edit room with a view-or how to do near time editing from the back of a tour bus

I just got back from one of the most interesting shoots I have ever been on. Our client wanted multiple short pieces shot, edited, and uploaded daily with a 12 hour turnaround. To make things more complicated we would be traveling 6-12 hours per day and every day we would wake up in a new city! Also, as we got more comfortable with the turnaround we would ramp up our shoot schedule from from 2 edits per day to 4.

I thought that this was interesting enough that I would do a quick rundown of our workflow. We had two editors running 17 inch macbook pros in the back of the bus. Oh yeah, we had a bus too. A full-on rock band tour bus with bunk beds for 12, a kitchen nook, rear lounge area and xbox and ps2. The editors claimed the rear lounge and set up shop. Each shoot consisted of two hvx-200s and anywhere from one to four flip cams and/or a goPro.

Immediately after the shoot we would ingest the p2 cards to the laptop drives and transfer the goPro/flip footage. All the consumer video was converted to prores, and then everything was transferred to a backup drive for safekeeping. Once an edit was completed, all of the assets would be backed up to a separate external drive. It was a huge concern to be editing on a constantly vibrating bus and to have to wipe p2 cards and memory sticks once or twice a day. Data loss was always in the back of my mind, but I think our backup strategy mitigated it as best as possible.

We had both creatives and legal on the bus, so there was very little waiting for feedback. I would cut a rough, show them, and then start making changes. There were two samsung flatscreens in the back and we used them as client monitors. Since the road noise was pretty severe we used headphones for audio playback. Thankfully all parties involved had been at the shoot, so everyone was roughly on the same page as to how things went down and what footage we had captured. In the next few bumpy hours I would churn out the remaining changes, add titles, music and legal. Eventually we would have an edit that was “bus approved” and we would upload it to our proofing server via a myfi 3g to wifi bridge. From there we would check in with the client to get approval and then upload to the live server. It really was weird to be humming along in the Idaho hills and have a strong wifi signal!

This project ended up being really cool for much the same reasons that 24 hour film fests are cool; There is a deadline regardless of if you want it or not. The work must get done so that new work can be done. There is a certain reassuring feeling knowing that no matter how hard something is, it will be finished or killed in the next 24 hours.

I learned a ton about how to cut faster on the trip, and it was a really refreshing change from sitting in my office all day long. I also gained a ton of respect for cast and crew of live shows. Near time is tough enough, let alone live!

~ by ross on March 18, 2011.

3 Responses to “edit room with a view-or how to do near time editing from the back of a tour bus”

  1. This sounds very interesting and cool – I’d love to edit like that!

    A question though, and perhaps you’ve left this out on purpose (or maybe I just didn’t see it!) – but what was the actual reason for having to travel and edit on the bus?

  2. Cool assignment! I always worry about losing data once we clean the cards. how did the GO PRO video come out? I am trying one out for the first time on my trekking assignment in Nepal.

  3. Jon Bob – You guessed correctly, I am being intentionally vague. We were doing a series of web videos for a client where we traveled around the country. I can either tell you who I worked for, or what I did and I went for the “what”.

    D L – If you are concerned then you should image the cards as soon as you get them onto your computer. On a Mac you can do that in disk utility. It will create a 1:1 disk image of the cards contents. If there is an error on the card it will replicate that and worst-case-scenario you can potentially run disk repair on the disk image. It also gives you a backup in case the data gets corrupted in transfer from the card or on the HD.

    As for the quality of the Go pro: It’s better than expected, but you need to frame it editorially so that it is expected. What I mean by that is that it works great when it is the action / crash cam, or when it is mounted somewhere that it is obvious a smaller camera wouldn’t have fit. Cutting back and forth between dslr footage and the Go pro is pretty jarring, and the difference gets more jarring as your a-cam gets even nicer.

    One final thought is that if you have a budget then just treat the memory cards as single use. They are relatively cheap and light, so as a third backup medium it is cheap insurance.

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