Doing the Work of Five Viewers with no Transcoding

Even from a lifeboat!?

The original article was published in Kit Plus in March 2016. With all the new camera formats coming out (sometimes it feels like daily) if seemed like a good time for a re-post.

I am a digital imaging technician and editor with more than 15 years of experience in the film and television industry. I travel the world working with various production companies on popular network reality series, such as TNT’s “72 Hours,” National Geographic Channel’s “Ultimate Survival Alaska,” and MTV’s “Are You The One?” I’m also the editor for Theory Studios, an online animation studio that produces short cartoons and VFX. I came up in the industry as a camera operator, but in the past five years I have moved into data management.

Randy Mills, Digital Imaging Technician, Editor and Camera Operator

The nature of my work means that I’m often responsible for ingesting a variety of formats and codecs from an array of different cameras in the field. I need a viewer that allows me to check timecodes for production and postproduction, apply LUTs on the fly, and check picture and sound for quality control. Many times I find myself using a different viewer for each codec.

For example, sometimes we shoot Sony XDCAM, Canon MXF, GoPro H.264, and Alexa RAW all in the same day. I would have to use different viewers for each of those codecs. Often times, having to transcode proxies for viewing. Some of the viewers couldn’t play back sound. Others wouldn’t even display simple timecode. These drawbacks simply made my job harder and more time consuming that it needed to be.

Why I chose ProVu

All of that changed when I began using Imagine Products’ ProVu native file viewer. ProVu does all of the above and more in one application. There were times when I had to use four of five different viewers to accomplish what ProVu does in one. I can now apply LUTs for the director of photography right from ProVu. Being able to make necessary adjustments in the field helps save time in postproduction. I can also also create playlists of different videos or even separate the footage into shooting days. Then I save it from within ProVu, making it quick and easy to reference previously shot material.

Another great feature in ProVu is the ability to search the entire library and effortlessly locate specific clips. Before I used ProVu, I would have had to search through pages of logs manually to locate a specific clip on a drive. Then go through the drive to find the clip, then open the clip in the appropriate viewer. A viewer that might not have audio and timecode playback capability. Now I can randomly search all of the clips in my library without having to open multiple programs. This saves me time and potential confusion.

One of my favorite functions is the Frame Snapshot feature. It allows me to take a quick screengrab of the current frame in the viewer. We use this all the time in the field to add stills quickly to producer notes for the network and for continuity purposes.

ProVu and ShotPut Pro

ProVu is my viewer of choice when managing multiple codecs and formats in the field and studio. Whether I’m working on networks TV series, short films, commercials, cartoons, or documentaries, ProVu always seems to find its way into my workflow for quickly checking my shot material. Typically I use ProVu in conjunction with Imagine Products’ ShotPut Pro. ShotPut Pro lets me offload cards to multiple backup locations simultaneously. It saves me time and gives me field-proven assurance that my data is being transferred and backed up securely and efficiently. ProVu allows me to quickly and easily organize that footage into playlists, check timecodes for my logs, and implement quality-control measures. All of this ensures that our cameras and audio equipment are functioning properly in the field.

Out on the open water

ProVu was especially helpful when working with Catalina Entertainment on the National Geographic Channel show “The Raft.” I was tasked with creating a data-management workflow for Canon XF-105, Canon 5D, Sony PMW-200, and GoPro video cameras. As well as, Fujinon point-and-shoot cameras and Sound Devices 664 field production mixers for audio recording.

This show was intended to replicate the challenges one would face being stranded on a life raft in the middle of the ocean after a disaster. With the production taking place entirely on the open ocean, often with no land in sight. We were confronted with the seemingly impossible task of shooting two rafts simultaneously 24 hours a day. Often the rafts and crews were more that 20 miles (two to four hours) apart. I was on a vessel that went back and forth between the two crews. My job was to collect and download media (when I wasn’t acting as first mate).

ShotPut Pro and ProVu were invaluable in handling and viewing all of the different formats and codecs on this show. Their simple interfaces proved especially helpful when processing and viewing media. Especially on the go from the hull of a boat, sometimes in swells of 10 feet or more! This job required ShotPut Pro and ProVu with an Areca 32 TB RAID Thunderbolt 2 system, a 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina, a Lexar Professional HR1 hub with exchangeable readers, and Sonnet SxS Thunderbolt readers. I was able to duplicate and deliver more than 48 terabytes of raw video footage without any loss of data.

Quality and Support

I’ve been a longtime user of Imagine Products applications. I keep going back because of the quality and support. Not only can I count on the software to work when I need it most, but I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to send an email to the support team and get an answer the same day – often from President Dan Montgomery himself! In fact, Montgomery has helped me in the past by adding features I have needed in the field on the fly. It feels good to use a product that the president of the company stands behind and supports so positively and wholeheartedly.

The bottom line is this: ProVu is dependable and fast. It has cut down the time it takes to process large amounts of video data. This allows me more time to do quality control and handle production requests. I have tried just about every other data management solution on the market today. I always come back to ProVu and ShotPut Pro. The ease of use and reliability of this software can’t be beat. There is nothing that comes close at this price point.

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