Workflow: The Real Machine Behind Project Profits

Workflow: The Real Machine Behind Project Profits

Provided by the G-Technology Studio Team

In his early twenties, this writer bought his first car from his father. With no money and no credit, it was a total deal. Just take over the payments. Easy!

In the first three months of ownership, that car racked up over $2,000 in repair bills. Lesson learned: The cheapest, easiest route often costs much more in the end.

And yet, studios and producers often take this exact approach when selecting their gear, especially when it comes to storage.

We get it. Cameras are sexy; storage is not. Most creatives would rather discuss international lending policies than storage. But storage is not what we should be talking about. Hang with us a second, and let’s see if we can sexy the subject up a bit, at least where it matters most: the bottom line.

“Storage” is about drives, and a drive is some media in a little box that needs data and power connections. Of course, there are different kinds of drives and different quality levels, but the discussion rarely gets that far. In the vast majority of considerations, drives are about capacity and price. “We’re shooting a big project. Go buy lots of terabytes for the lowest cost.” It’s like taking over the payments on a lame car. Easy!

Decision makers need to focus on workflow, not storage. As we’ll see, the money saved by attention to workflow will dwarf (many times over) the money saved by shopping price-per-terabyte.

If you’re a serious creative, or you finance serious creatives, the 3 Corners of Workflow rule your world.

Technical. What cameras are being used? At what resolution? For how many days? How much camera media is in play, and how is it being backed up? People who pay attention to the technical do not have to interrupt a shoot to run to the store for more storage.

Physical. Where is the shoot? Is it being done in the field? Is there power? Will the team be moving during the day or between days? Price-per-terabyte will require access to power, lower tolerance for field conditions, and size/weight characteristics suited to pack animals. Did you budget for pack animals?

Post requirements. Is there a need to shoot and edit simultaneously? Where is the footage going for post, and will the post house be backing up the data? Are the drives coming back from post? If so, when? Storage-centric thinking leans toward drives that are too slow for real-time editing and may not have the reliability needed to survive the journey through post-processing.

Unfortunately, workflow is more complex than storage. It’s like cars versus bicycles. Both will take you across town. Both have wheels and gears. One will save loads of time, allow you make much more money, and ultimately justify its higher price. Yes, cars are more complex than bicycles, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid understanding them and miss out on their benefits.

We’re going to revisit this subject soon and drop some numbers and sample situations on you to illustrate the differences between storage and workflow. Before we go, though, consider just the basic, common situation of needing to finish backing up and/or copying the day’s data before leaving a shoot site. You know how long your average copying time runs. 20 minutes? An hour? Someone has to sit there and burn both time and money waiting on those transfers to complete.

Figure that a low-end, off-the-shelf portable hard drive will transfer large files at a rate of roughly 110 MB/s, or 6.6 GB per minute. So, if you finish the day with 500 GB of video footage, that’s over 75 minutes of sitting on your hands watching data transfer.

Now, what if you could buy a drive that was, say, four times faster than this? You just saved almost an hour of overtime pay. But let’s say it’s only half an hour. How much is that DIT’s hourly overtime rate? Do other people (security, electrical, etc.) also have to stay late? Add up everyone’s overtime for those 30 minutes.

Here’s the capper: How many days each year do you shoot and incur that sort of overtime? If you’re in a big studio, it might be 200. If you’re a solo professional, it might be 50. Let’s say 100. Just move the decimal from your last answer two places to the right…

…and ask yourself if you should have invested in a faster drive.

We’ll be back to explore this subject in more depth. Until then, remember: Think workflow, not storage. Which is the same thing as saying don’t buy your dad’s car just because it’s cheap and sitting right there.

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Workflow: The Real Machine Behind Project Profits