COVID has all post professionals thinking about one thing. Getting their home offices set up for a work from home, or work from remote scenario. Sounds pretty easy. We have great companies out there that are helping us get our projects done remotely, but there’s a bit of a problem with what I’ve seen so far. There really isn’t one “all-in-one” solution that will let editors get their jobs done quickly and efficiently. As great as these companies are that offer cloud editing, they forgot one very important factor, and that is our clients. Some clients that I work with have very rigid security protocols in place that don’t give me the flexibility to edit via the cloud. Some just would rather send me a hard drive. Let’s be honest….I still have clients who want me to send them screening DVD’s. Clients determine our workflows. For me personally, I’d rather have a physical hard drive sitting next to me on my desk. It’s just all around easier. But, with that being said, the next question is, is your home system ready for the “Edit from Home/Remote” scenario. Do you have the right tools to do the job as it needs to be done? It’s not just about offline anymore. As we’ve now seen, we need to do more. HD is not enough. 4K is now what is quickly becoming standard. In this, and a series of articles coming up, we’re going to tackle just that. What tools are essential for you to work from home/remote. From Hard Drives, to I/O devices to displays, we’ll talk about it all, and in this article I want to break down all the components you need to consider, to finish your jobs properly. One thing that I’m also going to make sure I make very clear, is that is that flexibility is super important when it comes to your home/remote setup. Flexibility in the hardware you choose. I have both a laptop and desktop system that I work with from home/remote locations, and I want to have the flexibility to work on my laptop or my desktop, or even take either (probably the laptop) on the road for a mobile 4K setup possibly in a hotel room or remote office, so all the tools we’re choosing below will work well in a home or potentially remote 4K setup.
Hard Drives/Drive Array
People swear by internal drives. I know that they’re easier to work with if you’re an “editing island”. If you only work on your own projects for your own clients and never take your computer with you. Anywhere. But let’s be honest. What kind of world is that? These days we need to be as flexible as possible. We need the ability to unplug a drive from one system and plug it into our laptops that go on the road with us. Last thing you want to hear from a client is “Hey, can you bring that project you were working on with you here for the day?”, and you realize you now have to copy 10TB of information off your internal drive to an external drive. Redundancy is also super important. You want to make sure you RAID your drive before copying media onto it, this way if a drive fails, you can at least plug in another one and have it rebuilt. For me, G-Tech has always been my drive of choice. I’m working on a huge project now, and have one of their 80TB towers sitting on the desk beside me, and one thing I like about it is that the 80TB at RAID5 I get 70TB of storage space and redundancy.
This is one that has really hit me right where it counts. As a Mac user, I’ve handcuffed myself in one way that has me debating about switching over to Windows when it comes to my 4K workflows, and that is upgrading things like my GPU. I bought a MacPro trashcan back in the day. Top of the line, and it has been an awesome system for me, except for one major issue. The GPU overheats. Because Apple’s design of the trashcan sucks. The ventilation of the system is super poor at best, which is leading to my problem. What do I do to fix this. So I started doing some research online and discovered that this is a common problem with many gaming laptop users (where there laptops GPU heats the system up so much the entire thing crashes), AND, the GPU power of lower end MacBook Pros is, well, bad to say the least. I hate Windows, but I love the fact if my GPU’s not powerful enough, I can just simply upgrade it. So what do we do? Well, this is where eGPU’s come into play. I don’t play PC games, so the eGPU world is new to me, and after doing a ton of research, I found out that BlackMagic Design has an eGPU but, again, I don’t want to paint myself into a corner when it comes to the enclosure and the graphics card I go with, so I reached out to Razer, a very well known company in the computer gaming space and pitched my project, and laid out my situation. They sent me a Razer Core X Choma to take a look at, and see if it would solve my problems. The trick here is that if you have a Thunderbolt 3 connection, everything is plug and play and you’re good to go. I’m trying to do this with a 2013 MacPro that only has Thunderbolt 2. There were a few hoops I had to jump through to get things working right, but when I did, my CPU was super happy with my new eGPU.
Once I had the eGPU working, it’s a matter of choosing a graphics card that’s right for the work that I’m going to be doing. I wanted something powerful, to give me a good idea of what today’s (2020/2021) graphics cards can do. So, I reached out to AMD, as I am on a Mac, and only AMD graphics cards are supported on the Mac, and they provided me with an AMD Radeon Pro WX9100 card to take a look at. If you’re going to spend the money to upgrade, this is one place you want to make sure you have a ton of horsepower under the hood, and when you’re grinding through 8K Red Raw footage in a 4K timeline, power is what I need.
If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t need an I/O device (input/output) whether it’s for sending a signal to your external display or for capturing footage (yes, some of us still do this), then you’re really not serious about getting yourself up and running in your home/home office. For me, I’m about choice. I’ve been accustomed to NOT having choice as a Media Composer editor. For the longest time we were stuck with Avid hardware, even though there were a ton of other great companies out there that made I/O hardware. Once I was cutting HD in FCP7 I finally got what I was after. Choice. My hardware of choice was the Kona 3. Damn, I loved that piece of hardware. Probably the most rock solid piece of hardware I’ve ever worked with. From that point out AJA has been my company of choice for hardware, and that’s why I’ve decided to go with the AJA Io 4K Plus. For me, portability is huge. This unit is that and then some. Whether I’m working in the comfort of my home, or in a hotel room across the world, this little unit is easy to take with me, with up to 4K monitoring (as well as HDR, and even Sync and RS-422 control if I had to capture off a deck for some reason), this little beast will handle all my I/O and monitoring needs. There is one thing that is exceptionally important for me to point out, and I will point it out here and in the article dedicated to the Io 4K plus and that is that in DaVinci Resolve, Blackmagic only supports Blackmagic hardware (Yep, I feel like I’m back in the old Avid days again). AJA hardware won’t work here, so if Resolve is entrenched in your workflows, please keep that in mind. I love Resolve, and use it on a very regular basis, but I use Scratch for most of my finishing, so it’s not an issue at all for me.
People will argue what is the most important piece of hardware you own, and I’ll argue that your monitors (displays) are the most important piece you own. If you’re concerned about the color of your end product, you have to be. I just recently purchased a new monitor as my main edit monitor. A BenQ EL2780U. Damn, is this display nice. A 28-inch, 4K (UHD to be specific), HDR, low blue light monitor with two HDMI and one DP input. Originally designed for gaming, I was looking for a good edit monitor that wasn’t going to break the bank ($399 Canadian – $299 American), and one that would be able to display different color spaces as well (big thumbs up for the display supporting REC709 color space).
However, choosing the right edit display is one thing. Choosing the right output monitor is something else entirely. For this, I decided to reach out to BenQ directly and said “Listen…I’m looking for a client monitor that will give me 100% accurate color display in REC709, and not break the bank as far as cost goes. What do you recommend?”. They followed up and sent me the BenQ SW321C 4K Photo and Video Editing monitor. Now, this display takes mine up a notch by being a 32-inch 4K HDR display, but it also supports Adobe RGB, sRGB, Rec.709 and DCI-P3 (to name a few) color spaces AND comes with factory calibration, so you know that your display is showing you the correct levels and colors right out of the box.
This was an interesting one, and I decided to go out on a limb here as scopes are obviously a very important tool, but instead of going with a hardware set of scopes, I’ve decided to go with Scopebox from Divergent Media. This is for a couple of reasons. One, I love how Scopebox interacts with different NLE’s, Motion Graphics apps and grading apps (Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, After Effects, Davinci Resolve and Assimilate Scratch just to name a few) and sends their output, via software, to a secondary display. It’s very cool!
There will always be what I like to call “The Extras”. These are things that you might not necessarily need, but stuff that is “fun” to have (for lack of a better term) to get the work done. One thing that I’ve been using more and more is Tangent’s Wave 2 for color grading. If you’re serious about grading, or even looking to get started, you can’t go wrong with this awesome piece of hardware. Not breaking the bank at a starting price of around $900 US, this handy piece of hardware is super simple to set up for both Resolve and Scratch (as well as a ton of other applications). Keep in mind that this is not Tangent’s entry level panel. That would be the Ripple (priced at around $350 US – NOT supported in Assimilate Scratch), but if you’re serious about grading, and want to jump in past what the entry level offers, this is what you’ll be looking at. Also, one thing that I also like to tell people is that if you’re serious about working with a grading panel, it’s like removing a band-aid. You just rip it off. Or, in the case of the panel, the mouse is used to move the cursor and the panel is used to (pretty much) do everything else. It’s like I tell people who want to learn editing. The mouse is to move the cursor. The keyboard shortcuts are for everything else.
Now, keep in mind that this article is designed to be a VERY introductory look at what we’re going to be deep diving into as we move through the different products. What’s also important to keep in mind is that other than the AMD Radeon Pro WX9100, which can be used either internally in your current system, or externally via eGPU, all the products we have been talking about in this article are designed to work externally (hardware), so assuming your system supports the connection, you should be good to go!