TWEAK Digital http://www.tweakdigital.com Your stories, in motion Wed, 14 Feb 2018 17:33:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 Why Not FCPX http://www.tweakdigital.com/why-not-fcpx/ Wed, 16 Mar 2016 18:53:09 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=1029 You’d think that Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) was a pox-ridden kitten-killing monster, the way some editors and filmmakers go to great and painful lengths to avoid it. It isn’t, but the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) associated with Apple’s non-linear editing app clings like stink on pig shit, even over four years after launch. Let’s dive in and mix some more metaphors as we examine why…

Granted, the public bungling of the FCPX launch (April 2011) left a bad taste in the mouths of video pros everywhere, thanks to a premature release (oh, like missing some basic FCP7 features) and the immediate killing off of FCP7. If Apple had launched FCPX as a modern “technology preview” app, alongside FCP7 as an option or companion, or even given it a different name, I doubt the Apple NLE world today would see so much avoidance and abandonment to alternate solutions.

Now, I’ve been using Final Cut Pro since version 1.2.5 came out (with such sophisticated features as 16:9 support and the ability to make reference movies). In retrospect, it wasn’t all that much for $999, but it was a hell of a lot more than anything else for the money (Video Toaster, anyone?) and it was on your own G3/G4 computer. People were excited and eager to get their hands on it and use it on their projects, in spite of the fact that Apple’s market share was something like 2.8% and didn’t have any fancy iPods or iPhones (yet).

Editors really started to take notice about four years after launch when Walter Murch cut Cold Mountain on FCP 3(!) and widespread use of FCP really seemed to take off and grow at a rapid pace amongst filmmakers of all types. Until April 2011, that is, when it screeched to a panicked halt.

It is interesting to see that four+ years after FCPX’s launch, we might well be at a new “Cold Mountain moment,” with both Focus and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot being two higher-profile Hollywood films cut in FCPX. Yet the lack of excitement and the daily grumbling and repeating of falsities on social media and outright dismissal in conversation baffles my mind. Why is this the case?

To me, it seems to come down to hurt feelings of abandonment, perception, and inertia. And too much silence on Apple’s part.

Abandonment. Yes, it was shocking to see Apple end-of-life FCP7. Yes, they handled it very poorly. Yes, dear Steve was dying from cancer, even. But Apple’s never been one to lightly pussy-foot around technological advancement. People cried out when they removed the floppy disk. They cried out when they removed the CD-ROM. And they cried out when they removed a microscopic keypad from a new phone. But guess what? We needed to do those things. Do you miss floppies? Or ZIP disks? CDs? Or even Blackberries? I don’t. Sure, sometimes Apple takes a big swing and misses, but honestly, what other company has such an influential record? Yet for this NLE, that track record appears to mean nothing.

Perception. This is probably the area that irks me the most. Some examples you may have heard: “It looks like iMovie, it can’t be pro.” Or how about, “It doesn’t have bins, how could we possibly use it?!” Or “Well, I do a lot of work with This Other Software and it doesn’t link up.” And I know that somehow the crazy affordable $299 price tag makes people subconsciously value FCPX less (a one-time charge, mind you, saving you $2700 over Creative Cloud*). If it looks simple and is affordable, clearly it can’t be professional and powerful. Maybe we should just go back to quills and ink pots, clearly these new fangled ballpoint pens are too simple and affordable.

Inertia. “The industry has moved on to Premiere Pro.” Well, the personal computing world used to be almost 100% Windows, yet here you are on a Mac. So, clearly, you used to be a trailblazer compared to the industry. Yeah, change is hard. And if you’ve been editing for a few years, you’ve got a library of legacy projects to consider. Guess what? Even four+ years after death, FCP7 will still open and run just fine, right along side FCPX. Your legacy projects can still be accessed when you need them (probably less than you think), or you could even migrate them over with a $10 app (7toX) or the free and crazy powerful DaVinci Resolve.

Silence. In the past couple years, with Apple largely remaining publicly silent (but still putting out over 18 updates for free), various third-party sources have stepped in and spread the good word about FCPX. The website FCP.CO has been posting great articles, news, and has active forums. Chris Fenwick put out an average of two podcasts per week during 2014 and into 2015 with his amazing FCPX Grill show. There are well over 300+ video tips and tricks relating to FCPX, Motion (Apple’s pretty powerful motion graphics app), and more, at MacBreak Studio. And Alex4d has published quite a few useful free plugins (Grow-Shrink is a must-have) for FCPX. So, sure, Apple could and should make more noise about how great their NLE is, but a bit like the App Store, the FCPX ecosystem is a (very) robust place for others to shine.

My experience

I’m running FCPX on a new Mac Pro, with Thunderbolt 2 RAIDs, hooked to two Dell UltraSharp PremiereColor monitors. I mainly shoot AVCHD (Sony) in both HD and 4k resolution. Is my system fast? Yes. Quite. Does it crash? Very rarely. Is it fun to use? Heck, yes! I’m eager to be working on projects and I’m able to ingest, cut, and deliver videos faster than ever before. It stays out of my way and doesn’t make me do stupid workarounds. The metadata and keywording and skimming and magnetic timeline and realtime playback are a wonder. Did I mention it is fast? Exporting is a breeze. And there is so much power to make custom content when every plugin is a Motion project that can be modified (True fact. Motion lets you make plugins for FCPX). I haven’t worried and haven’t looked back and believe that for my business, FCPX makes perfect sense.

If you haven’t tried FCPX yet (well, thanks for reading this far, I guess), go grab the free trial download from Apple and then enjoy this complimentary FCPX training course from Ripple Training.

Case Studies

(thanks to FCP.co for the collection and community)

How Swiss TV went FCPX – Final Cut Pro X in National Network Operations

How the Hollywood film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was edited on Final Cut Pro X

How the Hollywood feature film Focus was edited on Final Cut Pro X – Part 1

How the Hollywood feature film Focus was edited on Final Cut Pro X – Part 2

Cutting the Game of Thrones trailer on Final Cut Pro X

Post Production on “What Happened, Miss Simone?” An Oscar Nominated Documentary Edited on Final Cut Pro X

How I learned to stop worrying and love Final Cut Pro X (Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes)

Loreak, Spain’s official submission in the 2016 Oscars’ best foreign language film category was edited on Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X cuts the major A&E documentary O.J. Speaks: The Hidden tapes

Emmy Award for Harlem Globetrotters documentary cut on Final Cut Pro X

Emmy winning ‘Best of the Bronx’ cut on Final Cut Pro X

* Can you really compare pricing? Well, I’m an Adobe Cloud subscriber (have been since it was introduced because I do use Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator quite a bit) so I feel I can. You can spend another $100 on Motion and Compressor (I’d say they are vital), bringing your cost up to $400. Some choice plugins like Hawaiki Keyer (green/blue screen, $49), Slice X (masks/tracking, $99), iZotope RX5 (advanced audio repair, $99/$349), and NeatVideo (noise reduction, $99), not to mention all the great templates and plugins from MotionVFX, and you’d still be $1700 richer than the cloud. And you rarely have to leave your NLE, making you more productive.

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Continue The Snowbate Program http://www.tweakdigital.com/continue-the-snowbate-program/ Thu, 07 May 2015 19:51:13 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=973 Dear Honorable Conference Committee Members,

I am writing today to express my support of the MN Film and TV Board’s Snowbate program and urge you to continue this vital program. My name is Jeremy Wilker and I am a filmmaker, small business owner, and board member at IFP Minnesota. Snowbate affects me directly as a director, producer, and cinematographer based in the Twin Cities. I’ve created two feature films (“Death To Prom” and “TRIUMPH67“) and a short (“The Negative”) over the past few years, all right here in Minnesota, and have been a recipient of the Snowbate benefits.

In “Death To Prom” (available on Amazon, Hulu, and Xfinity On Demand) we set out to make a completely 100% MN-made production, from talent (many first-time film actors), locations (Minneapolis, St. Paul, Golden Valley, Stillwater), wardrobe (Christopher Straub), music (many MN pop/rock/punk bands) and post-production (Splice Here) and we have wildly succeeded. But it would have taken my team of 60 cast and crew much much longer at the least, and perhaps derailed final production at worst, if we had not been a part of Snowbate. If we did not receive the rebate funding, the eleven local people responsible for post-production (sound mixing and design, color grading, titles and credits, final deliverable tapes and files) could not have been hired and our product would have suffered delays and quality as a result. Snowbate meant success for our film.

Our film industry may be small compared to the coasts, but I’ve seen sustainable growth occurring over the past three years from local and visiting filmmakers choosing Minnesota as their location for cinematic creation. The small amount of funding for Snowbate would encourage that emerging growth further, right when it is most needed. Please continue the Snowbate program. It means we can keep it local and represent our unique voice and qualities in the cinema of the world.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Wilker
Small business owner / Filmmaker

PS – I also want to briefly mention that the process to qualify for Snowbate was straight-forward and easy and the rebates on our expenses were promptly delivered.

———————————————————–

Jeremy Wilker, @TWEAK
IFP MN Board Member
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3206492/

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Local filmmaking podcast http://www.tweakdigital.com/local-filmmaking-podcast/ Thu, 05 Feb 2015 01:45:26 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=970 For over a year I’ve had this idea to do a local/regional podcast about the filmmaking ecosystem and scene here in the Midwest (the north). Finally I just decided to create the first episode and put it out in the world. You can check it a out over at Film45 and on iTunes. We are also on Twitter @filmfortyfive

My companion in this endeavor is Rick Vaicius, founder of the Flyway Film Festival. We chat with and about filmmakers, films, production, post, and other related personnel.

I’d love to hear what you think about the shows and the 45-second film reviews.

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Little Things Make Big Gigs Easier http://www.tweakdigital.com/little-things-make-big-gigs-easier/ Mon, 15 Dec 2014 17:57:14 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=967 Looking for some end-of-year gift ideas for your favorite filmmaker (or yourself)? Here are some little things that will make life easier or more enjoyable on-set or in production or in leisure. Some of these are new, some are old classics. All are super useful and are in my toolbox at all times.


Luxi Light Meter for smartphones

Check exposure using your portable smartphone.

Slugline screenwriting app
Write, write, write. This app stays out of your way.

X-Rite Color Checker Passport
With the rise of tools that can detect and use a color chart (i.e.: DaVinci Resolve Lite), you should shoot one for reference with every setup.

8″ Velcro Cable Ties
Because you have cables.

Transcend USB 3 Card Reader
Fast and small card reader.

Anker USB 3 7-port Hub
Expand your USB ports, including a high-powered one for tablets.

Anker Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad
Write on the go with this super slim keyboard for your tablet.

Bare-drive USB 3 dock
Easy loading and archiving of data.

Sennheiser HD-280 Headphones
Great set of over-the-ear headphones.

F&V Z96 LED Light
The classic portable LED light. Don’t leave home without a few.

Lenmar Meridian iPhone battery case
This case keeps you connected and charged all day. And night.

The Filmmaker’s Eye book
Color Correction Handbook, 2nd ed.
Ted Hope’s Hope for Film book
Film Lighting book
Making Documentary Films book
Roger Corman book
Any of the above books are not only useful, they are enjoyable as well.

StreetWalker HardDrive Camera Backpack
Not only will this backpack hold a 17″ MacBook Pro (should you still have one), it can also hold the new Mac Pro tube with ease. Or, you know, a camera setup.

* Disclosure: Most links above are affiliate links, meaning I get a little perk if you buy something. It costs you nothing.

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Sundance 2014 http://www.tweakdigital.com/sundance-2014/ http://www.tweakdigital.com/sundance-2014/#comments Sun, 02 Feb 2014 01:43:38 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=643 The Double waitlistMy third year at Sundance definitely meant seeing more familiar faces, more invitations to parties, and the weather was just phenomenal for this Minnesota boy with polar vortex overload. Not even the buggy eWaitlist could get me down for long. Thankfully, the app was updated and I had better success with tickets starting on the third day. And my week was completely made when I got email notification that I had received free tickets to the exclusive and intimate Belle & Sebastian concert (in support of their film “God Help The Girl“).Belle and Sebastian at Sundance

As far as movies go, I saw a couple less than last year and while there wasn’t a huge breakout hit that had the media talking, on the street the crowd favorite was clearly “Whiplash,” with Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons. I saw the short film last year and was blown away so it was frustrating to be unable to get tickets every time it screened.

DWP hatThe other shutouts this year were for both Minnesota-made films, “Dear White People” and “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter.” Both films were favorites for audiences and critics but didn’t garner any huge deals. The MN Film Board party for DWP was a loud dance party and the hats were totally awesome (they actually fit my huge cranium).

So what did I see that I liked? I’d have to say my favorite overall film was Kat Candler’s “Hellion” with Aaron Paul (I touched his arm when said congratulations, that’s weird, right?) and Josh Wiggins. A story about fathers and sons and tough towns and hard living and bleak futures. Wiggins delivered and all supporting roles were well done, although Juliette Lewis was so… normal.

Probably my next favorite film was Martha Stevens’ “Land Ho!,” which could well be a sleeper hit when it is released. Following two retired friends on a surprise road trip to Iceland, the duo traipse their way across the landscape with no real goal in mind. Paul Eenhoorn (“This is Martin Bonner) is the perfect restrained foil to outlandish, lewd, and inappropriate newcomer Earl Lynn Nelson (Stevens’ real-life relative!). He’s so crass and so laid back and so real, you just can’t help but love him. [Update: grab a cup of coffee and read all about their crazy awesome week at Sundance]

To keep this post reasonable, I’m going to keep the remaining movies short… oh, did I mention we also just walked right into the Fela band concert? That was such a crazy-great night of music! You should see this group play.The Fela band

The new Jim Jarmusch film, “Only Lovers Left Alive,” was moody and awesome. Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, and John Hurt are delightful as vampires. If you liked “Dead Man,” I bet you’d love this. A great soundtrack, of course.

Charlie McDowell’s “The One I Love” feels a lot like the awesome “Safety Not Guaranteed,” which also features the talents of Mark Duplass, along with Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men). I loved the story and loved that the sci-fi/surreal parts were just played straight. Mark is a pretty funny guy at a Q&A.

Jeremy and Richard Ayoade

The other film I saw with a similar story, if that can be said, was Richard Ayoade’s “The Double.” I immediately thought it was a mix of “Brazil” and “Rear Window” and “Fight Club” with some influence of Avi and Harmony Korine and all based on a Dostoevsky story. Jesse Eisenberg plays the lead role well and Mia Wasikowska was stellar. Audiences were mixed but I loved it. My wife’s brain exploded when she saw the picture with Moss.

Ira Sachs was back at Sundance with his loving and charming story of aging together starring Jon Lithgow and Alfred Molina, “Love Is Strange.” They are both so natural as a couple, you’d think they actually did live together for decades.Love Is Strange QA at Sundance

White Bird in a Blizzard” proved to me that Shailene Woodley is probably the top-notch young actress working right now. Gregg Araki’s film is more accessible than some of his previous work, which apparently disappointed some. I secretly loved that her two best friends could’ve walked off the set and joined the cast of Death To Prom seamlessly. Eva Green goes off the rails and the soundtrack is perfection.

Lynn Shelton’s “Laggies” made me appreciate Keira Knightley again, feeling rather like a new take on the “Garden State” vibe and with favorites Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night graphic novel

To wrap up this years festival, the two films that just didn’t work for me were the over-praised “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night,” the first Iranian Western/Vampire movie. It should’ve worked brilliantly and looked great in B&W, but was too unfocused and too long. As a short it would’ve killed. The other film to leave me wanting was “The Foxy Merkins,” a homeless lesbian prostitute buddy comedy. It needed more focus, tighter editing, and higher production values.

The dreaded Sundance cold/flu caught up with three of us in the condo, and we had to very reluctantly cancel a birthday party, but we all had a good time this year and look forward to next year. Seriously, the plans are already in the making. If I could only get rid of this cough…

If you want other links to all the movies I saw this year, check out my Sundance 2014 Letterboxd list. The Double waitlist The Fela band Love Is Strange QA at Sundance A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night graphic novel

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3 Reasons Your Indie Film Just Got More Expensive http://www.tweakdigital.com/3-reasons-your-indie-film-just-got-more-expensive/ Sat, 14 Dec 2013 18:58:00 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=597 Attention indie filmmakers: Your budget isn’t nearly big enough and it just got a lot harder to get into iTunes. Why? Accessibility, language, and rating requirements.

1) As of March 2014, Apple iTunes (and presumably others) will require your film to have Closed Captioning. It could get bounced out if you don’t comply.

2) Foreign territories will now require the film and all trailers to have subtitles, and all artwork and metadata to be fully in that language.

3) You have to now get your movie rated if you want to distribute in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

And this is going to cost you…

Firstly, let me just say that I am not at all complaining about accessibility requirements. I think they are a good and necessary thing. I just hadn’t given it much thought as a hard requirement for self-distribution.

Closed Captioning

These new terms came about in part because of an NAD vs Netflix lawsuit and the CVAA.

The NAD (National Association of the Deaf) filed the lawsuit against Netflix to get 100% of the library available to hearing-impaired viewers and it seems that Netflix has been pretty good about it.

This was followed up by the CVAA, or the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. This was supposed to be in full effect by September 30, 2013, to have all pre-recorded programming for internet distribution contain closed captioning. It looks like things have slid to March of 2014, at least for iTunes, with full compliance by June 2015.

Oh, and the price? If you are unable to do it yourself, expect another expense in the $800 range. And do not rely on automatic machine-translations unless you want nonsense and gibberish. Watch this video to see how bad it will be.

Subtitles and Artwork

Death To Prom SubtitlesThere just is no simple solution for subtitles. It is time consuming and will cost you money if you need more than one or two languages for your film. On TRIUMPH67 we were able to call in some favors and have Arabic and French translations done, but we had access to native-speakers who had time on their hands. It will be challenging regardless because even if you find volunteers, do you have a second person to do a quality check and verify the work? Will your slang, idioms, and colloquialisms actually make sense?

Do you actually have all the artwork layouts and project files? If you had somebody else do the posters, trailers (with burned-in subtitles), postcards, discs, and the like, expect to ask them once again to do more work (either for pay or trade). Or, you will have to do it all yourself.

What about doing it later? If these captions and languages are just a text file, couldn’t you just add them as you need them? Maybe, maybe not. It appears from sites like VHX and Distrify that there are methods of adding them as-you-go, but with iTunes it isn’t yet clear. I have been told in the past that adding subtitles after you are already listed in iTunes might require you to go through the entire submission & quality check process once again (along with the costs), but then I’ve recently been told that as long as you have all the assets it might be just another $50-200 per country (note: awaiting 2nd confirmation on this).

Film Ratings

In terms of getting your film rated by an official film board (i.e.: G, PG, PG-13, R, etc), you do not currently have to do this in the U.S. or Canada, but it is required in the U.K. ($400), Ireland ($300-$1100), Australia ($700), and New Zealand ($80-$900). This will also take a couple of weeks more time in your schedule. And do you have to pay full price to resubmit if you need to appeal the rating?

Are there any valid alternatives? I wish there were. Certainly some very good and accurate ratings are being done over at Common Sense Media. I have two children and these ratings are so much more useful than MPAA ratings. Plus, when considering what my two children watch, I personally find a cuss word or the sight of a breast a lot less offensive than seeing 400+ people be killed in 90 minutes.

A start-up that hasn’t seen much traction yet is VoMeR, a free and open-source system of Voluntary Media Ratings (hence the name). I’ve seen some people complain that we shouldn’t even have to do this, that it is a form of self-censorship (on some level, yes). But it is helpful, in the same way that food ingredient labels are helpful, should you choose to actually read them. You probably should know what you put into your brain as well as your body.

What about the notion that we should just be able to declare our films “unrated” and release them into the world? I tend to agree with this idea. But then if you are relying on this approach, understand that your film could be cordoned off into the “unrated” section of iTunes (or other platforms) and parental controls that set restrictions for viewing could mean your film, innocent as it may be, won’t be seen by your audiences since it is lumped in with graphic torture-porn films that get released unrated (for example).

Conclusion

The best thing to do, at this point, is to plan another 3-4 months of post-production once your film is finished, with the necessary budgets, to produce the materials required. Or get savvy about how to do it yourself. Take your final cut of the movie and load it into the free AegiSub and make a native-language transcription. This resulting text file can be sent to your multi-lingual team for translations. Once complete the subtitles will need to be an .SRT file and the captions will need to be an .SCC file. If you want one software tool to do it all, spend the money ($370) and get Annotation Edit.

Resources

Jeremy Wilker is the co-director/producer and cinematographer of Death To Prom. His other film projects include TRIUMPH67 and Typeface. Follow him @tweak.
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Shazam Bugs Your Life http://www.tweakdigital.com/shazam-bugs-your-life/ Thu, 30 May 2013 13:20:03 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=551 I recently saw the new Star Trek movie with my wife (we enjoyed it quite a bit) and in the pre-movie advertising there was an advert with a Shazam logo on it and if you tagged the ad audio using your Shazam app it would hook you up to a store site so you could directly buy the stuff shown within the ad.

As an indie filmmaker, this immediately intrigued me: how could I put this to use in marketing my film projects? So when I got home I did some research. And was shocked by Shazam’s big-brother implications.

Did you know that the newest version of Shazam constantly monitors your surroundings?

shazam

According to them, they only “sample” brief moments of your auditory life to see what “might” match up and you have to opt-in to this intrusion, but I have no recollection whatsoever about making the choice to click on any option to constantly monitor my life.

And as we’ve seen with sites like Facebook (mentioned in The Atlantic article), once it amasses enough users and business comes calling, well, kiss your privacy goodbye.

No sir, I don’t like it. But it did give me an idea…

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DataTale Thunderbolt RAID Review http://www.tweakdigital.com/datatale-thunderbolt-raid-review/ Fri, 24 May 2013 15:46:03 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=516 The recently released DataTale SMART 4-bay Thunderbolt RAID caught my attention as an affordable Thunderbolt storage unit for video editing so I contacted Oyen Digital here in the Twin Cities and they sent over a unit for me to review*. I supplied my own 2TB Toshiba 6Gb/s 7200rpm drives (four of them) that I bought at MicroCenter.

This is a compact, well-built, whisper quiet, and affordable Thunderbolt RAID that is quick and easy to setup and use. After using it for two days I’d recommend it to anybody looking for an affordable and compact Thunderbolt RAID in their home or studio setting, with particular focus on the video and commercial photography industry. Indie filmmakers should find it quite excellent.

In RAID 0 mode I found 7.5 TB of space (out of 8) with speeds reaching 600 MB/s. Impressive. Would SSDs bring even higher throughput? I’d imagine so.

In RAID 1 mode (two pairs of 2TB space) I found speed reaching about 180 MB/s on read and write.

In RAID 10 mode (4 TB of space), which offers speed and redundancy, I was impressed with write speeds of about 260 MB/s and read speeds reaching 360 MB/s. RAID 10 can have two drives fail without losing data, as long as they aren’t two of a pair, and seems to be a nice balance of speed (although slower than RAID 0) with redundancy (like RAID 1). I’m going to leave the unit in RAID 10 mode and put it to task with video editing to see how it holds up. So far, so good.

RAID10 Speed RAID1 Speed RAID0 Speed DataTale RAID db

The DataTale Thunderbolt RAID can also run as JBOD and HyperDuo mode. In HyperDuo mode you’d use three SSDs and one HDD to create the performance similar to Apple’s Fusion drive.

One thing to note, if you have your display at the end of your Thunderbolt chain, it won’t work if the RAID is fully powered off. You can dismount the drives, but powering off the unit does power off the rest of the Thunderbolt chain.

Check out the DataTale Thunderbolt RAID for your speedy storage needs. I am eager to see what they come up with next. Just keep in mind, RAID is not backup (thanks, @PeteBocken).

Current Rating: * * * * ½ (was 5, see below)

*Disclosure: Oyen Digital has provided me with a DataTale Thunderbolt RAID chassis for purposes of providing a review. I received it at no charge to me and I am under no obligation to return the product. I will attempt to keep this post updated with on-going performance notes, good or bad.

— UPDATE JUNE 3, 2013 —

Over the weekend, during which I was not editing, one of the Toshiba drives in the unit started making a clicking sound about once a second, but intermittently. I assumed it to be the click of death. The RAID Master software did not indicate there was a drive problem, nor did the status lights on the front of the unit. Still, I know that sound means problems so I yanked the offending drive out of the bay. To my pleasure, the unit kept right on working at full speed, but when I replaced the drive into the unit it showed up as a single drive (as expected) that was verified to be failing (via Disk Utility).

I exchanged the drive for a new one at MicroCenter (easy and nice customer service) but then could not get the RAID Master software to fully recognize the unit. A quick call to customer service found that a reboot of the computer would clear it up and I was back in action. The unit and drive were recognized and I was able to initiate the RAID Rebuild. I expected the rebuild to be quick (these are pretty fast drives, after all), but I started it at 12:05pm and it was only at 18% at 2:22pm. Near as I can tell from spot checking, it took slightly more than 12 hours to rebuilt the RAID, which was nearly empty. We need faster RAID rebuilds. It would have been much faster to delete the entire RAID and recreate it. Yes, as Pete says, RAID is not backup.

The other discovery I made is that the RAID Master interface is lacking some features that I glossed over during initial setup (it was a fresh system, I didn’t expect to see much there). I was unable to get emails based on system Notifications working, which would certainly be useful if a drive went bad. And the Logs don’t quite appear to be fully functional either. I would say these omissions, as well as the lack of hardware failure indications via the status lights, are a huge liability in the current software. I would deduct at least one and a half stars from a 5-star review for this.

— UPDATE JUNE 29, 2014 —

OK, the RAID Master software has been updated to apparently fix the issues I had previously with missing Notifications and Logs, both features appear to be working as expected these days and the DataTale unit has been performing excellently. I have modified my rating back up to 4.5 stars and would still recommend this unit to freelancers, editors, or anybody needing quick and reliable TB storage. I’d love to see this unit get a Thunderbolt 2 upgrade and a RAID-5 option, but I’ve been quite pleased with the performance and have been editing Sony F5 footage in FCPX without any restrictions. I’ve also moved it over to a new Mac Pro and it was also seamless to do so.

— UPDATE MAY 6, 2015 —

All is still well, with latest updates of OS X, FCPX, RAID Master, etc. Still in daily use for project storage and editing. Even with the drives pretty full, still seeing read and write speeds in the 250 MB/s range.

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6 Sundance How-To Tips http://www.tweakdigital.com/sundance-how-to/ Sat, 26 Jan 2013 22:23:56 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=469 Sundance 2013 badge & tickets

Six days in Park City at Sundance 2013. Six days of watching movies, attending meetings, riding buses, walking on ice, eating very randomly, drinking at parties, avoiding celebrity-seekers, snowboarding, and a little sleeping are finally done and while the journey is always tiring, it is invigorating and motivating and I am already missing it badly just two days after returning. Being immersed in such a movie-loving-and-making environment induces horrible withdrawal, like you’ve been denied your coffee fix suddenly and without warning. But the people you meet! The movies you see! It’ll get you going for the coming year, no doubt.

The first thing to know: the Park City slopes are fairly empty since everybody is watching films from sun-up to midnight so it is a great time to go skiing or snowboarding. The problem is that after a couple decades the locals know they can raise their lodging rates through the roof and have full bookings, so staying in or near Park City is very expensive. But no lines!

Jeremy on the slopes at Park City Mountain

Secondly: bring lip balm. Seriously. The air is dry in the mountains. You’ll also need water to keep from dehydrating. Especially since you’ll be partying at some point during your stay. Don’t be the person on the news who is causing a scene and then requiring medical attention due to dehydrated drunkenness. Stay moisturized inside and out.

Third: bring appropriate clothing. The celebrity hangers-on and thrill-seeking douchebags will do their part to ensure all your layers and bundles and insulated footwear will be oh-so-unfashionable, but when you see their spandex bandeau “dresses” and stripper shoes and lack of any useful outerwear whatsoever over their $100 t-shirts, you can at least be confident that any reported Sundance Flu will give up battling you and take the easy targets first. Seriously, 14˚ F actually does require a coat and mittens.

Fourth: prepare to stand on line. There are bus lines, ticket lines, party lines, food lines and sometimes bathroom lines. Get over it. 40,000+ people descending upon a small ski town means things get a bit overrun, but the buses are free and run very regularly and the port-a-potties outside the venues are the swankiest I’ve ever seen (they even have music in them). You can visit the box office each morning to try and buy tickets or you can wait-list movies at the venues. This requires standing in line to get a number a couple hours before the screening and then returning 30-60 minutes before the movie to stand in line again to see if they can fit you in, based on your number. It is a gamble, but there are always a certain number of no-shows and, thanks to them, you can see your desired films. Don’t spend all night standing in line for just one party, there are other parties and hangouts around.

the obligatory Sundance shot at The Egyptian Theater

Fifth: go with the flow. Chances are that your most-desired movie of the festival (if not actually all of them) will be sold-out. There are at least eight venues showing films all day long and there will be no way you can see everything. If you can catch 10-12 of the 120+ films playing, you are doing just fine. Serious movie lovers with expensive passes or industry types or journalists will see more than double that amount, but they may have access to P&I (press and industry) screenings that the public does not, so don’t even bother making comparisons. If you cannot get a ticket or you miss a bus, just pick the next film playing nearby. After all, you can hardly go wrong with a film selected for Sundance. Or walk up to the top of the mountain and take a peek at the multitude of films playing at Slamdance. Heck, you can easily ignore Sundance (except for its proximity) and still see completely awesome films. Slamdance is the more scrappy, edgier, more punk version of Sundance and quite fun. I, for example, got to meet the fabulous female team behind Best Friends Forever, which I happened to back on kickstarter.

with Brea Grant ('Heroes' and 'Best Friends Forever')

Sixth: talk to everybody. You’d be amazed at who you will meet and the great chats you will have. They are probably there for the same reason you are and they’ll have recommendations and tips ready to exchange until the bus ride is over or the venue starts seating patrons. Plus, they might know where there is great free food or drinks, which panels are worth attending, or which party is the one of the night to attend (or crash). Stay in touch over the year and make your return visit even friendlier. It pays in many ways to have a few connections.

scilla and jeremy at sundance

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Blackmagic Cinema Camera RAW http://www.tweakdigital.com/blackmagic-cinema-camera-raw/ Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:31:52 +0000 http://www.tweakdigital.com/?p=454 The Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BCC) is a 16mm-sized-sensor HD digital video camera that shoots RAW footage for under $4,000. Much excitement has been made about this new camera that few people have yet to use, mainly because it’ll offer 2k video in RAW mode with 13 stops of dynamic range so that you have the utmost creative control over the image in post production (like pro photographers shooting RAW still images). And it is a 12-bit image (more bits = more shading/less banding), when many other cameras are still only 8-bit. Plus, it looks and works more like an Apple product versus the slightly arcane and somewhat baffling cameras of yore (I know, some would argue that is a negative).

Anyway, a few people have the cameras and have been testing them out in the field. The guys from EOSHD (in English) and SlashCam.de have posted some frames from a shoot (in German), including an original CinemaDNG frame. I decided to take it into Lightroom 4.2 (LR) and have a look myself.

Here is the original shot (the full size is 2400 x 1350 pixels):
RAW DNG from BCC

Here is a JPEG of the original shot from LR (click for full size):
JPEG from DNG from BCC

Here is my adjusted shot from LR (click for full size):
Adjusted image from RAW DNG from BCC

I only used overall global adjustments to create this image, there were no gradients, no local adjustments, no retouching, masking, etc. My goal was to retain/extract maximum image details, not to do a final color grade.

As you can hopefully see, there is a LOT of highlight detail recovered, even though the original looks rather blown out in the highlights of the building on the right and the curving brick wall in front of it. You can also see a lot of new detail in the boat and the far-away buildings in the middle. Let’s take a closer look with some side-by-side 100% crops of the image.

Building detail and shadows:
Bcc cu 01

You can clearly see a lot more detail on the scaffolding, tree branches, cast shadows, and even the seams in the exterior walls (almost horizontal lines). I had thought this area was mostly lost to over-exposure.

The curved brick wall:
Bcc cu 02

I had hoped to pull slightly more detail back into the brick retaining wall and was very pleased to see full detail of the blocks and railings and benches.

The boat at lower right:
Bcc cu 03

I have to admit, this was a pretty big surprise for me. Details that I had no idea existed in the original image suddenly revealed themselves in great clarity. Very impressive for something I assumed was solid white and/or blown out.

The distant buildings:
Bcc cu 04

Again, you can see some seams in the exterior walls of the buildings and you get much better separation from the sky. Much more clarity here.

The tower and flag:
Bcc cu 05

Here you see much better separation from the sky, the building and windows just have more presence and definition and the sky shows more depth/shading. Nice.

I think this shot is a little bit soft overall and they said they used a variable ND filter so that might explain it. But, the BCC and RAW mode clearly show the benefits of such a system. You can shoot in challenging conditions and pull back highlights, detail, shape, definition, separation and color quite quickly and easily. In fact, this’ll be required on every shot since you’ll have to process the video to edit it. Shooting RAW means you won’t be able to shoot and dump direct to output.

The challenge as a filmmaker will mainly be: how do you handle the increased storage demands?

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