Health for Production Pros

[social_share/] This past year my company had it’s highs and lows like most companies did. We celebrated victories, and suffered losses. Clients dropped out, had unrealistic demands, stretched the boundaries of our contracts, and took advantage of our size. They also bought more videos than ever. Highs, lows, highs, lows, excitement, despair, thrill, defeat, ups, downs, highs, lows. All of this stress takes a toll. It takes a toll on our mental health, as well as manifests itself on our bodies. It happened to me. Because last year was so challenging while still being super busy, it presented me with the rare opportunity to work myself to the bone. I wanted to grow my business, but a) my clients generally take advantage of “Net 30”, somehow thinking I can afford it, b) it’s tough finding subcontractors available at the drop of a hat, and c) because I like keeping all of the money. To make deadlines I was working from 7am until dinner time, then I’d make dinner, I’d then watch a bit of TV with my wife, and then when she went to bed at 10 or so, I would go back to work and stay at it until 3am or later. That worked for about a year straight, but then it didn’t. In February of 2013 I had a case of chronic diverticulitis, brought on by a crappy diet, long hours of high stress and a lack of exercise. Lots of people get diverticulitis, but my colon was perforating and was on the verge of rupturing, which might've killed me had I not taken myself in. (FUN FACT: It was freezing when I got sick so I had an extra large vanilla latte in the ER waiting room while waiting there writhing in pain. Doc said "that was unusually stupid of you", so take that for what it's worth) I was doubled over in the emergency room, and after my CT scan the doctor told me that she had diverticulitis at a similar stage to mine and it was more painful than when she gave birth. I was crying so I didn’t argue. What ended up happening was a good thing. Now, as small companies we know that to make a certain amount of money we have to work a certain amount of time, or get a certain amount of work done. It’s not up to me to tell you how and when you have to work, but I sure learned my lesson. I realized that I have to take much better care of myself. I have had jobs that required I stay active, but running my own business was the first time I could sit at a computer all day and nobody told me to take a break. In fact, my clients were encouraging me to stay up or work over a weekend to finish their project. I did a few things to help out. 1)   I fired some clients. As we grow we grandfather in clients with brutal, old contracts. We might mistake the relationship for friendship (though you may love them as friends) and while the contacts might be friends, in business their job is to buy as much as they can from you for as little as possible. It pained me at the time, but I have probably re-signed 60% of them as of now, all with better, more up-to-date contracts. 2)   I hired an assistant. I can’t afford another editor regularly, so I have a full-time assistant who is developing amazing skills to eventually run sections of the company. They also take some of the time eaters off of my plate so I can keep deadlines without juggling a million tasks. 3)   I started getting healthier. If you’ve watched an RFShow, you’ll know I’m not exactly an Olympic figure skater. I might be mistaken for a Zamboni on the right day. This is changing every day. I’m fortunate in that my wife is a fitness instructor and personal trainer, but I don’t take advantage – I asked her for some basic tips and here is what she gave me:
  1. Get out for walks. An hour a day of brisk walking will do the body good.
  2. Take breaks during the day. Avoid blood clots in the legs and relieve stress by getting up and walking around. I like to stretch a few times a day and walk the dogs to get fresh air and let go of whatever I was working on earlier.
  3. Exercise. This doesn’t have to be 8 hour daily training sessions. Hop on an exercise bike for 30 minutes then do some light to moderate weight training. Even buy a couple of handheld weights and check out some workouts on YouTube.
  4. Eat better. Learn a bit about what is good for you and what isn’t, but follow some simple principles:
i.     Don’t eat late at night, and if you do, skip foods like chips and sugary treats. If you need a late night snack cut up an apple or make a bowl of hot cereal. ii.     Go easy on the booze. This is a tough one if you get used to having a couple of glasses during late night work sessions, but it slows down your next morning, exacerbating the late night work, and it contributes to weight gain. Less so with wine than beer, but still. Anyways, there are tons of things that are good for mental health, physical health, and keeping positive day-to-day, but these little changes have given me hope for a more successful future and a longer life. If you’re not getting out enough, go for it. You might even like it! Note: My wife isn’t a licensed nutritionist, so the diet recommendations she made to me were given as a wife and not a fitness pro. Please contact a nutritionist if you are looking for actual diet recommendations. Russ Fairley [social_share/]

Friday Fun! Tell us what you use on the road…

[social_share/] For today's interactive feature on the Rampant Blog, we want to know what you use for equipment when you work on the road. We've all had to do a little edit at a client site, or work from a hotel room, and - depending on the work you do - it can be interesting or challenging to assemble a good road rig. Heck, it's next to impossible to lug a giant Mac or PC tower on the road, so what do you choose? Editors, motion graphic designers, demo artists, and product evangelists all need solid road gear and a stable, reliable setup that won't let us down whether we're in Tulsa or Toronto. So there it is. In the comments, leave us a comment with your on-the-road workstation and peripheral choice. Bonus points if you tell us why you chose it, what makes it awesome, or what's on your wishlist for 2014 and beyond. I'll kick us off. On the road I use a 2012 15" Macbook Pro with Retina Display. The screen is nice, but the fast SSD is the draw. It's nice and quick. I wish I had the 2013 refresh with a 2GB GPU, but this one does the trick for now. I also never leave home without two 2TB Western Digital portable drives for footage and my Rampant Extreme Drive. That said, a 2014 Mac Pro with a small LCD could be stuck in a Pelican Case pretty easily...maybe in 2015? Alrighty. Let's hear from you! [social_share/]

Rampant Extreme Drive

[social_share/] So one of the products I’ve been most excited about in the last few months is the Extreme Drive from Rampant Design Tools. They have a few drives, all with various products at various price points – reasonable price points at that – but the Extreme drive piqued my curiosity for a few reasons. Everybody who has watched my web show,, knows that we have a good relationship with Rampant Design Tools. I like the company, the people who run it and the products. Damn, those products are handy. They make awesome effects that I use in practically every project I work on. They help to speed things up and really keep my margins healthy. I drill that point in whenever I can because it’s important - I might be an artist in my free time, but we’re in business to make money. The Drive So at first glance, you’ll see that this bus-powered USB 3 portable hard drive is very slim, and I can tell you that running with a current gen MacBook Pro it’s very fast as well. So hardware wise, it’s perfect for it’s job. That job, is delivering it’s amazing contents. And that content is plentiful…. The Content So, just how plentiful are we talking about? Very. Not one or two or even ten volumes of Rampant’s tools… my count puts the drive’s count in the neighborhood of 70 products, with nearly 9,000 of Rampant’s amazing clips on board. Are they the only company making amazing drag and drop tools? In one word, yes, and here’s why I say that. There are a few companies putting out products in the same playground as Rampant, but none of them can deliver the volume of products Rampant does, and they don’t have the 3-time Emmy Award winning team creating them that the Rampant tools have. They are simply the best, most brilliantly devised and created, and they’re totally original. I’ve used other products, and quite frankly many seem to be cheap knock-offs of Rampant’s libraries. Plus they’re created in the US. This isn’t a knock to those artists out there making incredible tools in Europe, Asia, or wherever. If you’re making your own tools, awesome. It’s just the trend to devise a product and farm it out to a team in a country who pays a fraction of what it costs to develop something here. That kind of business drives down the margins and prices and hurts everybody in the long run. What’s on the drive? This drive is a veritable treasure trove of awesome effects Well, some of my favorites are their light effects, including hard and soft light overlays, light leaks, speed lights, dark lights. There are also mattes to toss over footage, grunge transitions, frost, smoke, fire, dust, and one of my favorites, GunFX. There’s just way too much fun to be had with that one. Beyond that you’ve got hundreds of flares, audio tracks, cloud chambers, ink, graffiti, sketch lettering and symbols, and a recent addition….textbacks. Pre-created background elements for title treatments, greenscreen videos, and more. As a product review there isn’t much you can say. I want a red hard drive instead of a black one? I mean, I’ve been a fan of Rampant since I first came across them at NAB, and their work is amazing. If the work is amazing and I can get ALL OF IT on a single high-speed hard drive, there is literally nothing I can complain about. It’s a huge set of products with no massive download. No messy product keys. I can put their entire library in my pocket; take it and a laptop to Starbucks and work. If there was a way to give it an 11 out of 10 I would, as this is nearly a decade of hard work jammed into one speedy little hard drive. Try it! You won’t regret it. Russ Fairley RFShow.TV [social_share/]

Russ’ Top Ten Things to Do While on a Render Bender

[social_share/] No honey, I’m not squandering my day on Xbox! I’m rendering. All work and no play makes us dull. All play and no work makes us broke. So…. Since we all work with media that needs rendering, what are some good ways to spend that time while our computers chug and smoke away on a render? Assuming that you don’t have a dozen video projects on the go and a surplus of willing machines, render time can be a nice time for quiet reflection, meaningful introspection, or just watching Transformers. Here is my list of things I like to do while my computers are doing all the work: 1. Play video games – ok, I’m a grown-up. I make dinner every night, try to exercise, walk my dogs, spend quality time with my gal, but I own a lot of video game stuff. I’ve always loved games, but when the heck can I play them? During renders. That’s when. I’ll take a little bit of GTA V midday, any day. 2. Shoot videos. Why not? Chances are there’s a camera floating around your edit suite somewhere. I like to get outside and take some sweet slider shots. If I fluke out and get something great, I might even sell a bit of stock footage. Put that time to work! 3. Take up drag racing. Just kidding. I don’t do that. It’s irresponsible. I might watch a little of it on TV. 4. Get away from screens altogether. If After Effects says I have an hour, I may or may not have an hour, but I like to take one anyways. Getting out and going for a walk or jog can really clear the cobwebs and recharge me for more work. 5. Learn something new. I’m terrible for this, but lately when my machine starts makin’ bacon I like to bust out one of those books about color grading I’ve been meaning to read, or I try to hit up or FXPHD and add a new skill. 6. Call my parents. Not because I have to, or because I need something. I do it just because. It brightens their day, and mine too. Family feeds a part of our soul that needs feeding. It’s the part that makes me worry a bit less about things like money, or little squabbles at home, jerk clients, whatever. Trust me - Just call them. Better yet, take a parent out for a coffee. BONUS: they usually buy the coffee. If you don’t have any living parents, why not take a few minutes to reflect on their amazing impact on you. I lost my mom a bunch of years ago and sometimes when I get an hour away from my machine I sit in the cushy chair in my office and I’ll kinda tell mom how things are going at work. Usually I end up ranting about something, but she’s down with that. 7. Read a magazine. I have a zillion subscriptions and they end up mountaining on coffee tables, my desk, and – until my wife freaks and gets rid of them – on the back of the toilet. Sometimes reading a magazine really gets me excited about the nerdy (read: fun) part of our job. Learning tiny details about a certain way another pro shoots, or how changing a setting in a program can help my productivity is cool to me. 8. Catch up on the PVR. Right? When else can you sit in a quiet room and watch whatever the heck you want? From February to November I PVR my Saturday night or Sunday NASCAR races and watch them on Monday while my computer works. 9. Get organized. Ok, so I don’t always love doing this one, but it’s worthwhile and I’m so happy once I’ve done it. I chuck papers from my desk I no longer need. I update my calendars. I file things. I catch up on billing, or on collection calls (you know who you are), and I love projects like unplugging everything (except equipment involved in the render, of course) and routing my wiring. Maybe I can zip tie some wires together and add a new power bar into the mix, or maybe mount a power bar in a new spot that makes it easy to charge my devices and then I can…. Sorry. I get carried away. 10. Start dinner. I love to work from home. I have an office, but if I don’t have to meet a client I’m not squeezing into my skinny jeans just for nothing. Anyways, a big reason I like working from home is that I can work on food during the day and reap the rewards at dinnertime. If you want to try doing the same, add the All Recipes app to your device and search for something you’ve always wanted to make. Today I made scalloped potatoes, calico beans (email me for a bomb recipe), and a Caesar in advance of Sunday dinner so all we did tonight was grill up some steaks, trout and scallops to accompany. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it made Sunday dinner a bit more fun, plus, because I overdo things I have breakfast and lunch for tomorrow as well. I’m sure we all have our own ways to kill off a render session. Tell me in the comments what you do with your longer renders! Until next time, get that computer on a render bender and have a bit of fun! Russ Fairley RFShow.TV [social_share/]

Guarding Your Gear

[social_share/] Protecting, indexing and ultimately safeguarding your equipment Insurance is great. Something gets stolen, and they cut you a check. Assuming the check covers replacing your gear, it’s all good, right? Sometimes, for sure. Maybe your old Nikon D300 was stolen and you can put the money towards a sexy new D800. Sometimes it’s not so good, however. Many of us have become attached to pieces of our equipment, and enjoy them beyond the dollar value the insurance adjuster puts on them. Old lenses, bizarre attachments and adapters, items purchased on a trip with a loved one, or at the last minute before a shoot, all mean more to us than their replacement value, because it has a history and a story. The story is usually more than just “I ordered it online from B & H.”, though I enjoy that story just fine as well. Taking care of equipment is obviously a prerequisite to making it last and maintain it’s value, not only to you, but in the event of resale. But what do we do with our gear when it’s not three pelican cases deep in the back of a minivan? Hopefully we store it in a very secure location, and doubly, we have details about it recorded and indexed in the event somebody removes it from said secure location. To do this it’s really up to you how high tech or low tech you go, but there are a few keys to remember:
  1. Take record of serial numbers. Certain equipment can have more than one serial number, depending on the type of gear it is. Musical drums, for instance, can have a serial number for each individual part of the kit. Some things such as tripods may not have serial numbers, depending on the model and make.
  2. Take photos and video of the products. If you are keeping printed records, print out your photos or have them developed, and put video materials on DVDs or memory sticks and give them a look every couple of years to make sure they’re holding up. Some media goes wonky after a while. Also, replace this stuff as technology improves. I just looked at my old insurance records and all of my photos were 640 x 480. Time to take some new shots.
  3. Double check your insurance. If you use your gear for work, you’ll need to ensure that you have commercial insurance (at least here in Canada). Check with your insurance company and make sure your stuff is covered, and that you have enough coverage to replace everything you’ve got.  Don’t assume that your home contents insurance will cover it.
  4. Protect your records with redundancy.  If you’re using Excel, or one of the amazing home indexing tools (check out “Home Inventory” in the App Store, $19.99), make sure you save a copy to the cloud. If you are keeping print records, keep them in duplicate and put the second copy in another location (office, safe deposit box, etc.)
  5. Lock your stuff up. If you work from home, invest in a safe. If not a massively heavy one then one that can be bolted down or even hidden, depending on your home. If a thief really wants in they can still get in, or steal the entire safe, but every second you slow them down the better your chances are for not losing that item.
There are obviously more things that you can do, but these are the tips that have helped me sleep at night. None of this will help out if you do something silly like leaving gear exposed in a car or out of site at a shoot, but a few best practices can’t hurt. Happy shooting! Russ Fairley RFShow.TV [social_share/]