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Joshua Miner

Recommended laptops for on-location data offload?

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Hi folks,

I'm still gearing up to shoot my pilot and want to poll the DITs about their laptop recommendations. I want to have a laptop on-site to offload media onto at least two backup SSDs. On-location grading and editing is a plus but not strictly necessary; my primary goal is simply to just offload clips from my media safely and securely. Are MacBook Pros still the recommended laptop, or are there equivalent Windows laptops available? I've read that Mac seems to have the best media backup programs like ShotPut. I may have access to student DITs, but I am not sure yet, so I'll likely be doing that myself since I have the most experience with digital film in my crew.

 

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

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I recommend Silverstack software if you have more than couple of shooting days. better verifying options and much easier to manage larger amounts of cards in the library.

 

you will want to check for having the right connectors in the laptop and the required amount of them. the newest macbook models will need adapters to work with the card readers and to get reasonable amount of connectors so you will need to take that into account.

 

windows laptops are ok if you don't need Silverstack (shotput pro is pretty much the best you can do on Windows) and you will check very carefully that the connectors are right for you (they may for example have usb-c connectors without thunderbolt3 circuitry and so on) .

on windows you will get more processing power on the same budget, especially GPU's will be much more powerful for the price, so if you do proxies at the same time on the same laptop it may be beneficial to have a Windows laptop, for example one made originally for heavier gaming use.

you probably don't need Retina displays for simple offload and management tasks and the laptop displays are generally too small for quality control work anyway so they are no reason to purchase a mac, concentrate on other aspects instead.

 

both Windows and Mac are a tad unreliable so you will need to know your system well and DON'T DO ANYTHING ELSE with it during the gig so that you know you/someone else did't update software X which made data management software Y nonworking in the middle of the shoot etc. . Or a trainee using it for shady personal business when offloading cards and downloading and installing all kind of crap to it :blink:

Personally I like to not even have the DIT computer connected to the internet most of the time when on a shoot, only connect it if absolutely needing to upload dailies or something other dit related.

 

the computers will be your worst nightmare on set, they never work correctly all the time so be prepared and don't trust ANY system no matter the brand ;)

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Ive been using Hedge last couple of years.. . if you don't need anything fancy .. just down loading cards to folders .. its quite a bit quicker than Shotput.. although both are very good.. Hedge is just quicker if time is a concern...as it verifies as it down loads where as SP does it after the down load.. with due respect, I wouldn't let a student anything do my down loading .. its surprising how often production leaves this most important task up to over worked, half asleep interns.. on a crappy old computers.. often with very sad results ...

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First off - don't be scared of downloading despite what was said above. If it is unstable you are doing it wrong. I would call a MacBook (2014ish MacBook pro or newer) fairy standard for loaders. Get shot-put, hedge or silverstack and make sure you have a very good understanding on how data transfers work and you can go from there. There is plenty of good info out there that you can research. As for as grading goes - that's another topic. On set editing isn't a DIT role in the US.

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First off - don't be scared of downloading despite what was said above. If it is unstable you are doing it wrong. I would call a MacBook (2014ish MacBook pro or newer) fairy standard for loaders. Get shot-put, hedge or silverstack and make sure you have a very good understanding on how data transfers work and you can go from there. There is plenty of good info out there that you can research. As for as grading goes - that's another topic. On set editing isn't a DIT role in the US.

 

 

No one said it's scary its a very simple procedure .. but you need someone who is organized ..and down loads in a calm and focused way.. not an over worked PA or student who have alot of other stuff on there minds and/ or don't actually really know what they doing at all... that was my point..

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No one said it's scary its a very simple procedure .. but you need someone who is organized ..and down loads in a calm and focused way.. not an over worked PA or student who have alot of other stuff on there minds and/ or don't actually really know what they doing at all... that was my point..

 

 

I wasn't referring to your post Robin - your info was great.

 

I was speaking to the part of Aapo's post about windows and mac being unreliable and not connecting the computer to the internet. Not that it is essentially incorrect - mistakes and errors do happen - but if you are using a system you should understand it well enough and have taken the necessary precautions to ensure it all works (have a backup). If it doesn't that's pretty much on you. In other words don't form systems out of fear, form them out of an understanding of the process.

 

I agree you shouldn't have a "student DIT" doing offloading (whatever that means).

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I wasn't referring to your post Robin - your info was great.

 

I was speaking to the part of Aapo's post about windows and mac being unreliable and not connecting the computer to the internet. Not that it is essentially incorrect - mistakes and errors do happen - but if you are using a system you should understand it well enough and have taken the necessary precautions to ensure it all works (have a backup). If it doesn't that's pretty much on you. In other words don't form systems out of fear, form them out of an understanding of the process.

 

I agree you shouldn't have a "student DIT" doing offloading (whatever that means).

 

 

ok got it .. thanks ..yes agreed ..know the system.. never worried about my computer being connected to the inter web either have to say.. after years of using Shot put pro.. (still great software and I have the latest one on my computer now) have found Hedge to be alot faster for the simple card to folder down loads I do.. on a side note.. MASV is a fantastic service for shifting big files.. highly recommend it..

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I'd be interested to know what features of Silverstack people find essential. A lot of what it does is targeted at high-end productions using dual-system sound, live grading and complex LUT workflows with integration to post, proxy rendering and other advanced tricks - the sort of stuff that's often talked about but frankly quite rarely actually done.

 

Silverstack is extremely expensive, especially if you aren't going to use all of its features. It also runs only on extremely expensive hardware, whose rather limited features you are likely to stretch to the very limit doing exactly the kind of work that Silverstack does.

 

I've often pondered writing something to do similar stuff on PCs, but I would want to do some research into what people actually want it to do, first.

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I would personally avoid the current generation of Mac book pro for DIT duties. It only has USB-C type connectors - so for many peripherals, card readers, external monitors etc.. Your going to need dongles and adapters, which can get annoying. E.g needing an adapter every-time you need to plug in a USB memory stick. I've got a 2017 model and have lost 2 dongles already and its a pain if you've forgot the right adaptor.

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I would personally avoid the current generation of Mac book pro for DIT duties. It only has USB-C type connectors - so for many peripherals, card readers, external monitors etc.. Your going to need dongles and adapters, which can get annoying. E.g needing an adapter every-time you need to plug in a USB memory stick. I've got a 2017 model and have lost 2 dongles already and its a pain if you've forgot the right adaptor.

 

 

I have one and for the simple task of just down down loading SxS/ SD cards its ok.. the only dongle I need is for the Sony SxS card reader.. other multi card reader is native USB-C.. and for the HDD,s I have my own USB-3- USB-C cables.. alot of the drives these days come with both.. so I just use spare ones from those drives for HHD,s that dont come with USB -C.. a big advantage is the newer USB-C charger .. as the cable comes away from the charger.. cable breaks.. just new USB-C cable instead of a whole new charger..easy to have a spare.. now I find that all the ports being the same is a big advantage .. and wouldn't want to go back..

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How about renting extra cards and doing the offloading at the production office? Probably cheaper than hiring an onset DIT. A lot safer to ingest away from the set. No pressure, no fear of power kickouts or hardware, software, connectivity issues.

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How about renting extra cards and doing the offloading at the production office? Probably cheaper than hiring an onset DIT. A lot safer to ingest away from the set. No pressure, no fear of power kickouts or hardware, software, connectivity issues.

 

 

When I moved from tape to solid state .. the best advise I got.. "always have enough cards to cover a full days shoot".. and Ive always stuck by that to the point of madness !.. I now have 5 x 128GB SxS and 1 x 64GB SxS(emergency ) card.. of course Ive only ever once got into 4 cards :) .. but I have that peace of mind.. no down loading in on a car /train/ donkey.. BUT I wouldn't rent them.. buy them and sleep well..

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I find it amazing that the producers that hire us, often do the work themselves by simply clicking and dragging to one location only and they are perfectly happy with that. But when the work load is sufficient enough to hire a dedicated DIT/Media Manager, they require X software and want to know what you have.

I have backed up thousands of hours of footage using Shot Put Pro on a 2012 Mac Book Pro. Sometimes I use Resolve. Zero issues that couldn't be handled immediately. Have back up gear for any contingency. I would also say that having a laptop with a second video card is beneficial. Otherwise, there are many options both mac and windows that work well enough. 16GB ram minimum.

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Many don't consider the option of loading a laptop with a 4tb SSD and doing transfers directly to the laptops internal drive. It's way faster and easier on everyone especially when you're working remotely away from power sources.

 

The drives have only recently become affordable enough, which may explain why I've never seen anyone other than myself do it. I put a 2Tb drive into a super cheap HP ProBook and use it mostly for transfers. It always blows away a macbook onset in terms of emptying the cards quickly.

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Many don't consider the option of loading a laptop with a 4tb SSD and doing transfers directly to the laptops internal drive. It's way faster and easier on everyone especially when you're working remotely away from power sources.

 

The drives have only recently become affordable enough, which may explain why I've never seen anyone other than myself do it. I put a 2Tb drive into a super cheap HP ProBook and use it mostly for transfers. It always blows away a macbook onset in terms of emptying the cards quickly.

 

Not really going to work as a freelancer though.. I don't want the rushes in my computer .. and most broadcast productions are asking for 3 separate backups.. they even want them to be kept in separate locations.. but that's pain and we seldom ever do that..

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Not really going to work as a freelancer though.. I don't want the rushes in my computer .. and most broadcast productions are asking for 3 separate backups.. they even want them to be kept in separate locations.. but that's pain and we seldom ever do that..

I don't blame you. I'd never leave the set with the only copy of the footage. I'm saying the laptop would be owned by production and they could put a drive in it so that they can make redundant copies later. Both the primary dump and the secondary copies would happen faster cause the footage is only going to one location in one direction.

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I don't blame you. I'd never leave the set with the only copy of the footage. I'm saying the laptop would be owned by production and they could put a drive in it so that they can make redundant copies later. Both the primary dump and the secondary copies would happen faster cause the footage is only going to one location in one direction.

 

 

ah ok I see sorry .. maybe that's more a drama on set thing.. Im usually on locations and making the backups in hotel rooms or at home.. these days the time taken isn't long even with 4K footage.. plug in 3 drives and Hedge or Shotput just does it, with hash check and reports atomically in the folders..all at the same time.. its not so much the process but who is doing it.. their knowledge level.. where they are doing it.. eg back of a taxi on the way to the airport .. and how much sleep they have had.. and that they are just doing a drag and drop at the end of shoot day that has cost tens of thousands of dollars !

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Many don't consider the option of loading a laptop with a 4tb SSD and doing transfers directly to the laptops internal drive. It's way faster and easier on everyone especially when you're working remotely away from power sources.

 

The drives have only recently become affordable enough, which may explain why I've never seen anyone other than myself do it. I put a 2Tb drive into a super cheap HP ProBook and use it mostly for transfers. It always blows away a macbook onset in terms of emptying the cards quickly.

 

I've considered this, but after lots of research I determined that it's just too risky to load everything onto the OS drive. Between programs running that require sporadic read/writes and finicky OS behavior it's safer to use an external drive to offload data. That way you can duplicate it as needed and hand it off. I understand that if that's the only option it's better than nothing, just something to bear in mind.

 

Looking back at my original post, we ended up aborting the shoot due to bad weather; half the cast couldn't make it to the location. On the plus side we did shoot a small unscripted project with the people we did have on-site. I was able to back up everything onto SSDs, but for future shoots I want to set up a good workstation to abide by best practices for DIT wrangling. I'll probably pick up ShotPut Pro; one of the books I recently read by Blain Brown had a section dedicated to on-site data management and that echoes much of what was said here.

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ShotPut is good.. and can do all sorts of folder "nesting".. but for straight forward copy of whole card to multiple drives.. I find Hedge is be quicker.. I have both on my laptop.. but just for speed and simplicity ..I go for Hedge.. a good thing about both is they generate a down load report .. this is often stipulated in contracts as an Insurance requirement for the production.. which also usually includes that footage must be down loaded to 3 drives .. it can also serve to save arse if the drives dont open when they get to post.. because who ever did the down load will be blamed..not the person who didnt look after them in transit.. happened to me once..

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