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OWC ThunderBlade Cuts Production Time, Costs During Filming of ‘Playing God’

Wyatt Cagle’s world revolves around data.

As the Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) on the Ralph Smyth Entertainment feature film “Playing God” starring Michael McKean and Alan Tudyk, Cagle is responsible for, among other things, ensuring each day’s footage is safely secured from set and quickly backed up on multiple RAID-enabled hard drives. He’s also responsible for distributing that data from set to the offsite editor who needs to quickly transcode the footage into proxies.

And in order wrangle, ingest and deliver huge amounts of data to the film crew without hindering tight production deadlines, Cagle needs the fastest hardware possible. But while hardware had long caused a bottleneck in film production workflows, forcing crew members to sit idly while data is ingested, DITs like Cagle have a new weapon at their disposal: the OWC ThunderBlade.

Getting Dailies, Daily
The OWC ThunderBlade external SSD provides transfer speeds up to 2800MB/s, making it the ultimate working drive for filmmakers and DITs like Cagle who transfer massive amounts of data.

“Most of the cards are around 200GB,” Cagle says of his on-set workflow. “You have to make not one copy but four copies of it. That’s not 200GB, that’s 800GB… so speed is critical.”

The two ThunderBlades on the production of “Playing God” act as “shuttle drives” because of their unique speed. On set, Cagle’s data transfers now take just a few minutes rather than up to 30 minutes, meaning they’re quickly ready for the editor to pick up and take to the production’s base camp for editing. Cagle said that with the speeds of the ThunderBlade, editors and directors are able to view their dailies, daily.

“The [two] ThunderBlades are our transfer drives because they’re so fast. Within minutes I’ve got everything logged and ready for the editor. We’re shooting stuff in the morning, the editor is editing it in the afternoon, and the director is seeing something sometimes that night. Without that speed, without the ThunderBlades, we couldn’t do that.”

David Ward also knows how crucial it is for the footage to be distributed quickly and securely. Ward, an editor and producer on the film, notes that memory cards delivered from the film’s set are downloaded as many as 15 or more times a day, making the 10 or more minutes of time saved on each card all the more important.  

Ward adds that multiple times during filming, the quick data transfers allowed him to get a rough cut of a scene finished quickly enough while still on location to allow flexibility for additional angles to be shot to fill any gaps.

“The biggest thing for us is being able to get speed where he’s able to backup an entire roll in [about] five minutes and then already have the footage ingested and start looking at it so then we know that everything looks right and we can cut it and grab pickup shots the same day,” Ward says.

Cutting Costs
On nearly any film or commercial production, time is money. More waiting around done by the crew means more overtime. More overtime means higher production costs and stretched budgets – a fact that any DIT knows well.

“A lot of people [think] ‘well, once the last card comes out of the camera everyone gets to wrap!’ ” Cagle says. “But we’re still here. We have to download the card. We have to make sure that everything is safe and secure … So having that speed is really convenient for me as the DIT. But as for the producer, it’s a money saving value. Having drives like the ThunderBlade really do give you the confidence that you’re not going to be going into a lot of overtime waiting for that last card.”

Cagle also notes that while modern interfaces provide the potential for speed on any drive, filmmakers often opt for “budget” hard drives that have a much higher chance of failure that can put millions of dollars worth of production at risk.

The peace of mind that comes along with an extremely reliable storage solution like the ThunderBlade makes the investment obvious for Cagle, who knows that he can let the producers worry about the film itself and not the security of the data the cameras capture.

“With the reliability, the durability, just the consistency of [ThunderBlade], it makes me feel comfortable and then I can impart that to the producer and honestly say ‘You are going to be taken care of. Your independent film that you’ve been working on for five years and you’ve scratched and clawed to get – it’s okay … they’re going to be taken care of.’ ”

For more on the OWC ThunderBlade,

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