Oliver Peters is a successful independent editor/colorist and workflow consultant. He talks with OWC RADiO host, Cirina Catania, about his five decades working in broadcast production and post, and offers a wealth of important tips for media producers at all levels.
If you work in commercials, corporate video, feature films or themed attraction entertainment, you will want to listen in!
And he has a unique spin, as he is conversant in many aspects of technology, including Adobe’s Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut X.
Managing a studio with several editors involves a challenging workflow, including edit sharing, networking and remote collaboration. Oliver has answers!
If you’ve ever shot a scene with multiple types of cameras, you’ve faced a very specific problem: How do you get the colors to match from the different cameras?
At worst, color inconsistencies can become super distracting. For many, color matching simply makes everything look the same. Yet, if you’re a post-production legend like Oliver Peters, you take coloring of multi-camera shoots to the level of its own art form.
One look at his reel and you’ll immediately want to find out how Oliver makes everything looks so amazing.
Get ready for a veritable post-production master class, as OWC Radio host Cirina Catania gets into the details of making editing magic.
Find out more about an award-winning editor and colorist Oliver Peters: www.oliverpeters.com. There you will also find links to his wide range of articles published in print and web publications.
For more about our host, filmmaker, tech maven and co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, Cirina Catania, visit cirinacatania.com.
If you enjoy our podcast, please subscribe and tell all your friends about us!
We love our listeners. And, if you have ideas for segments, write to OWCRadio@catania.us. Cirina is always up for new ideas!
In This Episode
- 00:08 – Cirina introduces Oliver Peters, a successful independent editor/colorist and workflow consultant.
- 05:37 – Oliver shares the cameras used for the Colorist Demo Reel video.
- 10:30 – Oliver explains how cameras have different color sciences and shares the challenges of using different cameras for certain projects.
- 15:19 – Oliver explains why media should be handled before uploading it to an editing system, like putting a valid timecode.
- 22:35 – Oliver shares his blog where he wrote about different areas of workflow in the industry.
- 28:23 – Oliver shares his recommendations for monitors with the best color grading display samples.
- 36:37 – Oliver shares the price range of good quality display to perfectly-calibrated display TVs.
- 41:02 – Oliver shares his workplace setup for an efficient media storage solution.
- 47:16 – Oliver shares his opinion on LTO tapes in terms of practicality production wise.
- 53:31 – Follow Oliver Peters’ blog digitalfilms.wordpress.com to learn more from his various lessons, tips, and updates.
This is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio, and I have Oliver Peters on the line. Oliver is one of these quiet, strong, intelligent, very humble, incredibly talented people who work in so many different areas of what I call the entertainment industry. Oliver, you are an editor, you’re an amazing colorist, you’re a post-production workflow consultant, you run an operation with several editors working with you at any one point in time. I even noticed you had done still photography, which is beautiful. We all know you’re an incredibly creative writer, both in the tech and the creative side, and I guess I would also call you although I don’t know if you’ve used this term or not, you’re definitely an industry analyst because it’s such broad-based knowledge. So I’m excited and welcome to the show.
Well, thank you for the big build-up there. Thank you very much.
It’s just wonderful because I know we haven’t prepared this. I can pretty much ask you just about any question that comes to mind, and I know you’re gonna have an answer. I thought it might be really fun for us to start off with, I was going through your site looking at some of your videos, do you want to maybe pull up your Colorist Demo Reel and we can tell people where to go to find that and if they want to watch as we talk about it, or you can just prompt some questions. If you’re listening and want to see the video go to vimeo.com/oliverpeters, all of these videos are amazing, but I’m looking at the Colorist demo reel. So, if I click on the colorist demo reel, travel lifestyle, what really interested me was there are different styles, different cameras, and resolutions. Can you talk about a colorist’s challenges when a client comes to you and says,” Okay, I have this work, you want to work on it? What’s the biggest challenge for you working with directors and cinematographers?
Well, a lot of it depends on how you’re going to get the material in the first place. Most of the stuff on this reel, I have generally been able to work with the original camera material so that way, it’s not an abstraction that some other editor touched, and then I’m getting what he laid off as a flat-file. So nothing is already pre-baked into the file, so that helps. And as a colorist, if you can insist upon that, that’s a good starting point. The downside of that is it’s a bit more work because you’ve got to make sure that it matches the XML or whatever you’re given for the edit decision list. And so it puts a little more of a finishing aspect to the colorist side of what you do. But in terms of challenges, obviously, a lot of this stuff, especially the stuff that’s on this reel is a mixture of different cameras, depending on what they had available to them.
So typically with travel and lifestyle and stuff, you’ve got a mix of what I would tend to call professional cameras, like an ARRI mini, or a RED, or a Panasonic EVA1, but then mixed in with that you’ve got various DSLRs like a Panasonic GH5 or a Canon 1D X or something like that plus GoPro plus drone cameras. And the challenge is obviously to make that as uniform as possible. It depends if you’re just doing general B-roll because some of this is for a client, where it’s a library of lifestyle product shots that they use on recurring edits, and then others are from an actual short-form show. And in the case of the shows, it’s got to be consistent, right? So it doesn’t matter what the cameras, doesn’t matter what the lighting conditions are, and in some cases, that’s more of a running gun than you would like it to be. So that’s obviously the first issue is just trying to make everything look good and consistent and that the cameras match and so on. Then the second challenge is that you’re working with a DP. So if the DP has something in mind like, it’s Cuba, and I want it to have more of this kind of tone, or it’s the Bahamas, and I wanted to have something else, or we’re in Ireland, and I really want to accentuate the greens, then layers on top of that, so you’re trying to not only make sure everything matches and consistent throughout the length of the show, but it also has a stylistic aspect to it that is pleasing to the director of photography and also the director.It’s not just about consistency. You also need to add a stylistic aspect to your coloring skills. Make sure it’s pleasing to the director of photography and the director. Click To Tweet
I mean, the reel is beautiful, and looking through here, you have exterior landscapes, day shots, night shots, and macro shots. Can you remember some of the cameras that were used on this particular piece?
So underwater stuff, we did on some of this was RED a little bit of GoPro, but the better-looking stuff was RED. The aerials were several different types of DJI drones, most of the things that were close-ups of people and so on are either the Panasonic EVA1 or an ARRI mini, some of the stuff was a Canon C300. And as I recall, there’s also some DSLR stuff in there either Canon 1D X, or I think there was some Sony A7 or A7s and also some Panasonic GH5.
So talk to me for a minute about what happens quite frequently now on shoots when you’re not just using one type of camera. Maybe on the same shots, I’ve seen people use a combination of one of the larger cameras like a RED or an ARRI or even one of the Blackmagic cameras and then a second angle using a DSLR. And I always think about the colorist when I see something like that, and I think, Oh my goodness, this is gonna be a bit of a challenge, isn’t it?
Well, it depends on whether the colorimetry of the cameras inherently matches each other. So one of the things we’ve found on this is some of the shooting they used an ARRI as the prime camera, and then the second unit stuff was with the Panasonic. And what we found is that if they took time to match the cameras at the start of the shoot, they actually lined up pretty well with each other so that the Panasonic color science is close enough to the ARRI color science as if it’s a fairly standard lighting environment that you could kind of swing it in. Get into a good enough look to the two of them some of the interviews, what’s common is to do with three cameras and a lot of times that maybe two matching cameras for the left and right close-up sides, and then maybe a DSLR of some sort, sitting on a wide shot for your two-shot or whatever. And again, if it’s similar color science, if it’s all Panasonic, or if it’s all Sony, or if it’s all Canon, you’re gonna have a better shot at those things all matching. The other thing is most of this stuff is shot in some sort of a log profile, depending on the camera, and that gives me a little more latitude to play with it. It protects Some of the highlights in some cases, and so that’s one of the things because if you shoot stuff with a Rec. 709 profile.
That was gonna be my next question. Yeah, go ahead.
If it’s a controlled environment sometimes, that’s good, but if you’re really in an unpredictable lighting environment then it’s a bit dicey for certain cameras, for instance, I really liked the look of the Canon 5Ds, which were popular when this whole DSLR thing first cranked up, but they do tend to have a fairly rich color profile. And if you shoot that with one camera, and then take some other camera and shoot it in Rec. 709, you’re gonna have a harder time matching those up to each other than if you started out in log to begin with. Obviously, you have no control over that, but it depends on the DP. And if the DP is savvy enough in terms of the pros and cons of different cameras that he may or may have a chance to use.
I found in the past that- and I may be wrong because it changes all the time- but Sony shoots cooler, and Canon tends to shoot natively warmer. Is that still true? Do you find that to be true?
Yeah, I still find that to be true. I’m not a big fan of the Sony cameras as far as their DSLRs. I know there are several different lots that you can apply and stuff like that. I never end up really happy with any of the Cine Gamma lots, and I don’t know whether it’s the camera or just the operator or what the problem is, but I find on those I have a better shot at getting a good looking image if I don’t use a lot at all, and just create it normally. But yeah, different cameras have different color sciences. So people liked the look of ARRI, and they went for a color science that kind of got them closer to film, but that makes it hard to match sometimes. You’ll get shots where skin tones match very nicely, but then you’ll have some object in the background that’s blue, and for whatever reason, you can’t get the two blues to really look consistent between the cameras. And that’s just because one’s an ARRI and one’s a Sony or whatever.
Well, this stuff in Cuba looks absolutely beautiful. It’s rich, and it’s sharp, the colors are gorgeous, but then it’s subjective too. This is an art, and coloring is an art, whenever I’m in a room with the colorist, it’s like watching a painter at work because there are so many different things you can do to take what a director or a DP shoots. And you can apply your look to it, and it can change drastically. I love that part of it; to me, that’s some of the most fun parts of filmmaking, watching the colorist make their magic towards the end.
Well, it also depends on the nature of the project, because no colorist is necessarily going to always grade every project the same way. So I may approach doing a commercial differently than I would do an indie feature film, right? It’s just a different sensibility that you’re bringing to the project because of the nature of the project itself.
What about the grading solutions? Do you resolve, or what do you use most of the time?
All of the above. So I started out other than just the kind of outboard boxes that you had in linear bays as an editor when the Avid Symphony came about, that was really my first experience at doing color correction full time on something. And so I kind of went through Avid Symphony to have full color when that was around to now doing more Resolve, but I also do stuff inside the different applications. So the shop I work at most of the time, are in all Adobe house and for quick turnaround things, I do everything with its built-in Luma III tools. I do some stuff in Final Cut X, and I’ll use some plugins, or all use their native color correction, and it just depends. So I’m pretty comfortable with all of them, it kind of depends on what you’re going for. So if you’re going for a reasonably good looking shot, just about any of the tools will get you there, Resolve is better. I tend to call it if you need a kind of surgical grade. So some of the things if you’ve got an exterior shot and you need to add extra nodes in order to isolate the sky, and you’ve retained highlight detail, all of those kinds of tricks are easier to do in Resolve than they are in using plugins inside your editing tool. And then just the workflow going between whether it’s wheels or curves or whatever, all of that is laid out in an easier to manage fashion in Resolve, so that’s really my go-to. The downside of that is the whole round trip between the editing software Resolve and back is not very bulletproof.
Even now? I thought they were improving that.
Well, they’re definitely improving it. But first of all, it depends on how the media was handled when it went into the system, right? So, because people are shooting with a lot of non-professional cameras, or prosumer cameras, whatever you want to call them, you end up getting clips that five camera cards will all start with clip 001.
Oh, that drives me crazy.
Yeah. And they don’t have valid time code and that sort of stuff. Well, if that was just brought into the editing software, the editing software can handle that, but then it doesn’t translate coming back out so if that was properly managed before it was ever ingested into the edit system then everything is generally gonna link correctly when it gets to resolve. But then you’ve also got issues of certain effects that don’t translate in one app or the other. So if you do like a standard speed change, where it’s now 50%, or whatever, and it’s a constant playback, that translates pretty well. But both Final Cut and Premiere allow you to do speed ramping, which includes acceleration or deceleration of the speed change. Well, that doesn’t translate exactly the same way when you go into Resolve. So it’s those kinds of quirks, and then obviously, some sort of plugin. So, usually what I try to do is, when I’m working in Resolve, I’ll bring in all the clips, I’ll bring in the rough cut as a reference file, place it over there and compare and just make sure all the shots are the right shots, that if there are any resizing or any of that matches, and then I tend to render out the individual source clips so that they go back into whatever the editing software was. So if it started in Premiere, it ends up back in Premiere, if it started in Final Cut, it’s back in Final Cut, and then the original editor can make sure that he’s got all the clips and everything lines up. There are a few projects, and typically this would be more the case with feature films and things like that, where you don’t have a lot of those kinds of effects. The way Resolve does it is fine, and there you’re generally going to render out the finished movie or the movie in reels or whatever the deliverables are on that. And that’s two different workflows that are different depending on the nature of the job.
You know, I hadn’t really intended on asking you this, but you prompted the thought when you were talking. Can you just spend a moment talking to us, or to DITs actually about bins and keywording and workflow in the organization of the media? Do you have some tips that you can give to people and a lot of DITs are coming up through the ranks, they’re self-taught, and so they need mentors, and a lot of times they don’t have mentors. So if you had a young DIT, who was starting to get work, and you as a seasoned professional wanted to give them some advice about how to organize the workflow to keep the long tail functioning, what would you tell them?
Well, I guess it kind of depends on what is expected of them by the production company. I’m not a big one on having the DIT organize the files for me, I get jobs coming in from DIT sometimes, and they’ve made the assumption that it’s going to be an Avid job. So I’ll get all the clips organized in Avid bins, and I’m working in Premiere, so it’s like, okay, you just did all this work for nothing. So from my standpoint, the most important thing a DIT is responsible for is making sure that the camera cards are copied correctly and that the media is, in fact, correct and not corrupt and so on. If that isn’t done right, then everything else is pointless.
Then given the time, it would be nice to rearrange the files accordingly. For example, and again, not everybody is going to want a DIT to work this way, but a lot of the cameras, Panasonic, Sony’s, Canons to some extent, they all bury the files into these multiple folders, and those are completely useless to me as an editor. So the first thing I do when I get all of that stuff is rearranging them into a logical sequence of here’s the date, here’s the camera, here’s the real number. And then the clips are the next level in that hierarchy and rename them if they know what the job is. So I use some utilities that are renamers that append like a job name and a date or something like that to the clip. So that’s one of the things that we do so that everything’s already organized, but it depends on the job. For instance, many DITs are colorists, and they have a rack of cards that they take out on location, and they’re going to do transcoding of all the files. And that’s great when you get that, that’s much better for the editor. Now, I’ve got a bunch of proxy files that are ready to go, and I don’t have to do that once it gets back in the shop. So there are different approaches to that. But I’d say first and foremost, you must protect the integrity of the media, and then everything else is kind of secondary.
I think a lot of times, DITs, especially in fieldwork, are expected to make multiple copies in order to protect the media. And that’s where naming conventions become very, very important because if you ever have to link back to the original media, sometimes it can be really tough to find that, particularly if you’re doing a shoot, we’ve got four or five, six or more cameras going at the same time. So this is really good advice.
I think what I’m getting from this is that we should advise anyone on the crew working in the studio or the field to have a really good conversation with the editor before you start doing anything because you could really mess it up for them if you do it wrong. The studio expects you to protect the media, and they expect you to make multiple copies, but most of the people who hire those crew members don’t really understand the underlying objectives of that particular job. So this is really good advice. And you have written extensively on workflow, and I would like to encourage people to go to your blog. Where do they go to find your blog?
The blog is digitalfilms.wordpress.com.
Yeah. If you scroll through Oliver’s blog, you’re going to find a lot of conversations about the different areas of workflow, and some of the questions I’m asking him today are answered on the blog. Because I can’t keep you on for eight hours, Oliver, I’d like to, but I don’t think that would work. So can we backtrack for a minute? Because I’m very curious about you. What were you like as a kid, and when did you realize you were a creative person, how you started?
Oh, gosh. I don’t know. I was probably not thinking of anything in this field going through, up through my junior year of high school, and then I did a summer program in Virginia at a college and decided to volunteer at the campus radio station as a DJ. At that point, I think I got bitten by the bug. And so when I got back to town for my senior year of high school, I was on the air as a DJ, and then that kind of led to a job in television. During my first year at college, I ended up working for the local PBS station, and they originally did not have an automated master control. So this is going back to the early 70s. The way brakes were handled is, the promo for a 30-minute show would usually have a tag, “Tuesday night at two o’clock,” or something or “At nine o’clock,” or whatever, those were all live announcements. And So I was hired to do that and be the board operator on the audio side for the evening shift. Well, because it’s a PBS station and the breaks were only every half hour or an hour, it was easy to do my homework between breaks. So that worked out great. Working at the TV station, then took me to be involved in the videotape operations at the station, which wasn’t really editing; it was just stand up recording and playback. However, that led to my first job out of college, which was my first job as an editor. So this is like the mid-70s as a linear editor.
On an Avid back then, right?
No, this was on videotape. This is the mid-70s, so this is a two-inch open-reel videotape edit base. And we didn’t have a CMX, we had a Datatron as a competitor to CMX at the time, but that’s how I started. And then that led to different edit jobs along the way. I was a facility manager for a few different facilities and kind of kept editing while I was in the management role and eventually came to the point where I decided it was more fun doing it and talking about it. So I kind of took a step back from management and predominantly just full-time editing, and that’s kind of how it evolved. So as the technology changed, when Symphony came along, and you could do color correction, then I kind of picked that up as a skill set, and when Final Cut came out, it was like, Okay, I’ll scratch my head and figure out why this is interesting. And right around that time, I ended up freelancing. Basically, September 11, the economy took a dump, and I was out of a job, and so that’s what started the freelance career. And the good news and the bad news are that I bounced around different projects, clients, and edits systems, and all of it kind of adds to what you know and what you can do.
Absolutely. What keeps you going when times get tough?
I mean, I enjoy the business, and I enjoy the projects I work on. But a lot of this is you enjoy working with the people that you’re surrounded with. So if your clients are all terrible, then you’re not going to enjoy much of the job, right? And fortunately, I’ve been able to work with really good clients over the years. And even if the project isn’t so great, the clients are generally nice, and you try to do the best job you can for them.It’s one thing to enjoy the business and the projects you work on. But what makes it really worth it is the people you surround yourself with. Click To Tweet
Well, I know your clients love you; you’ve always been very easy to get along with just quietly resolute, and people appreciate that. So I want to get back to grading for a minute, and one question that comes to mind is the monitors. We’re doing all this work, and it always worries me about whether or not the monitors are correctly calibrated. What kind of monitors are we using? What do we do about HDR? I don’t know that we even really have a proper solution for that. Maybe we do, I just don’t know. Can you talk about the monitors that you use and why you like them?
Well, yeah, I’m not too much of a purist on that. So, the world I live in is the small to medium business, post business world, right? And that’s not Hollywood budget and those kinds of things. So that’s an area that’s been, I guess, benefited by the fact that the technology’s gotten cheaper, it has been easier to do things. But obviously, there are some compromises; you don’t have a $30,000 Sony top of the line grading monitor to work with, right? And so I use both a TVLogic and a Flanders depending on what I have available. The things that aren’t that critical, I tend to just go by what I see on display. I have several different displays in the room, including a large Panasonic flat panel. And sometimes you kind of go by what looks pretty good on all of them. I know that’s not the perfect way to approach it, but that is what you tend to be stuck with. I have the luxury of working on projects where it’s not a grind. If you’re a full-time colorist in a commercial shop in LA or something like that, it’s going to be the projects, and you get it done as quickly as possible. You get it out the door, and you really don’t have time to second guess it. And I tend to have more leeway than that. I can do color correction, come back to it a day later and go, “Gosh, I don’t know what I was thinking when I did that.”
Well, if you stare at something too long, your eyes adjust.
Absolutely. And I have done jobs, especially indie clients where they really can’t be in the room the whole time you’re working on it, where I’ll get notes back, and I get the notes, and just go. I’m just not seeing what you’re seeing; you’re telling me it’s oversaturated. I see it as being undersaturated. So until we both get in the room at the same time and look at the same display, I’m just not gonna make a lot of changes until we get that opportunity. So, there are times like that, where you have to kind of figure out what somebody means when they say something. And different people perceive color differently, just like different people perceive a sound mix.
And unfortunately, I think we’re in the world of phones and tablets, where a lot of people are making their final decisions on their iPad or their iPhone or whatever. And it’s like in the audio world, every studio had the smaller Auratone cubes, which audio mixers tended to call the awful tones, right? But those were the lowest common denominator of Okay, if the mix sounded good here, then it would probably translate well on every range of the speaker, and to some extent, the iPhone and the iPad are kind of that equivalent in the video world. And that’s one thing, most of the projects I do are never displayed projected, they’re always displayed on some sort of a screen or a device or whatever. Now I do some indie films, and they do get their one or two theatrical screenings, and then it goes on to whatever distribution, and sometimes, you make different judgments. I’ve done screenings where I’ve seen it, and then I go back and say, “Okay, we’ve really got to make everything darker,” or whatever, and you’re kind of taking it as a leap of faith that the projection was right, which is not necessarily a given.
Well, no, it’s not. I’ve been in theaters with filmmakers screening their films for the first time, and everything looks too green, and I don’t think it’s not the colorist’s fault. It’s the projector at that point, isn’t it?
Yeah, a lot of times. But if I were doing that full time, then I would definitely want to have some sort of a projected environment where I see that because not only is it different in terms of color. But it’s also, I think, a different perception of how you perceive the color. And so there’s a definite difference in terms of what the destination is supposed to be for the project and what you use for monitoring. I’m really curious about what the new Apple Pro Display XDR is gonna look like. Obviously, some people are sounding pretty positive about maybe using it as some sort of a reference display, and other people are kind of downplaying that idea. I don’t know, I have not seen one in person, so I don’t know. I do know that in the stuff we do around the shop, we have a mixture of iMac Pros, IMacs, and a regular older model Apple Cinema, and the editors all work pretty much on the iMacs. They don’t have any separate external monitoring, and that all goes through the room where I work for kind of a final look seeing QC. And I know that the iMac pro screens are very inaccurate because they’re set up for very bright images, and they’re set up for p3 color space. And I think if you’re running in Final Cut X, that’s kind of compensated for. So what you see on the viewer in front of you is reasonably accurate, but if you’re in Premiere that same viewer image is not bright, it looks too saturated, and the reds are overemphasized. I’m not a big fan of making color decisions based on computer displays. But I know that that’s sometimes all that people have and so the best one you can get is the thing to go for.
I mean, it’s even true in still photography. It’s not just video, it’s still photography, you can deliver a session that looks absolutely wonderful, and the client gets it, and they say, “Oh, it’s oversaturated,” and you find out they’re on a really low-level PC. So, how do you draw the line? It’s really kind of scary. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I still like my old 5K Apple monitor.
Yes, absolutely. The display that’s kind of consumer by the bump up is the OLED LGs that a lot of people like for their client displays in rooms because it’s nice and big, and the colors look good, and it’s reasonably accurate. So a lot of it gets down to cost, if you can afford to spend in the $1500-$6000 range, you can get a pretty good display that’s very accurate. If you really want to have something that’s perfectly calibrated, then obviously, you’re gonna go in those $6000-$30,000.
Right. So do you get a new monitor, or do you buy the new Mac Pro? I just recently got a 65-inch QLED Samsung television, which I really like. But I have to tell you that in the selection process, I was a little bit taken aback by the way the imagery has been tweaked by the television manufacturers, and sometimes worries me a little bit that audiences are getting versions of what we produce that we don’t want them to have. It’s really saturated, and it’s too brilliant. I don’t even know what they’re doing to it, it just looks terrible, and they’re panning it off on everyone as high def.
Yeah, those sets are all tweaked with a setting that makes them pop when they’re in a brightly lit showroom when they’re on the floor at Costco or Sam’s Club. And that’s a lousy viewing environment, but they’re that way so that they stand out. So that gets you to the whole filmmaker mode that people are pushing for. It’s not just the colors, but also the frame rate interpolation that many of these sets have on as a default. And I just look at it and go, “that’s horrible,” but other people are perfectly fine with it.
Well, everything is subjective in our business, isn’t it?
Do you mind talking to me for a minute about multi-edit shops? How do we work with a combination of closely aligned, like people in the same shop or people that are remote? If you’re working with multiple editors using the same footage and the storage solutions for that, do you have some advice for us about that?
Yeah, sure. I mean, just like the computers and the software and everything else has gotten cheaper, so as shared storage. So when it was just Avid and a couple of other suppliers, those are very expensive systems, partially because they were robust and partially because they were based on fiber channels. And that was all very expensive, and none of the computers had the stuff already built in to deal with it.The first rule in color correction is to keep everything consistent from camera brands down to the correction style so your output looks good. Click To Tweet
I think you had to buy a $600 fiber optic card to add to your tower. I have a few of those, and they’re still in the garage.
Yeah. And so now most things are ethernet-based. And as the ethernet protocol has improved, you’ve got the performance. Most of these systems run on either 1GB or 10GB ethernet speeds. If you have a computer that can connect as 1GB, which most computers have built-in, or you can get a simple adapter that’s good enough for proxy file editing, it’s good enough for a lot of HD editing if you have a 10GB connection. So an iMac Pro has 10GB built-in, Sonnet, and SanDisk, and a few others make Thunderbolt 2 10GB ethernet adapters that are relatively cheap.
OWC has a great one, actually, Thunderbolt 3 10GB ethernet adapter.
Great. So it’s really easy now to set up a system and not have to be an IT specialist, right? You can buy some of these systems. And we were running both QNAP and LumaForge in our shop. And it’s fairly easy to either set it up yourself through an easy start guide or whatever you want to call it or to bring in an IT specialist who just needs to help you get it set up or walk you through it on the phone. Or contain a viewer into your computer and just make sure all the settings are right. So it’s very easy to get those things up and running. And then here now in a setup where it’s two editors that just need to share files that are within the budget. If it’s ten editors that all need to share, whatever that range is, obviously, budget is always going to be a factor, but it’s now at a point where having a simple shared storage solution that works is pretty much within the same cost as if you had a small RAID array next to each computer.
So I would say any shop where you’ve got multiple editors working on different projects where they may all have to, at various times touch that project, that’s the point where you really need to look at shared storage. Otherwise, you’re going to end up being a sneaker netting a drive from this editor to this editor. But where I’m working, we have nine connected systems, and different freelance editors, and depending on who’s working on which system at any given time you come through and they’re like, “Oh, there’s a revision for this thing we did last week,” “Well, it was done on a system that’s not available today because somebody else is booked in there doing that,” “Well, you need to be able to open that up on another machine.” And so that’s where shared storage has its real beauty. The other area where it’s helpful is our connected systems.
One of those is our media manager, and she takes care of checking our files, uploading them to a client approval site, and handles all of that stuff. And since she’s also connected, she can do that from her desk without interfering with any of the edit processes going on. And that would be true as well if there were a logger or an assistant editor or something like that. So it’s really easy to do, and there are five or six really good manufacturers. The trick for people to know is they have to have a system that is designed for video because you’ve got certain companies I mentioned QNAP. We have QNAP, they make good video servers, but they also make consumer-targeted products. It’s now gotten to the point where, “gee, I want this media player that plays back stuff to all the different places in my house,” and they’ve got products that address that. Well, obviously, you want to make sure if you’re setting up something for video editing, that you’re not buying this device just because it’s cheaper, because it’s not going to give you the performance you need. So you do want to make sure you have a product that is intended for performance and for video and so on.
Do you have a preference between QNAP and LumaForge, or do you just use whichever one’s available or from your client?
No, the reason we went that route, we went QNAP first, QNAP had been very solid, but as we started doing more native 4K editing, it started to present some performance challenges. And so I had talked to the guys at LumaForge on and off for a few years, and we actually did a demo with them, a couple of us flew out to LA and took one of our projects and said, “Here load it up, we want to run it on four or five different systems concurrently and see what happens.” And so we did that, and we bit the bullet and added that system. It’s more expensive than QNAP, but the performance made a difference for us. And so now we have both systems and essentially the QNAP is there for legacy projects that we started on QNAP that are still there, we use it for additional backup. So that as our process in house is we’ll have a project folder for a job. When that job is done, we will back that up to a raw hard drive that sits on the shelf. In addition, we’ll then move it to a folder labeled backed up projects right on the same storage. So it never is off the system, but it’s just one level removed. And as the Jellyfish system, which is LumaForge’s system, starts to get too filled up, we still have capacity on QNAP. So then the next level would be to take that from the backup folder on Jellyfish, copy it over to QNAP, and then delete it from Jellyfish, so we have the luxury of having the extra system which gives us some storage redundancy. Not everybody is obviously going to do that or be able to do that, but it just worked out that way for us.
Are you using long term storage on anything like LTO tape?
We had LTO tape for a while, and it just didn’t prove to be practical because the LTO standards changed. The capacities changed. And projects started getting more, and it just wasn’t useful for us.
I’ve been chasing LTO for years, and every time I get ready to buy a system, they’ve changed it and upgraded it, and there’s a new version and different types of tapes, and I finally said, “Well, this is just too much.” I have to table this discussion with myself for a little while. But long term storage is something that is a challenge for anyone working In media now, particularly since the files are so big.
For example, we talked about the Cuba footage on the colorist reel in Cuba. That project was basically about a ten-day shoot, as I recall, that is probably around 30TB of media in total. And to copy 30TB to LTO is not particularly fast, and people talk about cloud backup, but it’s horrible to try to send that up on the cloud. So that’s not as viable the solution as people want to promote it to be.
You can’t. The pipeline’s not big enough yet. It might be in the future, but it’s just not big enough yet. Whenever anybody tells me, I can back up my stuff in the cloud, I just go, “Oh, right.” I’m sitting here looking at 250TB of media for all the different projects. What do you do with that? OWC does have something which we’ll talk about offline called the Flex 8. OWC does have some great solutions for long term storage, so take a look at that. I’m not just saying that because they sponsored the show, I’m a longtime customer of theirs. Anyway, if you weren’t on LTO, then what did you decide to do?
Well, our method for backing up is not completely convoluted, but it’s redundant. So when they’re typically on location, our DP will copy things to like a small Gtech or some sort of a drive that he’s got with him. And so that’s how it comes to us. That gets ingested into the shared storage, and it also gets copied to just a small Western Digital drive that sits on the shelf, like a 1TB-2TB drive, whatever. Once that media is on the shared storage inside its project folder, I’ll go through, and I’ll rearrange it. So I’ll rename it if it needs to be renamed, I’ll make sure everything kind of fits our format. Then that whole job folder gets copied off to a removable HGST or Seagate IronWolf or an 8TB drive or whatever we’re using. And so at this point, we have three copies of the camera media. So cheap Western Digital, it got put on the shared storage that it lives on plus a SATA drive, so That at least the original material is protected somewhat. So as we go through editing, the premiere project file also gets copied daily by the editor to a Dropbox location. Our theory is the worst case, if the whole house burned down, we’d still have the project file on Dropbox in the cloud. And we’ve got the original camera media on a drive somewhere that hopefully would not be damaged, it would be painful, but we could restore the project. So, that’s kind of our strategy at the moment. I also like to, on any of these jobs, generate stems, generate text with sub-masters, do all that sort of stuff, because nine times out of 10, the stuff we work on is going to go through a slight revision and oftentimes, it’s easier to go back to those pieces and build a new master than it is to like, go back to the original project.
Right. That’s why I never ever call anything final. It’s just a new version number and a date. Nothing is ever final. Well, that’s awesome. Oliver, you are so full of really great information. Is there anything you want to tell the folks listening before we start to wrap this up? I promised you I wouldn’t keep you for eight hours.
Yeah. I’d say in general, don’t get wrapped up in the tools, learn the processes, because the tools change. I think we saw that with the launch of Final Cut X, you had such a group that had only ever cut with Final Cut 7 that when 10 came around, it was like the earth had stopped rotating or something. So, I’ve edited on tools that have long since ceased to exist, and that’s just the nature of the business. Understand the fundamentals, learn the processes, learn the workflows, and then you can adapt any of the tools.
There you go. Oliver Peters, editor, colorist, writer, tech-savvy, and futurist, I’m going to call you all kinds of names, but thank you so much for taking the time. What are you working on right now?
Well, a mixture of things. This company I work for, we do a lot of leisure and entertainment-type clients, so my time is tied up with that. Some of the standard corporate video fair, some of it is regular customer-facing material, so it’s a mix of stuff.
Well, that’s awesome. So I encourage everyone to go to oliverpeters.com or digitalfilms.wordpress.com, which is Oliver’s blog and rummage around. You’re gonna see some great stuff, and thanks again, this is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio. And before I sign off, you know what I always tell you guys, get up off your chair and go do something absolutely wonderful today. Have an awesome day, and thanks to OWC for sponsoring our podcast and giving me the time and the means to speak to wonderful people like Oliver. Take care
- Oliver Peters
- Oliver Peters’ Blog
- Colorist Demo Reel
- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Apple Cinema Display
- Apple Pro Display XDR
- ARRI mini
- Avid Symphony
- Canon 1D X
- Canon 5D
- Canon C300
- DaVinci Resolve
- Final Cut X
- Flanders Scientific Inc.
- iMac Pros
- LTO tape
- Luma III
- OLED LGs
- Panasonic EVA1
- Panasonic GH5
- QLED Samsung
- Rec. 709
- Sam’s Club
- Seagate IronWolf
- Sony A7
- Thunderbolt 3 10GB ethernet adapter
- Establish a set style for coloring a specific project. Determine how you want the finished product to look and let that become your standard during color correction.
- Stay consistent with your work. The style can change depending on the client’s preference. Make sure you understand what they want, and let that reflect in your output.
- Plan out the production phase thoroughly. It’s best to have everything done in the shooting phase so editing becomes more efficient.
- Be mindful of shadows and light blocking. Be aware of the time of day, and determine which hour can give you the best result for what you’re trying to shoot.
- Decide which cameras to use. Different brands yield different results. It’s recommended to stick to just one type of camera throughout the project.
- As much as possible, shoot in a controlled lighting environment. Depending on natural light, shoots can sometimes become unpredictable which may affect the work schedule.
- Maintain a harmonious relationship with your clients. Working with clients you like makes the job easier and a lot more enjoyable.
- Invest in a high-quality monitor that can showcase the colors in the best way. Sometimes buying cheap can hurt the business in the long run.
- Be mindful of storage. Editing videos can lead to heavy files. Best to make sure they’re kept safe in high-quality, durable hard drives.
- Visit Oliver Peters’ blog to learn more about digital films, especially color correction.
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