Now that I’ve spent several months traveling in and living in a recreational vehicle I have a perspective that I think, when combined with my experience on the video production front, might prove useful to others. Especially those who also live in an RV and Vlog or work on video projects of their own.
As Producer for the upcoming movie RV Nomads I plan on putting up a series of these kinds of posts and I hope you find them useful. As always, if you have questions please feel free to post them below in the comments section and I’ll do my best to address them.
Before we get into the guts of today’s three epic tips, let me say this is by no means a one-size-fits all set of solutions. Different methods, software and scenarios may be more fitting for different uses and purposes. And different budgets. Additionally, this is not what I assert is the answer to some of the most commonly asked questions. These are simply what I have found over the years to be the best solutions for me personally and professionally.
The three topics I want to cover today are three that I have been asked about by multiple full time RV vloggers in the past two weeks. They include:
- How do you keep track of your media and what is the best method of storage?
- My computer is freezing up while rendering and I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong. Any advice?
- What’s the best editing software and what are the best formats to work with?
Full time RV life presents a few challenges that aren’t traditionally experienced. In my previous employment I had a huge office with space for a ton of external storage, multiple monitors, multiple computers running different editing programs and yes… I even had a full scale green screen studio. But in an RV I have a shared space that puts my entire editing suite on the top of a table designed for small dinners to be served on.
With this being the case it’s important to operate my editing suite with a minimal amount of space. And do so can be quite a challenge. Let’s jump in and take a look at my own personal setup I use to edit all media for Nomadic Life Films and EPIC Nomad TV.
Media Libraries & Storage
During the past two weeks I had two different vloggers describe to me scenarios in which their media libraries are a complete mess. They both have stacks of 1tb or 2tb USB disk drives containing an unorganized mashup of all content filmed over the past few years.
No. Just no.
Now I realize that living in an RV often creates scenarios where you have to work in cramped spaces while on the move. But keeping your media organized on reliable devices is an absolute must. Time is precious, and while it may be temporarily convenient to just dump all of your media cards into a USB drive, this will end up costing you significant time later on in the creative process.
It takes discipline to keep your media organized from day one, but that discipline will pay off ten fold in the long run. How you organize may end up different than how I organize. But organize it from day one! Don’t ever take files off your memory cards and dump them into USB drives without an organized file structure.
In my case I have media coming from a plethora of devices.
- GoPro (Karma Drone)
- Black Magic Cinema Camera (SSD)
- Tascam 60D (Audio)
Sometimes I’ll have additional media sources, but these are the four primary sources of media that I use. So what I do is I create a folder for each project or shoot. Under that folder I create four folders, one for each media source.
For the RV Nomads Christmas Trailer, for example, my folder/file structure looked like this.
Under this structure I know where everything is at all times. It doesn’t matter if I edit the night of the shoot, the following week or even months later. I know the date, project and location, and therefor I can get right to all media needed for the project I’m editing.
If I were using USB storage disks I would immediately replicate the date/project/location folder to a second drive to make a backup. I don’t primarily use USB drives (more on this later) but if/when I do I also have an exact copy of my file structure on at least two drives.
I might even add multiple folders in each media type folder depending on the size and scale of the day or projects shoot. In the drone folder, for example, I may have multiple folders breaking up the footage with multiple shoots. One folder might be “AMFarmFootage” to note the morning shoot with another being “SunsetOverCampground” to notate the evening portion of the shoot.
I do all of this to simplify my search for footage or audio when it comes time to edit. It’s extremely time consuming to have a folder filled with 100+ files and have to sit there watching each of them to find what you’re looking for. The more you properly file your media from the beginning, the less time it will take when the editing fun begins.
Besides, when you’re editing you want the process to be as smooth as possible. When you’re editing video you want your creative side to have freedom to flow through the timeline without having to spend a ton of time watching media files and flipping around in your finder or file folders.
Now getting back to the storage devices…
I have a stack of 1tb, 2tb or 4tb USB drives. If that is what your budget provides for these can be a tremendous help. Just keep in mind these are terribly unreliable for backup and are extremely resource intensive during the editing/rendering process. I’ve had multiple USB drives fail, rendering all media on them obsolete. If you use USB drives to store your media, always have one to keep copies on to ensure you always have a backup.
My preferred storage device is the G-Raid Dual Drive Thunderbolt disc drive. They make them for PC but I’m not sure of what kind of connections they work on as my editing suite is all Apple. The G-Raid dual drive is extremely reliable. And incredibly fast.
My mobile/RV editing suite consists of the following:
- Mac Pro – 3.5GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 – 64GB Memory – AMD FirePro D500
- 27 Inch 4K LG Ultra HD Monitor
- 8 TB G-Raid Dual Drive
- Two 4TB USB Drives. One for Backup and One for Finished Files
The G-Raid storage device will have an initial shock factor on price. A new one will run you $650 – $800 with certified refurbished between $450 and $500. But considering you have dual driven 8TB of storage this price isn’t much different than buying 8 single 1TB USB drives. Or 4 2TB USB drives. The difference, of course, is that you have to pop for the full price all in one go.
There are other advantages of a G-Raid device that I’ll talk about in the next section. But the important takeaway from this first part is organize, organize… ORGANIZE! And always have backups.
Speeding Up Video Editing & Rendering
If I had a dime for every time I’ve seen a vlogger complain about editing speed and render times I would be rolling in a Prevost.
If you’re facing slow render times or freezing screens while editing video you’re not alone. We all go through this. There are a wide range of reasons this can happen but I’m going to focus on the two most common in my own experience.
- Data transfer speeds
Data transfer speeds are often times overlooked when trouble shooting slow render times or freezing timelines during the editing process. You may have a fast processor and plenty of RAM, but still experience a bogged down system when creating video. If so, are you working on media on USB devices? This is a huge no-no. This because USB is just not fast enough to transfer data in a real time rendering environment.
In other words, if you’re using Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere (or any editing software for that matter) and you’re editing media located on a USB storage device this is likely at least half of your problem. Your computer is working with data that has to transfer back and forth through a USB cable/connection, a connection that isn’t designed to handle that kind of workload. So it may not be that your computer can’t handle the work. It may be that your computer is waiting on the data to transfer back and forth between the two devices.
One work around on this is to move the media you want to edit from your USB devices to your desktop temporarily while you work on your video project. When you’re done with the editing, you’ve rendered and exported your finished product, you can move all the files back to the storage device. This way your computer is working with media on its own hard drive and doesn’t have to wait for data to change from an external device.
Now in the previous section I mentioned an advantage provided by a G-Raid thunderbolt storage device. Because these utilize Thunderbolt and not USB the data transfer rates are incredibly fast. Meaning, I can edit media located on a G-Raid without having to move it to my desktop. There is no real noticeable slowdown because a Thunderbolt cable/connection is able to handle the transfer rates needed to edit/render files in real time between the two devices.
The second common issue is RAM. If you have 8Gb or 16GB of memory, you’re probably going to struggle to render in real time. Especially when it comes to large projects with a lot of media. And definitely if your project contains 4K or RAW footage.
RAM is not super cheap. But if you’re going to be doing a lot of editing it’s an area you want to save for and invest in. Having a PC or Mac that can be easily upgraded on the RAM side is an extremely good investment. Or if you’re buying a new system just bite the bullet and max out on RAM from day one. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by doing this.
Right now my Mac Pro runs 64GB of RAM with 8TB of storage working through a Thunderbolt connection. I can run Photoshop, Lightroom, Apple Motion and two different browsers with multiple tabs all while my timeline renders in Final Cut Pro with no decrease in overall performance. Granted, my Mac Pro is a commercial grade $5,000 Apple computer, but I didn’t buy it this way. I bought it with 16Gb of RAM and initially ran USB drives. The performance, even on a $5,000 system, was sub-par at best until I put in the new RAM and switched to Thunderbolt storage.
I live and breath Final Cut Pro and Davinci Resolve for color grading. But not because I believe it is the superior editing suite. No, this is just my personal preference. Adobe Premiere has advantages that friends of mine swear by. On the software side I say to each his/her own. Whichever timeline works best for you is what you should use.
I will say, however, that in my experience Adobe Premiere is a little more complex than FCP. And, for me Premiere uses a lot more of my computer’s resources. I don’t know if this is unique to me and I know people who claim the opposite. But it has been my own experience and that is the primary determining factor of staying with Final Cut Pro.
If you’re looking to upgrade from iMovie or other limited editing systems to something more robust with more capabilities, but you want to minimize your learning curve and keep resource usage to a minimum, I would personally recommend Final Cut Pro. The timeline is pretty streamlined, the third party plugin market is vast and affordable and FCP is beautiful in terms of the front end user interface.
With a little discipline on the organization side, better data management and the right editing software you can create amazing visual stories with far less headaches. Time is money. And more time is more journey. Don’t waste any of it and don’t give up more than you have to. A few small changes to your production workflow can make a world of difference.
I hope this helps!