Cardiology

For six days, I sat among a pile of boxes in an unfinished garage. Occasionally I would leave the garage, run down the sloping, sandy driveway and consult with my co workers, stationed around a small pond. On the first day of work, I considered carefully what my position should be called. There were names for similar jobs, names which could be applied to my job, but they were gangly, clunky, altogether unfitting. Eventually I realized that “cardiology” aptly described my work.

First off, my heart was in this job. I loved it. Also, like real cardiology, my job was rather technical, requiring coordination, precision, and attention to detail. Lastly, I worked with cards. I had two sets of shiny gold and silver cards that I spent all day messing about with.

I was part of a crew of four. We had been hired to shoot a video. A yoga video. The other three guys on the crew managed four cameras, set up in a half-circle around a dark walnut-colored platform where yoga instructors performed long and difficult routines. Feature films (generally called movies) rely heavily on camera movement. Watch any well-made feature film carefully and you’ll see that the camera is moving constantly. But with yoga videos, this is not true. Three of our cameras remained locked down on tripods. A fourth sailed up and down on the end of a jib. Our setup was relatively basic. Nonetheless, the lineup of cameras and related accessories made for a pretty impressive view. Maybe it’s just me, but video production gear looks about as cool as all the gadgetry in Star Wars of Star Trek. What’s more, you can make art with it instead of just blowing up galaxies and such.

In a way, the truly formidable setup was elsewhere; among a pile of boxes in an unfinished garage. After the camera guys recorded a sequence of yoga, I would show up with a new set of P2 cards – the solid state memory used in our cameras – and take their old set. Then I would retire to my cardiology room.

Keeping up with everything proved fairly challenging. Each day I had a number of tasks:
1. Capture the footage from P2 cards onto a NEXTO DI backup device.
2. Back up the NEXTO DI to an external hard drive.
3. Unpack and log the previous day’s P2 footage, converting it to DVCPRO HD.
4. Back up the DVCPRO HD footage from the previous day.
5. Transfer audio assets onto each hard drive.
6. Make three identical copies of each set of data.

Basically, everything was shot in sequences. For instance, the camera crew would record “Yoga for Back Care – Lumbar.” When I took the four P2 cards each containing a copy of this sequence, I had to record that “C2030412.000” on the NEXTO DI corresponded with Camera 1’s angle of Lumbar. Using a spiral notebook, I drew up charts recording file names on the NEXTO DI, camera angles, and sequences.

Additionally, I had to keep track of which drives were backed up, and know which state they were in. A complete hard drive contained six main elements: correct formatting, audio assets, P2 footage, DVCPRO HD footage, a Final Cut Pro project file and B-roll footage. While juggling the download-and-backup process for the P2 cards, I had to make sure these six elements were copied onto the appropriate hard drives. The process was stepped. The first day was a slow one, since my only task was downloading P2 cards to the NEXTO DI and recording the filenames in my notebook. On the second day, I backed up and formatted the NEXTO DI, unpacked the first day’s footage, transferred audio assets and created the Final Cut Pro project file in addition to downloading the second day’s P2 cards to the NEXTO DI.

Confused? So was I. And things got worse. By the end of the shoot, I needed to have three complete hard drives of each of the five videos. At best, I could make one complete drive per day, and even then I would have to make the fifth complete drive the day following the shoot. After the second day, the producer would take a couple hard drives home and let them run backups each night. Even so, I still had 24 hours of backup work after the shoot concluded.

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