[This article was first published in the October, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]
For my policy on software reviews, click here.
I’ve heard about ShotPut Pro for a while, but never had a reason to use it… till now. So I contacted Dan Montgomery at Imagine Products who graciously sent me a copy to work with.
When you are working with tapeless media during production, and recording to cards, the basic workflow is to copy the card to your hard disk then ERASE THE CARD! (Sorry, I come from a tape background and that word “erase” is just plain scary…)
So, it makes sense that when copying the card to your hard disk you take every precaution to do so safely. However, the production crew is not going to stand around and wait while you make umpteen backups. They want to shoot! Now!!
This means you are caught between a rock and a hard place. You need to move fast, but safely. That’s where ShotPut Pro comes in. It provides features that the Finder doesn’t.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if you are doing a small shoot you can absolutely, safely, and efficiently copy the contents of your flash memory card to your computer using the Finder. It works fine. There is no problem doing this. Its just that ShotPut Pro works better, with greater flexibility, and fewer opportunity for errors.
THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE
Before I show you ShotPut Pro I need to tell you the absolute, number one, most important rule for working with tapeless media on set. If you remember only one thing, remember this: Always (ALWAYS) copy the entire contents of the flash memory card to its own folder on your hard disk.
Store the contents of each card into its own folder before doing ANY work with the contents of the card.
OK, there’s a second rule, almost as important as the first: Always backup your data.
In the past, we archived on video tape. Today, though, tape is dead. This means that we need to be really, REALLY careful to have backups of all our on-set video, or we don’t have a show.
This is where ShotPut Pro can help.
A VERY SIMPLE INTERFACE
What ShotPut Pro does is copy the contents of your flash memory cards to your hard disk during production.
What makes is worth using is that, unlike the Finder, it can copy the same files to multiple destinations at the same time – using multi-threading – which saves you a LOT of time. It allows you to pre-determine your folder naming conventions so that all your folder names are consistent and help you avoid errors. And it provides a written report showing what was copied where and when so you don’t lose track of your production files.
Here’s the main screen (there are only three screens total, including a preference file).
In the lower-left corner is a list of all the drives attached to your system. This is where your flash memory card will appear, when you attach it to your computer.
From your computer’s point of view, a flash memory card is a hard disk that is attached via USB. Whether that card is plugged into a card reader, your camera, or the side of your computer, it acts like a hard drive.
Also, the speed of data transfer from your card to the computer isn’t particularly relevant. We are not editing with the contents of the card, so whether it copies faster or slower than real time has no impact on the quality of the images. So, for this reason, having a card connected via USB, which is not particularly fast, is perfectly OK.
Before we can copy media, though, we need to tell ShotPut Pro where to store it. To do this, click the Settings button in the top left corner.
This opens the Settings window where you specify what drives and folders you want to copy data into and how you want them named.
You can have the system copy files automatically (which is not my recommendation) or manually, which I recommend because it allows me to make one last check to be sure everything is copying into the right place.
My recommendation is to create a folder on your external hard drive — remember to never copy media files to your boot drive — called Source Media.
Inside the Source Media folder, create a folder for each Client, if you do corporate work. Inside that, create a folder for each Project. (If you don’t do corporate work, skip the Client folder.) The key is to create a single Project folder, within which all your different cards will be stored.
ShotPut Pro, when you give it the go, will then create a folder inside each Project folder for every card you shoot and copy for that project.
That’s what the Offload Destinations allows you to set — all the different drives and folders into which you want to copy your media. In this example, I’m copying to two different hard drives at the same time. Both have Source Media folders on them (which I created before starting this process).
To add additional hard drives, click the Plus (+) key and add them. Click the Minus (-) key to remove a drive you no longer need. There is no practical limit to how many drives you copy media to at one time, but for most projects two or three will be sufficient.
The lower portion of this window allows you to set the naming convention you want to use for your individual card folders.
While ShotPut Pro provides a wide variety of options, my suggestion is to use Consecutive Numbering with a folder naming scheme of:
Project ID – Date Shot – Camera – Card #
For example, JM03 – 100928 – A – CD02 translates to:
JM – Client code, in this case “Just a Moment Productions”
03 – Job code, in this case the third job for this client
100928 – Date shot, in this case Sept. 28, 2010
A – Camera number, which I only use when I’m doing multicam work
CD02 – The second card shot that day for that camera for that project.
ShotPut Pro allows you to use both Prefixes and Suffixes as part of your naming scheme.
The Preference settings allow you to determine how many copies you want to make at once, how files are verified to be sure you copied them safely, what you want on the written reports and where you want them stored, and what you want done to a card once copies are complete.
Once you have the program configured, which really doesn’t take that long, the process of making copies could not be easier.
Connect the card so it is displayed on your Desktop. It will then appear in the Attached Media window in the lower left corner of the main interface.
Simply drag the card up into the Offload Queue window. Copying commences when you click Begin. ShotPut Pro immediately starts copying files from the card to the drives you specified earlier. If you checked the Automatic option it will start copying as fast as you drag the card from the Media window to the Offload Queue window.
If you have multiple card readers attached, you can queue the cards so that as soon as one is done, the next will start copying.
Getting it setup is the only hard part. After that, copying could not be easier.
There is a lot to like about this program. With a retail price of $99 US, it is easily factored into the budget of even the smallest production.
You can find out more about it at: www.imagineproducts.com.
UPDATE – Oct. 21, 2010
Dan Montgomery, CEO of Imagine Products, writes:
Thanks Larry, it’s an excellent write up.
The only thing I disagree with is the beginning statement that Finder is a reliable way to copy. It is not. I get 1-2 calls a week with people desperate to recover files damaged by Finder failing them during the copy process. I suspect the danger is a combination of things–power management, full destination locations, hiccups or poor cabling, etc. Remember, these are generally large files that take long minutes to copy, a lot can go wrong during the intervening time.
Also one only need look at the system log in Console to have the hair rise on your neck at the frequency of errors that are happening but OSX is effectively hiding from your GUI experience.
It’s like this: You can walk around with a loaded gun and nothing bad will happen most of the time. But the one time it does, it’s going to hurt like hell.
Just my 2 cents.
Larry replies: Thanks, Dan. Happy to add your thoughts.
NEW & Updated!
Edit smarter with Larry’s latest training, all available in our store.