It’s a fact of life in the world of digital video production today — you’re transferring unprecedented amounts of data from the shoot location to the edit suite, and with every transfer you run the risk of losing data, especially in the mad dash to prepare a camera card for reuse. That’s why it’s so important to have simple backups with known data integrity at every stage of the process and for every post department involved.
Producer/editor and Elton John crewmember Chris Sobchack knows this scenario well. For him, having guaranteed, checksum-verified data backups is a non-negotiable part of the job — and the only way to avoid the fate of some of his colleagues. “I have friends who, sadly, don’t know what has become of their master drives for feature film projects!” he says.
Sobchack uses ShotPut Pro, Imagine Products’ offloading application, while working on tour with Elton John and on personal projects at Wraptastic Productions, the production house he co-owns with his wife, Nicole.
Sobchack learned to be a DIT from a respected colleague, who taught him tricks of the trade, such as using colored electrical tape to be sure a card can’t be returned to a camera unless it has the right color. It was this same colleague who said that with today’s high-resolution data, the drag-and-drop transfer method is neither secure nor reliable, and that the only program he trusted in the high-pressure environment of professional on-set data management was ShotPut Pro.
“From the first moment I heard ShotPut Pro was the gold standard — and then witnessed it working on my own set to transfer precious footage to multiple drives with security and speed — I never bothered to search for any other offloading solution,” reports Sobchack. “ShotPut Pro ensures everything gets copied just as it should be, every time.”
Sobchack has been touring with Elton John for the past 17 years, and during that time he’s brought his expertise in video production and post production to his role on the tour — including introducing the video crew to Imagine Products tools.
Besides handling drums and percussion, Sobchack now works closely with the tour’s full-time video director, John Steer, whose long list of responsibilities includes setting up the video equipment every day, cutting the show live every night, and backing up and transporting all shows to storage.
Sobchack and Steer record every performance to removable SSD drives in the Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Studio Pro 4K, then either of them can offload and back it up using ShotPut Pro 6 no matter where they are — in production, on the bus or in a hotel room. ShotPut Pro’s pause-and-resume feature lets them safely stop and restart the offload process as they move from place to place without fear of corrupting the offload.
When you’re on a world tour, you’re constantly transferring data among all kinds of different drives, platforms and computers. For that reason, ShotPut Pro’s checksumming feature is especially important. Checksumming has come to the rescue more than once on tour.
In one instance, they had done a transfer using another method, but the data seemed to be corrupted or incomplete. In most situations like that, the data would have been lost forever, but luckily, in that case, the guys had access to the original source materials and could do a proper transfer with ShotPut Pro.
Sobchack praised the virtues of checksumming in another example from his life outside the tour, at Wraptastic Productions. “While shooting our Amazon exclusive shortform comedy series, Please Tell Me I’m Adopted!, a cord came unplugged during a data offload, disrupting the flow of data from a camera card to our three redundant media drives. Thankfully, ShotPut Pro’s interface made it obvious that something had gone wrong, and we were able to re-offload the card before it was erased and a half-day’s worth of footage was gone forever. ShotPut Pro 6 really saved our bacon!
“In fact, it was experiences like that, and the lifesaving capability of ShotPut Pro, that prompted me to recommend the HD-VU application for the Elton John tour in the first place,” he says. “I also recommended Imagine Products’ application, which lets us view multisource, mixed-codec footage in its native format without having to transcode or use proprietary programs. It’s another thing from my Wraptastic life that has translated to the tour.”
At Wraptastic Productions, Sobchack can do it all, from writing, directing and producing to on-set digital imaging, to post production. The company has feature films in development, but lately the big project has been Please Tell Me I’m Adopted!, which just premiered worldwide on Amazon Video/Amazon Video Direct. So, while Sobchack travels with the Elton John tour, he keeps working on Wraptastic projects whenever and wherever there’s downtime.
Circumstances on the tour are such that Sobchack can’t use the cloud as a viable form of data backup, so when he’s working on the road, he leaves a master at home and keeps a set of portable work drives with him at all times. Meanwhile, a set of daily or every-few-days backup drives travels separately from him. That’s yet another reason why the checksumming and pause/resume features are so important to him. He can rest easy knowing he has hard-data transfers and redundant backups that are 100 percent verified.