So I just have to pass along this wonderful experience we've had and it really underscores the tremendous community we have here at Creative COW. For about a year I've been contemplating an upgrade to our facility to make it more efficient. When I started in 2001 I had one edit suite and hoped to add a 2nd one at a later date. In 2003 we expanded to that 2nd suite and I was eventually able to get a full sized rack unit to hold all my tape decks, my computer and some storage.
It worked pretty well though a bit combersome because there were no patch panels so to run anything to anywhere meant crawling behind the racks, pulling cables, figuring what went where, etc.. Then at the end of 2006 we suddenly needed a third suite which we quickly threw together. Now suddenly we were pulling decks out of the rack, walking them to the third suite, walking drives around, etc... It was starting to get really messy.
So I contacted a few local companies about assisting me in re-engineering the shop to be much more efficient. I can figure out what I need, but really wanted an engineer to come up with the best way to make everything here more efficient both in layout and operation. Didn't really find what I was looking for in terms of personnel and price. Enter Creative COW and fellow COW Leader, Bob Zelin.
It started with a simple email to Bob. Through reading his posts it was obvious that facility design and installation was one of his specialities. I simply asked if he would be interested in assisting me at all. To my surprise he said yes and immediately asked for a full equipment list and a general layout of our facility. What I loved about this process was I kept downplaying what we needed here and he kept insisting on some additional cables and connections that would make our lives easier.
Within about two weeks we had the first drawings and plans from Bob. Again, I was questioning some of his ideas because I thought it was overkill. Three video patch panels? Three audio patch panels? We're a simple, small shop, aren't we going too far here? I'm thinking one patch panel for each should do fine. But Bob, in his own gentle fashion, reminded me that it's easier to run cables once, than to install something and then come back in a few months and say " you know we should add some more cables runs here, there and the other room." It started to make sense, especially after the full drawings for the patch panels showed up and I could visually see what he was talking about.
Two months after we started discussions, we finalized the plans which included: two new full sized rack units; three video patch panels; three audio patch panels; new reference DA; a Gefen DVI/USB extender to allow one computer to move 55 feet from the suite to the rack unit; and I'm guessing about 1,500 feet of new audio / video / control cables. At the same time we decided to upgrade our storage with two new MaxxDigitial SAS/SATA 8TB arrays for the two main suites adding 16TB of new storage. I have to say, Bob's insight and advice during this entire process was invaluable and he really made the plan much better than anything I could have created on my own. In addition, he probably saved me a lot of money from the inevitable mistakes I would have made designing all of this on my own.
Almost immediately our new racks and shelves showed up in about 6 huge boxes. We replaced the small box that was to the left of the original rack with one of the new ones and already the place started looking better.
A few weeks later, the storage and patch panels showed up so we pulled out the original rack and set up the 2nd new rack into it's final position.
Now it's really starting to look good and I get a real surprise from Bob. He's going to personally come to Atlanta to do the patch panel installation. The original plan was for Bob to make up all the cables and ship them to us with instructions. But due to an opening in his schedule, he was able to make the trip himself. I've never met him personally so I'm thrilled, can't wait to see if he's as angry in person as he is on the forums!
He went ahead and shipped up the long run cables to run through the walls which my assistant, Aaron, and I ran prior to his arrival. A messy job to be sure, but I had designed drop wire chases into the walls when we moved into the office thinking they would come in handy one day.
I killed the power before allowing Aaron to play with live stuff. Never let kids play with wire cutters!!!
So today Bob Zelin in the flesh shows up and to my surprise, he's a heckuva nice guy! Well, it wasn't really a surprise, I had spoken to him several times on the phone and he's actually quite funny. A straight shooter to be sure, but a very funny guy. He's not here 5 minutes and he jumps right into work.
After watching Bob for about an hour I was really happy he had the time in his schedule to come up here because while I could have done the cableing myself, it would have probably taken me three days to do what he did in less than 8 hours. As with any installation, there were some last minute issues and questions that needed to be addressed. Moving some audio patch points, re-routing some cables, adding some new cables, etc... were all last minute issues we took care of as the day progressed. It really boggled my mind to see how much cable three edit suites and about 5 VTR's would require to make this shop more efficient.
Before we knew it, lunch time was upon us. It was time to initiate Bob Zelin to the wonders of the Nintendo Wii. It took a few frames, but before we knew it, Bob was throwing Strikes and Spares with the best of them. Check out the professional form on this throw!
It's looking good Ted.... staying away from the gutters.... a little spin to the left..... and it's a Strike!
About the only real tough discussion was when Bob tried to convince Aaron and I to abandon all component and SDI cabling to run everything via Composite video. After all the VHS look is in these days so why spend all this extra money to run these extra cables. Ok, no he really didn't do that, he accidentally forgot to make up the final component / SDI cables for our Kona boxes, but of course, being prepared for everything, he had plenty of video cables and connectors to make up these last few runs on the spot.
Less than 8 hours after Bob started, we had a fully re-engineered facility. Every audio and video output from every device in the shop, from the Konas to the VTRs, passes through the patch panels. We can route any signal, anywhere. All the RS-422 controls pass through their own patch panel allowing all three suites to take control of any VTR in the racks. We have almost 20TB of fast storage for all projects. It's absolutely awesome and something both Aaron and I are not used to. You just get so used to the "moving cable ballet" behind the rack that to have something so efficient is weird.
Look what I made!
I cannot believe what we started in a single room in 2001 has grown to something the really feels like professional Post House. The growth of my business and the work with Bob Zelin can all be traced back to the Creative Cow. Folks we have a tremendous resource at our disposal with thousands of incredible working professionals in all aspects of the creative production field. You know you get answers when you post questions on the forums. Just remember that those same people who answer your questions are also some great people to call upon and hire when you need high quality services. Just look at our transformation in just three months from a decent working facility to a real professional facility.
So Thank You Bob Zelin for all your help in re-designing our shop and Thank You to Ron and Kathlyn for starting such an awesome creative resource.
Another Satisfied Zelin Customer!