Archive for the ‘Post-Production’ Category

Prepare to Lose Everything: Use SuperDuper and SMARTReporter

Monday, May 16th, 2011

As I mentioned in my last post, hard drive failure is a virtual certainty. It’s going to happen to every drive, eventually. The trick to not having your day (or your life) ruined by such and event lies in a) having an up-to-date backup and, if possible, b) being as prepared for drive’s failure as possible.

To this end, here are two resources to help you and me be prepared for the inevitable:

SuperDuper. If you don’t know of this application, prepare to meet your new best friend. It clones hard drives. Reliably. A limited version is available for free. For under $30 you can buy the fully featured version, which allows you to schedule backups and does smart updates (i.e., it copies even faster). I’ve used SuperDuper for years and see no reason to change as long as it works but, as an FYI, Carbon Copy Cloner does similar things and is donationware.

SMARTReporter.  This nifty application checks on the SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) status of your hard drive to see if it has any problems. It is, as the folks at Corecode note, a kind of “early warning system” to notify you (by email, alert, etc.) of a possibly impending hard drive crash. Useful stuff, particularly if you’ve not run a backup recently. The one hitch: SMART technology does not work with USB and FireWire drives. All the more reason to schedule backups so they’re always up-to-date.

In my experience, I have found that a drive’s likelhood to fail is directly proportionate to its need to work on a given day. One example: On the day I was set to drive to 200 miles to a post house to do the final output of Quick Feet Soft Hands for television broadcast my raid, storing all of my Final Cut Pro and Color files failed. Thankfully, I had an exact clone and didn’t skip a beat.

Suggestions for further reading:

How Do You Make a Filmmaker Cry?

What to Do When Your Hard Drive Goes Soft

 

Shopping for Hard Drives? Two helpful resources…

Monday, May 9th, 2011

I’ve been setting up a home file server and HTPC with a MacMini and, in the process, I found myself shopping for hard drives. It’s amazing how cheap they are (about $80-100 for 2TB these days) when you consider what they do (i.e., holding all of your precious digital memories).

Unfortunately, other than relying on your own good and bad experiences, making informed decisions about purchasing new hard drives is next to impossible. The most important factor in a drive is reliability, but there’s no way to know if the drive you’re shipped is going to fail in 6 hours, 6 months, or 6 years. Compounding this is the fact that almost all reviews — particularly those from customers on retailer websites — are anecdotal by nature. Read the 1-star reviews on Newegg or Amazon for any hard drive and you’ll soon be looking for another model. And then another. And then… they all start looking equally awful.

Two websites to break through this logjam were Storage Review and Mac Performance Guide.

Storage Review takes hard drive reviews seriously. In searching for some reliable, large, and quiet drives, I followed their recommendations. I particularly found their “Leaderboard” of best drives useful and, after a little cross-checking, followed their recommendations.

Mac Performance Guide, on the other hand, is home to a motherlode of tips on optimizing a system. The site, authored by photographer Lloyd Chambers, bills itself as “offer[ing] the web’s clearest advice on selecting and configuring a Mac, especially for photographers.” That’s quite a claim, but I can’t refute it. The Articles and Guides section — which has multiple articles on backup, data safety, and optimizing Mac performance — is outstanding.

By the way, I ended up purchasing three different drives: a Western Digital Caviar Green, a Seagate Barracuda Green, and a Samsung Spinpoint F4. I bought none of them in confidence, which, I suppose, is the way you should always buy a drive. That’s why you have backups.

 

iPhone to Final Cut Pro

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Final Cut Pro does not like video that has been shot with an iPhone 4. I learned this shortly after getting my iPhone and shooting the Karpeles Manuscript Museum video a few weeks ago. I imported my iPhone-shot footage into FCP. I was skeptical I’d be able to do anything with it since it’s H264 footage and FCP (still) doesn’t handle that footage well. The picture was fine, actually. The problem was the audio — in the form of a big red render bar, to be precise.

What to do?

Thankfully, a benevolent soul (named Jeff Greenberg) has done two things:

First, he’s explained the problem and the solution. Not surprisingly, it involves transcoding to ProRes.

Secondly, he’s gone a step farther and created an iPhone 4-to-FCP compressor droplet for you.

To edit your iPhone footage in Final Cut Pro, all you have to do is download this file, drop your iPhone movies on the droplet, and import them when they’re done rendering.

Perhaps we’ll be able to expect better H264 in the new Final Cut Studio. Whenever it’s released, that is… Until it’s released in June, this is the workaround (or one of them).

Launched: The New Self-Reliant Film.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The new and improved SRF.

If you’re looking at this website in anything other than an RSS reader you can probably tell that we’ve completely overhauled the website. Thanks to our wonderful designer friends at Nathanna, we’ve both expanded and simplified the Self-Reliant Film website.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, our new look is based on some new directions for the website.

Today, with the launch of the new site you can do a few things that you couldn’t do before:

 

Sign up for the email list. Our new email newsletter will have exclusive content we don’t put on the blog. We’ll share tips on great films we’ve recently discovered, we’ll provide some extra filmmaking tips, and you’ll get access to see our films for free. The newsletter is only sent once a month, we never sell or share others’ email addresses, and it’s ad-free. Subscribe!

 

Watch our films: Some folks that visit this site do so because they’re fans of our films. Others visit the site because of the blog. If you’ve not seen our work, or you want to see our films again, or you want to see more of them… we’ve spelled out all the ways to watch.

The easiest and least expensive way is to sign up for the email list. But there are other ways, too. Find out more here.

Must reads: Look to the sidebar on the left. These are a few of the most popular posts on the site. Check them out if you’re new here or if you’ve not read these. The Declaration of Principles was the first post on the blog, and it’s still pretty much as relevant today as it was when it was drafted in November 2005.

 

Resources: If you click on “Resources” (look to the upper left of this page) you’ll see some of the more helpful pages we’ve assembled for filmmakers (and everyone) since beginning the site. Over the coming weeks we’ll be updating and expanding these pages.

 

Submission guidelines: We’ve always received emails from readers wanting us to watch and/or review our films. This has been done pretty much catch-as-catch-can in the past. We finally drew up some ideas about how to do this, as seen in the sidebar on the left. We want to review and put a spotlight on great films more than we’ve been able to recently. This is a way to encourage this. Click on the Submission Guidelines and and let us know if you’ve got a film you want us to watch.

 

What hasn’t changed?

 

Our blog still features all the same stuff that we’ve championed and discussed from the beginning — DIY, regional, and personal filmmaking. We’ve moved it to selfreliantfilm.com/blog, so update your bookmarks.

(If you bookmarked an old page from the blog it should automatically redirect to the new permalink structure, but if you encounter a broken link, let us know!)
 

Finally, one other thing that hasn’t changed: This site is still ad-free.

For us, self-reliance has always gone hand in hand with the idea of simplicity. While filmmaking is a vocation that often resists even our attempts to simplify the process of making movies, we feel the least we can do, sometimes at least, is keep our tiny corner of the internet quiet from flashing banners, pop-ups, and google ads buried within our own reflections. This website, like our films, continues to be a labor of love.

We hope you like the new site, and the things to come. If you do, spread the word by sharing with a friend by using facebook, twitter or, you know, by actually telling someone about it face-to-face.

Tape is dead! Long live tape!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

It struck me today that For Memories’ Sake will probably be the last movie I’m involved with that uses videotape. Ashley began shooting the documentary with the venerable DVX-100 in 2006 and, for consistency’s sake, we stuck with that camera through production. All the new projects that I have on the horizon will be shot with a tapeless cinema camera, whether it’s made by Panasonic, Sony, or Red. So tape is dead to me.

Or is it?

One of the issues, of course, about shooting tapeless formats is what you do with the data. While editing with tapeless footage, of course, I keep lots of backups on drives in different locations. But after the project is completed, using hard drives to archive the footage is not a reliable solution. Of course, I’ll confess that this is what I’ve done in the past. But as my hard drives age, and as I amass more footage that I’ll want to hang onto, I know I need to find another solution. Most pros will tell you that solution is (wait for it)…. tape. Specifically, LTO or “Linear Tape Open.”

Luckily, for us Mac users out there, Helmut Kobler recently did us all a service by summarizing how to get started with LTO4 tape archiving on a Mac. Kobler estimates the low-end price tag for a Mac-compatible LTO system as $3300.

That figure may seem like a lot to independent filmmakers. (I wonder how many fewer Panasonic HVX200s or Sony EX-1s would have been sold if this cost was factored into the purchase price?)

In the end, whether to spend this kind of money amounts to questions about risk and value: How much do you value your data? And how much risk are you willing to take that your data might be lost forever?

For me, that $3300 is starting to look like a decent value. Long live tape!