Opinion

G-Technology Responds with Major Changes

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As it turns out, the internet is a great way to restart communications when it seems to be all but broken down. 

Less than 24 hours after my “Boycott G-Tech” post on SuiteTake.com, I received several calls from executives at both G-Technology as well as Hitachi. The calls came in while I was editing so they went to voice mail, but when I had a chance to finally call one of them back I was pleasantly surprised that the tone of the conversation was very constructive and apologetic.

At this point I’ve had a few phone calls with Todd Etherton, who is the Director of World Wide Customer Support at Hitachi. The very first thing he said was that they were very sorry for the experience that I had with their tech support team, and that they agreed that something needed to be changed. We talked for about 10 minutes and then I asked him to call me back when they had a plan actually in place so that I could talk about it on the blog (instead of speculate about what they might do). 

The next morning (still less than 48 hours since my post hit) I get another call (again while I’m editing) and I call him back in the evening on my way home. Todd tells me that in response to my blog post, they have made a few significant changes that will alleviate a repeat experience like the one that I had. 

Boycott of G-Technology

 

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While G-Technology has been one of my most favored and most recommended companies for well built, professional hard drives, due to a recent experience I can no longer lend my support to the company.

From the mid-2000’s G-Technology has been a leader in high quality products and service. I built my first home edit system on a stack of G-Raid drives because they not only made a solid product, but they were focused on the video pro. They didn’t just talk about data rates and drive speeds, they broke it down into editing lingo – the number of real time streams you could expect – and they guaranteed it. 

At one point I had some issues with some G-Raid drives that I had purchased, and they were always very fast to respond and in one case pre-shipped me a replacement drive even before I had sent them back the problem drive. 

For me personally, a really sold product means nothing if the company does not stand behind it with good people and exceptional customer service. And that’s where my relationship has now changed. 

Change Is Not Always Good

In February 2009 G-Tech was acquired (indirectly through Fabrik) by Hitachi. At the time I thought this was great, because for a long time Hitachi drives have been the best in class, and the most reliable drives on the market. So it seemed like a good idea. But now, two years later it appears this change in ownership has translated into terrible customer service, especially if your warranty has run out. 

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 Over the last 5 years I have spent over $25,000 on two maxed out G-Speed XL systems (around 25TB of combined space). We’re not talking about little desktop drives, we’re taking about making a serious investment in a company, especially for a small boutique post house. I was a very early adopter of the very first units they shipped in January 2007 and even did a post on SuiteTake and The Creative Cow about my experience with the drive. I was very happy with it, and just over 3 years ago purchased a second one for the other edit room. Based on my experience with the company over the years I had no worries. 

The Dead Power Supply

A funny thing happened a couple of weeks ago, however. The power supply in the newer drive system went bad and as it’s supposed to, was beeping pretty loud to get the attention of anybody within 20 feet. No big deal, things happen and after all it’s the reason why it’s built with a backup power supply. The drive was still running smoothly, but no longer with a safety net.

I filled out the on-line tech support form at G-Technology like I’ve done in the past, and a day later (mind you this is a serious problem) I get a email telling me that my unit is out of warranty. Figures, it’s always just after it expires that something goes wrong.  

Turn Project Archives Into Real Money – BRU Producer Edition

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In my continuing effort to find a solid, reliable and affordable solution for long term archival of our editing projects, I have spent the last 12 months testing and creating a workflow for yet another product solution. Unlike when I reviewed the Cache~a a few years back (the positive review since removed from the site), I decided to spend a lot more time really running it through the paces. I learned my lesson the hard way with the Prime Cache and made changes to my review process.

The product that I’m reviewing this time is the “Edit Bay Production Desktop” software and hardware package from the Tolis Group. It has turned out to be quite the winner, and I’m excited to share our experience with it. While they do offer several different solutions of hardware/software or software only solutions (you provide the hardware), I’m going to focus on this one all in one package. It’s my feeling that this is the best fit for the small to medium sized post house with 1-5 workstations. To see some of their offerings, check out their website.

http://www.tolisgroup.com

What’s Included – Installation

What I liked about the “Edit Bay Production Desktop” package right from the onset was that it was a complete solution for your Mac. You provide a G5 tower, Xserve or MacPro computer with a open PCIe slot (must be a 8x slot), and they provide you with everything else.

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In your open PCIe slot you will install a SAS host bus adaptor. The card they provide is the ATTO ExpressSAS H680, and it was as easy to install as a video card. It’s as simple as removing the side panel of your tower and adding the card to your open slot.

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(Above is the Expansion Slot Utility that is on most, but not all Power Macs. Because the system we have the card installed on (a quad G5) does not support this utility, I took this snap from a different computer in the office just to show the utility. So don’t be surprised that in this shot the ATTO card is not listed. This utility allows you to configure the speed of your slots by dividing up the bandwidth in whichever way best suits your setup)

Once booted up, you install a driver for the ATTO card from the included CD, reboot again and the card is ready for use.

After that, turn the machine off and attach the LTO drive. Depending on the package that you choose, you will receive either a LTO-4 or LTO-5 drive. Both are HP drives in a external case. We have the LTO-5 drive.

With the LTO drive attached and the machine booted up, install the BRU Producer Edition software (from here on referred to as BRU PE) . This is really the heart of the product and is written for OSX specifically. Installation is as easy as mounting the included CD ROM or downloaded .dmg disk image and running the installer. Now you’re ready to start.

Digital Production Buzz Interview – Growing Your Business

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Last night I was a guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan and Michael Horton. We discussed my last blog post on growing your business.

If you don’t regularly listen to the Buzz it’s a great resource for post production professionals, and keeps you up to date on the latest news and what others are doing in the business.

Click here for the Interview Excerpt

Click here for the Full Show

Adding New Services In A Shrinking Economy

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When the economy tanked in late 2008, I was forced to look at my business and figure out how to best combat the severe downturn in revenue. We have primarily offered post production services since opening in 2004, but what happens when there’s not enough post work to keep the rooms busy? Aside from the obvious solution of trying to increase the client base, there is also the option of adding other services so that you get a bigger piece of the overall project pie. Think of it like being in the stock market. All of my “stock” has been invested in doing post work. That’s great during the good times, but being more diversified will help when things are slow.

So throughout 2009 we’ve added a few new services to help us retain a larger chunk of every project we do.

Work On Your Business, By Working On Yourself

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I’ve been very fortunate in business. Since I first started Edit Creations in my basement in 2003 I’ve been blessed with having multiple clients follow me into business based on our work history together and friendships. And over those years, word of mouth has filled in the rest of the time. Within the first 5 years business grew from me working in my basement to having a 2000 sqft office with multiple edit rooms, vo booth, graphics, travel gear and 4 employees. Things were going great. Then, the fall of 2008 hit.

At the end of 2008 work dried up and 2009 was the most difficult year since the business was started. During this time a few things happened that changed the way I looked at my company.

First, I didn’t lose any clients. I still had the same clients that I’ve been working with for years, in some cases close to 15 years. The problem was that those clients were no longer getting the jobs they used to. Projects were being scaled back, rescheduled or flat our cancelled. In one case a job that was normally 4 weeks of editing in 2 suites (a job that we received every December running into January) just went away and has not yet returned.

Second, for the first time in my career I was faced with having to find new clients. Two years ago I would have said you were crazy if you told me to go out and find new clients. I was already working 10+ hours a day and the thought of looking for more work seemed like self abuse.

Third, I realized that you can’t count on jobs that are promised to you, even if you have a long standing relationship with those clients. For example, in 2009 there were no less then 3 major jobs (one a broadcast TV series) that were promised to us. In one case actually scheduled for the last half of 2009. “Great!” I thought, the year is covered! The pressure is off! And then, one by one the projects just went away, in large part due to the economy. So I was left with open edit suites and very little work to fill them, but the same overhead as if it was business as usual.

The Nintendo Editing System


OH WOW! BREAKING NEWS!! In case you you didn’t hear last night, there has been some exciting news in the world of post production in the wake of the Apple announcement of the iPad. Lovable video game company Nintendo has just announced they would like to join the editing world with the release of the Nintedit System!

Whether or not this ends up being any kind of major player in the editing world is still in question, but I was blown away at the potential capabilities of the system, yet completely shocked in general that they are even deciding to make this. I’ve loved Nintendo for years, dating all the way back to NES, and I think it’s crazy that they would try and make this jump into post-production. I guess they wanted to make the case that video editing should be fun and universal, and shouldn’t be left alone to the technical folk.

The Top 25 Movies of 2009

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Today I join the extremely rare air of millions of internet folk. Today I do something that everyone from Roger Ebert to CindyCinema.com to your Aunt Rebecca does. Today I will list my favorite movies from 2009, to the excessively high amount of 25. Why 25? Because I go to the theater almost every weekend, I’ve seen about 60 movies from this year, so listing only 10 would inhibit my urge to talk about what movies I’ve seen. Plus everybody loves a list!

So let’s get right into it. I’ll be SPOILER-FREE. Here are picks for my favorite movies from the Year 1 A.D…K. (After Dark Knight)…

One Last Desperate Argument for DVDs


The talk of the future of home entertainment is largely about how we will never have to deal with having physical copies of movies anymore, as everything will just be digital downloads. This may very well be true, in fact, I’m sure it will happen at some point. That won’t stop me from grabbing my soapbox and megaphone to proclaim how much better I think DVDs are.

As a way to perhaps show how biased I may potentially be, I will say I am a full-on collector of DVDs. And not in a “yeah, I have 80 DVDs, my collection is pretty sweet…” kind of way. At the moment I’m typing this, I have 1,167 DVDs. I’m not joking.

But for the record, I’m not opposed to digital downloads. I think they are good in a certain way, but I also don’t think they are as amazing as they are said to be. I’ve even dabbled slightly in the downloading world, but in the end, I’m still a stubborn fan of the DVD. Let me state my case, and feel free to offer a rebuttal to any of my claims.

Super Editing Tips with Winston Randall Montgomery IV

There are a plethora of resources everywhere to teach you how to be an editor. There’s training websites like Lynda.com and Creative Cow. You can buy assorted training books at some coffeehouse-bookstore hybrid, where some homely fellow is likely playing new age music on a grand piano for Ramen noodle money. You could even go as far as to attend a terrible, terrible place called film school… But I laugh at you for doing these things. Laugh right in your pathetic face! You know why? Because I’m an elitist. I am better than you.

I eat dinner with 12 different solid gold forks. I have have different solid gold forks for different areas of the $800 steaks I eat. I only drink the first sip of a glass of $6000 wine, because I’m only satisfied with the first sip of a full glass of expensive wine. Then I throw the rest of the glass away and request a new drink just so I can take the first sip again. It typically costs me $150,000 to get drunk. What?! You’d like the rest of the glass?! How dare you! I would never allow someone who learned editing at film school to have my unused wine. I would rather destroy an entire wine field than give it to you, which is something I normally do once a month anyway, just for the sport of it.

I’d apologize to you for such a berating of your character, but my servant is currently cleaning the wheels of my Lexus with a toothbrush, and I normally have him apologize to commoners. But the reason I yell at you is because I love you, we are fellow editors, we are required to love each other by United States law. And I don’t want another tedious lawsuit on my hands. I just wanted to let you know that everything you know about editing is wrong.

I’m about to retire, so I’ll let you in on my biggest industry secret, since I have nothing to lose. There is an unimaginable resource located in the nether regions of the internet FULL of brilliant ideas by brilliant people. I take these ideas, and compile them into the greatest workable resource known to post production. So sit back and enjoy infinite knowledge! All you have to do is type in www.youtube.com.

Cinema 4D Top 5 Advancement Recap Update 2009 Part 2 of 17

No longer do I have my routinely standard nightmares about homeless people dressed as clowns doing dental work on me at the bottom of the ocean while being chased by radioactive super sharks. No folks, they have been replaced by nightmares of what I’m doing in Cinema 4D! Wait, maybe nightmare isn’t the right word. Maybe I mean dream, yeah, dream is the happy one, right? Sorry to potentially mislead you with the whole nightmare thing. I’m actually having decently pleasant dreams about my future in the 3rd dimension. For those of you who possibly read my first post on getting started with Cinema 4D without any previous morsels of knowledge of any 3D program, this is simply a followup of some of the progress I’ve made, and whether or not I’m on my way to be working on Pixar’s next one-word-titled movie, or if I failed horribly resulting in an enormous amount of embarrassment causing irreversible damage to my relationships of my family and friends.

So as the title obviously states, here is an update of my top 5 recaps of advancements I made in Cinema 4D during 2009. This is part 2 of 17 posts I will periodically make throughout my life time. Part 17 will come on my deathbed, and will focus on trying to do a pre-visualization of my upcoming funeral. I expect my last words before I die to be something in the area of “god damn these splines!”

The Traveling Editor

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Ahh the joys of being a freelance editor. You get to make your own schedule, take time off whenever you want, sleep in on weekdays, pick and choose only the best, most highest-paying jobs, live the jet-set lifestyle hopping from post-house to post-house all across the country…

ZZZZZZCHHHHSSSSSWOOOOSSSSHHH (sound of vinyl record scratching)!

Wait, that’s not what it’s like at all. Probably back when you were in film school some eccentric tweed-jacket-with-the-patches-on-the-elbows professor filled your head with romantic notions like that. Then what happened, you got into the real world and found that most of the time you had to scrounge for any job you could get, from cutting your uncle’s boss’s LARPER themed wedding to that gastric surgery post-operative care demonstration video.

It seems like it was just yesterday

It seems like it was just yesterday

But that’s not the point, the point is that either you’re doing what you love or you’re considering cutting the cable and going out on your own or just graduating and still have that un-blemished innocent vision of the wealth of opportunity that awaits you out there. In any case, as a freelance editor, you need to focus on three main objectives: being a good editor, being mobile, and getting hired again. To do this you need to have a slick and portable system in place that enables you to jump from place to place, dive right in a get to work without wasting a lot of time getting situated. After all, your client is paying you to edit, not set preferences and adjust your chair.

Here are a few things you can do to make your setup time at a new place quick and easy and add value to your service.

The Dark Side of DROBO


IMPORTANT NOTE: This post was updated on Wednesday; November 4, 2009 with new information regarding resizing partitions on the Drobo using iPartition.

As brought to my attention by reader Bradley Davidson (thanks Bradley), iPartition does not actually support the method that I mentioned, and neither does drobo directly.

In my testing, I performed the resizing operation on a newly formatted drive that didn’t have any data (since I had just lost all of my data that was on the drobo). If you try to resize a partition as outlined in this post, you WILL LOSE YOUR DATA. So don’t try it. In theory it was a great idea, but apparently this too will cause problems.

You can find more information on the iPartition website, as well as from Drobo. Like we’ve pointed out many times, we’re also learning here at SuiteTake so thanks for the feedback.

Before I start, let me just say that I am a Drobo fan. I have 2 of them (an original USB and a newer FW version) and plan to purchase more Drobo’s in the not too distant future. Overall I’ve had a great experience with the units and when I needed assistance their tech support was very helpful.

All of that being said, there is a dirty little secret that they don’t warn you about and if you’re not careful you can have your Drobo crash beyond recovery, which is what happened to me this past week. I lost nearly 4 TB of files and there was nothing I could do to get them back. If you own a Drobo, this is a must read.

OPINION: Even If You’re Cheap, Don’t Cheap Out On Your Hard Drives


Hard drives the single most important piece of tech we use as digital media professionals. When you think about it, every bit of work you do is saved to these mechanical/magnetic devices spinning at thousands of RPMs. You may spend hours, days, weeks or even months on a project – and all the time you’re trusting that the drives do not fail you. If you really let your mind dwell on it you may actually start to lose sleep!

Having regular backups is important enough (that’s for another day, another post) but how about starting with a quality drive system? I’ve seen too many people buy drives for their edit systems based on price and price alone, only to be burned and burned bad. It’s like shopping around for a heart surgeon and going with the cheapest guy.

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“Hi everybody!” “Hi Dr. Nick!”

I was told a story about an editor that was working on a big show for the Discovery channel for over 3 months, and 5 days before he was to master the show his drive system went down and all was lost. Every bit. There was no way to recover 3 months of work in time to make the broadcast date so they not only lost the job and all future work from Discovery, but 3 months of revenue that they had already worked for. Just pause and think about that. That’s the kind of thing that some companies can never recover from.

At Edit Creations we have a job that we do every year that lasts from January through the end of June (2 rooms, 5 days a week), creating multiple videos and various programs that all play at a show in July. Whenever we start to come down that home stretch I remember that story and start to get a bit nervous. I’m always making sure that our backups are in good shape.

This post is all about making sure the drives you buy are worthy of the work that you’re doing. Or more importanly, that you avoid the drives that are not.

From the Assistant’s Chair: The Little Things

This is an ongoing study into the mind of an assistant editor, and the various small tasks he is assigned to.

An editing facility is a lot like an underground fight club. Except it’s cleaner. And more work gets done. And there aren’t any fights. It’s actually nothing like an underground fight club. But that would be awesome if it was.

Aside from misleading people with opening sentences, an assistant editor has many responsibilities that go beyond actual editing work. It’s these little things that are required of the job that not only make this place run infinitely times smoother, but they are also the reason that clients keep coming back. Having this delusion that these minor things are the most important aspect of the office is important in not only ensuring that you keep doing them, but it also boosts your ego and enables you to brag about your job to attractive women at parties.