For anyone who hasn’t worked in London’s Soho district, it is a dream come true in terms of having all of your post-production departments in one place. We were fortunate enough to be based there after we wrapped Hellboy 2 in Budapest, and it meant that our sound department was two doors down, our VFX vendor was at the end of the street, our mixing stages were right next door, our DI house was a 10-minute walk, and the meeting point in case of a fire was the pub across the street (and they served Pacifico, in case I got nostalgic for something Mexican). What this meant for us in terms of our turnover process was that delivering the turnover material was quick and painless, even if creating it wasn’t.
So here’s the rundown on how we delivered files to the people who needed them, and my preferences for delivery mediums:
- Firewire Hard Drive
- This is pretty straightforward, and by far the easiest way to get your files from Editorial to whoever needs them. I happen not to be a fan of LaCie drives due to the unreliability of their FireWire ports, but they’re cheap, replaceable, and their rugged versions are available with a triple interface (USB, FW, FW800). If you go cheap and use LaCie, just make sure you buy them from a vendor who’s willing to take them back and provide a replacement when the FW port fails. This happened to us twice (and I’ve had this experience on previous shows as well).
- Do not burn Quicktimes to DVD. I have no information whatsoever on why this doesn’t work, but it doesn’t and you’ll waste your time trying to make it work reliably. Everything will appear to be ok when you burn the disc, but trying to copy the QT off of it fails. For security reasons, I also dislike DVDs because they rely on your recipients to properly dispose of or store them after they copy the files off. So because of these two limitations, I’ve abandoned this method entirely in favor of sending a courier on a return route with a hard drive.
- USB Flash Drive
- These work well for deliveries of small quantities of files. Make sure you plug your USB drive directly into the computer and not into a monitor or keyboard USB port (those are usually USB1 and are very slow). If you have a large quantity of small files, I recommend that you zip them up before copying to the flash drive, and then unzip after copying the zip file from it. Just due to the nature of how it works to copy files to/from a flash drive, it is faster to copy, for example, one 2GB Quicktime than it is to copy a thousand small text files. Just remember to clear off your flash drive when the file’s been delivered. These things have a habit of being left out in the open for anyone to swipe.
- Electronic Delivery Methods
- I’m a big proponent of delivering files electronically. It saves me time the time of copying to a drive and arranging delivery, and if the transfer process is well set-up, you can transfer direct from your network to the recipients’. If your transfer process involves you copying to a 3rd-party server, and then your recipient downloading from the same 3rd-party server, it might save more time to go the physical route with a FW hard drive, depending on your circumstances and geographic location.
- Simple, easy to use (for some), and fast, FTP is a great option for non-confidential files. While the likelihood of anyone eavesdropping on your FTP session is slim to none, FTP is technically insecure. It transmits your passwords in plain text, and because of that if someone were to listen in they could, in theory, gain access to your account. But if that’s not a concern, then FTP has everything going for it, including the fact that anyone can set up an FTP server, and this frees you from using some poorly-designed corporate solution.
- Tip: The concept of FTP seems to constantly elude non-techie users. If the recipient clearly has never heard the term “FTP client” before, don’t try to have them download Filezilla or Cyberduck, but instead first try to give them a URL a browser can read. I usually include a URL like this in any email to producers when using FTP:
- This is a standard FTP link that will work in any browser. If you are on a MediaTemple (gs) server, like I am, then these URLs will not work in Safari or IE, but will still work in Firefox, and look like this:
- Protected Folders on Websites
- This has the same security limitations as FTP, in that the transmission of your password to the protected folder is insecure, on the off-chance that anyone is bothering to listen in. But it does allow you to give a standard http:// URL to your recipients, along with an easy-to-use username/password dialog box. I use this method as my last resort, and always remove the files I’m transferring as soon as I know that the recipients have them.
- Digidelivery is my favorite 3rd-party application for securely transferring files. It’s designed for use with ProTools sessions, but it will transfer anything and everything you give it. The client software is free, but you have to know someone with a server (or own one yourself). If the option is there to use Digidelivery, use it.
- Signiant / Aspera
- We used Signiant, and occasionally Aspera, to transfer files back to Universal on HB2. Our experience was mixed, there are things I like about how it’s set up, and things that clearly need some work. Universal has an excellent Digital Media Delivery team, though, that is working every day to improve the software, and I look forward to trying it out again some day. I won’t publish all the ins and outs of my experience using Signiant here, but I’d be happy to discuss it by e-mail if someone is about to start a show that will use it.
- We used SmartJog very briefly on Rambo, actually. It’s a service for secure file transfers worldwide, but as far as I know it does not allow you to transfer to a client not on the SmartJog network, so it’s unlikely that your Editorial office will be set up with it. I think it’s mostly for studios and facilities, so if you’re on a show that’s using it, you will most likely have to send a drive to whatever facility you’re working with each time you want to receive a transfer.
- Sohonet is an ISP, not a file transfer service, but its network is phenomenal, and if a significant number of your departments and/or vendors are on it, it can be fantastic. Basically, everyone who’s on Sohonet’s private fiber optic network can communicate with each other (i.e. FTP or Digideliver files) at speeds of around 80 Mbps (not to be confused with its equivalent of 10MBps). If you’re FTP-ing to someone outside of the Sohonet network, then your speed is just dependent on what kind of ‘external’ access you pay for.