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Our backup strategy

Client data is at the heart of any media business.

In our case a shared central storage array contains most of the data from all of our clients and system backups. While the array can tolerate the failure of one disk and still be useable, I’m under no impression it constitutes a backup.

But the last thing I want is to show up to work one day and have a hardware failure dictate how I’m going spend the next couple of weeks, rather than the next couple of hours. Because I would feel like a Picard Facepalm.

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(From http://www.asciifacepalm.com)

A backup means a second copy (or more if the data is paramount to your livelihood).

Here’s our strategy, in case it helps anyone with their own business:

  • Central RAID-5 storage, can tolerate the failure of a single disk (out of 10) and still work
  • A local, direct-attached Mac Time Machine backup with double the capacity of our current storage requirements. This acts as two-tiered solution. Primarily it’s a backup, but because of the way Time Machine works, it can double as a poor-man’s versioning system where we can retrieve older versions of projects (within Time Machine’s limits) should the need arise
  • Following that, we keep two off-site copies of our entire storage array, as well as a copy of the boot disk of the machine it’s attached to. We take an image on a weekly basis, and alternate the set every week so we have two weeks of images on two different sets of disks at any one time. (We use Carbon Copy Cloner for this, which is more or less an easy-to-use front end for rsync.)

For us this means we have one online local backup, and two off-site images of our data at any one time. For really sensitive projects, where we know the dynamic elements are the project files (media files don’t change as often) we also can sync those projects to one of the several cloud services to ensure we have a second, off-site nightly backup of the most time-sensitive material.

We’ve had thankfully few disk failures over the years, but when they happen it has always been at the absolute worst time. This way, we’re generally prepared for a reduction in pain caused by such events; they’re never pleasant, but at least the chance of us having to call a client to tell them we lost everything is exceptionally low.


On the 633 from a 552 User

I was pleasantly surprised to see the 633 released by Sound Devices.

633 Front

For most small productions it’s the perfect device. And I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on it.

My 552 has done me well. I was a first-run pre-order and I’ve never regretted it.

But I’ve always wanted to be able to record ISO’s in addition to my mix. Add to that a small form factor, the ability to record 10 tracks at up to 24bit/192kHz, a multi-input power source, and an Ambient timecode generator and this should be a real winner.

With the 552 as an additional front end, there really shouldn’t be any job I can’t tackle, but for most bag work the 633 would be able to handle it all!

I’ll post a short review once I get my hands on it.


Mac Pros (past, present, future) vs. the small business

I purchased our first Mac Pro in the fall of 2006. My small production & post shop had an employee count of “1.” The Mac Pro was a big deal. Not only was it my first real foray into the Apple “ecosystem” but was also my first “not-built-by-me” workstation.

At the time, considering my projects and clients of the day, it was a serious investment.

MacPro11

Part of choosing Apple, despite much of the cost-related FUD at the time, was that between Apple’s dual-cpu Xeon setup, and Final Cut Studio’s all-in-one (for the basics) package, the Mac Pro was a less expensive combination than getting a similarly spec’ed Dell or HP workstation (comparing Apples to as-near-as-makes-no-difference non-apples). More… »


Headphones I’ve used: AKG K701s

I went a long time without really great cans. Sure, I had my 7509s, but once I got first good set of studio monitors I began to really dislike the skewed sound of the Sony’s presentation.

Ethereal stuff this sound becomes.

AKH-K701

Still, at heart, I’ve always enjoyed headphones. There’s something a little bit magical about speakers sitting right on your head. As a kid, my connection to the music I liked was almost always consumed through headphones, attached to my Panasonic auto–reverse non-walkman, or my Sony Discman ESP with 3 seconds of buffer memory and some kind of floating tray for use in the car (but I digress.) More… »


Repost: A few hours with with the Reflexion Filter

Note: this is a repost of a review I did on an older blog about the sE Reflexion Filter. It came up while I was responding to a thread on the JWSound forum and I thought it was still somewhat pertinent and would be worth adding here. It’s originally from March 2010. 


The strikes:

  • Small
  • Portable

The gutters:

  • Not as effective as other options
  • Complicated assembly
  • Doesn’t feel too solid
  • Doesn’t work with all microphones

I already have a RealTraps portable vocal booth. I like it. It works when it needs to and it has come in handy recording in several locations with less than ideal acoustics. Recently, I have been working in a space where the room treatment process isn’t complete; until then I was looking for a quick and dirty fix for some voice over recording.

I began to think that perhaps a better setup would be an sE Reflexion Filter in front of the talent with the larger Portable Vocal Booth behind. Unfortunately, compared to the RealTraps product the sE Reflexion Filter fell short, cutting far less of any given room’s ambience whether the Portable Vocal Booth was behind the talent or not. I tried 3 rooms, a 90 square foot room we use for video editing, a 300 square foot post-production room that also doubles for recording, and a large 1500 square foot open loft space. More… »


The Linda Rief Workshop

I’ve always found it hard to convince clients that good location sound is essential to setting the tone of any piece that requires “sound.” Often, clients and/or producers (who lack experience with these things) try to cut costs on sound until it’s too late. The sad part is that recovering bad sound in post, like most “fix it in post” decisions, can be a shock to the wallet and will never compare to “doing it right” (or, at the very least “doing it well.”)

I was quite happy with the location sound on this project even though I occasionally offered my hand at the B-Camera (all while wearing my 552 with talent on wireless).

A few quick thoughts for why it was worth the (kinda small) extra expense:

  • The sound of people’s voices can really draw viewers in and letting them focus on that can be a powerful benefit in getting any message across. Recording these properly makes all the difference.
  • The amount of post work required to “get it right” was shockingly minimal. No noise reduction, only a few EQ tweaks and an HPF or two (since I stay conservative with my sweepable HPF on location). When you consider how much time and money was saved at this point in the process it makes it clear why the investment of a location sound recordist is worthwhile.
  • We had quality B-Roll sound coverage when we needed it, and in a few scenes where other productions might have said “we don’t need that” (only to want it later), these folks were keen to have the sound done right.


FilmImpact.net and Premiere Pro CS6

You “hear” a lot of complaints on forums like the Cow and DVXuser about Premiere not having enough transitions. I’ve never used many transitions in the cases where the material was good enough to be used without anything more than a fade and/or cross-disolve, but I have to agree that Premiere (compared to FCP) ships with a set of video transitions one might describe as “sparse.”

A fellow Creative Cow user, suggest the Film Impact transitions; which at the time were only limited to a few “free” offerings. But they were good, really good. We used them in our small shop for a number of projects big and small for about 6 months. Almost nothing went out the door for a while that didn’t have one stuck in there somewhere, not because we could but because they were good and filled a need that had genuinely been missing with Premiere Pro.

Film Impact recently began selling their transitions as part of a larger set. The original set are still free but others are part of a paid package. The paid package runs for $40 and includes ten very useable transitions. At the time of this writing they were running a special to get the set for $20. I like support indie developers; especially ones who work hard to constantly improve their product.

The transitions aren’t currently CUDA-enabled, but I don’t think Adobe has properly opened up that ability to any 3rd party (shame.) However, they are quick to render so it’s not a big drag on time compared to say, Red Giant’s Colorista II or something like that.

In the end we ended up buying a copy of the Film Impact plugins for thee three seats of Premiere at our shop. Enough said.