Preparing Video Files for the Aja Ki Pro

Posted in Aja KiPro, Compression, Gene Siskel Film Center on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

The Gene Siskel Film Center offers the ability to play Apple ProRes files via its Aja Ki Pro hard drive player/recorder. This guide covers the process of converting a file to make it compatible with the Aja Ki Pro.  It includes workflows for Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Media Encoder CS6. Click to enlarge the images, or download the PDF.

Burning Blu-Ray in Adobe Encore

Posted in Adobe Encore, Blu-Ray, Compression, Gene Siskel Film Center on Monday, April 2nd, 2012

The steps detailed in the handout below show you how to burn a stereo Blu-Ray disc using Adobe Encore. Click to enlarge the images, or download the PDF. Blu-Ray burners are located in the General Access lab in the MacLean building, inside marked computers in FVNMA labs, and are available for checkout through the MacLean Media Center.  Blu-Ray discs are for sale in the MacLean Resale vending machine.

For instructions on burning a 5.1 surround Blu-ray, see our other Blu-ray guide.

Live View EOS Correction Cap

Posted in Animation, Canon EOS 7D on Friday, February 14th, 2014

The EOS Live View Correction Cap is designed to reset the Live View Exposure Preview level in Canon DSLR cameras.  When you connect a digital lens to to a Canon DSLR you are able to alter the exposure, and as you do the Live View Exposure Preview adjusts to mirror the still image you will capture.  However, once you replace the digital lens with a manual lens (used in puppet animation classes to avoid flicker) the camera is no longer capable of communicating the exposure setting with the Live View Exposure Preview.  Any adjustments you make are additively applied to the last Live View exposure setting.  This means your actual exposures won’t match what you are seeing in the preview.  You can correct this by using  the EOS Live View Correction Cap to reset your Live View Exposure Preview.  The following guide will walk you through the process of using the Correction Cap.  Click on the images to expand them or view the high quality PDF.

Steadicam Flyer Speed Guide

Posted in Stedicam on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

The following is a step by step guide to assembling and operating the steady cam.  Click to expand the thumbnails below or view the high quality PDF version.

Working with Video in the Advanced Dub Room MC1319

Posted in Aja KiPro, Dubbing, Transfers on Friday, October 11th, 2013

We recently upgraded our Advanced Dub Room from an SD-only patch panel setup to a computer-controlled, HD and SD capable system. This guide covers the basics of making traditional dubs, recording from tapes or discs to ProRes files and sending video files out to tapes and DVDs. Click to enlarge the images, or download the PDF.

Using the Sony HVR-MRC1 CF Recorder with the Canon XH-A1

Posted in Cameras, Hard drives on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

This post covers the physical connections, camera and hard disk settings and file transfer workflow when using the Sony HVR-MRC1 hard disk recorder with the Canon XH-A1 camera. Click to enlarge the images, or download the PDF.

Submitting Files to the Render Farm

Posted in 3D, Animation, Maya on Thursday, April 25th, 2013

The following guide will show you how to submit files to the render farm. Please follow it closely. You can download a high quality PDF version here. Users already familiar with the render farm and looking for a refresher can download the quick guide.

Files can only be submitted from a computer on campus. All FVNMA computer labs have Deadline render management software installed and the Deadline plugin for Maya. When you submit a render please keep the following things in mind. Your job title must always be your email address. This way we can contact you if there is a problem with your render. Before you submit an entire project please be sure to render a test frame and check for errors. Once submitted jobs are automatically added to the render queue in the order they are received. If a single user is rendering for more than a week the render will be stopped and added to the end of the queue from where it left off. This gives the entire community the opportunity to use the farm. If you would like to stop or delete your render please contact Emily Kuehn at or 312-345-3988. Anyone who attempts to alter the queue or render farm architecture will be banned from using the render farm.

Burning 5.1 Blu-Ray in Adobe Encore

Posted in Adobe Encore, Blu-Ray, Compression, Gene Siskel Film Center on Monday, April 1st, 2013

The steps detailed in the handout below show you how to burn a 5.1 surround sound Blu-Ray disc using Adobe Encore. Click to enlarge the images, or download the PDF. Blu-Ray burners are located in the General Access lab in the MacLean building, inside marked computers in FVNMA labs, and are available for checkout through the MacLean Media Center.  Blu-Ray discs are for sale in the MacLean Resale vending machine and at electronics and office supply stores.

For instructions on burning a standard stereo Blu-ray, see our other Blu-ray guide.

HDR Photography Using the Gigapan

Posted in 3D, Animation, HDR, Lighting on Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Follow the workflow below to capture an HDR panorama using the Gigapan robotic tripod head. You can download the PDF here.

Bolex Loading Guide

Posted in Bolex, Cameras on Thursday, January 31st, 2013

This guide demonstrates proper Bolex loading procedures. Click to enlarge the images below or download the PDF.


Posted in Editing, Hard drives on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

(Revised January 22, 2013)

An external hard drive consists of a standard 3.5” or 2.5” hard drive (the same kind of drives that are installed inside desktop and laptop computers) and a physical enclosure that protects the drive and allows you to connect it to a computer via Firewire, USB, eSATA, or Thunderbolt.



Portable hard drive enclosures

You should use hard drives for two general purposes–working and backing up your data. We strongly encourage you to purchase separate drives for these two functions. For maximum data security, you would have one high-performance drive for editing plus two copies of all of your projects on two different backup drives.

Before offering our recommendations for external hard drives, here’s an outline of some of the types of hard drives currently available…



HDD refers to traditional hard disc drives that store data on spinning metal platters. SSD means “solid-state drive” and uses a much newer technology of flash memory chips to store data. SSDs are significantly faster than HDDs, and because they do not rely on mechanically spinning discs, they are more reliable and durable than HDDs. However, external SSD drives cost as much as five times more per gigabyte as their HDD counterparts—a 256 GB external SSD drive made by Lacie costs $350 while its 1 TB HDD equivalent costs $200. When purchasing an HDD that will be rigorously used (ex: video editing as opposed to standard backup usage), make sure that the drive’s speed is at least 7200 RPM.


(more on HDDs and SSDs here)


Portable hard drives are typically bus-powered (no AC adapter) and small enough to almost fit in the back pocket of the average pair of jeans. This convenience comes at a price and with capacity limitations—portable hard drives are more expensive than their desktop counterparts, and they generally don’t hold more than 2 TB. Because they aren’t powered externally they can lose connectivity if the computer’s Firewire or USB bus has power issues. For this reason, they are not as stable and reliable as desktop hard drives. Desktop hard drives must be powered externally, often with chunky “wall-wart” AC adapters. They are much more cost-effective in terms of storage capacity than portable drives, and they are typically more stable in terms of connectivity. Bus-powered drives are great for backing up, transferring files and light production. For maximum performance, stability and affordability, we recommend plug-in desktop drives over bus-powered portable drives.


For more than a decade Firewire has been the prominent Mac interface standard for external hard drives and other peripherals. In recent years the Firewire400 (6-pin) standard has been replaced by the faster Firewire800 (9-pin), but Firewire800 is not quite fast enough for smooth, efficient editing of HD video.

A much faster alternative would be eSATA (or serial ATA), an option included along with Firewire in many external hard drives. The main drawback to eSATA is that eSATA ports are not included in any computers currently on the market. It’s not possible to connect an eSATA drive to a Mac laptop without an adapter. It’s a relatively old standard at this point and will probably not be included in future generations of external hard drives. However, eSATA cards can be installed in desktop computers, offering the fastest possible connection from a Mac Pro to an external hard drive.

Many inexpensive drives offer USB 2.0 capabilities, but USB 2.0 should only be used for light work like editing photos or for copying files—it’s almost two times slower than Firewire and can’t handle large video files. USB 3.0 is over five times faster than Firewire (see chart below) and at the moment is the most affordable standard for HD editing or any other bandwidth-heavy activity. None of the desktop computers at SAIC include USB 3.0 ports, but all Macbook Pro laptops produced after May 2012 have USB 3.0 capabilities.

(more on USB here)

Thunderbolt is twice as fast as USB 3.0 (for now) and is included in all new Mac computers. Thunderbolt peripherals and drives have been slow to develop and are considerably more expensive than their USB 3.0 counterparts, but they are expected to gradually become more affordable. Thunderbolt technology has the potential to support speeds up to 100 GB per second; in 5-10 years it could become as prominent for media production as Firewire was 5-10 years ago, but at the moment it is a less economical option than USB 3.0. That said, the increased performance offered by Thunderbolt may very well be worth the difference in cost, particularly if you are doing elaborate compositing with HD imagery.

(more on Thunderbolt here)

(Gizmodo – “Thunderbolt vs. USB 3.0: “The Definitive Showdown”)


*RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a technology that bundles several physical hard drives into one practical unit. Data is distributed across the multiple drives for dramatically improved performance. A common RAID-configured Mac Pro would have one main system hard drive (Macintosh_HD) plus four 1 TB HDDs that are RAID-striped into a single unit. This unit is seen by the Finder as one 4 TB hard drive. When video data is processed to and from the RAID unit, it has an incredible amount of bandwidth to do so, especially when compared to that offered by a Firewire cable. The example here is of a configuration for maximum performance; other RAID configurations can allow for increased security against hard drive failures and data loss.

We highly recommend that you purchased a RAID-configured external drive if you plan on using the drive for HD video work. For backing up and transferring files RAID technology is not crucial.

Click here for explanations of various RAID configurations.



Some brands (G-Technology, Other World Computing, Lacie) are used prominently in the media production world and have won the loyalty of SAIC staff, faculty and students, but please remember that as with motor vehicles, cell phones, cameras, etc., hard drives are mass-produced mechanical devices prone to malfunction–we have witnessed the complete and irreversible failure of hard drives made by virtually every single brand out there. Plan on buying numerous hard drives as long as you are making media. You might develop your own brand loyalties, but always be prepared for hard drive death. Back up your work, and back up the backups!

That all said, choosing RAID drives with the fastest possible transfer technology (not to mention good practices like giving your drives frequent periods of rest/inactivity and keeping about 10% of your hard drive space free) will improve the chance that your drives will have long and productive lifespans with minimal data loss.


When choosing a working drive, think about when and where you plan to use the drive. Are you buying a drive to use in the immediate future with SAIC computers, or are you investing in a drive that will be compatible with computers you’ll be using 1-5 years from now? For example, if you plan to use the drive exclusively with your 2012 Macbook Pro and future generations of Mac computers, a Thunderbolt-only drive such as this 4 TB G-RAID would be a worthwhile investment. However, Thunderbolt-only drives will not connect to any Mac Pro desktop computers released before December 2013. Therefore, the drive will not work with any current SAIC desktop computers.

If you will be moving between a 2012 Macbook Pro (or other USB 3.0 enabled computer) and a pre-2013 Mac Pro with an eSATA card, options are limited. The only external RAID drive that support sUSB 3.0 and eSATA (plus Firewire) seems to be this Other World Computing drive.

If you’re planning to use your drive with older Firewire-only computers, your drive’s performance will be much more limited but the options are much more expansive. Glyph Technologies are unrivaled in terms of build quality, service and support–their three year warranty includes free overnight shipping of a replacement if the drive fails. Sweetwater Audio swears by Glyph drives for the “daily, grueling use of audio” and several FVNMA grad students have had positive experiences with them for video editing. The complete line of Glyph drives can be found at B&H. At the moment Glyph does not carry any Thunderbolt drives, but they recently added USB 3.0 support. A slightly more affordable eSATA/Firewire/USB 2.0 RAID drive would be this Other World Computing drive, but in our experience OWC drives are not quite as durable as Glyph drives.

While RAID drives are highly recommended for heavy production work, non-RAID drives are commonly used for editing in the FVNMA community. Other World Computing’s Mercury Elite Pro drives offer USB 3.0, Firewire 800 and eSATA connectivity in a range of capacities (from 500 GB to 4 TB) at a reasonable price. G-Technology’s G-DRIVE (Generation 6) is a comparable product in terms of price and functionality.


Plug-in desktop RAID drives are our recommended option for rigorous work. For everything else including backing up and transferring files between computers, you could invest in less expensive desktop drives and/or more convenient portable drives. B&H carries a huge list of external drives, searchable by such factors as drive speed, connection, capacity, etc. We’ve tested and can generally recommend the brands mentioned in this post (G-Technology, Glyph, Other World Computing, Lacie) as well as Hitachi/HGST.*

In May 2013 Macworld published this rundown of portable hard drives and in December of 2011 it offered a similar list of desktop drives. Other places to look for recommendations would be Creative Cow discussion forums, GizmodoEngadget, Cult of Mac and your creative community.

One final cost-effective USB 3.0/Firewire/eSATA option is not a hard drive per se, it’s an enclosure which allows for 2.5″ or 3.5″ HDDs or SSDs  to be easily be swapped in and out. It’s not sleek and self-contained like most of the drives mentioned above, but it offers a more affordable method of working with new SSDs and can also be used to access data from a desktop computer’s internal drives. Initial tests of this enclosure show it to be fast and stable.

We will update this list as new drives become available!

*One portable drive that we can recommend you NOT buy is Other World Computing’s ElitePro mini line (we’ve had more success with OWC’s older portable drives and their desktop drives).


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