Vegas…because I know what I was up to in Vegas. So I will write and write to take my mind off that.

Is freaking fast. Well, fast for file transfers at least. And I hear fast enough for network editing of DV footage…in moderation.

We are under a crunch to get A LOT done in a very short period of time. Another editor was being considered to be brought on board to get more done. The other editor and I proposed that we’d increase our shifts from 9-10 hours to 12 hours (him 7AM-7PM, me 7PM-7AM) to get more done. Another editor would need time to absorb the footage…which there is a lot of. Then they’d have to edit in the same style that the show currently is in…which will take time. So we opted to work more hours.

In hopes of avoiding the vampires hours, I have offered to edit on my system at home…free of charge. This would be so that I too could work during the day. So I brought my machine in so that I could copy the footage from the companies D-Raid to my Popsicle Raid. I will give it the same name to avoid any reconnecting issues. I first tried Target Mode and planned on copying the footage via firewire but realized that only the system drive and secondary internal drive would show up…and drives on a controller card will not mount this way. So I booted normally and connected the machines via Gigabit Ethernet. Then I started copying files. I had 1.35 TB of information to copy over. I thought it would take longer than my shift to do this.

I was wrong.

It took 6 hours. Yep…gigabit ethernet is fast.

We’ll have to figure out a system of exchanging footage we create (Voice Over, DVCPRO HD slow mos, whathaveyou), but I think this will work. I’ll edit the post after I get the machine home, hook it all back up and launch the project. That will be, of course, after I sleep until 2PM. See, THAT is why I want to work days. And while it would be nice to be back in an office setting, there is no room at the company to house my machine.

Oooo…I just checked UPS.com and it looks like I will get the Kona card I ordered tomorrow. If it arrives before 2PM I will be getting less sleep than I planned on.