Data Management is the core function of on-set post-production. Notice I said “the” and not “a”? That’s because if you get it wrong then you’ll have cost the production whatever they invested to produce it. Not only that but if they have no footage then post-production has nothing to work with, and the production company has nothing to sell to distributors.
So getting data wrangling right is important. And a big part of your success as a data wrangler lies in the software you choose.
Which software is right for me?
From my experience Shotput Pro is the mainstay of television and short-form production while Silverstack seems to be the go-to choice for feature film productions.
This is likely because of the inherent differences between the two and the cost of licensing.
I won’t go into all the details about how each one works but suffice to say that Silverstack is far more complex and can do a lot more than Shotput Pro which is considerably more scaled down in comparison.
Data offloading tool with checksum verification, log generation.
Data offloading tool with checksum verification, grading and transcoding, report generation.
One of the biggest differences is in the pricing. That $399 is per year, meaning that you have to pay for every single year, whereas Shotput Pro is a one-off payment.
Subscription vs Permanent
Pomfort’s Silverstack can also be purchased as 14 day ($49), 30 day ($79), and 2 month ($129) licenses in addition to a 12 month ($399) option. This is ideal for when you only need it for a single project and don’t want to commit to anything beyond that.
However, permanent license-based software like Shotput Pro ($129) are one-off purchases that can be paid off quickly leaving you with software that you can reuse over and over again without committing to on-going expenses as you would with the subscription model.
But for complex shoots that require a great deal more automation and features then Silverstack is the better option. But sometimes I get calls to work on commercials and paying a minimum of $49 out of my daily rate for software I’ll only use once doesn’t appeal to me.
So, ideally you need both.
Evaluating other options
Recently I had the pleasure of working on Rhys Davies’ Acid Daemons feature film and knowing that I would only be doing bare-bones data offloading I decided to trial some new software.
I heard a little bit about Hedge but never really had the opportunity to test it out in the field, and quite frankly I prefer not to experiment with new software on complex shoots. But in this case I felt confident enough to give it a shot.
Hedge For Mac
A minimalistic offload tool that promises super fast simultaneous offloads as well as automaton via the use of Applescripts.
Unfortunately the free trial only allowed for 2 offloads at once and at slower than advertised speeds but I still wanted to give it a shot just to see what the fuss was about.
To be honest… I didn’t like it.
Fast offload speeds are only really noticeable when you’re not restricted by the speed of the storage device or cables connecting them, which was the case in this instance. So I couldn’t benefit from one of the big selling points.
I’m also not going to spend $99 to see if the premium version really is twice as fast as the free one.
Beyond that I like presets. And Hedge didn’t allow for them in the same way that Silverstack (or Shotput Pro) does. When you’re dealing with multiple cameras presets are a really useful way of switching between different offload destinations and naming conventions with a simple click of a button.
To change naming conventions in Hedge I had to go into the menu options and do it manually (see above). Which is a deal breaker for me.
Automation is king
As the saying goes: “To err is human, to forgive divine.”
Unlike the divine a production company is not going to forgive you for making a mistake when handling data. While their insurance will cover them in that eventuality your reputation and career may not (recover).
Removing the human element as much as possible by reducing the amount of manual steps and choices I have to make is what I aim for when handling complex shoots.
In Silverstack this can be done incredibly easily by first creating a library directory structure within the software itself.
And then setting up the offload presets to automatically offload footage to all storage devices and place them into a directory structure copied from the library.
Basically, once I create it there (see left) then the folders on the storage devices will be created with the same exact naming conventions.
This means I don’t have to create multiple folders, or setup offload destinations each and every time I offload a card.
The software just does it for me.
In fact automation is vital when multitasking. And multitasking is a BIG part of the DIT role.
But a large amount of manual organisation is still required when it comes to tracking physical cards and ensuring all steps (offloading, formatting, dailies creation) are performed. Let’s put in this way: You wouldn’t be the first person to format a card before backing it up.