Anatomy of an Edit Suite

You’re looking at a photograph of Edit Suite 1 at our new facility, and it’s the one I use daily.  The one question I get more than anything else is “What’s in your edit suite?”  followed by “Why do you have that?”    So I figured, let’s break it all down here step by step.   Now the first thing everyone wants to talk about is the computer and hardware inside the computer.   But when designing an edit suite, that’s just one component and definitely has zero to do with comfort.   The computer is just a box and that box will make you more or less efficient depending on how you configure it.  But the suite needs to be designed for comfort in addition to efficiency.   I’ve designed 5 different facilities now and the basic design is usually the same.   My goal when putting together a room is to ensure comfort for both the client and the editor.   After all, I’m an editor too, so more than anything else, I want to make sure the editor has a very comfortable and efficient space to sit at when those 10 hour days stretch into 14, 20 hours or more.   I have links at the bottom of this article for everything I show you here including the reseller from whom I purchased just about everything from.
First step, planning the layout.
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First off, I used software called Punch Home Suite to design my entire facility.  Pretty inexpensive and the beauty of it is that it’s completely accurate to scale.   Each suite is basically a rectangle 13′ deep and about 12′ across.  (the drawing says 11′ 6″ but we changed that to 12′ during construction) This allows plenty of space for the edit console, the editor and a client or two to work comfortably.   A small thing to note, the editor with console sits opposite the entry door.   This allows a client to walk into the room and go straight to the client desk without having to walk around the edit console.   Also, we installed full glass doors so we can look into the room without opening the door to see what’s going on.   When we’re giving a tour of the facility, this allows us to show the room without having to disturb the edit session.
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You might ask why I didn’t position the Edit Desk along the far wall where the client desk is.    Where possible, I like to put the Edit Desk along the “wide wall” in a suite.  This allows a client to comfortably pull up alongside the editor during a session when necessary.   As an editor, I hate having to turn around to talk to the client, I like to have them up alongside so we’re just chatting comfortably.   I know some editors like to relegate a Producer to the back of the room, but for me, it creates a more comfortable session when both sit side by side.   With an 8′ wide edit console, it would have only allowed about 2 feet on either side of it.    Also, from a practical standpoint, you don’t have to keep turning completely around to see who’s walking into the room.
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One more note if you’re going to be building multiple suites, the biggest problem you face is noise transfer between the rooms.  In our case, we built double walls between the suites with a 1″ air gap between the walls.  The walls are fully insulated as well.  So we essentially have 9″ of walls between each room.   That air gap helps kill the flow of the sound waves between the rooms.   Now here’s how the drawing translates to the actual room.
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Pretty much exactly as you see it on the drawing with no surprises.  If you look at the lower left of the photo you can see how the cabling comes out of the wall and directly to the Anthro console so it’s not messy and distracting to the client.   The rooms all have drop ceiling so if we need to run additional cabling in the future, it’ll be a piece of cake.   There is insulation above the edit suites to again help with sound dampening between the rooms.  The front wall where the plasma screen hangs is painted in 18% grey.    The dog bed is entirely optional depending on your needs.   Now let’s break down the room by component.
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Yep, I’m starting with the chair.  I’ll bet that’s the LAST place many of you put the chair.  Think about it.  You’re gonna be sitting in this thing for hours on end.  Don’t you want to be comfortable?   And you don’t need to spend $500 – $1,000 to get a high quality chair.   How about a $169 Pro-Line II Chair from Costco.   Shipped directly to your door.  Yep, these chairs are so comfortable I ordered them for every suite.    So while you might not make the chair your first priority, DO make it a priority.
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Absolutely positively vital is your edit console.   I’ve seen and used all manner of consoles, edit desks from build it myself to the classic Winsted units and I have to say, I’ve never found anything so well laid out and versatile as the Anthro Fit Console system.    First off, they are completely rugged.  Two of our Anthros are going on three years old and they still look like they just came out of the box.   Now these consoles are not the cheapest desks in the world, but I find they are worth every penny.  Look at the amount of room that’s across the main desk to hold monitors and gear.   They are incredibly strong and can hold a lot of weight.   They keyboard shelf alone can hold 40 pounds, so more than enough strength for, say a Davinci Resolve panel.   And actually calling it a keyboard shelf is a misnomer, look at just how large that shelf really is.   I have a standard keyboard on the left and a medium WACOM tablet on the right and there’s still plenty of room for notes and whatnot.    The one thing I do change on the keyboard shelf is the position of the clutch that locks the shelf into position.   Where the instructions tell you to put it, the arm of your chair will constantly run into it.   So I move it much further to the right.   This keyboard shelf has a huge range of motion both down and up for the ultimate in comfort of how you like the sit.   My favorite feature of the desk is that allows for the editor to stand if they wish as seen in the next photo.

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Here you can see the keyboard shelf lifted up to its upper position and I’ve got the monitors tilted so they are in a more comfortable position for viewing while standing.   As noted in a recent article on the Pro Video Coalition website, prolonged sitting could be just as dangerous to you as smoking.   Sitting for hours and hours, even in those wonderful chairs I showed you above, is not good for anyone.   So I tend to stand for about half the day, usually after lunch, as I just find it makes me feel better to stand for a while.    With the way the keyboard shelf sits, it’s just as comfortable standing as it is sitting.   The main desk measures 6 feet across and then I added the two outboard shelves you see on either side bringing the entire width to 8 feet.   I like adding the outboard shelves for a little more room for my scripts, notebooks and even my laptop / iPad.    When you look at the Anthro site you’ll see they have something like 40 accessories for this unit so you can literally configure this to suit any need.    A big plus for these consoles are the casters on the bottom allowing us to easily move the desk around as needed, which is particularly useful for cleaning the floor.   One other accessory I add to all of my consoles are the Standard Swing Arms for the monitors.
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Anthro has two different sets of Swing Arms, the Standard and the Heavy Duty.  The difference is how much weight the arm can support.  In our case, the Standard is more than strong enough to hold our Dell and even the Flanders Scientific monitors.  You can see how they have plenty of room to swing left and right and the monitors tilt up and down independently of the arms.   This gives each editor the ultimate freedom to position the monitors as they like them, not just limited to a set height and tilt by a monitor base.  And of course, the arms allow the monitors to raise up and tilt when we’re standing.   These arms are about $250 each so they add $750 to the cost of each console, but I purchase them because they contribute to the comfort of the editor.  Put the monitors in a position that’s comfortable for you and not just a set location.   In particular older editors will move the monitors further away while younger editors keep the monitors closer.   It’s that whole “after age 40 your eyes start to go” thing.    Also notice how I’m able to position the audio board underneath the foreground monitor.   By lifting the monitors off the console, it gives us even more room to put additional gear.  Do you NEED these arms?   No, but for my money, I’m after comfort and versatility for 10+ hour days, especially when I want to stand up and these arms put the monitors in perfect position for that.   Since we’re on the topic of monitors, let’s look at those next.
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We run a standard three monitor configuration.  Dual Computer monitors and a broadcast reference monitor.    The computer monitors on the left are the Dell UltraSharp U2410 24″ model.    They are very sharp and as close to the Apple Cinema Displays as I’ve seen.   I had originally planned to start transitioning the entire facility over to the Apple Cinema Displays, but the stupid Apple Mini Display cable caused all sorts of issues for us which I’ll address shortly.  So I went with these monitors and they are quite reasonably priced for the quality.  I tend to run monitors for three years and then they are replaced and so far, the Dells we have owned over the past few years have held up extremely well.   A nice bonus to these monitors are the four USB ports on board.   Gives you extra room to plug in a flash drive, backup drive, control surfaces, etc…  Now I would like to switch over to the newer LED monitors as they run with less heat and electricity but the problem I have run into is many do not support the VESA mounts required to put the monitors on the Anthro Swing Arms.    The monitors are so thin, there’s no room to run the screws to hold the VESA mounts in place.  I’m hoping some of these monitor manufacturers will start adding some outboard plates or something like that so we can mount the screens on the swing arms.   I’m actually starting to write to Dell, HP and Samsung to find out if they are going to put some sort of provision to allow their monitors to be mounted on VESA plates.
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I know there are those out there who run the Dell or HP DreamColor monitors as a “broadcast reference” monitor but I don’t buy into that.   These monitors were designed as computer displays and as such optimized for a progressive graphical display.  The color setups are not fully accurate for broadcast.   Yes you can get calibration software / hardware that can get the monitors close, but for me, I’d rather use the monitors as they were designed and not force them into being pretty good at something else.    For accurate video monitoring I believe in purchasing a true reference monitor and in our case we run a lineup of Flanders Scientific models.

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This is the FSI LM-2460W model that we use in two of our suites.   We also run the 1760W, the 1770W and the new 2461W models.   Each model comes standard with the same inputs.   Two SDI inputs, Component, Composite, and DVI with easy push button controls on the front to switch between them.   And all of those inputs except the DVI have loop through so you can send a signal to the FSI monitor and then loop that signal out to another display such as a Plasma screen.   There are 5 menu presets so you can quickly bring up video scopes, safe title markers and even custom markers.  In fact there are something 30 or more features you can bring up with the various menus that make these units incredible versatile for work.   Most importantly, they accurately display colors for both video and film.   Most importantly for me, they accurately display interlaced video which is extremely important when converting Standard Definition video to High Definition or vice versa.   Why?  In most cases you’ll be reversing the interlacing which could lead to horrendous video quality with very obvious stuttering or bad interlacing issues.   In fact, when converting Standard Definition to progressive HD, there can be issues with the conversion which you won’t see if you don’t display the image correctly.
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I’ve heard the argument that FSI just uses the same front panel as many of the computer screen manufacturers so obviously it’s just the same screen so why spend more for the FSI?  There are only 2 or 3 actual panel manufacturers so many of the monitors you buy, regardless of the nameplate on the frame, do have the exact same panel on the front.  So what separates the various models you see?   The construction of the frame, the amount of inputs (and outputs) and the electronics behind the panel.   Especially the electronics, this is what separates the quality of the image you see on the panel along with the accuracy of that image for various applications.   A Flanders Scientific monitor is set up to display video accurately along with very accurate color for the application it’s being used for.  For my money and our work, we need a very accurate monitor so we can give our clients the best looking product we can possibly produce AND meet very stringent broadcast standards.   I have looked at other broadcast monitors and have not seen anything in this price range that comes close to the quality of these monitors.   To get “better quality” you need to step up to around the $10,000 range.   But honestly when you look at these monitors side by side with just your eyes, you’re hard pressed to see a difference.   At least something that makes you say, “I HAVE to have that much more expensive monitor.”   The FSIs are priced reasonably enough that I can afford to put one in every single edit suite and that’s important because that means each and every edit suite can finish a project. I don’t need to send the project into the “finishing room” which has the best monitor in the shop.   ALL of our suites are finishing suites which makes us much more efficient.    We have one more monitor in each of our suites that hangs on the wall.
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This is the Panasonic TH-42PH11UK 42″ Plasma display and we run a variation of this model in each of our edit suites.   We have the 9, 10 and 11UK versions of this model as we’ve purchased multiple units through the years.    Now this is the professional version of the same Panasonic Viera model you can purchase in any electronics store.  The display itself is identical between the consumer and pro models.   Depending on the week, either the consumer or pro model will be cheaper, though usually the pro model is actually cheaper.   Why?  No television tuner included in the pro model.   Generally pro models are not used as a regular television so there’s no tuner put inside.  But the real reason I like the pro model is the modular input design.   There are three slots for inputs on the bottom of the monitor that can be changed out depending on what you need.   For instance when I started using my first plasma display, HDMI was not out yet.   But when I needed an HDMI input a few years later, I was able to add it to the display buy purchasing a new input module.
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We use these monitors for two reasons.  One obviously for the client to view their projects on a larger monitor.   This is especially useful in the rooms that use the 17″ reference monitors.   It’s always nice to be able to see your project up on the “big screen.”   Although I will say we were all surprised at how small these monitors look hanging on a 13′ wall with 9′ ceilings.  If I were to do it again, I would go with 50″ displays in our rooms.   Second, when a project is completely done, we watch it down on the plasma screens.   The larger monitor just makes it easier to spot any mistakes or issues.   Typos, glitches, flash frames, whatever, just all seem to jump out at you when you’re looking at a 42 to 65″ display that we sometimes just miss for whatever reason on the 17 and 24″ displays.  I much prefer plasma to LCD displays for the client monitor in our suite because of the excellent representation of the black levels in the image and the incredible field of vision.   You can sit almost 180 degrees to the side of this screen and still see the image and the correct colors.   With an LCD as you move off to the side of the monitor, the image tends to go milky.   Since we could have 2 to 5 people in a suite watching the final rundown, I want that image to look the same to everyone at the same time.   Now let’s look at audio.

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The classic Mackie 1202 audio mixer.  It would not surprise me if this is the best selling audio mixer ever.   Seems like every edit suite has one.   But with todays digital I/O’s and digital formats, why the heck do we still use them?     Well they do still give us flexibility in a shop like ours.   We do have a machine room with 7 edit systems, 6 VTRs, DVD and BluRay players, and ProTools playback.    So those four audio inputs you see across channels 1 through 4 are full patchable.   In normal mode, Channels 1 and 2 are fed by our Kona boards so we can listen to our edits.   Channels 3 and 4 are open for any other inputs such as from a VTR.    Like when mastering to tape, very often we will watch and listen to the VTR instead of the playback of the edit system.    This will tell us immediately if there’s an issue with the signal going to tape.   And if we hear an anomaly, we can instantly bring up the edit system output to see if the anomaly is on the output or something internal to the VTR.   In addition, if we hear something wrong in one of our edit suites, say crackling in the audio, we can patch that system’s output to another room and listen to see if we hear the same audio issue.   Finally, these boards have dual AUX outputs which is incredibly useful with our new VO booth.   We can connect a microphone to the audio board so we can talk back to the talent in the VO booth and we can also feed their own audio back into the headset.   This means we can record a VO in any edit suite and not just a dedicated audio suite.    So having the mixing board with at least four inputs is very useful in our situation, not to mention we use the board as a volume control for our audio monitors.

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In all our suites we run the KRK Rokit 5 self-powered audio monitors.   Excellent flat quality with a little touch of extra bass that you can really trust to mix your projects on.  If your mix sounds good on these, it will sound great to the client as well when you deliver the project.   KRK makes a whole line of these Rokit models and they all sound great, I prefer the 5 model because they’re not too big and perform really well in edit suites and you can’t beat the price, usually less than $100 each and sometimes you can get them $150 or less for a pair.   If you have a large room, you’ll want to augment these with another set of monitors as these are really near field, which means they sound best close up.   To fill a large room you’ll want something larger or something designed for a larger room.   You’ll also notice if you go back to the original photos in this article, the monitors are angled in towards the editor.  You want the monitors at ear level and pointed towards your ears for the best monitoring set up.   When they are set correctly, the sound should appear to come from the center of your console.  We feed these with 1/4″ jacks from the Mackie audio boards though they also have XLR and RCA inputs.
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Those pads you see underneath the monitor are Auralex bass pads to keep the monitor from rattling on the stands, especially during heavy bass playback.   Now those stands are nothing fancy.   Some 1/2″ galvanized pipe from Home Depot with flanges, 8″ pine shelving cut to size, and a can of black spray paint.   I believe the pipe itself is 8″ long so the monitors are raised up off the console about 9″ including the shelf.   Since the galvanized piping has screw threads on both ends, I can easily swivel the monitors if I want to point them more out into the room for client review.   Now back to one last tool in the edit suite.
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Since 1996 I have been using WACOM tablets pretty much exclusively.  It completely replaces the mouse and in my opinion makes an editor much more efficient than using a keyboard / mouse or keyboard / trackball combination.   This unit is the Intuos 4 Medium size model.   Here’s one big thing the tablets do, they completely prevent carpel tunnel syndrome.   You don’t have the repetitive finger click that causes the carpel tunnel when using a mouse over long periods of time.   I actually find my wrist getting fatigued after a very short time when using a mouse.   In fact, a Producer thanked me because he already has carpel tunnel so bad he wears one of those braces to keep the hand steady, but he can slip the pen into the brace and keep working.    It takes about 2 or 3 days to really get used to using a tablet, but once you get the hang of it, I guarantee, you will never use anything else.   When editing in an NLE, I use it like a straight mouse but it’s much more precise.  When working in applications like Photoshop, After Effects and Apple Color, I can work the controls, draw shapes, erase elements with complete ease.    The eraser and side buttons are fully programmable so you can have keystrokes and button clicks at the ready.   WACOM makes multiple models of tablets and I find the Intuos line is the most precise and lasts the longest in day to day use for editing.   Generally they last about two years before we replace them.
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We include a Client Computer in all of our edit suites as well.   Now regardless of whether you need a “client computer” or not, I highly recommend having a second computer other than your edit workstation to check emails, surf the internet, watch YouTube videos, Tweet, etc….   Why?   Because your edit workstation is making you money.  Let it work.   Let it render, let it edit, let it lay to tape or whatever it’s doing uninterrupted.  Use a laptop, iMac, iPad or whatever to do all that other “stuff” and just keep your edit workstation clean to work.   In our case, we have basic iMacs in all the rooms and they serve multiple purposes.   First and foremost, when a client comes in the room, they have a computer to use.   Most clients have a laptop with them, but if they don’t, they’re welcome to use these.   The iMacs are connected to our SAN so the clients can review raw materials from these machines without the need for the editor to sit and go through everything with them.    In addition, the editors use these computers to upload / download materials to / from our FTP servers directly to / from our SAN.   And if we get towards the end of the day but still need to upload some large files, we’ll pull the files directly onto the iMacs so we can shut down the edit workstations and SAN but still get the file uploaded.    The desk came from IKEA.  The director light was a spiffy gift from the fine folks at TapeOnline.com

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So there’s a look at our main edit suite.   How many of you noticed that something is missing in the original photo?   Do you see it?    Well what you don’t see is the Edit Workstation and the Media Array.  When I first started out I always had them in the room with me.   But as the media arrays got larger, and the computers got more powerful, they got louder.   To the point where it really started to get a little distracting in the edit suite.   And sometimes it’s tough when you hear a hiss or a strange sound if it’s in the audio mix or if it’s coming from the fans on your computer and arrays.   So for the past three years now we’ve run the computers remotely.

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We use two different products from Gefen because quite honestly, they can be very flaky to set up.   If one unit doesn’t work, Gefen’s answer is usually to send us the other.   Here you see the DVI Over Cat6 unit.  We run Cat 6 Ethernet cable between the machine room and our edit suite.  Two cables for the two monitors and two cables for USB connections like the keyboard / mouse / tablet, etc…   The Cat 6 connects to this receiver (that’s the grey cable near the Gefen logo) and then the monitor DVI connection also connects to here.   There are two receivers here, one for each of the computer monitors.   In the Machine room there are two identical units that are Senders which connect to the DVI connections on the Mac Pro and then the Cat 6 cable runs directly to the Receiver.   We can put the computers 100 feet away from the monitors and keyboard using these units.

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This is the other Gefen unit we use, the 5500HD.   This can send two DVI and four USB signals via the single box instead of having to use a unit for each connection.   We prefer this unit because it’s an “all in one” type of setup.   Here you see two of the Send units mounted in the machine room and an identical Receive unit sits in the edit suites.  As I said, they can be flaky at times but unfortunately they are the only choice we have right now.  I’ve been trying to convince a few other companies to come out with an alternative and am hopeful one of them will eventually.
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Oh and remember I said I would address the “Stupid Apple Mini Display” issue.  Well the Mini Display and these Cat 5/6 Extenders simply do not play nice together.    When we tried running the Apple 24″ Cinema Display with the Cat 5/6 extenders, sometimes the monitor would work, other times it wouldn’t start up at all and other times it would simply go blank for no particular reason during a session.  Could take anywhere from seconds to over 30 minutes to get the monitor working again.   Same with the mini display port on some of the newer ATI cards in the new Mac Pros.  Our ProTools rig has one of those and every time we start the machine, that connection is always snow.   We have to disconnect and reconnect the mini display plug at the Mac Pro very quickly to get the signal to work.  So there you go, Apple Mini Display and the current Cat 5/6 Extenders don’t play well together.  Sigh…..
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Here’s how it all comes together in the Machine Room.   All the edit workstations together, nice and neat which makes it easy to maintain all of them.   So all that noise from all the machines is kept in one place while the edit suites stay really nice and quiet.   Again, it’s a real comfort thing to the client and the editor alike.  They are working in a quiet room without all that white noise making for a more pleasant working environment.   Another big advantage?   We keep the machine room cold, but we don’t have to chill down each individual edit suite to keep the equipment cool.   Again, more comfort for everyone.   Yes, I have gotten a few comments along the lines of “well if the computer is in the machine room, then I have to get up to go put in a DVD or attach a flash drive or whatever.”   Yep, that’s true.   The editors who work with us, like the quiet and comfort of the edit suites, they don’t seem to have a problem walking a few steps down the hall to the computers when necessary.  And I’ve never met an editor who had difficulty walking to the break room to get a cup of coffee or tea, so if you can do that, you can certainly walk to the machine room.
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Now even if you have no need for a machine room, if you can get the edit workstation out of your editing room, do it.   You may not even need extenders like we have. If you can put the computer 35 feet or closer to your keyboard / monitors you can actually buy direct connect cables that will work with those distances.   USB Extension Cables and 35 foot heavy duty DVI cables do work for those distances.   If you’re working at home for example, put the computer out in the hall or punch a small hole in the wall between your main room and the next room and put the computer in there.   Just ensure the computer has plenty of air flow and is kept relatively cool.   We run our machine room at 71 degrees which is warmer than many other facilities, but I don’t see a need to keep the room around 65 or lower.   The equipment stays plenty cool at that temp.
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So there you go the anatomy of an Edit Suite with some of the hows and whys of what we do to set up our rooms.   I hope some of this is helpful to you as you set up your suites, your rooms, you basement workshops or wherever you may find yourself editing video content.  Some folks have asked me for particular configurations of the software and hardware that we run.   Here’s more on that.
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Main Edit Workstations:
Fastest Mac Pro available at the time of purchase
16 to 24GB of RAM
Top of the line ATI Graphics Card (for fastest Apple Color operation)
Two additional Hard Drives internal.  One is an AUX drive where we store graphics and other files for various projects.  The second is the “new OS drive” where we do clean installs of new OS versions.
Apple Final Cut Studio software package
Adobe CS5 Production Premium software package
AJA Kona video card.  Kona 3, 3G and LHi all in use.
Telestream Episode Pro (on a couple of workstations for video compression)
Cyberduck (for FTP uploads / downloads)
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Davinci Resolve Workstation
Mac Pro Westmere 12 Core 2.93 Ghz
24GB of RAM
Dual nVidia cards including the 4800
BlackMagic Decklink Extreme 3D video card
Two additional Hard Drives internal.  One is an AUX drive where we store graphics and other files for various projects.  The second is the “new OS drive” where we do clean installs of new OS versions.
Apple Final Cut Studio software package
Davinci Resolve
Tangent Wave Control Panel
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ProTools Workstation
Mac Pro 8 Core machine
16GB of RAM
ATI Graphics Card
AJA Kona 3 video card
Two additional Hard Drives internal.  One is an AUX drive where we store graphics and other files for various projects.  The second is the “new OS drive” where we do clean installs of new OS versions.
Apple Final Cut Studio software package
ProTools HD Native 9.0
SPL 5.1 Surround Controller
Genelec 5.1 surround monitors.

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And lastly, here are the links to everything I’ve mentioned in this article

 

WH Platts Company One of the best Value Added Resellers in the United States.  80 to 90% of everything in my shop has been purchased through Platts.


Punch Home Design Software What I use to design the layout of facilities.

ProLine II Chair

Anthro Fit console

Anthro Outboard Shelf

Anthro Standard Flat Panel Arm

Dell UltraSharp U2410 Monitor

Flanders Scientific LM-2461W

Flanders Scientific LM-1760W

Mackie 1202 Audio Mixer

KRK Rokit 5 Audio Monitors

 


Auralex Monitor Isolation Pads

Home Depot Galvanized Pipe

Home Depot Galvanized Flange

WACOM Intuos 4 Medium Tablet


IKEA Computer Desk

Gefen DVI over Cat 6

Gefen 5600HD Cat 5 DVI / USBApparently they have updated the 5500HD model


Middle Atlantic Slim 5 Racks The Racks we use in the Machine Room


Small Tree ST RAID II The 48TB Raid in the Machine Room.


AJA Kona

BlackMagic Design Decklink Extreme 3D

26 Comments

  1. Great rundown of your setup Walter. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Your new shop is amazing. Congrats!! When I set myself up with my home edit rig a few months back I actually used your setup as a guide for my own and so far following your lead has been a good move. Thanks for the guidance.

    Walter, the one thing you didn’t include in your rundown of your shop is a list of plugins you have installed in your systems. I was curious as to what your team is using? Do you normally buy entire suites of plug ins or do you prefer purchasing individual plugs when the need arises?

    Thanks again
    Chris

    • Hi Chris, glad our setup was useful.

      We really don’t use that many plugins. We bought the entire Red Giant library two years ago when they had a killer sale. Now we will have to figure out what to get as we move to either 64 bit FCP, Adobe Premiere or Avid. Will have to purchase all over again.

  2. Excellent overview! It really looks nice. My setup is no where near as professional since I am currently using my personal computer for editing.

    I have the mid 2011 27″ iMac, Snowball Mic, and 2 external hard drives. Once Thunderbolt enabled hard drives are unveiled, I will pick some up. Also, I am going to try and find some good, cheap speakers. Do you know of any? I am hoping for some in the $30-80 range. Thanks :)

    • These KRK’s are about as cheap as I go for speakers quite honestly if you are trying to mix to them. Anything cheaper than that, you really don’t get true representation of sound and what happens is you go somewhere else to listen to your project and it doesn’t sound the same. Doesn’t really matter which brand of cheap speaker, they all have the same problems. Some are too tinny so you add too much bass to the mix. Some are too boomy so your mix turns out tinny. If you’re mixing sound at the very least get the KRK’s which will require a stereo splitter coming off your iMac.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to respond Walter. I always wondered what a shop like yours would keep in it’s Plug In tool box. Red Giant makes good stuff and if you caught a sale, even better. I feel your pain on updating to 64bit.

    I have another question for you if you wouldn’t mind answering… I’m a daily Cow reader and I follow you on Twitter as well. So I know you are seriously considering going the Avid route if FCP X doesn’t end up fitting your shops workflow. My question is… Any reason why you aren’t seriously considering Adobe Premiere for your shop? I think you had even mentioned that you already owned several copies as a part of the Production Premium suite. Again, I was just curious b/c Premiere has an FCP feel/look (in my opinion) and I’m a huge fan of the Dynamic Link feature built into the suite. I can’t really speak for it’s media management capabilities though and I know that Avid does shine when it comes to that.

    Again, I was just curious what your thinking on this was…

    Thanks again for answering all my questions
    Chris

    • I am considering Premiere as well, it’s just that Atlanta is an Avid / FCP town so to stay consistent with what’s in use here, the better option to move is Avid. That being said, Robbie Carmen just sent me a copy of his book for pro editors switching to Premiere so I’m looking forward to seeing that and just how it would affect our workflow if we were to switch to that, yet still be compatible with the other facilities here in town. The exciting thing about Adobe is that they already support our AJA Kona boards so we don’t have to wait for Avid to add that support. I already know FCP X 1.0 is not going to work for us so I am actively pursuing other options as who knows when (if?) FCP X will ever support the workflows that we already do in FCP 7 and need to maintain. FCP X is a tremendous step backwards for Apple in terms of a professional workflow. Yeah, it’s a neat interface and it’s “easier” to use for novices picking up the software, but if I can’t take an FCP 7 project and continue working with it in the new software, then it’s pretty useless to me.

  4. I see your point about your town being more of a Avid/FCP town… I’m in NYC and it’s the same story here.

    You make a good point about Adobe playing nice with AJA and Blackmagic cards, that is a huge pro in my book. I think Avid dropped the ball a bit on this one. I understand they are slowly working AJA compatibility into their product line but they really should have had Full Kona (and maybe even Blackmagic) compatibility as soon as Apple previewed FCP X. That along with the $995 cross promotion (which just ended) would have really helped them take back some market share. I must say though, you are one of the few FCP leaders on the cow that is more than skeptical about this new FCP release. While everyone is saying it’s gonna be the greatest thing since sliced bread I find your posts to be more realistic with how things will probably play out.

    It’s funny you mention that PP book b/c I’ve had that title in my amazon cart for the last 4 days. I just haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet. Harington/Carman/Greenburg is pretty much the Adobe dream-team in my world. You can’t go wrong with those guys.

    It should definitely be interesting to see how this new FCP will change the industry yet again.

    • The ironic thing about Avid is that AJA has been making their hardware for years. At least the video cards. So Avid already supports AJA. Now they just need to officially support the Kona

      FCPX very well might be the next big thing. It just won’t be this week when it comes out. Two years of development and all we have to show for it is a gee whiz super cool new interface for which we are supposed to say “aw give them a break, they will get it right eventually.”. Not in my book when I make a living with this software.

  5. Walter,
    this is great stuff. thanks for sharing here and on the COW.

    just a couple questions: on your SAN, i am considering a SAN for my facility, and i wondered if you had looked at CalDigit’s solution? why did you choose SmallTree? are they a local Atlanta sale/service vendor? i see that it’s ethernet, and it appears to be fast enough to handle all your HD needs. Is it appreciably cheaper than fibre?
    also, i don’t see any scopes. I know for myself, when i’m digitizing from a tape format, i like to set the levels GOING IN, not after it’s been digitized. Do you have a BMD Ultrascope, or do you just use the scopes included in the software?
    BTW, i love my Samsung Galaxy Tab. It will play Flash all day.
    and i really like the idea of standing up occasionally while editing. I do that a lot. People think it’s odd.
    thanks.

    • Hi there,

      For the SAN I’ve been using Small Tree gear since we started with ethernet SAN about three or four years ago. It was sold as Maxx Digital Final Share SAN at the time, but it used Small Tree gear and know-how to make it all work. Now that it’s time to upgrade, we switched over fully to Small Tree branded storage and hardware with them also providing the install. Small Tree is out of Minnesota but they maintain our systems remotely which is awesome. Anytime we need tech support they just log into the computer in question and tweak. I had very bad experience in the past with CalDigit and have never tried one of their products since. I hear they are better now, but I won’t test them.

      No hardware scopes because all our tape captures are performed digitally via SDI so no need to set levels going in. We have color correction software on every machine so setting levels would be a waste of time for us since we’re going to color grade each shot anyway. Software scopes have proven to be incredibly accurate.

      Yes, standing while editing is definitely something I would recommend at least a few hours per day.

  6. A couple questions for you Walter. First, thanks for sharing all this information. I wish I came upon it a couple months ago when I was granted the opportunity to build an edit suite of my own. This is where my questions stem from…

    1. For monitors I bought a couple M-Audio BX5a’s after reading several good reviews about them. I’ve read that they stack up comparably to the KRK’s. Would you say that’s true? Seeing all the edit suites with KRKs is giving me buyer’s remorse.

    2. The company I work for is a big ad agency so there are lots of designers on hand and people sitting all the time. Building an edit suite is a new venture for them but one they are pursuing intensely. Every time I approach them about purchasing a functional edit-centric desk, I get a little push back and the question of “Why do we need a special edit desk? Why can’t we use what we have here already?” How do you think I should approach this situation?

    Thanks for all the help in advance. All your FCP transition posts have been really helpful!

    • I have never tried the M-Audio speakers so I don’t know how they compare. I’ve heard both KRK and Genelec. Obviously Genelec is amazing and we have them in our sound sweetening room, but for the rooms, I love the KRKs.

      Not sure about convincing folk to buy a production centric workstation. I’m an editor first so I know how much more efficient it makes us and how comfortable it makes the editors. I guess just show them the photos of our facility and other Anthro photos. Good luck!

  7. Walter,
    Thanks for sharing this. We are building a Editing/Color grading suite, and your post here and in Creative Cow has been a big help.
    I would like to ask you some questions about this if i may…
    We want to build this suite for television and film color grading finish, so looking at the setup of your da Vinci workstation,(a) i see you are using the BlackMagic Decklink Extreme 3D video card, but i think i read some post where you didnt recommended the Blackmagic cards, instead the AJA Kona 3, (b) i noticed there’s no Red Rocket card, so i was wondering if you can playback 4k footage on realtime…there’s a DeckLink 4K from Blackmagic, wish is supposed to playback 4k footage on realtime, but on the configuration manual from resolve, it states that there’s no mac pro currently that can playback 4K on Davinci, (c) I would like to know your opinion about davinci, compared to other Color Grading Software, like Scratch…
    Sorry, there’s a lot o questions here, but i’m from Chile and there’s no many people around that know about this.

    Thanks again for all the Info!!

    • so looking at the setup of your da Vinci workstation,(a) i see you are using the BlackMagic Decklink Extreme 3D video card, but i think i read some post where you didnt recommended the Blackmagic cards, instead the AJA Kona 3,

      At this time the Resolve does not support AJA Kona cards so we have the BlackMagic card in our Resolve system.

      (b) i noticed there’s no Red Rocket card, so i was wondering if you can playback 4k footage on realtime

      We don’t have room for a Red Rocket card in the machine. We’ve tested the system with 4k and it worked fine. The RAID attached to that system runs in excess of 550MB/s

      (c) I would like to know your opinion about davinci, compared to other Color Grading Software, like Scratch…

      The only thing I can compare it to is Apple Color which I’ve used for about 5 years. Resolve is another tool that does many of the same things and does many things better. We’re switching over to an Adobe shop now so we’re interested to see what Adobe is going to do with SpeedGrade now that they purchased Iridas. Really many of the high end color grading tools are about equal in what they can do, they just operate differently and that’s what makes the difference for the operator. You need to use what works for you and what makes sense for your workflow.

      • Thanks for your quick answer!! I really like Color, but for client’s we need something running on realtime…I havent had any experience with scratch, but i know it can playback and export almost any codec natively, that’s why im interested on it…
        Any recommendation on how to become a decent colorist ASAP apart of practice?

        THKS!!

  8. Hi Walter, this is insightful. I have just acquire a Hexa Core workstation from ADK and this article has helped me put things in order. I live in Accra, Ghana and there no where to get inspiration and resources like this apart from people like you. Well done. With my workstation, I have 2x 23″ Samsung LED monitors, 24gb Ram, Blackmagic Intensity Pro, GTX 470 and 2x 2TB Raid0 drives and a 500gb OS drive. I use Premiere Pro CS5. Now I’m looking to getting a good HDTV as monitor for my color grading work. BTW, I use Magic Bullet Looks and occasionally Colorista II. I would welcome any recommendations on a good HDTV (LCD/PLASMA/LED) that can help me monitor my color work. My budget is $1,200 max.

    • In all honesty Daniel, just substitute Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 for Apple Final Cut Pro 7. The rest of the suite is still the same, no changes. I will be replacing the Mac Pros in all the suite soon either with PCs or iMacs. We’re testing an iMac in Edit 2 at the moment and it’s working well with a few issues still to be ironed out with the AJA IoXT.

  9. Great breakdown of a great setup! Thanks for going over it in such detail. I’ve been review my workstations and have realized that ergonomics indicate that “your wrists should never rest on anything” while working. Egads! I’ve been doing this for decades! I can’t imagine installing a tray as has been suggested by the reading I’ve been doing. I’m guessing that raising the chair up is the next best thing.

    Any thoughts on this? I keep my keyboard and Wacom tablet on a large table, similar to the one you have, only the table is not adjustable. I’m wondering if it might be beneficial to go ahead and try mounting the trays, but in the past they annoyed everyone that tried to use them. Any thoughts?

    • Not sure on these trays you’re talking about. All I can tell you is that while these Anthro desks are expensive, we’ve been using them since 2005 or so and I can’t imagine my editors working without them. The key is being able to adjust the desk and your posture throughout the day. The longer you work, the more you will want to adjust. For instance, after lunch I usually stand up at the edit console for at least a few hours because it’s more comfortable.

      In fact I generally spend more time standing up at my console than sitting down anymore. I feel more alert standing for some reason.

  10. I agree, the Anthro is worth it. I’m trying to find out how to get one shipped to Asia :| I’m sure there is away, and would hapilly pay the price, but the import tax would be murder, so trying to think of a work around for now.

    Anywho, thanks again for being so free with sharing the information. Even if I have to have something similar built here, it gives me a starting place.
    Thanks again.

    • Not sure if Anthro has any Asian distributors quite honestly. Wouldn’t hurt to at least drop them an email to find out.

      At the very least, there’s probably someone in Asia who makes a similar type of thing. Anthro also makes one that’s electric where the entire desk rises up and down. I’ve seen something similar in multiple catalogs, I’ll bet you’re find something like that.

      And if worst comes to worst, like you said, maybe design something. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to sell the design too! Good Luck!

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