October 05, 2010

Marvin minimises media management

One way to make sure you capture data safely on set is to use an automated data management system, such as that from Marvin Technologies.

It is currently in use on its first production: An 80-day shoot for the Dutch miniseries Lijn 32, directed by its co-developer, where it automates the creation of backups, LTO tape masters, QuickTime proxies for offline editing and DVD dailies, all in a single step. It is claimed to be "a fraction of the cost of competing data recorders", and to provide data security and all of the production formats required for digital cinematography.

The Amsterdam-based company has just signed a sales agreement with Band Pro Film & Digital, which will be its exclusive distributor in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the US.

"With the growing use of data cameras, like RED and SI-2K, data management is becoming as important as the camera used to capture it. Marvin is a natural result of this transition and is perhaps the simplest, most elegant solution available," said Amnon Band, president of Band Pro.

“New technology demands new tools, and Marvin is the data management solution that many RED owners and data camera-based productions have been waiting for," added Gerhard Baier, Managing Director of Band Pro Munich.

Marvin supports the Red One, Silicon Imaging SI-2K, Arri D21/Alexa, Panasonic P2, Phantom and Weisscam HS-2 cameras. The system is housed in a 4U housing with a padded case and controlled through a simple browser GUI running on a laptop computer connected via Ethernet.

Once users enter the settings for a new project, Marvin automates the rest of the process, saving hours of manual data wrangling and effectively eliminating the risk of human error. When removable media from the camera is attached to the system, Marvin creates verified copies of every shot to its own internal RAID5 storage array. The system then generates multiple verified LTO copies of all of the shots from the day, along with DVD dailies and QuickTime files for offline editing.

Lijn 32 on location
Route 32

Lijn 32 is an eight part thriller being shot on Red MX cameras by ID TV for NCRV Channel 2 and KRO, for transmission in the next few months.

The shoot is generating between 150 and 200GB of data each day, captured on 16GB CF cards. Once full, the CF cards are attached to Marvin, which copies the data to its internal 12TB RAID5 array, as well as separate hard drives. Marvin verifies the data as it copies, flagging any corrupt file it finds. When the data is verified, it generates LTO tape masters, DNxHD 36 MXF files with a mixdown of the audio for offline editing and DVD dailies.

Marvin in use in the back of a van for Lijn 32
“The idea of the Marvin is one thing, but when you put it to use on a real production, you experience the difference it makes in your work,” said Lijn 32's director Maarten Treurniet, who co-developed Marvin because he wanted a simpler, more reliable data workflow. “We made some interesting discoveries on this project and what we have learned is flowing directly back into development on the Marvin.”

During the first few weeks, they found that the standard Core i7 920 CPU could not process data fast enough to keep up with the volume of material being captured every day, so upgraded to an Intel Core 980x processor, which allowed it to copy 16GB cards in under ten minutes, as well as verifying the data. "We had wondered if we would need to upgrade to an LTO4 drive, but we have found that LTO3 is fast enough to keep up. While we continue shooting, Marvin processes the data, creating the masters, offlines and dailies.”

“We’re using a total of five CF cards on Lijn 32,” said the production's DIT, Marcel Vendrig. “When we’ve copied the data, we erase the card and send it back to the cameras. We typically use each of those cards several times each day.”

Marvin saves high-resolution stills for each take (pictured right). “I use them to check image quality, for example to make sure all the camera sensors are registering correctly," he added.

"Before Marvin, I did my data wrangling with a laptop, Data Manager and external hard drives. When I had copied the files, I sent the drives to the post house where they created the dailies and offlines. It was more complicated and much more time-consuming, and there was always the nagging fear that something might go wrong." But using Marvin means he no longer needs to spend time just copying data. "Instead I can focus on my real work – checking image quality and fixing problems when they come up."

"We know right away when there was an issue with a file. We can check right away to see if there is enough material to salvage the shot, or if we need to re-shoot," said Treurniet. “Out of 385 reels, which we have shot so far, we’ve only had four corrupt takes. Marvin flagged all of them and we had no problem dealing with the issues right there on the spot."

By David Fox

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