If you are a professional editor, at some point you will find yourself editing away on location. Peter Wiggins gives us his top tips for hotel room editing.
With the easy transfer of media from camera cards, it's now not unusual to be doing an HD multi-camera switch of a broadcast show right in your hotel room.
I spend a lot of time away editing on location, so I thought I'd round up a few tips into a cardinal listicle.
1) Make a list
Location editing starts before you leave. Make a list of all the items you need to take to have a functioning portable edit suite. Better still, a few days before you go, get the kit out, plug it up, check that you have everything and that it all works. Why not give the screen a clean while you have the chance?
Don’t forget things like a set of spare batteries for your mouse or a special charging cable.
I have two lists on the excellent Trello that I refer to. A standard one and a slimmed down version for jobs that require jumping on a plane. This has reduced the normal ‘Have I got everything?” panic during an early morning departure.
2) Sort the Room Location Out
When you check into the hotel, talk to the staff on reception about the work you will be doing.
They may offer you a corner room, or a row of rooms for the crew so you can set up your edit suite in the middle. This means you can make noise without worrying about the light sleeping grandma in the room next door. They might even offer you connecting rooms that you can open up to provide a bigger work space.
Make sure you get multiple card keys for the room as this will not only allow colleagues to gain access when you're not there, they will also be able to get in when you’ve got headphones on doing that loud mix!
Don't forget that some rooms turn off the power if you take the key out of the slot. A spare key or hotel loyalty card will ensure your exports and uploads don't stop when you go to dinner.
From a safety angle, when I enter a new hotel room, I always look on the back of the door to check where the fire escapes are located. If you are a bit confused, walk down the corridor and find them. It could save your life.
3) Don’t Put Boxes Near bins
Hotel room cleaners will think that empty boxes are to be thrown away if they are left anywhere close to a bin or left near the door. Close them up and put them next to, or in your other baggage. Don’t laugh, it has happened to me twice. Carrying a ‘naked’ disk drive home through airport security is not funny.
4) Stand Away From the Upgrade Button!
Should Apple decide to publish updates whilst you are away editing, do not be tempted to update. You have a working system, why risk everything?
The app itself might be ok, but don’t expect all the third party drivers and plugins to work. You have bought a USB thumb drive with a copy of all your latest drivers and installers haven’t you?
The advice goes for iOS updates too.
5) Look After Your Posture
Editing on a MacBook Pro hunched up on a hotel desk for a long time won’t do your posture any good. I purchased the excellent Griffin Elevator stand that helps get the screen nearer to eye level. It breaks down into three parts which can be easily packed amongst your clothes in the bag that goes in the hold of an aircraft.
As the machine is now raised in the air, you’ll also need a keyboard and mouse. One tip here, some hotel desks have glass or marble tops which won’t work with optical mice, so take a mousemat with you.
6) Power Strip and Country Adaptors
Your hotel room will not have enough power sockets for your computer and peripherals. Pack a 4 or 8 socket extension lead. That means you will only need one mains adaptor if you are in a different country. Anti-surge models are a good idea.
Although most portable devices are now multi standard, check before you leave that all your mains powered items are capable of working on different voltages. The sound of an exploding capacitor or the smell of melting flux is not good when you are away from base.
7) Take a Long HDMI Cable
There’s hardly a hotel room now that hasn’t got a large flatscreen LCD TV on the wall. Why not take advantage and use it as a client monitor?
You’ll need an HDMI cable to get pictures out of your MacBook Pro - take the longest you can find so you can keep the computer in the ideal place for editing.
Some hotels are very keen for you to plug your peripherals in and even sport a well labeled breakout panel on the wall to help! (Well done Premiere Inn UK)
Others don’t like you doing this so you’ll have to use the HDMI ports on the TV itself. If you cannot select the HDMI input, it might be becasuse the hotel has set the TV to hotel mode. Getting the set out of this mode is easy by entering the make into Google for instructions. This normally consists of holding buttons down on the TV and pressing buttons on the remote.
You might consider putting the TV back into hotel mode before you checkout.
One note of caution here. We haven't been able to get an interlaced signal from Final Cut Pro X out via the built-in HDMI port on a MacBook Pro or new Mac Pro. You might want to consider taking along a cheap Thunderbolt I/O device to feed the TV if you need to check a program that has a mix of interlaced and progressive footage.
8) Essential Peripherals
Although MacBook Pros have two USB slots, you’ll soon find that you haven’t got enough once you’ve connected a keyboard, card reader e.t.c. Make sure you pack an inexpensive USB3 hub. I like this one from Anker as it is small and has an optional USB3 extension lead.
Decent sound monitoring is essential and although a lot of editing can be done through the MacBook Pro speakers, a good pair of headphones is essential for the final mix. This pair of Sony MDR 7506's have been round the world with me a few times. (The pads are starting to peel.) I prefer the closed cup style rather than earbuds which can be tiring over long periods.
Also pack a headphone Y cord so that the producer can plug a second pair of headphones in to listen at the same time.
Don’t rely on one drive, make sure you do regular backups during the job. One way of automating this is to run a program like ChronoSync that does incremental backups, including FCP bundles!
On a recent job I had my GTECH 8TB Thunderbolt drive as the main storage, then had a Lacie rugged drive from the cameraman and a USB drive from the producer as backups. This gave a high level of redundancy and also due to the incremental nature of the backups, it meant that there wasn’t a lengthy media copying session once the edit was finished. Everything had been duplicated perfectly.
Around the world, there are people who tour hotels looking for opportunities to steal. If you leave all your kit in your room when you go out, turn the TV on and leave the ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the doorknob. This should give the casual passerby of your room’s door the impression you are in inside. Remember to take it off in the morning if you want your room serviced!
There are many more tips, such as don't rely solely on the hotel wifi to get your edit uploaded or bring your own snacks to avoid being fleeced by mini-bar charges. I think you get the idea!
If you have any great tips then please add them in the comments.
Peter Wiggins is a broadcast freelance editor based in the UK although his work takes him around the world. An early adopter of FCP setting up pioneering broadcasts workflows, his weapon of choice is now Final Cut Pro X. You can find him on Twitter as @peterwiggins or as he runs the majority of this site, you can contact him here.
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