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Little Frog in High Def

Adventures in Editing
Little Frog In High Def


Archive for December, 2006

Link to History Channel’s web page about our show:

And a reminder that it airs Saturday, Dec 30th at 6:00 PM.

I will be attending MacWorld. I was debating whether or not to go, but I was given an offer that gets me there, and pays me to be there.

I will be working the CalDigit booth.

Now, this by no means will sway my opinion of their product. I am still evaluating it. And they are paying me to pass along information and compare their product with others I have experience with. They aren’t giving me the model I am testing, it is a loaner. I am being compensated for my time. I did the same thing for Panasonic at NAB. However, at that time I knew the P2 card and the workflow rather well. This time I just received the product and will have yet to run it thru the paces as the majority of heavy editing will occur AFTER MacWorld. I will only get a rough outline done by that time.

I mention this so that people don’t think I am hiding anything. And also to remind people that I am a working professional and not a journalist. I don’t get paid to operate this blog. I do this to educate others. I don’t get a bunch of free things to test and keep. Because I work in “real world” situations, I am asked to test a few things on occassion to see how they measure up.

Just as an aside, yet something that is related to this…I push the G-Raid drives heavily. Because the ones I have performed so well. I have yet to recieve anything from G-Technology.

ANYWAY…back to this tutorial DVD that I have been putting off for TOO long.

I just saw the movie. Eeeehhh…OK. Decent. Jennifer Connelly’s character was kinda tossed in there for a typical Hollywood “boy girl” thing. Leonardo is clad only in a towel for another scene just so the girls (and the odd fellah) can oggle him. A couple lines that I could do without (“Out there it is ‘bling bling. Here, it is ‘bling BANG.'”) But, if it raises awareness of the Conflict Diamond issue, then it does it’s job.

Still…watch our documentary. It goes very in depth and explains the whole diamond trade rather well. I am glad I was given the opportunity to work on it.

I will have to do some more testing of this when I get re-creation footage in for my next project (ANDREW JACKSON), but thus far I like it.

It is a color correction tool that works with After Effects, Motion and Final Cut Pro. It has all the controls that the 3-way color corrector has (although arranged like they are on a DaVinci control surface)…with one big advantage.


For a demo of what I am talking about, please go to Stu’s blog where there is a great demo:

This has been out for a week or two, so I am behind in my posting.

Sorry folks, we had to remove the tease for legal reasons. This is THE show open for the show, not a trailer. And because it is part of the show that will air, it cannot be posted.

Again, sorry. I’ll post it again after it airs.

December 30 at 6PM. 6PM Eastern I believe…because when I posted the Mexican American War airdate the time wasn’t right for the west coast. But, December 30th is the date, so look for it on your guide…or TV guide. Don’t miss it. This is our Emmy shot.

Currently the show is being “onlined.” What that entails is upconverting all the SD footage to DVCPRO HD, then color correcting. Right now the show is in my partner Dan Wolfmeyer’s capable hands. But I did get to prep some footage for upconverting via a Terranex. It was pretty slick actually. Let me get into that a little.

The source footage from one company arrived on BetaSP. They sent the FULL TAPES, not just selects, so I had to go thru the show and note all the timecodes so that we only captured what we needed…with handles. The first thing I did was download the Excel file from and use it to type in the tape and timecode information. It has very clear instructions on what to do. I’d like to THANK VERY MUCH the kind soul that created that file and provided it free of charge. Wonderful community of collaborators we have here.

OK, so I had a LOT of this stock footage in the project, but how do we find it all? And it a timely and organized manner. Well, this is pretty slick. I created a new project to have a clean place to store things. I opened up my sequence (I went act by act to do it in small chunks), typed APPLE-F and searched for “ITN,” since we labelled all the clips with the company that provided them (ITN, ABC, AETN, etc) and then clicked FIND ALL. This highlighed all the clips containing that name. I then dragged one clip (the rest followed) and then they all neatly appeared in the Browser as separate clips. I deleted the audio clips and transitions and was left with a list of clips. I opened them and in the viewer went to the IN point, typed in the information into the Excel file including the tape number and IN and out point information (adding 1 second handles on either end). I did this for every act until I ended up with 216 clips.

I exported the files as a tab deliniated file, imported that back into the project and all the clips appeared, ready to be captured. I captured them at uncompressed 8-bit SD, strung them out in a timeline (deleting duplicates). We slowed many of the clips down in the offline cut, so Dan had the brilliant idea to slow them down in the 8-bit timeline BEFORE we output and upconverted.

Then we had the footage upconverted at a post facility with a Terranex box (center extraction) and transferred to DVCPRO HD tape, captured the result and were impressed with the results. A few clips we captured initially at 8-bit uncompressed needed reframing towards the top and bottom of the frame, so the center extraction wouldn’t work. For those clips we use Compressor to convert to DVCPRO HD.

OH…Dan fixed the bad math I had in the droplet. And he made droplets for center, upper and lower extractions. See? Collaborative community. I love it. They are available at

Now, after a short break I am onto the next History Channel project, ANDREW JACKSON.

“Who cut the Tease?”

Thank you ladies and germs.

Finally getting around to reformatting the RAID and adding the 5th drive. I raid striped it Raid 3, and get some pretty mean read/write speeds. All done with the AJA and are measured in MB/s:

1 GB file test:

DVCPRO HD 720p60 – 236 Read/238 Write
Uncompressed 10-bit 1080i HD – 316 Read/307 Write


On a side note. I have been contacted by the folks at CalDigit and I will be receiving a S2VR Duo to evaluate and review. I am anxiously awaiting its arrival and can’t wait to test it. While I am a big fan of G-Raids and FW800, the future of media storage seems to be SATA connections and from what I can tell, CalDigit is emerging as the leader in this arena. It’ll be nice to see how they compare to my G-Raids.

The cable issue has me worried. They are stretches a bit far for my taste, and really, they aren’t shielded external cables, but internal cables that I am taking “out of the box.” While they are cheaper than external cables, cheaper isn’t always a good thing.

So…I am thinking of adding a couple components.

First, two of these(2x$40=$80):

Then the cable to go between them ($60):

This will allow me to connect four of the internal cables to an external converter, then have a looooong 6ft reach. MUCH better. This does increase the cost of the Tower to $255. Still cheaper than the $500 5-drive arrays out there, and about as much as a few I found for $250-$350. The big plus for me still is the fact that it is quiet. Cutting down on edit room noise is a good thing. A GREAT thing actually. Better for one who does all the temp VO (like I do), better to hear your footage…better for your ears in general.

If I didn’t already have the Tempo 4+4 card, I’d be exploring Multiport options. Multiport options for this would include a drive cage or two. Maybe later, after I pay off my current system, I’ll explore those options. Or any new one that might have reared it’s ugly head.

That is what I am dubbing this thing I built….the Quiet Tower Raid. Because it is so darn quiet. And again, I did this with the aid of Patrick Sheffield. This was an idea that we have been knocking around for a while. And my editing partner Dan Wolfmeyer and I have had many conversations about how to do this as well. So it was a collaborative effort.

And well, it was quite a task to assemble.

The main reason for this was the length of the SATA cables. This is due to the fact that they are INTERNAL SATA cables, so they have a maximum length of 40″. Because of this the assembly had to be orchestrated carefully. So, before I started, I grabbed a cold one.

Imported from Germany. A really good dark beer, not at all bitter. ANYWAY…

The first thing I had to do was hotwire the Tower’s power supply. Because it was a computer power supply, it was designed to interface with a motheboard…and therefore wouldn’t power up on it’s own. It needs to receive a signal from the motherboard before it would do that. So Pat Sheffield did a little web research and found out how to “hot wire” the power supply so that it would turn on without a motherboard. On the main connector that connects to the motherboard, you need to cross two wires. The green one with ANY black one. We tested it earlier (two weeks ago) by using a paperclip and bridging them thru the connector. We turned on the unit and…heard nothing. I had to look at the fan to see that it was moving. I tell you this thing is quiet. So, with a couple sips of beer in me, I grabbed the wire cutters and cut the wires, then crossed them thus:

Pardon the fuzzy photo. The flash made it too bright to see, and when I turned it off, it focused on the wrong thing. Ah well.

Next, I opened the G5 and disassembled the Popsicle SATA:

Sad to see it go, but I know what I am building is MUCH better. Well, I still have a popsicle drive in the machine. A while ago I swapped out my system drive for a larger drive, so I took the old system drive, put on the popsicle legs and set it inside the machine. This, of course, took up one of the internal SATA connections. One of the four. On the remaining three I connected the longer 40″ cables and removed one of my PCI slot covers and strung the cables out thru the opening.

That done I put the cover back on and tucked the G5 back into the cubby under my desk. I had to trade positions with the other G5 (the one with the mapping software) so that it is closer to the roling card that I was putting the Tower into.

I turned my attention to the Dark Tower. I removed the four drive trays from the lower drive area and attached the drives to them. Four screws thru the bottom of the trays.

I separated out the power connections and tucked the rest of the cabling into the emtpy upper drive area to get them out of the way. I then took 2 of the power Y-splitters and connected them to the drives. Now came the tricky part. The power cables had plenty of room, which was good because I had to connect them to the drive BEFORE I slid them into place. Because there is no way I can do so once they were slid into place. The power was easy, as I said, it was the SATA cables that were tricky…because they were not that long. So I maneuvered the case as close as I could to the tower, set it on top of a box to elevate it and get as much slack as I could on the SATA cables. I had to get them close where they slid into place, connect the cables, then slide them in two at a time.

As you recall I had 3 internal cables snaking out the back of the G5. And I had FIVE drives in my Quiet Tower. So I connected two external SATA>Internal SATA cables to the external ports on my Sonnet 4+4 card. Those cables had PLENTY of room. So one of the lower 4 had this cable connected, and I had plenty of room. After sliding them all into place, then connecting the second External SATA cable to my fifth Hitachi 500GB drive

I closed up the case and carefully maneuvered it onto the rolling cart and put it into position.

Then I powered it up.

Did I mention this case was quiet? Thought so. After hearing the drives spin up the sound pretty much went away. I powered up the G5 and the drives came right up on my desktop. I opened Final Cut Pro and all the media came right up. All was good.

Then a day passed. Pat came by the house to see the setup and when I powered up…the RAID didn’t mount. The 500GB drive did, but not the RAID. The Disk Utility showed the drives, but not all of them. Somehow one wasn’t mounting. So we pulled out the case and checked all the connections. They all had power, they all were connected. One of the drives with the external cable was iffy. The external cable couldn’t fit in all the way because it collided with the power cable. But, it seemed secure. So…the Tower wasnt’ the cause. We pulled out the G5. When I opened it up I found that one of the cables was loose. Yes, this setup is definately straining on the cables. I’ll have to explore options for that.

So, in summation. The tower is nice and quiet, and cheap to assemble. $90 for the case and $25 for the cables. $115 for the case, which can hold six 3.5″ drive, add the cost of the drives ($1400 for 5…probably less now, under $200) then you are looking at a 2.5TB SATA RAID capable of handling 10-bit uncompressed HD for $1515. Opposed to $500 for a case that holds five drives (same cost, $1500) for $2000. A savings of $485…not too much considering all that you are laying out for the setup. But the $500 case cases offer more convenience. Attach the drives to the trays and slide them in…and they connect. My Tower took quite a bit more effort. So for the convenience and ease of getting your drives into the chassis, it might be worth the money. But if you are a bit of a do-it-yourself-er, and have some technical cajones, then this option works pretty well.

So I had a light workday Sunday, and I had today (Monday) off, so…well…I decided to move the Popsicle Raid into the Quiet Case. I fIgured that, well, if it didn’t work, I could put it back and go in Monday night and copy over all the footage again. With Gigabit Ethernet it would only take a few hours. So yes, it is ill adviced to do anything MID PROJECT, but I figured this wasn’t the only media, but just a copy of the footage. If it failed it wasn’t the end of the world. I could just go back to working at the office, or copy over the footage. I would NEVER have done this if this was the only copy of the media. And I stress that others do not as well.

So, it is working. And soon I will post my entire workflow for how I did it, with pics. Let me just say now that I wish I had gotten longer SATA cables. The place I ordered the cables from had 40″ as their max length. I would like to have 6′ cables…but those only come in the EXTERNAL cables. Really, why would you need 6′ INTERNAL cables? Well, I did. Because I had 4 internal SATA connections. Yes, I had 4 external ones too, but the internal cables are cheaper, and I am connecting 6 drives to this SATA card, so…I’ll get into that later.

Let me just say that it is very quiet. Extremely quiet. My G5 is louder. And the RAID array came right up and FCP opened up and found all the media.

OK…back to enjoying my day off. More later.

The cables are here, and there is NOTHING I can do about building this enclosure…yet.

I am in the middle of editing and I am using the drives to store the media…so there is NO WAY that I will be messing with them until I finish the show and am done with the media.

But the case and cables are burning a hole in my…uh…floor? They are staring at me…taunting me. BUT…I waited this long, I can wait a bit longer. But Dec 16 is SO FAR AWAY!

In the meantime, here are some pics of the case again:

See those four trays on the bottom? They side out REALLY easy. So it is pretty easy to swap out drives. And just above them is a cage that pops out easily as well that holds two drives. Currently it is occupied by one Hitachi K7500 500GB drive…waiting to be striped with the rest of the drives as a Raid 50.