Back in 2003 when I converted my basement to full blown edit suite (a year long process), it was both a blessing and curse all at once. Gone was the commute and fighting with Chicagoland traffic. I could sleep in later and “get home” from work earlier. Sounds great! But the flip side of that, if you don’t have a serious commitment to putting up work/personal life barriers, you are always at your office and always working. And clients know that too. So what’s to stop you from working late into the evening or over the weekend? As I found out, not much.
Luckily, the home edit suite was short lived. In less then a year my wife and I had outgrown it and had to get office space or we would lose some of the larger jobs. The separation of work from home life was back in balance. However, there have been times that I wished the suite was back at home. It’s one thing to stick around the office to edit, but it’s another to stick around watching a render bar or compression bar just so you can finish and upload a file. What if you could do this from home? And what if it was free to you assuming that you already have a high speed internet connection at your home and office? Well, I’m hear to tell you that the solution is not only out there, but it’s a lot easier to get setup then you might think.
I’m sure by now everybody knows about MobileMe and Back To My Mac on the Macintosh (just try to get Back To My Mac working reliably though) and services like GoToMyPC.com (now supporting the Mac platform). There is also a client/server based service called HamachiX for Mac, but I could never get that to work reliably and it would often get very frustrating. About a year ago I found a free service called LogMeIn.com, which supports both Mac and PC. They’re goal is to get you hooked on their free service, and then have you upgrade to one of their paid accounts. But for what i use it for the free version is perfect. I now have several computers registered with them and use it at least weekly, sometimes every day. It has become an important tool in my toolbox.
How It Works
The concept is very simple. You create an account at LogMeIn.com. Make sure you sign up for the free service to start, it’s not always obvious that it’s available. I actually had trouble finding it when I started writing this article. Once you have an account, you download the client software that you install on every computer that you want to control. The installation is very fast, and during the setup you enter some account information that they provide you when you setup your account.
Once you install the software, it takes you to the LogMeIn.com website and registers that computer as one of your computers. You’re able to keep everything in one master list of computers, or create groups of different computers as I’ve done here.
One of the great and flawless things that the LogMeIn.com service does is get around all of the routers hubs and firewalls of your network. Our network is by no means complicated, but it’s not just an open network either. We have a cable modem, Apple Airport Extreme router, and about 5 switches in multiple locations on the network. And not once have I had a problem navigating through all of that to the machine I wanted. Hell, I can’t even get iChat to work at the office half the time.
At home it’s a similar setup. Cable modem, Time Machine wireless router and a few switches. There have even been a few times that I was at Panera Bread and wanted to start downloading something on the server at the office, and did so with great success. That says a lot because if you’ve spent any time on the free wifi from Panera, you know how painfully slow and frustrating it can be.
If you want to get really crazy, there is an iPhone application from LogMeIn.com as well, allowing you to perform all of the same functions but using your iPhone. I have not tried this, but if you have please leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Putting It To Use
Once you’ve setup one or more computers, it’s just a matter of logging into the LogMeIn.com home page and you’re taken to your list of registered computers. From the list you can tell which ones are on-line and available, and which ones are not. Just click on the computer, enter a name and password and you’re in. Your browser window transforms into the desktop of the connected computer, or you can make it full screen and get the full experience being in front of the remote computer. Nearly all keyboard shortcuts that you would use locally work as expected (I’ve found a few that do not and randomly quit the browser).
This is one of those situations where seeing it in action goes a lot further then me telling you. See my real-time demonstration of it at work by watching the video at the end of this post.
How This Can Help You In Your Business
I have found many uses for LogMeIn. The initial problem was getting used to the idea that I didn’t have to hang out at the office for everything that needed to get done. Here are a few examples.
Post Edit Output
By far the biggest use we’ve had for it is web approvals. For example, it’s the end of the day and you’re finally ready to show the client your masterpiece. The typical process for us is the export a self-contained QuickTime Movie to the project folder, take that into compressor and create a H.264 QT movie file optimized for the web, take the output from compressor and into our Dreamweaver Template, create a web approval page with all of the necessary details, sync that to the server and send the client the approval link. With the exception of the compressor step, it all goes very quick. But unfortunately, if we have a long video to post the compressor step can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2-3 hours (we’ve tested the Elgato Turbo.264 USB key, but the output is not as good and the files tend to be larger. It is fast though).
Using LogMeIn.com, this has changed. When the edit is over and the master is exported, we take into compressor and start the conversion. We prep the web page with everything except for the final video file, and leave. Then the editor, from home that evening checks in when the file is done being compressed (we’re sent email notifications from compressor as each file finishes – or fails), finishes the web page and sends the link via email on the edit computer. Total time spent about 5 minutes. The big differences is that all of the time you would have waited around, is now spent at home.
Check The Status
From checking the progress of an AE render, FCP export or making sure a large copy in the finder completed, getting peace of mind is fast and easy. How many times have you left something going in compressor just to find out that it crashed 5 minutes after you left and you had no idea. Now, even if you can’t fix it remotely, you know what you’re in for before you get there.
We’ve also used it to check on large DVD runs. Our duplicator usually runs flawlessly, but on runs of 500 or more it occasionally gets hung up and has to be reset. Again, in this case there’s not much we can do to fix the problem remotely, but just knowing that somebody has to go in early to fix so that we make the deadline it is a huge help.
While this is not an ideal way to create a DVD by any means, in a pinch it can be very helpful. There have been a handful of occasions that I received a last minute panicked call that a client now wanted a DVD instead of a web approval. At the very least I could login and start the compression so that the DVD was a quick output in the morning. In most cases though I can get the entire process done right up to saving a disk image that the assistant can burn as soon as he gets in and then messenger it out.
Grab Files Remotely
While the edit computers themselves can not share files outside of the office, it’s no big deal to login to grab some files and upload them to a FTP server so that they can be downloaded elsewhere. When I was out of town on a remote job there was a situation where I needed a graphic element from a current job that I had forgot to bring with me. It was an animated background in QT format. No problem. I logged into the edit system, dragged the QT movie to a program called FileChute, and emailed myself the link from the edit system. Ten minutes later I had the file downloaded on my remote edit system and the client was blown away (these sorts of things can really make you look like a hero).
These are just some of the ways we’ve found it can help. I’m sure based on your own projects and work flow you’ll come up with new ones of your own. If you do, feel free to leave a comment on the blog and share it with others.
See For Yourself
Click on the link below to see a real-time demonstration of just how easy it is. To sign up for your own free account, just go to LogMeIn.com and you’ll be up and running in just minutes.