The following tools are always on my set-up when I'm on the job.
of highest priority
Checksum copies are a must for any card downloaded from the camera. To put it in layman's terms, a checksum copy will first copy the files over, and then do a verification to see if the copy is complete and error-free. DO NOT drag and drop files from your camera card to your Finder or Windows Explorer window. You need to ensure that every bit and byte copied from the camera card is identical on your backup. And always make sure you have at least three copies or your original media before wiping the camera card.
It's great that there are now many checksum copy software programs available, so there is no longer an excuse not to backup your media with checksum verification.
GEEK OUT: Kylee Peña wrote a great article about what checksum is and the different kinds of checksums out there.
YoYottaID is my favorite software when it comes to downloading camera cards. It gives me good speed backing up to 3 drives at the same time, with MD5 checksum verification. It takes time to get used to the interface, but once you understand how it works, there's no going back. It is used by most professionals in the industry and it can also backup to LTO tapes with a LTFS license.
It only works on Mac but licenses are permanent with free software updates. The license is transferrable too — so if you are using another machine, you can de-activate the YoYotta license on your primary machine temporary and use it on another. Just make sure you are connected to the Internet when doing so.
A YoYottaID license with no LTO support will set you back £160 while £360 will let you backup to up to 2 standalone LTO drives with the open-source LTFS format. There are also other options available for LTO autoloaders and libraries, conform and transcode, but I don't use those features.
Most people that do not use YoYotta, use ShotPut Pro by Imagine Products. Prior to ShotPut Pro 6, I could never understand the user interface. I was spoilt by YoYottaID's clean clear interface, basically moving from left to right.
ShotPut Pro 6 has gotten much better, and I now have a copy as an alternative to YoYottaID. It still takes me time to figure out the interface every time I use it, but for most people, it's intuitive to them. I guess it's just me!
ShotPut Pro is available for Windows but the license is not transferrable between operating systems, so get the right one for your system. A license cost $129.00. Similar to YoYotta, they have other products for backing up to LTO, transcoding and more.
There are many more other checksum copy softwares. It all boils down to the operating system you are using, the interface, how fast the copy is to multiple drives concurrently, price, reports capability and reliability.
For example, DaVinci Resolve has a built-in checksum copy function which means that you can do it for free. Adobe has one too if you subscribe to their full suite. New to the scene, there's Hedge which supports both Mac and Windows systems.
As a Data Wrangler or DIT on a job, I rely on YoYottaID with ShotputPro or Hedge as my backup. There's also rsync on the MacOS when I'm in a pinch and I know that the data will not be recycled.
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obsessed with speed
Speed is a big component to work out prior to a job. How much time do you have before you need to turn over the camera card? How fast are your drives and what connections do they use? What type of connections does your system have? All these questions have to be asked before you begin, to ensure the camera department is not waiting on you when they roll out. This is especially important on a multi-cam shoot.
Every component, from cables and tools to download camera media, to all your backup drives, will make a difference in your overall speed. If you have a superfast raid drive but a USB3.0 / USB3.1 gen1 connection, you may not be maximizing the raid. You may have superfast high-speed backup drives but your camera reader is a USB2.0 connection, that's not going to help either. So make sure every component in the backup chain is thought out and optimized prior to shooting, or you could easily hit a bottleneck.
As if the world of cables and connectors is not confusing enough, what we used to call USB3.0 is now referred to as USB3.1 Gen1 which has a data rate of 5Gbps. The USB3.1 that we once knew that comes with a type C connection is actually Gen2 and that has a data rate of 10Gbps. I bet marketing is having a fun time with that. Don't be fooled and shell out extra bucks when a product says USB3.1. Be sure to check which generation it is. Geek out on the USB specs here.
A few tips:
- Always check that the camera card reader has a minimum USB3.0 / USB3.1 gen1 connection. RED now has USB3.1 gen2 readers and if you are using CFast cards, a thunderbolt connection would be a big advantage. Make sure the system you are using supports these connections as well.
- Take note that a fast connection such as USB3.0 / USB3.1 gen1 does not guarantee that you will get good overall speed, as the type of camera media also makes a difference. For example, an Alexa shooting on a CFast card vs a SxS Pro, or a RED shooting on their old 1.8" SSD vs the mini-mag, will be vastly different.
- A USB3.0 / USB3.1 gen1 or thunderbolt drive does not mean that it will maximize the connection speed. The internal drive in the external casing makes a big difference. For example, a RAID drive that has multiple internal hard drives will be much faster than a single drive setup assuming they hold the same internal drive, while a single SSD drive can easily beat a dual raid regular size hard drive. Not all drives are created equal, so know your specs.
- If you are backing up concurrently to three different kind of drives, take note that the slowest drive will become a bottleneck unless the software knows how to mitigate that.
- Checksum copies also mean that after the actual copy, the verification can be really fast depending on the speed of the drives, as it is no longer doing the actual copy but just verifying that the copy is legit using the hash generated. This is where the speed of the software itself may come into play.
This is one part of the workflow that I love figuring out so if you have any questions, feel free to email me.
Since all drives are not created equal, the following are two tools that I like to use to figure out drive speed. They are both free to use.
aja speed test
AJA System Test revamped the look of their speed test tool and included more camera scenarios. Somebody from G-Technology once told me that AJA speed test is more accurate than BlackMagic but who knows, I have yet to take a deep dive into comparing these tools.
blackmagic speed test
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test is a little dated maxing out at 2K. Even though it has fewer options than AJA System Test, I do like their concept of showing you if your drive will let you run certain media. It is really designed for DaVinci Resolve users, hence the limitations.
What drives do I need to buy? How much disk space do I need? What format does that camera capture? How many hours and minutes of data have I captured today? All these questions can be answered with a few nifty calculators on iOS.
CAMERAS + FORMATS
I really like how Zak has been keeping this app up to date with the crazy number of new cameras that come out every year. It's one of my first go-to apps when I have a new DIT/data wrangling job to see what hard drive capacity I would potentially need.
Zak is a DP/colorist so Cameras + Formats is an app that is built practically for all the DPs and ACs out there as well. It's available on the app store for $9.99.
I have given up trying to make my Excel sheets do timecode calculation accurately. This timecode calc just works. And I like punching in the numbers as part of my daily report activity.
TimecodeCalc has come in handy when I have needed to do timecode calculation on timelines outside of Avid (which has an embedded timecode calculator). $1.99 was money well spent for me.
Timecode is a more complex calculator. I discovered it when I was conforming a project that was transcoded incorrectly to a 29.97fps drop-frame timecode even though the camera originals were shot in 23.976fps.
Timecode by Panoptik came to the rescue as it was the one that converted the timecode correctly and I completed my conform with this aid at $6.99.
The little bits and pieces that complete my toolkit.
Any time I get the occasional stray piece of media and I'm trying to figure out what it is, MediaInfo will come to my rescue. Just drag any file onto it, and it will give you metadata about the media. Use the list or text view to get the comprehensive details of your media. It's only $0.99 on the app store and really handy to have around.
A BETTER FINDER RENAME
I have thrown all kinds of renaming challenges to this little gem and so far it has yet to fail me. Even though you can do renaming of files straight from the Finder window, this tool picks it up by allowing you to do multi-step renames with every kind of renaming pattern you can imagine from their pull down menu.
Also, for all the geeks out there, you can even use regular expressions for rename tasks that are just a tad more challenging. A Better Finder Rename goes for $19.95 and it's worth every penny.
A few nifty tools for use in post-production.
download VIDEOS FROM THE INTERNET
It's not what you are thinking. I'm not condoning piracy here. Downie is a very useful tool for downloading videos that you would like to use for your documentary, just to see if it works in the cut, before getting the necessary license upon picture lock.
I used to use KeepVid for that purpose but Downie is the champ. You can flick almost any link to it and it will be able to download the video or audio via a simple interface. I have not had it fail me yet. Best of all, it allows you to login and do manual extraction (via a very friendly interface) for more challenging websites.
It's available via Setapp, a subscription service for an excellent list of curated Mac apps for $9.99/month. It's a great deal if you don't own most of the apps already, like I do. Or get Downie for $19.99 after the free trial.
Frame.io allows me to collaborate with my clients easily from anywhere in the world. Its target audience is mainly editors as it allows both the editor and their clients to review a cut on the same platform with multiple versions stacked. Clients can leave frame accurate comments, and even draw on the frame itself. Ad agencies particularly love these features, and often use Frame.io for client approvals.
I use Frame.io for remote color work where sit-in sessions are not needed. I know that the client's screen will not be the same as my calibrated screen but for REC709 work not meant for broadcast or studio release, it is good enough given the budget. The clients that I have worked with usually have an iPad Pro or Mac that is not too old, or access to a facility for review. Therefore they have been able to get an accurate sense of the color before final approval anyway.
Frame.io has different plans available starting at $15/month for 250GB of storage.
I was blown away by Trint. It's an automated transcription services that will spit out a transcript of your video or audio in less time than the length of your recording. You can also use it for languages other than English.
I tested a 21 minute podcast and got the result in a minute. For better accuracy, the quality of the audio cannot be too poor and the accent cannot be too thick.
The part that blows me away is that the transcript is near accurate, and it only took a minute! Machine learning has allowed for tools like this to develop, and I'm very excited to see how much better it will be in the future.
Another aspect where Trint shines, is its editing tool. It's impossible for the transcript to always be 100% correct, so being able to edit the transcript easily is key. Trint does not disappoint here, there are various playback speeds and the text is highlighted with playback. There's also a waveform and you can set the start time. Shortcut keys are available without the need to reach for your mouse — an essential efficiency when transcribing something. There are still improvements that could be made like auto rewind after you make a change, and auto highlighting words for you to change when you pause, but I believe it will get there.
Trint offers a free trial for 30 minutes worth of audio or video transcription. After which, you can either buy credits that are valid for 12 months at $15/hr or pay on a subscription basis.
FOR PEOPLE USING WINDOWS
It's inevitable that you will come across a Mac formatted drive if you work in this industry. It's the de-facto standard these days for the most part. Macdrive by Mediafour has been around for a long time and it's the software that I trust to read and write a Mac formatted drive on a Windows machine.
The new MacDrive 10 is even better, it allows me to safely eject my drive via their interface. It's not cheap at $49.99 for a standard version and $69.99 for a pro version that supports Mac-formatted software RAID. Here's a comparison chart.
MacDrive comes with a 5-day trial, the stingiest trial period that I have ever seen. They have a 10.5 beta out that supports Apple's new APFS file system only on Windows 10.
SCOPES & MONITORING
Divergent Media have a few nifty tools, one of them is Scopebox. I use it for external scopes during color grade in addition to the ones within DaVinci Resolve.
LEARN about COLOR GRADING
These are my go-to resources to learn more about color grading.
DaVinci Resolve is pretty much the de-facto standard now for both freelancers and a lot of post houses. Its popularity has grown with the unbeatable price of it being free for the standard version and only $299 for the studio version, as Blackmagic Design make most of their money from their hardware instead. This is especially so with the new panels that look really sweet.
I have professional grading experience with both Quantel from Snell and DaVinci Resolve, and I think that while DaVinci Resolve is not quite as fluid and robust when it comes to conform and color, at $299, it's not an apples to apples comparison. Resolve is unbeatable for the price point.
Now that Blackmagic Design has dropped the price of DaVinci Resolve to $299, there's no reason to buy it from the Apple app store as it supports only OpenCL and you can't move your license to a Windows or Linux system in the future. It's a lose lose situation.
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I started my foray into color grading learning from Patrick Inhofer online and he has been a great source of inspiration, sharing his knowledge with the community.
Once you have subscribed to the Tao of Color newletter, check out Mixing Light. Mixing Light was started by Dan Moran, Robbie Carman and Patrick Inhofer to share their love and knowledge of color. Read the Mixing Light story here.
I've witnessed Mixing Light's progress over time, from a no frills interface, to the now brand new responsive web design. The interface has never mattered to me because it was the content that was important, and that is what Mixing Light is all about. I met all three founders at NAB2016 and they are as friendly as they sound in their tutorial videos.
Mixing Light has a 7-day trial where you can stream to your heart's content. Thereafter, there are various membership options for you to choose from, starting at $24/month for the streaming plan. Have a look.
Even if you can't afford to join now, they have articles and free videos from time to time, so add your email address to their list (available at the end of their website) to receive information on what's going on.
DAVINCI RESOLVE GURU
Alexis Van Hurkman is the guru behind the DaVinci Resolve manuals. It's the best technical manual I have ever seen and you can learn so much about color just by going through it.
What's better than going through a manual? How about a video course straight from the horses' mouth? And that's what you can find at Ripple Training. It seems like Alexis has taken a backseat with Resolve 14 training, only putting out the New Features course, but you can still get his old courses and at a discounted price too. The certified training program is now taught by Spencer Meyer.
Just like Mixing Light, I have been following Ripple Training for a long time and have bought quite a few courses from them as they are priced right and Alexis is a great teacher. Ripple Training has since evolved and has more courses than ever before, not just for DaVinci Resolve but on other post production tools and skills including video production.
I have witnessed three different iterations of Ripple Training's website since I first started using it. I love their video streaming tool. The video player allows you to control the speed with the J-K-L key like in an NLE. Very apt for a company that does training courses for post.