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Meet the new boss... same as the old boss


Nathan Strum

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Every year around this time I blog about...

 

Wait, is "blog" a verb? (Checks...)

 

Okay. It is.


Every year around this time, I write a blog entry about the annual student film screenings at the college where I work (CalArts). I'd been editing those shows for almost 30 years.

 

Or rather, I edited the shows for each year, and had been doing that once a year for almost 30 years. I hadn't been editing the same shows over and over again for 30 years. That would be silly.

 

Here are links to the previous years' blog entries, including some links that are broken and will just bounce you back the forum index, thanks to Invision's last blog software "upgrade". :roll: It's a little bit like playing "Wheel of Fortune" except instead of hitting "Bankrupt" you get re-directed into the abyss of the forums.

 

That, and there's no Vanna White. Sorry. I can't afford celebrity guest appearances.

 

Although I wonder what it would cost to have Pat Sajak read this blog entry? I could turn it into a podcast! Or blogcast. Or something.

 

Anyway, links:

 

2022

2021 (Producers' Show) online due to the pandemic

2021 (Open Show) online due to the pandemic

2020 (Open Show only) online due to the pandemic

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

 

The scary thing about that list, is it doesn't include all of the other years I edited the shows, from '95 - '06 (and '93 when I was still a student - which is another story altogether). But I wasn't blogging back then. Unless muttering to yourself counts as "blogging". Kinda the same thing, really.

 

So... a year ago, I fully expected 2022 to be my last time putting these shows together. I hadn't made it known at the time, but I was planning to quit my job and move back to Seattle. This was less about quitting the job, and more about moving back to the Pacific Northwest, since most of my family is up here.

 

Whoops. Should've said "up there" to avoid spoilers.

 

Play along, and forget I said "up here" and pretend you still don't know if I moved or not. Oooo... mystery!

 

Without going into excruciating detail (that I've probably detailed before), editing the shows is a lot of work. Typically, I put in 80-90 hours in one week just for the Open Show alone. And while I always enjoyed seeing the students as they watched each others' films at the end of a school year, putting the show together was something I was looking forward to *not* doing again. So I took in both events last year with this in mind, made peace with them, and internally said my good-byes to the whole thing.

 

As the summer progressed, and I got closer to submitting my resignation, something unforeseen happened. I didn't quit. Well... not exactly. Rather, I reached an agreement with CalArts where I'd continue to work for them remotely. Now the problem with that, is that probably 90% of my job up until that point had been hands-on. Even during the pandemic, I was one of the handful of staff that was still on campus almost every day (supporting remote learning, shipping out computers to students and faculty, reconfiguring spaces for social distancing, etc), and prior to that much of my job was, well, plugging in cables. Lots and lots of cables. Sometimes a whole computer lab full of cables. Sometimes just one cable (usually the one that makes an entire AV system suddenly work, because someone didn't read the directions :ponder: ). But as with all jobs, there had always been work that needed to be done that never got done, because there was never enough time to do it. So now I'd focus more on that stuff, plus I'd be reduced to part-time, which was perfectly fine with me. It meant I didn't have to find a whole new job, I could work from home (and being home was the whole point of moving), and I'd have more time to do other things. Win, win, win! So with the work situation sorted out, I set myself a target date and began getting ready to move.

 

After learning the hard way that I should've started sorting, tossing and packing up everything months earlier than I actually did, I eventually moved back up to Seattle at the end of October. I resumed working remotely about a month later, and while I have no guarantee how long the job will last (at some point, they'll have to refill the on-campus position), I'm still at it. Still working for CalArts.

 

And... still editing the shows. :roll:  Hence this blog entry, which otherwise, would have no reason to exist. Yay - full circle!

 

They shipped my editing system up to me, and we did the whole film submission process using Google Drive. Since I don't have the upload speeds to send finished renders back down to CalArts, they set up a remote Mac Studio on campus that I could log into and render with. I re-download the student films from Google Drive to the Mac Studio, re-linked them to the main Premiere Project (which is just a few hundred K and easy to upload), and remotely rendered the whole show out on campus. It had to play down there anyway, so someone could just grab the finished playback files straight from the Mac. Job done. It all worked a treat, too! (Yes... I watch a lot of British TV/YouTubers.)

 

This year, the Open Show (every film made by a Character Animation student) had 181 films, and ran 8 hours and 5 minutes. And while it still took about 80 hours to put together, because we backed up the deadline a few days this year (which should've happened years ago), I was able to split that over two weeks. Still, between that and the Producers' Show, I was back working full-time and then some for a few weeks. And while not every film is online, you can watch some of them on our YouTube channel or Vimeo channel.

 

The Mac Studio I rendered to is impressively fast. To render the eight hours of the Open Show from Adobe Premiere, plus an hour's worth of intermissions from After Effects, took just 25 minutes. In its entirety. For nine hours of HD video. Usually rendering just one intermission would take longer than that. The Producers' Show rendered so fast, I literally missed it. I had to double-check the queue to make sure I had actually sent the job, but it was already done. Creating the DCP for the Producers' Show (a separate process, using different software), is extremely processor-intensive and normally takes at least three hours to render, but on the Studio took just over one. Faster-than-realtime DCP encoding. Without using a render farm. Welcome to the future!

 

I've actually been using a Mac Studio of my own since November, when I finally replaced my much-despised Intel Mac Mini. I won't recount all of the endless problems I had with the Mini from day-one, but the biggest headaches with it were absolutely anemic graphics performance, and unbelievably unreliable USB. Good riddance to the worst Mac I've ever used. Not just owned - but used at all, during my 35 years of using Macs. We had about a dozen of them at work as well, with no better results. Even our Apple rep (who will remain anonymous) agreed it was terrible, since he'd owned one too, and said at the time Apple was throwing all off their efforts behind Apple Silicon, so the last Intel Mini was basically a stopgap until the M1 Macs shipped. Conversely, the Mac Studio has been absolutely rock-solid and wicked fast. It totally stomps any previous Mac I've ever used, performance-wise.

 

I haven't fully benchmarked it with Geekbench (there are results online here), but the SSD speed alone is... crazy:

kinda-fast.png

 

The only Mac desktop currently faster than the Studio? The new M2 Mac Mini. :roll:  Which started shipping two months after I bought the Studio. No regrets though. I'm completely happy with the Studio, since it has more ports than the Mini (plus an SD card slot), and isn't limited to 32GB RAM, so it's more functional for my needs than the Mini would be.

 

My only gripes with the Studio are more related to installing them at work than using one at home: 1) Apple made it 1/4" too tall to fit into a 2RU equipment rack space (really Apple?), and 2) they put the Kensington lock slot in a place that's inaccessible without an overpriced adapter, and they didn't even ship an adapter for it when they released it. It took months before third-party ones were available. 

 

But that's typical Apple. I'll happily take speed and reliability again, if it means putting up with Apple's other stupid ecosystem quirks.

 

Got a little sidetracked there...

 

Anyway, as I was saying, the shows all went off just fine. The remote rendering worked, and the Open Show was finally back in person and indoors again, for the first time since 2019. Because it's so long though, we kept the split-over-two-nights format from last year, which makes for a much more tolerable show. The same company we used for our outdoor screening last year (Rent For Event LA) handled the projection, sound and playback this year, which was a good thing - because usually I manage that stuff, and well, I wasn't there. :ponder:  Admittedly, that was a little weird - not seeing how things were actually going in person - but I had coworkers on campus sending me pics and keeping me informed. My work was already done by then, so I just kicked back for the evening and watched TV. So it was weird, but something I could definitely get used to. About 320-350 people showed up, which is back to our pre-pandemic level, and everything went off without a hitch!

 

Well, except that apparently nobody in Facilities knew where all the light switches were... so they couldn't get the room completely dark:

2023_open_show.jpg

 

But Rent For Event had brought dual projectors, so they had plenty of brightness on tap to compensate for it (at the far right, below):

2023_os_projection.jpg
 

The Producers' Show was back at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Theater in L.A. for the second year in a row. Not sure the final numbers, but somewhere around 600 people showed up:

2023_prod_show.jpg
 

And while I wasn't there in person... I was immortalized in the opening titles, created by our students:

 

I'm the guy plugging in the cable. Very appropriate. :D  

 

Anyway, the shows are done, graduation was last night, and another school year has come to an end.

 

Now that the shows are out of the way and I'm back to working part-time, I'm hoping to get back to some Atari-related projects again. All of the console repairs I was working on are done and returned to their owner, so I'm going to turn my attention to another (much briefer) hardware project, finish up some label artwork for several games, create graphics for a few more homebrews (including at least one that's never been announced), and start catching up on some blog stuff - including the long-awaited return of Artie the Atari!

 

If I can remember where I packed him... :ponder: 

 

Published 5/13/23, 12:35PM

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