Don’t Throw Out Those Old Hard Drives! At Least Not Yet…

To say I have acquired a few external hard drives over the years is an understatement. At last count, over 250 of ‘em are stacked in our vault which range from shuttles to raids storing anything one would generate when making a movie. I still have a few FireWire 400 boxes once considered state-of-the-art even when their most reliable feature was to crap out during a crucial transfer, as I never throw away a working storage device. But seriously, if external drives were made of wood, my studio would resemble 5150 where Dr. Frankenstein himself, Edward Van Halen builds and maintains his world-renowned signatures guitars.

My collection of external hard drives is constantly growing and in turn, evolves with technology. Even with the cost-per-terabyte consistently dropping – and fast – keeping up with the Joneses is expensive, especially when shooting with multiple cameras in now, a 6 or 8K medium and needing to back up everything thrice. Your hard drives are the most important investment you’ll make when choosing how and where to store your work – and ultimately your library which in one day can have substantial value.

Thunderbolt’s arrival shouldn’t deem your outdated hard drives to become doorstops. You can buy inexpensive adaptors from Apple so your FireWire drives can still function without a glitch with the latest computers that have ditched the now, archaic connections altogether. I have been a longtime user of anything G-Technology and will most likely remain so, but recently have fallen in love with Rocstor’s new product line, as they have quite an assortment of drives available that are reliable and considerably more affordable. Their new ROCPRO T24 two-raid storage boxes are by far the most superior, quiet and speedy drives I have ever used and many of my colleagues feel the same.

Filmmaking and Hard Drives


I find them perfect for storing an entire project – literally from concept to delivery – when vaulting your masters as once your film is released into the wild, you can get that call from a distributor needing a resend of a Closed Captioned file or perhaps even some production stills and with that much drive space, it’s nice to reach for one drive, with everything compartmentalized and super easy to access. I am still a huge proponent of keeping at least three copies of every element you create for a project and vaulted at three separate locations. I understand budgets are often tight but this is the first compromise many filmmakers tend to make when trying to stretch a buck and that’s a big no-no!

For the best deals in town, call Mike Hashem at Unitek Mike’s been my go-to corporate account executive for well over a decade. He knows the products inside and out and once getting to know your needs can steer you in the right direction.

Mike’s email is: [email protected]

Tell him I sent ya!


Keep Shootin’





When it comes to color grading your project, there are several user-friendly options available that won’t break the bank. I believe a good colorist is as important to your project as a cinematographer but if you want to paint your own canvas and stay on the DIY trail, you might find the story of my latest mishap helpful in deciding which platform to choose.



Recently during the sales agent’s quality control of our film, The Untold Story the lab discovered a series of shots that needed to be re-done due to some digital imperfections in the 4K colored master output. Unfortunately because of time restraints, the studio that originally did the work was unable to fit us in to repair the issues in the timeframe we needed to deliver them back to our sales agent for Cannes. We’ll save that for another post – one that will focus on vendors delivering on their promises or guarantees and their own in-house QC methods…


Anywho, as most of you know, DaVinci Resolve leads the charge with many professional color houses and freelance colorists. You can download a free version of the software on your own rig with very little headache and give it a spin within a few minutes. I will say, DaVinci does take time to learn, especially for a hack like me who barely knows his way around Photoshop or the other programs nested within Adobe’s Creative Cloud. But DaVinci is a very valuable tool for any independent filmmaker, especially those who wear several hats and doesn’t rely on outsiders to do the finishing touches on their projects.


What I did to solve our delivery deadline problem was drop the original 4K media back into Premier Pro and painted the shots myself using Lumetri, the color software that resides within the edit program. I matched them perfectly to what was previously colored (on DaVinci) and the outputs passed through the strict QC house with flying colors (sorry, I couldn’t resist that little quip). I was extremely pleased with the results and it was a fairly quick and pain free process I was able to complete at my home studio. So if you’re looking to experiment in the color realm, what you need might already be at your fingertips in Adobe’s Creative Cloud.




When prepping Paloma’s Flight helmed by 5-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Lee Stanley and starring martial arts phenom Amy Johnston, we had few options for cameras because our partners in Mexico had us on a tight schedule with a skeleton crew. Due to travel logistics, customs, and a host of other reasons, we needed to go the compact 4K/Ultra-HD route and our choice ultimately narrowed between the SONY A7sii and Panasonic Lumix GH5.


Both are leaders in their class and run mirrorless systems. Cinematographers from Europe I consulted favored the Panasonic while my fellow countrymen in the states leaned toward Sony. Our camera team, primarily from Mexico, was split so at the end of the day it was up to yours truly to ultimately decide. I hadn’t shot with compact HD cameras since my Dark Side days almost a decade before and wow, they have come light years since – literally. We tested both cameras during our scout and because the project included several low-light exterior night scenes, it was crystal clear which camera was better suited for the job. I chose the SONY simply because of its low light values which were a step above the Panasonic’s and enabled minimal noise and impressive sensitivity due to its 12MP full-frame sensor. This was especially important considering Paloma’s Flight had several action scenes in low, exterior light where we were often relying on either available light coming from nearby buildings or just headlights from a vehicle.





If low light exterior night scenes hadn’t been so prominent in the show, I would have chosen the Panasonic preferring its exterior daylight imagery as well as in naturally lit interior daylight scenes. In addition, the Panasonic’s images along the Baja coast were slightly superior but luckily at the end of the day, it’s almost impossible to take a bad shot next to the Sea of Cortez. I don’t think you can lose with either one, but before pulling the trigger on an expensive and ever so important filmmaking tool, think about what kind of projects you’re going to make moving forward and if possible, rent a few cameras if your schedule and budget allow at a place like lensrentals.com where you can do side-by-side comparisons and make an informed decision.




After cutting faithfully on Avid for over a decade before launching Visual Arts Entertainment, I made the switch to Final Cut Pro, as saving $40,000 weighed huge when starting a new company. For me, it suited our needs and the transformation was easy, but Final Cut had a stigma and was viewed as a toy for wannabes until 3-time Academy Award winner Walter Murch sliced Cold Mountain on the Mac-based platform finally giving it credibility within ‘legitimate’ Ho-Ho Wood.



But in 2011, Apple gave editors the big F-you by launching Final Cut X, catering to laptop possessing Youtubers. X was incompatible with projects created on previous versions and lacked several tools-of-the-trade features the traditional setup had. Many editors (including Murch) defected while some of us numbskulls continued working on the outdated 7 platform hoping someone in Silicon Valley would pull their head out of their keester and revitalize the Pro version. But our hopes were never realized.


I’m a creature of habit and limped along with my pet dinosaur for another five years until finishing The Untold Story. It wasn’t until our post team demanded I abandoned Final Cut or they’d abandon me due to their frustrations wrestling with endless compatibility issues syncing it with the latest technology coming from Red, DiVinci Resolve and Pro Tools.


So I had to make a choice – Avid or Adobe – and I had to choose quickly as we were beginning prep for our next motion picture, Mistrust. As production approached, I needed to choose a system to replace my lifeless Final Cut Pro. I called God’s gift to Kevin James and Avid guru, Scott Hill who allowed me some quality time on his machine. I was all thumbs and my frustration grew with every keystroke I attempted. A disappointment considering I had quite a history with Avid. Maybe it had just been too many years…


A friend of mine who works at CBS offered me a spin on the new and improved Adobe Premiere platform. He had been an Avid and Final Cut man since I met him years ago and made the switch upon landing at the network. From the moment I sat in the cockpit I felt right at home; like an iron chef with a fine set cutlery. The fact you can set the layout to replicate Final Cut Pro or Avid minimizing the learning curve was awesome. Check out Maxim Jago’s informative vlog here.


Before pulling the trigger, I called several post-houses to discuss the pros and cons of both platforms. When the dust settled, I chose Adobe and haven’t looked back since. Is it better? For me, it is. But all you should care about is what’s best for you. Do your homework and think ahead as to how you plan to grow as a filmmaker and what will best serve your needs now and in the future. We had zero compatibility issues and post-production on Mistrust went smoother than any other picture I can recall in over 25 years.