HANGMAN Case Study
Going on tour with a musical artist or band might appear glamorous, but filming every night quickly becomes a feat of endurance. There’s prep and setup during the day, the concert itself in the evening and then a late night spent copying all the footage to a secure location. Rinse and repeat. Working regularly with major artists including Robbie Williams, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Genesis, AC/DC, Metallica, Sting and Sia, James Tonkin of HANGMAN in West London, knows the routine well, “With the tour work I've done I can easily fill four RED mags during a concert. You’re generating several terabytes of data in a single day. But then you go and do it all again the next day and then the next day and the next day.”
James initially intended to forge a career in music, studying music production so he could find his way around a studio and record his band. When he took a module in video production he discovered a new passion for cameras and optics. Having established a career first as an editor and then as a director, James started to work with cameras just as the DSLR revolution was taking hold and Apple was disrupting the editing world with Final Cut Pro. Soon James’ passion extended to optimising his post-production and grading. Today HANGMAN has grown into a highly sought after boutique production and post-production company that works with some of the premiere “bands and brands” in the world. It is in his work with bands that James is able to combine his love for music with his love for digital film production, “It's a great situation where once I've shot a project, I now get to finish it. I find DP-ing and grading go hand in hand so well these days. I always tend to shoot with a camera that is going to require a healthy knowledge of colour correction or an understanding about how to use colour correction to achieve the intended look. That relationship is important to me and my work. Of course, when I think that I've overdosed on touring with bands, it's also nice to then spend the winter season inside a cosy, dark room, peering at pixels. I’ve managed to create a healthy balance of both.”
In 2012 James started shooting with RED cameras. The footage he was recording resulted in far bigger files than he’d been used to with his Canon 5D Mark II, but he was also shooting a lot of slow motion, which meant even more data. At the end of every night James would be facing at least 40 minutes to an hour per card to copy the files before he could sleep. As James explains, “To be able to recycle my cards I would double back them up. This meant I was spending four to five hours on top of every shoot day just copying files. That could get really painful. So I started to look for solutions to speed this up. That’s when I first found Hedge and downloaded a trial of the application that has become OffShoot.”
As with so many Hedge customers, the experience of working with OffShoot during the 10 days of the free trial was all the convincing James needed. He hasn’t looked back. Today OffShoot is a tool he cannot live without, “I did start with copying footage off camera cards, but I can't with any good conscience do a single copy or even a basic Finder copy anymore. I use OffShoot to copy everything. It has just become one of the prerequisite applications I install on every machine.” It’s listening to customers like James that inspired Hedge to develop a new floating licence model for OffShoot. A floating licence offers a much greater degree of flexibility as it allows OffShoot to move from one computer to another as you need it. You can also lock a licence to a specific system to ensure it is always available.
One of the key feature requirements in copy utility for James is speed. At the time he first used OffShoot the quest for efficiency was utmost in his mind. So much so that when he first started to experiment with OffShoot he timed each copy and kept a running tally of the transfer times, “I was looking at the time to try and find ways to save myself four to five hours and avoid staying up until three in the morning copying camera cards. I also wanted a better copy process as well. There were so many times a Finder would get interrupted or I would find a copy would fail. With RED footage specifically if you restart a copy, you have to be very careful to maintain the integrity of segmented files because if you do, it won't open up properly. That causes all sorts of pain.”
The speed advantage offered by OffShoot is created by Hedge’s underlying FastLane technology. With FastLane multiple transfers can happen simultaneously and the software monitors system performance to ensure every transfer happens at the most optimal speed. For James the performance of OffShoot has been a complete revelation, “I was amazed at the speeds I was seeing. These days I’m copying 660GB CFX cards to the internal drive on my MacBook Pro in less than 10 minutes. I can also make duplicate, verified copies, so I know the footage is safe and I no longer sit in hotel rooms watching progress bars all night long.”
When James started to work with OffShoot he documented his initial tests:
DIT - OffShoot (w/Checkpoint enabled)
RED CFX 660 mag copy w CFX TB3 to LAPTOP = 10min
RED CFX 660 mag copy w CFX USBc to LAPTOP = 16min
RED 512 mag copy to 2x 4TB LaCie TB2 drives (240MBs) = 1h15min
Finder copy to 1x 4TB LaCie drive = 40min
OffShoot also performs a checksum operation on each transfer to ensure that the files have been copied successfully. This sort of validation is the only way to truly guarantee the integrity of data. That’s not something James ever wants to leave to chance, especially at the end of a very long day. For James the value of using OffShoot verification is very clear, “I think of a Finder as the naked way of performing a file copy. Unless you know how to execute a copy using the Terminal and how to look under the hood a little bit more. You also want to have some confirmation of what you've done. Just because you can copy it quickly doesn't necessarily mean that you've copied it safely or copied a hundred percent of the data. Anybody who's lost a file and has experienced the pain of what it means to lose footage knows this. It’s an extremely hard lesson, but it makes you question your whole ethos of how you handle copies. I’ve started to preach about this to everyone I work with. Secure copies are part of our culture now, both on set and in post.” As James makes clear, verification is crucial in every situation, but especially when the demands of the project require constant recycling of camera cards. “When I’m working with major artists, I’m conscious that they understand how to create special, often unique moments, they know how to work with the camera to do that and they trust me to get the shot. They also trust me to keep the footage safe.”
When the Hedge team creates software, James is the sort of customer they have in mind. It’s his challenges they want to address and they want to provide solutions that make sense to him and fit into the way a company like HANGMAN works. The initial focus of OffShoot was incredibly fast, verified copies of camera card files. It’s clear from James’ experience and decision to use OffShoot for every copy operation, that we’ve exceeded our own expectations. We understand that every client HANGMAN works with trusts James to capture their performance or their product. That James in turn trusts our software, means the world to us.
Want to give OffShoot a spin without having to commit? Try our 10-day full-feature trial.
HANGMAN is a 21st century production and post production company.
They make films for bands and brands for digital, broadcast and cinema.
HANGMAN’s pioneering approach to production and post production is down to an early adoption of new technologies and willingness to embrace change. Their mix of production and post services means they can take a project completely from inception to execution allowing us to employ new creative approaches and techniques to create the best possible films.
As a collective of directors, producers, DPs, editors and musicians they are drawn together by the love of filmmaking, storytelling and a commitment to produce the most cinematic visuals and audio to heighten the story and captivate the audience.