My life is a lot like West Side Story. Even if you take away my constant dancing and occasional problem solving knife fights, it’s still pretty much West Side Story. Well, actually, I’ve never assaulted a police officer or had any reason to mess with the Sharks, but I did briefly date a Puerto Rican woman in college. I’m getting off topic, hold on, my original thought about West Side Story was that I use a PC at home, and Macs at work. And it tears my life apart! I’m in a constant struggle to maintain some sort of peace between the people I know, because I’m always in a state of betraying the other. My friends are all 100% Windows users, I don’t have a single Mac using friend. But at work I see the power of the Mac, something they do not see. To my friends, whenever I talk about Macs I’m pretty sure they just envision the uber-simple 1993 Macintosh computers that we used to play Oregon Trail II on in elementary school and think that Apple products are for the “slower” folks. And at work when I mention my Windows machine, I’m pretty sure everyone just imagines some horrible flurry of files scattered everywhere in all dark corners of the hard drive, a virus-ridden plague of a device that can only be turned off each night with a blue screen of death. The truth is, I use both, and when I look at them, all I see is a couple of computers…
While posts have been a bit hit or miss lately due to our heavy work load, that doesn’t mean that we’re not getting some work done under the hood! I wanted to do a quick post to let you know some of the not so obvious changes we’ve made.
Because of the increasing demand on our server, videos are now hosted by Blip.tv. One of the new advantages is that you can now more easily play the video within the post, or watch it full screen. All video is also available in multiple formats so you can also download clips to your computer.
Ok ok, the title may be a little mis-leading but what’s the harm in trying to drive a little Google search traffic? The windows that I am referring to are the Final Cut Pro kind, not the Microsoft kind. I’ve always made a big case for workflow and editing efficiency here and no detail is too small when it comes to working smoothly. In fact, I’ve found that it’s often the little things that help the most when they are streamlined or annoy the most when they are clunky and rigid. If you never take the time to experiment and rearrange your FCP window layout and button bar arrangements you’re probably missing out on workflow efficiency gains. Here is my window layout and button bar arrangement and why I have things the way they are.
Have you ever seen one of those movies where the kid from Montana, fresh off the farm, goes to Hollywood because he has dreams of becoming an actor, because he was the best actor in his 75 student high school’s rendition of West Side Story? Then he gets to Hollywood, with his suitcase and his cowboy hat, and he’s walking down the street wide eyed and astonished at all the bright lights and weird people that inhabit the area, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself or where to begin? Well, I feel like that farm boy, except instead of going to Hollywood I’m using Cinema 4D, and instead of seeing freaks everywhere, I’m looking at complex menu screens and lots of buttons that I have no idea what they do. I mean, look at this interface, it’s scary for someone with no background in 3D to open this program!
A decision was made by the high council of elders, at their shrine resting on the peak of the volcano, that I would be the chosen one to learn how to use a true 3D program. But I have no experience whatsoever in this area. This is my first job in this industry out of college, and to be honest, I didn’t even use something as basic as Photoshop a single time while I was in college! Let’s just say the most experience I had working on 3D was when I watched WALL-E a couple months ago. So I was nervous at the thought of learning this program, but at the same time excited at the possibility of what I could potentially do. I suppose the purpose of this post is to show you what it’s like to first delve into a 3D program if you have no idea what you’re doing, and possibly how it’s not as scary as one may think.
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.
Several times a year I find myself on the road editing on-location with clients. These travel jobs are usually a convention, corporate conference or incentive trip. The locations can be as close as Chicago (20 miles away) or as far as Thailand and Hong Kong. I have a travel system that’s in cases and ready to go at a moments notice, and each year this part of our business at Edit Creations has grown.
One concern I always have when doing these jobs is having a system go down while being far away from the office. Part of my safety net is having a second laptop with me on every trip. I learned my lesson the hard way when a few years ago one of our editors was doing a job in California and the a AJA IO box stopped working. It was a Saturday so I couldn’t get in touch with tech support at AJA and no amount of google searching helped find a solution. By Monday the job was going to be all over, videos laid off or not. So in that case, after troubleshooting all night on the phone and realizing it was not going to be fixed, with only a 4 hour window I had to shower, head to the office and make a second system from one of our edit bays, stop and Home Depot and buy a hand truck and head to the airport. I made it in time to save the day, but it burned though all of the profits for the job.
While having 2 systems is great security, I always want to have the ability to troubleshoot, test or rebuild a machine with all of the needed software on site, should the need arise. In my worst case scenario that I play back in my head (rehearsing it like a fire drill) I imagine running to a local Apple Store, buying a new machine on the spot and reinstalling everything I need to get the job done.
Up until recently I’ve always brought with me a small selection of DVD’s. Everything from all of the original FCP and Adobe install disks, to Disk Warrior and a system restore disk. While this would obviously work, there is a better way. Why not buy a new, small portable FW drive (or even better, use one of those old drives that you have laying around) and created a multi-partition boot drive that contains everything? Then, not only do you have everything you need in one place, booting and running off of the FW drive will be much faster then working off your DVD drive.
The rest of this post will show you how to create your own emergency boot drive that is the perfect companion to your travel system.