From Camera to the Clouds: the very real story of Hedge and Postlab

Note: I want to explain how our current workflow for editing remotely. I am always testing new tools and methods, so workflows change all the time. This is a snapshot in time of what we are trying now. So far it works.

Hedge

We use Hedge to copy camera cards to multiple drives on set (or after a shoot if on location) and then we use Hedge once more to copy one of these drives to the office shared storage (Apple’s Xsan).

Why use Hedge? A nice simple app which hides its complexity well. Hedge has an easy interface to copy multiple sources (camera cards, usually) to multiple destinations (two external drives, or two SAN locations etc), and it does it well. It verifies, and double checks its work and leaves receipts. What was copied when. This is very nice and very useful for troubleshooting. It also has an API which made it easy to build an app that configures Hedge for its current task, and AppleScript support for extending automations after specified actions.

Kyno and Postlab

We are using two other tools in our remote ingest workflow currently: Kyno from Lesspain software for rewrapping and converting camera footage and Postlab, the remote collaboration tool for Final Cut Pro (and Premiere Pro). Testing with other tools is always ongoing and during a recent test of the workflow we also tried EditReady from Divergent Media.

The Workflow (so far)

While we are exploring various workflow automations we are currently doing the following steps manually.

  1. Hedge to copy camera cards two external drives on set, and then Hedge copy the drive to Xsan
  2. Making re-wrapped in MOV files from the original camera MXF files using Kyno and then
  3. Making H264 MOV 4K proxies in Kyno
  4. Uploading finished proxies to Postlab drive using Hedge
  5. Set up FCPX production and new FCPX library from template connected to proxies in Postlab drive

Hedge and Postlab

Hedge is super useful. Two times good. Hedge and Postlab are best friends. And the UI on both shows the simple aesthetic shared by the developers. Three panes. Source / Start to Destination / Projects. Whether you are copying Proxies to Postlab Drive or accessing your editing projects in Postlab the apps will guide you through.

Copying the Proxies with Hedge to Postlab Drive.

Details. Rewrap and Proxies

Workflows will depend on your goals, and your available tools. In this case we are using a Canon camera and ingesting MXF files. In order to edit with small Proxies in FCPX but also be able relink to original (and larger) files easily we need to in our case re-wrap the original MXF to QuickTime MOV container.

Right click on a clip in Kyno to rewrap to Mov.

Originals. Not Proxies.

And to be clear we are treating these in FCPX as “new” originals not as actual FCPX proxies. With the rewrapped MOV files we make transcoded H264 files which are swapped 1 for 1 with the original. When we need to export a final 4K version we can relink to the original 4K source and export easily.

Proxies. Not originals

The transocded H264 4K proxies we made in Kyno were 15x smaller than the original re-wrapped Mov files. We had almost 600GB in originals and 37GB for the 4K H264 proxies!!

Postlab Pro Tips

Working with Postlab pro tip #1 –> keep those FCPX libraries light. Keep all media and cache files out of the library. We knew that and we had Storage Locations set to outside of the library but one new issue came up when the libraries grew really big and we realized the editors were making multiple sequences, not backups, but versions. Now we are trying to work around this habit with Postlab itself. You can check in a version of the library and duplicate library for an alternate version. Modifications of old habits are always tough but technical reasons may force a change in habits here. We will see. Postlab pro tip #2 –> Keep your cache large and fast. By default the Postlab cache is your local drive and only 20GB. If you have a fast SSD or an external drive then move that cache and increase the size. It will help. Trust me.

Kyno vs EditReady

Another small issue we encountered in testing was that we could make the rewrapped Mov files in Kyno or in EditReady and both were fine. The only objection the editors had was that in Kyno we could keep the folder structure of the original camera cards and they felt that this lent some confidence to being able to track the files to the camera card folders if any media was missing or misplaced. The EditReady files kept the original names but they were all in one folder. As the tech I see no issue with FCPX handling these files since we’d be ingesting all the finished proxy files and all the files were named by the camera. Editors should be able to tell which reel the clips were from by the clip name and that’s all you need technically, but you can’t win every argument with an editor. As the tech you need to test alternative tools and methods and see what works technically but also see what can be accepted to work in the way the editors want to work. Changes to workflow are some of the hardest to make, making a system that is used, actually used, by the editors is the goal.

Errata

Errors. If you get them, how do you know? This was one area where I could comment on both Kyno and EditReady. I am spoiled by Hedge and it’s nice reports when it is done copying. And Postlab which has a Help menu :collect logs for support button, very nice. If your software tool is going to process a lot of files (rewrapping then transcoding) I want to know if there were errors. EditReady popped up a window to what had succeeded or failed and Divergent Media support told me to look in the logs for any issues encountered. Not great. While Kyno has a separate jobs window which shows jobs done or failed. But still no report. I would like a receipt or report or log at the end with files converted or failed to convert. It would help troubleshooting any issues when they arise. Tech support for both companies is great and responsive. Thanks again. And I’ll keep sending in feature requests.

Testing. More Testing. And Teamwork.

We are testing this workflow in production with a real project and getting feedback from the team. So far the proxies have proven to be easy to make, quick to upload to Postlab drive, simple to use in FCPX in Postlab. Assembling the cut and editing are going well. We will find out about the colour process when we get to that stage and relink to the originals. Stay tuned.

Thanks!

Thanks to Felipe Baez / cr8ivebeast for his assistance on this part of the workflow. We were having trouble relinking to the original MXF and he gave us the excellent tip to rewrap then in Kyno then make the smaller proxies. Works like a charm. Thank you Felipe! Here’s a link to a video Felipe made showing a similar procedure using Compressor to transcode and then relink in FCPX and it goes to show you that there are lot of ways to do things and to keep trying, and experimenting. You might learn a thing or two.

Compressor Tips and Tricks

 

Issue: Stuck job in Apple’s Compressor app.

Resolution: Remove the historical jobs in your local home folder.

~/Library/Application Support/Compressor/History/V4

Compressor-History2

Note: to get to your home folder hold down the OPTION key and select the Go menu in the Finder.

Compressor is the best sidekick to Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and it gets used a lot. But occasionally something goes awry. It’s software running on a computer. So we troubleshoot. What looked like a stuck running job was mostly leftover evidence of an old job. The Apple support document I found didn’t mention this tip but instead talked about zipping up your settings folder which has all your custom compressor settings for things like YouTube outputs or anything custom. Didn’t seem useful to me to remove but this historical stuff, don’t need it and POOF this solved the issues. It’s not always this easy but something you just take the win and go with it.

Reference:

Resolve an issue in Compressor: Learn how to isolate, troubleshoot, and fix issues in Compressor.

https://support.apple.com/en-ca/HT203476

PostLab ❤️ Hedge

Great news everyone. Hedge has acquired PostLab and with this news the main developer Jasper Siegers joins the Hedge team. Great things will come of this collaboration. The brilliant idea of using version control for FCPX project sharing simplifies the whole process that has usually been left to huge media asset management systems that control data and projects. This is project sharing simplified and it’s about to get a lot more awesome with more developer time and a company to support it.

I am equally excited about Jasper coming to MacDevOps:YVR in June to talk about how and why he developed this app using GitLab and Docker and how version control for editors is useful and necessary.

Hedge is a small company in the Netherlands that makes the Hedge software to securely copy camera cards. I’ve incorporated this software with my Final Cut Pro X clients to secure their original footage on location as well as back in the office. Workflow post explains more.

I first wrote about PostLab last year

Some recent articles published about the news:

Fcp.co

Hedge announcement

Automate it! Hedge API example apps

Quick post to talk about some fun I’ve been having with the new Hedge API.

Background: Hedge is an awesome app for securely copying Camera Cards to multiple destinations to ensure data integrity and safety of the original footage. Hedge is one part of a workflow I build for my clients. Hedge is the first step in ensuring an easy and convenient transition from the cameras to the SAN to the tape archive powered by Archiware P5.

TL;DR

Using AppleScript and Automator I have built some apps to quickly set the file naming and data integrity preferences as we want them to be.  And also quickly change them to something else depending on the needed workflow.

API or Clickety click click

Copying camera cards copies is what we use Hedge for. Certain preferences like logs or receipts are great to have to ensure the copy succeeded. Also file naming conventions are good to have. Set and forget, right? But what if you did forget? Or if you’re new and don’t know the convention or you don’t read documentation. What do we do? One way to solve this is build an app that launches Hedge and sets the correct preferences. And if we want to copy USB sticks or something else then we can launch another app that prepares Hedge with a different set of preferences.  For extra points we just ask the user what they want with a nice dialog box and just do that.

hedge

Automator

Automator is awesome. Create workflows, apps, or services amongst many other things. For more info on Automator check out Apple’s official docs or this unofficial website of resources.

Automator.png

For this quick testing I used two AppleScripts with different preferences and settings defined. One for camera card copying and another for USB sticks that need different preferences set. The fancy automator app just calls the needed AppleScript. Make two apps and you have two different workflows without having to explain to users which prefs get set for what, or how the file naming should go to be consistent.

Example 1: Cam Card script (snippet)Hedge-Automator.png

Example 2: USB card copy (snippet)

Hedge-ApplesriptUSB.png

 

Automator can do many things. Call AppleScripts, Run shell scripts, pop-up dialog boxes etc and this is just a simple example of building single purpose apps to set Hedge via its new API. Very cool and so many possibilities.

AppleScript

What if we could just build one app which asked the user what they wanted to do? We can do that!

AppleScript-DialogQuit.png

Choose “Cam” and the appropriate preferences are set and file naming conventions applied.

Hedge-CamCard-Prefs.png

Hedge-CamCard-FileNaming.png

Choose “USB” and a different set of preferences are set. Magic.

Hedge-USBCard-Prefs.png

Hedge-USBCard-FileNaming.png

How do we do this? This piece of AppleScript chains an action to a response or button choice. Run a script or choose an action. The possibilities are endless. And thanks to the Hedge API we can set preferences on or off, and set destinations or many other things. We can do them programmatically and we can ensure they are set correctly. Fun times!

Hedge-API-Script-Quit.png

AppleScript vs POSIX:

I updated my AppleScript code with the POSIX path of the scripts it wants to load. It’s a major improvement! I had packaged up my scripts and my Hedge Setup app with munkipkg then deployed through Munki but when I demoed it — nothing worked…. because the start up disk drive was named something else. The fix: set a variable to be the POSIX path (Unix path in AppleScript friendly format).

Scripting and App Building

I hope that helped. We can do a lot of the same things with Python and in my testing I was working with a script written in python3 but since that’s not shipping on Macs in the current version of macOS by default (not yet!) then AppleScript was the quickest way to get this done. This is not restricted to AppleScript. Using Automator and your favourite scripting language you can build apps for your clients, co-workers, friends and family.

A note about the Hedge API:

There are two major calls I use in my scripts “setDestination” and “setPreferences”

The “setDestination” call looks like this:

open ‘hedge://actions?json=[{“setDestination”:{“path”:”/Volumes/LaCie/Testing/Test1″}},{“token”:”1234567890123345555″}]’

Note: the token is generated for you when you have a Pro license.

The “the setPreferences” call uses plist keys.

Note: I’ll have more say about using the actual Hedge API after it is officially announced.

Best of 2018: FCPX and iMac Pro

Part of a series of blog post on the “Best of 2018”

Part 1: the iMac Pro and FCPX

The year started off with the new iMac Pro and Final Cut Pro X 10.4. Both new hardware and software were released in December 2017. New awesome hardware and software to start of 2018.

FCPX and the iMac Pro have proven themselves to be a great combination that has been amazing for FCPX editors everywhere. The new colour grading tools and other enhancements were warmly received in FCP X 10.4. The power of the iMac Pros was not exaggerated. Excellent pro hardware.

FCPX works great on a MacBook Pro and internal storage, with Apple’s Xsan and fibre channel or with Lumaforge Jellyfish 10GbE over NFS. I worked with all different setups in 2018 and happy to report that editors kept editing and left the storage and backup worries to me (and I didn’t worry since I’ve got Archiware P5 watching my back).

Working with the Jellyfish I installed the P5 Linux agent to backup and archive to tape. Getting the Jellyfish to back up to my P5 server running on a Mac Mini couldn’t have been easier. Through the year I worked with Archiware to make improvements in the P5 Archive app so that my editor clients can archive and restore more easily on their own. Works well and look forward to working more closely with both companies to help make awesome setups for FCPX editors and creative professionals everywhere.

NAB and FCPX

The week before NAB 2018, Apple announced a new version of Final Cut Pro X with support for closed captions, and the brand new ProRes RAW codec.

NAB in April is always a busy month with announcements from all companies in the media production and media asset management world and Apple’s public talk at NAB showing off new features so soon after their last major release was unexpected but very warmly received.

Of course there was one more major event in the 2018, in November there was the FCPX Creative Summit.

I attended this year and it was awesome. Apple released a brand new version with 3rd party integration in the form of extensions. This is huge. This will be amazing for FCPX editors who want to stay in FCPX and do their editing work but integrate with other apps.

What was the FCPX creative summit?

⁃ rendez-vous in Cupertino with Final Cut Pro editors, studio owners, plugin authors, creative apps vendors

⁃ Visit to Apple HQ. With Apple Pro Apps engineers, QA, managers and everyone involved.

⁃ In depth discussion of the next version of FCPX extensions which allow third party integration deep into the app for example: Frame IO for review and approve or Keyflow Pro or Cat DV media asset management apps.

⁃ Great team of people organizing. This event had multiple tracks and lots of great sessions for everyone. Well done. Enjoyed it immensely. Everyone using Final Cut Pro or involved in this creative universe should be there.

2018 was great year for pro hardware and software. The iMac Pro and the constant stream of FCPX updates kept us grinning from ear to ear. Great stuff. Awesome year.

Next up: best conferences of 2018

Final Cut Pro X 10.4.4 update

Apple released a new update for Final Cut Pro X, v.10.4.4 and this adds many new features. Many were on the wish lists of Final Cut Pro editors. Also some surprises were included with the update: the inclusion of third party extensions which allow integrations unlike we’ve seen before. Excited to see what’s going to develop in that area.

Editors from around the world are gathered in Cupertino at the FCPX Creative Summit for news about the updates and to share ideas, workflows and learn from one another.

To find out more about the recent updates check out these blog posts and videos made by members of the Final Cut Pro X community. Enjoy.

Ripple Training what’s new

FCP.co blog post

Apple’s FCPX documentation 

Apple’s Compressor documentation

PostLab: FCP X + GitLab

Final Cut Pro X and Shared Projects: FINALLY !!

I’ve been playing with PostLab the last few days. It’s a free and open source app that lets you use GitLab with Final Cut Pro X to do version control of editing projects. Yes, this is very cool. Shared Projects, Read only versions of projects. Versions. Of. Projects. Commented. Makes it awesome to work on projects together.

Of course, like any workflow app it can be annoying to those who don’t want to play along. But I like the price and the simplicity of it. Using GitLab means you can have free private repos for shared project sharing. You can use their website on the internet to act as your gateway or you can setup your own internal GitLab server. For Free.

PostLab is pretty awesome with its Final Cut Pro X project sharing and it’s not $100K app that is expensive to setup and everyone hates it. It’s free and some people might not use it, but it could allow for effective remote workflows and nice finely grained version control for projects that need it even in an internal on site production SAN environments.

It’s worth checking out.

https://www.postlab.app/

Install PostLab, and the Xcode cli tools. Then launch PostLab, agree to the license, authorize accessibility for PostLab to enable it to launch FCPX. And you’re on your way.

All that’s left is to configure a GitLab account. Set u a group and a project. Configure token in GitLab to Enable PostLab with GitLab account access. Then start sharing projects. Enjoy.

Lots of cool set up videos on the PostLab website. Robot narrator says Jit-Lab instead of “Git” Lab, but it’s still worth watching. Do it now.

PostLab-FCPX-added-fx