Archive for the ‘ News ’ Category

Mac Pro RAID setup

I recently posted about choosing a new storage solution for my Mac Pro where I decided to invest in an SAS based RAID system from Now that the kit has been installed I thought I’d post a quick update about the installation procedure, an issue I ran into and the results so far.

Firstly, here’s a rundown of the kit I ordered and how it’s all setup.  The PCIe card is the Areca AC-1882x 8 port SAS/SATA Raid adapter. This card features two external SAS connectors, each capable of controlling up to four SATA hard drives, hence the (8 port) description. Fitting the card into the Mac Pro is a relatively simple process, at least it is if you’re used to fiddling around with PCI cards. If you’ve grown up on iMacs then you might find this a little daunting but as long as your careful then fitting PCI cards is fairly straightforward.

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Is it all about the story?

I can’t help noticing lately that many people in the online filmmaking community seem to be bigging up the art of collaborative story telling as the ultimate goal of the filmmaker. Whilst I agree that story telling is both a powerful and very satisfying part of filmmaking I also think that it’s important to remember that not all filmmakers aspire to follow that path.

There seems to be an assumption that anybody who uses digital video creatively should be ‘maturing’ into short film production and features. I disagree with that, I don’t believe there should be rules when it comes to expression and what inspires and fulfils us as creative individuals.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve witnessed the belittlement of the guys who film their pets or children playing, the guys who shoot everyday objects in slowmo or the ones that just point a camera at people walking around, set it to music and call it a test. I’m guilty of all of the above in the past and I can tell you that I definitely don’t see those videos as simple tests before moving on to real projects. They are artistic creations and personal discoveries in their own right, even if they don’t entertain anybody else.

We all need to move forward and develop our skills, we need to set ourselves new challenges and I wouldn’t find producing any of those videos particularly interesting today but the reality is that I still get a bigger buzz from seeing some of those pieces than I do from watching an average narrative short film. Okay so they might not be interesting or even pleasing for anybody else, but I created them for my own satisfaction, not for the enjoyment of others! Does that make any artform less valid?

Ultimately the bar is set very high for story telling formats, many of the productions we enjoy on TV, at the cinema or via the web are crafted by very talented script writers, directors crews and post production teams who know exactly how to draw you into a story and keep you there. This isn’t something that’s easy to do on your own, it’s rare for any one person to have all of the skills required.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to strive forward in the story telling and collaboration direction, narrative story telling is without doubt where the moving image can be used to the fullest. It’s not however the only way to express yourself as a filmmaker and we need to remember that not everybody wants to follow the beaten path.

A video camera is basically a stills camera that shoots multiple frames a second and I often enjoy using them in exactly that way. It can be liberating to let your captured images speak for themselves, they don’t have to be formed into pre-determined stories before they have a value, regardless of what others might tell you.


Mac Pro & alternatives to Thunderbolt


Note: I’ve updated this post to reflect information received about alternative technologies.

When I purchased my 12 core Mac Pro in 2010 I knew it wouldn’t be the hottest machine for long, it’s just the way technology goes. My policy with hardware has always been to buy the best I can and make it last rather than buying cheaper and more often.

Now half way through it’s expected life cycle of three years my Mac is still very well specced compared to the latest models, it has 48GB’s of Ram and 12 CPU cores running at 2.93Ghz.

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Premiere Pro reliability – doing things by halves

I switched from FCP7 to Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 in November 2010, mostly because of the big steps Adobe were making with GPU accelerated effects and the ability to use media without the need to transcode. At that time FCP7 was still the current and trusted solution for Mac users and with no mention of a new version I had become tired of FCP’s lack of advancement and having to transcode DSLR footage.

I’d been using Premiere Pro as my main NLE for six months when Apple dropped the bombshell that was the release Final Cut Pro X. I felt quite lucky at the time because I was by then comfortable with the Premiere workflow and enjoying the benefits it offered. I had a quick look at FCPX when it was released but like many others I thought it seemed little more than a fancy iMovie so didn’t really give it much thought.

Premiere CS5 initially had a few problems running on the mac, I spent a lot of time highlighting issues both on my blog and directly with Adobe who unlike Apple are very happy to interact with their customers about problems and work with them to solve them. It took a long time for CS5 to settle down, many of the problems were not solved until CS5.5. In the mean time Apple released OSX Lion which interestingly helped with some of the UI problems premiere mac users were suffering with.

For me CS5.5 on Lion got to the point of being fairly stable, it’s weakness continued to be handling projects with a lot of media, I found that scrubbing through a timeline with hundreds of short clips would always result in playback problems so learned to not demand too much from it and avoided scrubbing through clip heavy timelines.

Before long CS6 came along offering some great new features, warp stabiliser in the NLE, more GPU based effects, enhanced FCP like timeline control and a lot more. For what seemed like months before it’s release there were numerous beta testers / bloggers who were raving about CS6 so I decided to jump on board.

I ordered CS6 Production Premium on the day of release and upon installation was immediately  impressed with the improvements. Unfortunately though I soon noticed that CS6 came with a whole new slew of stability issues. Many mac users including myself have had problems with system sound becoming unstable effecting the whole system and when working on a large project I would often see the ‘A Serious Error has Occurred and Premiere needs to close’ message many times throughout each day.

The Adobe forums are packed with users complaining of the same issues, one thread has over 250 posts by people with similar issues with over 17,000 views.

I really like using the Adobe software, but having to go through this whole sequence of Mac instability with each release of the suite is a drag, I’m sure once again Adobe will eventually solve the issues and patch up the Mac version to be almost as good as the PC variant but once again that will likely come along as the .5 version.

Because the .5 releases are full paid releases I have to wonder if Mac users would be better of doing things by halves and upgrading on the CS*.5 releases rather than jumping on the Mac problem solving wagon at the release of the new full suite, certainly from the past couple of versions that would have made a lot of sense.

I’ve actually started looking at FCPX  again which seems to have come on a long way since it’s release. It still requires some transcoding but after two days of playing with it I’ve not seen a single crash which is refreshing after using CS6!

Like any software reliability problems there are many factors involved including hardware used, other software installed etc etc so if you’re experience has been different then feel free to post a comment.


Harley-Davidson in Cascais, Portugal

Here’s the latest video I shot and edited for Harley-Davidson Europe. The location of this rally was Cascais and surrounding areas in Portugal. The flag parade that happens towards the end of the rally (and the end of the video) started out on the famous Estoril race circuit which was a real blast to ride around.

Everything in the above video was shot on the Canon C300 and I made a lot of use of over cranking again this time. It’s a real shame to have to revert to 720p to do that on the C300 but I think the camera still manages to retain a lot of detail and certainly enough for these projects as the required delivery is 720p anyway.

For the flag parade I attached my SmallHD DP4 to a lanyard and help it in front of my whilst using the other hand to position the camera. This all happens on the back of a motorcycle with other bikes everywhere so it was a little bit daunting but worked great.

I only use two lenses throughout the whole shoot, the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS EFs and the Canon 24-105mm f4 IS L . The 17-55 did more than 80% of the shooting though and I find that lens to be the most practical for this subject as bikes just look great wide!

The only other notable kit was a glide track shooter HD and my Miller Tripod with the later only being used on five of the shots. I make a lot of use of the image stabilisers in the lenses and the warp stabiliser in CS6 so that I rarely have to use a tripod.

The song is by the excellent “Lovedrug” and was licensed with the help of The Music Bed.

If you have any questions about camera settings etc then just shout. These event videos have to be produced immediately after the shoot itself without any time off so I’m going to have a much needed day or two off :)