"NINA WU" Technical Director, Awen Lin, Talks About Video Backups in the Film Industry

As technology continues to advance, filmmakers have moved from traditional film to digital storage, and they now face the challenge of reimagining their workflow with mass storage requirements. As a DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) for the Midi Z (Chao Te-yin) film “NINA WU”, Awen Lin has chosen to break from convention by creating a unique backup method that benefits from the flexible use of hard drives, to ensure the quality of the footage and secure backups on set.

▲Here’s a glimpse of Awen Lin on the set of the film “NINA WU” by Midi Z. In this interview, Lin discusses the digital image work involved in shooting a scene.

Full interview – Independent film professional Awen Lin talks about backups for large and small productions

The Challenge of Backups in a Fully-Digitized Era

As an independent film producer, Awen Lin has witnessed a transition in the film industry from traditional film to fully-digitized productions, accompanied by the need for digital storage. Lin said that George Lucas experimented with digital filming as early as 2000. Nowadays digital video is everywhere and 4K shooting has become commonplace. It’s even possible to do the editing on a phone right after filming. This brings us back to the fundamental question of what’s the meaning of film, and also requires solutions to deal with large amounts of content that’s coming from fully-digitized productions. He also expressed his concern over a lack of planning ahead and inadequent backup knowledge in today’s digital filming, starting from his perspective as a DIT (Digital Imaging Technician).

▲Independent film producer Awen Lin has witnessed the film industry’s transition from traditional film to fully-digitized productions. His job often involves long hours in the editing room, watching footage over and over again.

 

The Digital Imaging Technician’s primary responsibilities are to verify the image format and the parameters, while ensuring that image quality and style are in line with the director’s requirements. Essentially, they are responsible for the data quality and they have to be familiar with all the equipment used in filming. Lin said that normally multiple memory cards are used on set so they can be switched quickly, and that there should be at least three copies made of the original files. However, memory cards and external hard drives are not enough to ensure efficiency. Lin said when he was shooting in Thailand, he brought two 512GB memory cards just in case, but his laptop performance was not strong enough and backing up files was very time-consuming, so he had to sacrifice sleep time to do a third backup, let alone the post-production work that involves exchanging and migrating large amounts of content. However, for him the biggest concern is the cost, since a large-capacity memory card would cost around tens of thousands of dollars(NT$), which is particularly a problem for independent films with a limited budget, and also poses a challenge to DIT who need to back up a great volume of data in a short period of time.

▲Independent films have a limited budget and the technicians often face the challenge of having to back up a large amount of data in a short period of time. Awen Lin recognizes the need to upgrade or redesign his workflow.

Unique Backup Process with a Seamless Flow Suitable for All Shooting Scenarios

At the recommendation of Vivy Hsu (Production Director at Far East Transvideo), Lin began experimenting with Accusys storage solutions. He eventually came up with a unique backup method that would allow him to quickly create three total copies of data on set, and easily make remote backups in collaboration with Far East Transvideo. This solution enhances efficiency between the departments involved in the post-production work.

Flexible Usage of Redundancy in Disk Arrays Makes for Easy Backups on Set

Lin told us that he’s currently using Accusys Gamma 12 external RAID system with twelve bays for 3.5″ hard drives. which allows him to experiment with RAID combinations and backups. He explained that RAID 0 offers great performance in read operations, and is necessary to handle the great amount of data that’s generated on set, but it doesn’t provide extra data protection. Lin has created his own triple backup solution using 10 drives. Drives 1-5 are used in the first RAID 0 configuration, or Array A, while drives 6-10 are used in a second RAID 0 configuration, or Array B, and with the help of DaVinci Resolve application, they get to create two copies of the memory card data, which make triple backups fairly easy on set.

▲Far East Transvideo’s Accusys A12T3-Share and Awen Lin’s Accusys Gamma 12 (A/B/C) flexibly leverage two RAID systems to create the 4th remote backup.

 

Remote Backup with Far East Transvideo for Greater Post-Production Efficiency

In addition to creating triple backups on set, Lin also works with Far East Transvideo to make a remote backup, which increases the efficiency of post-production work. Lin said that when he is copying RAW video files, the sound engineer is copying audio files the same time. These small files can be synced immediately and saved on an external SSD drive, and then they can be transferred to the editing department for the next steps the same day. Before works starts the next day, Array B would be pulled out and a third set of drives are to be inserted into bay 11-15(Array C), so the latest data get copied over from Array A to Array C. During his off days, Lin would bring Array B that has the newest footage to Far East Transvideo and insert another Accusys A12-T3 array. Accusys A12-T3 is equipped with seven Seagate Exos Enterprise drives in a RAID 5 array (or the Big Pool). Lin and his team would copy all footage to the Big Pool for off-site backup. With high-speed network connectivity, Far East Transvideo serves as a data exchange center for the departments in charge of special effects, coloring, cutting, scoring, etc.

▲Awen Lin’s DIT image quality control workflow

 

Lin chooses Seagate Exos Enterprise hard drives in all his disk arrays. He said the reason for having three distinct disk arrays(A, B and C) is to diversify the risk. All three arrays and the Accusys A12-T3 at Far East Transvideo use Seagate Exos Enterprise hard drives, and they get to provide high capacity, ensure high transfer speeds and work well with large workloads. They are realiable and secure too, meeting all triple backup needs on set, and providing peace of mind at all times. Lin’s laptop features Thunderbolt 3 interface, allowing him to do an immediate conversion and export with the help of eGPU external graphics card. Sometimes, he would use breaks from filming to copy the audio files, or do AV-sync work. He mentions that this work had been more difficult in the past when it had to be done inside a studio, but now he can finish the work pretty quick, while being assured that data on Arrays A, B and C is always up-to-date.

▲Lin chooses Seagate Exos Enterprise hard drives because of their high capacity and fast transfer speeds.

The Need for Personalized Digital Workflows in Independent Filmmaking

Plugging and unplugging hard drives may seem like an archaic process, but this backup method is built for current work situation, as Lin said in the interview, and it’s used throughout the shooting of the film ‘NINA WU’. The editinng department would send XML files when their work is done, then all that is needed is to open DaVinci Resolve, connect to the RAW video in the Accusys Gamma 12, align various items and give the array to the colorists. The colorists would then do their job, save the DXP file, and brought arrays to Far East Transvideo for DCP digital film production. The idea is to keep the cutting, coloring and digital output unified within post-production processes. So if evverything goes well, this can get done in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee. Previously, Lin would need to bring a whole box of drives to a post-production company, but it’s cumbersome and slow, and it involves physical effort to carry a whole disk array, which is rarely done by anyone. However, this backup method is a thoughtful solution, and Lin explains that he can bring his setup with him anywhere to do file exchange and conversion, whether on an international trip or in the middle of nowhere with no internet available.

▲Both Lin’s laptop and the RAID systems support the Thunder 3 interface, allowing for an eGPU external graphics card to be connected for faster file conversions. Lin is also ready to face the challenges of 4K production when the need arrives.

 

As indie film productions become more diversified, Lin believes the worklows in place needs to be agile and adaptative. And along with a growing number of indie film productions in Taiwan and more diversified content, he talked about some challenges as well, such as resource shortages or limited budget, which require technicians to rethink the digital production processes. For Lin, he tends to customize backup methods based on the requirements of the projects, but multiple backups and remote backup are always needed. He suggested that indie filmmakers in Taiwan should have an in-depth understanding of data protection and backups, and that they should customize digital workflows so as to adapt themselves to changing circumstances.

Partner

We are here to help!

If you’re looking for the best solution to your need, contact us for more help!

CONTACT US
2019-05-21T06:38:37+00:00