Best tech to manage a production company?
I've been away for a long time but was hoping to get some advice on a topic that I've been thinking about: The best tech (software and/or hardware) options to help me manage my production business. We've got the financial end covered with QB Pro and it works well for us.
Where I am struggling a bit is in two areas: Equipment inventory management and media back-up process. I know, these are two very different discussions!
For the Equipment Inventory Management, we're small enough to have gotten by without a formal system for years, but recent staff turnover has prompted me to re-consider a more formal system. Having one would likely have helped new staff looking to step into someone else's shoes who "just knew" what we had and where it is. The big stuff (cameras, computers, etc..)is easy to keep track of. But the small stuff that doesn't get used every week is a bit tougher.
What system(s) do you guys use to keep it all straight? Stand alone system? Are the any good QuickBooks plug-ins that could also track items from an asset standpoint?
For Media Management, like many production companies, we started the transition away from tape and to solid state records several years ago. We are now almost exclusively file based. My current approach has been to move all raw footage media to a 24 TB shared media storage system (Thanks Bob Zelin!) to feed three edit suites and clone media to external hard drives as a back-up. Each year, we'll off load media from the shared raid to a separate portable drive(s), clone that drive(s) and place both in a fireproof safe.
The system works and gives me a reasonable level of protection from drive failure, fire and theft. But I'm concerned about the long term wisdom of this approach. Also concerned about drive failure for drives just sitting in a safe for years.
I'm contemplating LTO. From what I've researched so far, they're small, reliable and effective method of archiving. Anybody using this method successfully? Any problems or pitfalls? FYI, the media/production side of my studio is Mac based - and would prefer to keep it that way if possible.
Thanks for any thoughts on these topics!
Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!
We have been employing a similar workflow and are looking ahead to upgrade as well. I'm also looking at an LTO with CatDV to manage and track the media. A couple other reasonable options that we have been keeping our eye on is the Sony Optical Disk Archive. Moviola.com has had Sony reps to do webinars on it, I'm sure you can grab a free one there somewhere.
For tracking assets, I'm not sure how detailed you want to get. I really liked a lot of what CatDV could offer, but we also have looked at buying a copy of Filmaker and building our own database, that way we can track internal projects. That route makes a lot of sense because we are more than just a video production house, we are a full service ad agency, but if you need something bigger and custom (With a bit of a learning curve), it might be an option.
I've used LTO and HDDs for archives. HDD is pretty quick and straight forward but the drives aren't designed to sit for years on end. From what I've read, ideally you'll want to skip them up a few times a year to keep the internal lubricants from stiffening up and causing the drive to seize.
SSDs don't have moving parts but I don't know how well they do over the long term and they are still a much more expensive route to go.
LTO is the tried and true method though it's slower and more cumbersome than using HDDs.
Digital 'archiving' is kinda a misnomer though. With analog there was a set it and forget it policy but for how fast everything changes with digital I've heard that every 5-10 years everything should migrated to a current formats/codecs and possibly even storage mediums.
I've always been very impressed with these guys' product:
For archive, it's very hard to beat StorageDNA for both features and price. Greatest advantage over other solutions is the ability to use your LTO archive as pseudo nearline storage as well. You can easily park projects/assets on LTO to free up SAN space and bring them back when needed with a high degree of intelligence.
I'd definitely recommend moving from HDDs to an LTO device of some kind. Longer (and dependable) shelf life, easy ability to make copies, physically smaller, and cheaper per TB. Whatever you look at, make sure the system (and software) supports LTFS. Last thing you want is a tape that has a proprietary compression or file system on it; a friend of mine has to keep an old version of his archiving software around just to read his tapes. In disaster recovery, ease of access is a big deal.
Marshall Graphics Systems