PORTABLE RIG DIARY

Getting out of your room, and INTO THE WORLD. A true story.

Hi forum – this is actually kind of a follow up for an article I contributed to the SCL magazine a few years back – since the tech has changed since then, and I have a lot more practice and experience with this, I wanted to share this with you all so we can collectively GEEK out and – hopefully inspire you to think outside the box of where-ever you “room” is.

I got this idea when a producer had asked me if I was bi-coastal for a possible project – I wasn’t, but after looking at NY apartments for a bit, I got a second thought – which was, why not just create a portable version of my studio which is identical to whatever I use to compose and produce my scores back home in LA? and the journey becgan – first is a hackintosh gaming computer (as that can take 32 gigs of ram)

Since this was before Apple released the new “trash can” mac pro, I’ve since re-built it around that and it’s even simpler and more effortless to move from home to … wherever.

So if you just follow these pictures they will show what I’ve used on my trip to Gent Belgium this week – where I was able to compose (almost) a complete episode of HOC.

1st bit of work came on the plane on my MacBook pro retina – also running logic – to keep it simple I boot Logic X without the audio engine (hold the control key during launch) on this machine – when spotting or cleaning up orchestration type stuff. All of my Logic files live on dropbox, so I can open and save a Logic session on the MacBook or on the “Main” rig – trash can mac pro.

I had just finished the first 3 epsidoes of season 5, and downloaded the next episode before heading to the airport – during my first flight on Sunday to Europe, I spotted the show (quicktime loaded into logic, audio still works on the QT) – I put in markers for each cue, all locked to SMPTE code in my Logic session, and also make notes where the editors have places cues and (if I like there placement) build off of that (which is usually that case). I also make notes if any of the temp cues from prior scores work really well and are themes we have not over used or heard in the past episodes..

For the cues based off of previous thematic material I use the EDL from editing to grab the session data from those logic session and insert them (in rough placement) into my timeline,

then 2nd flight, let this all sync up to the cloud, sleep, and arrival in Brussels. The next series of pics an unpacking is mobile studio – I’ve designed the whole thing to fit into only ONE carry on bag, and even with my trumpet case – there was just room enough for clothes and other necessities.

There are two portable screens – one usb based and the other HDMI (also powered via USB which are both about 17 inches diagonally and easy to pack – VERY thin. I learned if was very important to have at least one HDMI monitor with me, in case I need to do any boot drive repair or other system maitenece stuff (recovery partition, etc) – reason for this is that USB monitors (while a bit less expensive and slightly less thick) don’t load their driver until after log on, so you won’t see apple logo on boot or have the option to boot form a different partition, etc.

Then the mac pro trash can – an amazing piece of engineering – it’s QUITE, small and POWERFUL. I’ve maxed this one out – it’s a 12 core, with 128 gigs of ram, and a third party (OWC) 4 TB internal flash drive. That 4TB is enough for all of my sample libraries, boot drive, and project files, and the best part is that this is the exact same computer that runs the studio at home. So when leaving for the road (or our house up in northern CA) all I have to do is unplug the trash can, grab a few external backup drives I always carry with me, and USB keys (argh) and I’m good to go – My mobile studio bag is a “go bag” I always keep at the ready with all of these contets you see spilled out on the bed – a Korg nano-control fader, a 36 key midi keyboard, full size mac keyboard, mouse, the two monitors and an external powered 10 port usb hub and USB external audio interface pre-wired together. Also a power cord all wired together.

I have all of these cables taped together – which makes for a somewhat ugly mess, but it helps me not forget anything or drop anything on a hotel room floor by mistake – You can see on the close ups of cables are labeled clearly so I can setup easily – which usually takes about 15 minutes to organize things. This time took closer to 40 mins, as I was taking time to take pictures and also I had a desk with a pretty lousy surface to work with.

Final pic shows it all ready to go – I have a pair of Bose noise-cancelling in-ear hearphones with are my monitoring setup, and also great on the plane. The MacBook pro-retina is networked to the trash-can via ethernet, and I use network MTC sync so I can run picture on the third screen. This is also the same computer I run picture on at home (using video slave pro) so – All I have to do is grab my laptop with me and I have all of my video files loaded and already set to go.

Audio from the quicktime movie is bussed back into the USB audio interface on the trash can so I can hear dialog/temp music to write to, and I have bussing in the logic session to easily monitor a stereo sum of all of my stems, or to make stereo bounces for client previews.

Everything – audio files, needed and all logic files are constantly saved/backup to dropbox and CrashPlan at, home & on the road.

the screen setup mirrors (in miniature) my setup at home with one tall monitor and one horizontal – so the workspace and logic screen sets feel the same and familiar.

Sometimes you have to improvise around a small surface – this desk was tiny – so my suitcase is an outrigger surface to prop up the MacBook.

This week, in Ghent was full of activity and this wasn’t the kind of trip where my purpose was to hole up in my hotel room & compose – but sill on a crazy schedule, I was able to compose about 3/4s of the episode I’m working on this week. I love the freedom this has given us. Joan and I love to travel, and I’m doing a lot of concert music and conducting performing these days, so I can keep writing – and for my collaborators – I can come to them, whether it’s a movie set, production office of (usually) the airbnb home where we happen to be at the moment. I also benefit from being inspired creatively by new settings, and people, which I know must seep into the music somehow. 2 weeks ago I had the rig in a nice little apartment in Brooklyn NY and composer a full episode of HOC, and several sketches on a dance work I’m developing with some NY based choreographers.

Hope this is inspiring and fun for you all – please feel free to hit me up with any followup comments, or questions!

Champagne and OJ just arrived – Leaving beautiful Belgium behind for this trip, going to sleep to en route to Chicago, and look forward to waking up in about 10 hours and reading your reactions..

Jeff – gypsy composer

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