OFFLOAD = Peace of Mind

OFFLOAD from Red Giant Software

Your footage does not exist until it exists in at least two other places than the source. Then, and only then, should you reuse source media.

Alex Lindsay

The adage above is as close to a truism as one can find in digital video production. At the start of my production career, Alex Lindsay hammered it into me on every shoot. Today, it is one of the first things I teach new folks. Nowhere is the risk of ignoring this adage greater than when one is in the field, away from ample electrical outlets and clean, flat surfaces.

Even when power and workspace are readily available, backing up footage can be a real pain. Technically, the process is deceptively simple; just drag and drop your footage from your CF or SD card to your external hard drive. When the first copy is done, repeat the process with the another external drive. Surely, the process is so simple that software could not possibly improve it. Right?

Wrong.

Hardcore geeks (like me) have been using BASH scripts and revision control software (e.g. Subversion) to securely and reliably duplicate source media for years. Almost all of these homebrew solutions use a tool called CHECKSUM, which validates each new copy byte by byte. While infinitely flexible, such solutions are also infinitely geeky and, therefore, largely inaccessible to the average person.

Video professionals have a tool called Shotput Pro which adds a clean user interface to this process while integrating with several other tools that can help a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) reliably duplicate source footage and generate dailies. Shotput Pro is an excellent tool but, at $99, might be an expensive unitasker for the average photographer.

Lightroom can also create copies on import. In addition to creating a second backup, Lightroom’s DNG Validation does use checksum to confirm the file integrity.

With three such options at our disposal, one might think there is no room in the market for a new tool. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each solution.

BASH + CHECKSUM

  • Pros:
    • Source duplication with checksum validation.
    • Infinitely customizable.
  • Cons:
    • Requires BASH scripting and other geeky skills.
    • Tools not always available on Windows.
    • Rudimentary progress indicator.

Shotput Pro

  • Pros:
    • Source duplication with checksum validation.
    • Simple User Interface.
    • Somewhat expandable.
    • OSX/WIN versions available.
  • Cons:
    • $99 is high price for a “unitasker”.
    • Rudimentary progress indicator.

Lightroom

  • Pros:
    • Source duplication.
    • Checksum validation.
    • Simple User Interface.
    • Integrated in common tool (Lightroom).
    • OSX/WIN versions available.
  • Cons:
    • Checksum happens after import.
    • Checksum requires DNG conversion.
    • Rudimentary progress indicator.

Hitting the Sweet Spot

At the NAB Supermeet in 2013, Stu Maschowitz, of Red Giant, announced Bulletproof, their answer to Shotput Pro. I bought it the day it came out and loved it. The UI was very intuitive and it made my life on set much easier. A year or so later, Red Giant introduced Offload, the “little brother” to Bulletproof. Offload stripped Bulletproof down to its essential function: reliable, validated duplicate backups … all in a few simple steps.

  1. Connect source media.
  2. Connect target drives, or create target folders on network drives.
  3. Open Offload.
  4. Select source media.
  5. Select up to two target drive(s).
  6. Click a button.
  7. OPTION:
    • Watch as each file copy is visually checksum verified by the progress indicator.
    • Go get a cup of coffee and relax. (Seriously, Offload is that “bulletproof”.)
  8. Clear your source media with 100% confidence.

While I liked the simplicity of Offload, I initially thought it too much a unitasker for my needs. Once I started using it, I found myself turning to it over Bulletproof almost every time. Why? Because it had one job and it did it exceptionally well. Apparently, I was not the only person who had this experience as Red Giant discontinued Bulletproof last year in favor of continued development on Offload.

So, how does Offload stack up to our other three options? Let’s see:

  • Pros:
    • Source duplication to two backups.
    • Copies photos and videos.
    • Simple, non-geeky user interface.
    • Checksum validation on import.
    • Checksum does not requires file conversion.
    • OSX/WIN versions available.
    • Crystal clear progress indicator.
    • Starting at $49, the right price for a “unitasker”.
  • Cons:
    • I wish Offload let me back up to more than two target drives. What can I say? I am paranoid/precious with my raw content. Aren’t you?

Image Credits: Red Giant.

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Doug Daulton

Doug’s career has been invested in leveraging emerging technology to tell stories that interest him and helping others do the same. His work includes ground-breaking, high-profile live streams and independent feature films.

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