Austrian-born Nino Leitner recently posted on his widely read blog (www.ninofilm.net) about the significance of shooting 8-bit vs. 12-bit footage. Today, the Austrian-born writer, director, and cinematographer favors the 8-bit Canon C300, but he knows what the future has in store. An 8-bit JPEG can represent 16.7 million colors, whereas a high bit-depth file, offering the best image quality possible today, can represent over 28 billion. Being a narrative filmmaker, Leitner often has to shoot under very difficult lighting conditions. The added dynamic range of 12-bit shooting enables a level of control over a scene’s look and feel that is physically impossible with 8-bit. Leitner knows that 12-bit represents both his future as well as that of the film industry. The problem, of course, is that 12-bit requires dramatic change in storage capacity and performance.
Such technical improvements are nothing new to Leitner. From his earliest documentary production in 2007 to his recent work on the fiction short film ALEX, one of the first films to use the 4K raw capability of the Canon C500, Leitner has been elbow-deep in dealing with storage throughout the cinematographic process. He knows that wrong storage solution will cripple and potentially derail a project. This is why Leitner now leans heavily on storage solutions from G-Technology.
Capacity and Convenience
“Obviously, file sizes are growing exponentially,” says Leitner.“You shoot uncompressed 4K on a Canon C500 camera or something like that and you end up with huge amounts of data that need to be saved. It’s 1TB of data for 1 hour of footage with that camera—insane! And I usually try to never delete anything on-set, because that’s just asking for errors to happen. I try to pull data off only from backup copies of the drives and cards. I keep the original drives untouched as long as possible.”
The upside to this approach is maximum data security. If original copies are never touched, there’s almost no risk of information loss. Of course, this also means needing double or triple the storage capacity on hand in order to make and work with backup copies. Leitner notes doing a recent job for a railway line that yielded almost 2TB of raw footage, and he needed three times that capacity for his total workflow. On average, he uses 4TB to 5TB per month, although that number is clearly climbing.
Long before being contacted by G-Technology to join its G-Team of world-renowned creative professionals, Leitner made G-Technology drives part of his daily toolset. His favored backup product on-set is the G-Technology G-DRIVE mini. The drive features USB 2.0 and 3.0 interfaces as well as FireWire 400 and 800. Additionally, at just over a half-kilogram, the mini measures roughly 12cm x 8cm x 2.5cm. This makes for a very flexible, compact backup solution that can also be easily shared with clients, such as when delivering dailies or submitting edited projects for review.
If there is a downside to portable backup drives, it’s that they tend to trade speed for convenience. In a time when the industry is moving from 2K formats to 4K and higher—never mind the added data load of 8-bit to 12-bit—backup drives often lack the throughput necessary to handle the higher bitrates of these latest formats.
“On a job, if I’m shooting something like the Canon C500 or RED that needs more speed than what a USB drive can handle, I use G-Technology’s G-RAID with Thunderbolt,” says Leitner. “I love that drive for editing. Not in the field, because it needs power—but in a hotel? You can really throw huge amounts of data on that. On ALEX, it literally saved our butts because without it, our digital imaging technician would still be sitting there copying data to USB drives two weeks after the shoot.”
Having sufficient throughput ensures that a drive can provide editing capabilities at or near real-time levels. In a backup capacity, that bandwidth can also mean the difference between high on-site productivity and a terrible experience fraught with errors.
“Frequently, after the shoot,” he adds, “you end up with so much data that you sit there for hours and hours backing up. It’s already 1:00, 2:00 in the morning and you have to get up at 5:00 or 6:00 again. You’re like, ‘If I didn’t have to use a USB 2.0 drive, it would save me so much time and make life so much easier!’ That happens all the time, and that’s where I really enjoy using G-Technology drives equipped with USB 3.0, especially the Thunderbolt. It makes a lot of difference if you’re sitting there after the shoot for only half an hour instead of two hours.”
The G-DRIVE minis and G-RAID with Thunderbolt are sufficient to cover most of Leitner’s storage needs in the field. Back in his office, where the heaviest data lifting comes into play, Leitner is now setting up a G-Technology G-SPEED™ eS PRO. This SAS-based, four-bay mini tower allows for capacities up to 16TB and will outperform even Fibre Channel as a high-bandwidth storage medium. As Leitner’s needs expand, he will have the option of adding another eS PRO to his storage network, enabling throughput in excess of 1000 MB/s.
“Like many others, I’ve gone through a lot of different manufacturers of hard disks,” he says. “If you think about it, your storage is one of the most important things you can have on a shoot. One of our problems is that we don’t use tapes anymore, so we don’t have a proper archiving medium. All we can do is get the best hard drives out there. So far, I think G-Technology drives are the most reliable. I couldn’t say that about some of the other manufacturers.”
Leitner emphasizes that support is another key factor behind his G-Technology preference. In addition to the company focusing its products on creative professionals, G-Technology also makes sure that its support staff are both knowledgeable and accessible from a broad number of locations around the world. “You actually have people to talk to if there is a problem. G-Tech is the only one that seems to make a real effort in that regard.”
This support has been instrumental in helping Leitner to balance the freedom of digital cinematography with the more challenging aspects of digital archiving. Vendors toss around the term “partner” so much that it tends to make the word weak and ambiguous, but Leitner does see G-Technology as an important partner in his creative operations. His craft and imagination may drive his career forward, but the strength of his storage keeps him on a stable course.
G-Team members are leaders in their respective fields who use G-Technology products in their day-to-day work lives. G-Team members are compensated for their participation.