How Novel Coronavirus Affected Our Manufacturing

First, the FI-16 circuit boards’ bases were manufactured in – you guessed it! – Wuhan China, the region where the novel virus originated. The circuit board bases made it as far as an airport cargo shelf in Hong Kong, where they sat for a couple more weeks waiting for a flight to USA because they were non-essential and non-medical. Essential medical supplies had first priority for aircraft cargo space at the time.

The board bases finally reached the factory in California where the chips get added on, and then they get installed inside the Scouts for final assembly and quality control. Around that time, the factory was also dealing with safety protocols for their staff working from home, disinfection protocols, social distancing, masks and all the rest. I wanted to go to the factory to be hands-on, but domestic USA flights were restricted to essential travelers.

Eventually I got to go to the factory and put hands on. The factory gave me a huge table to myself so I could spread out our circuit drawings and our parts and check everything for labeling, part numbers, wire harness lengths, connectors, etc. Some parts are custom machined in the factory so I needed to see and touch them all.

Ansync is a wonderful factory, very smart people work there, and it’s well-equipped with sophisticated computer-aided machines and diagnostic tools. But we are not the only company having their devices manufactured in that factory, and so their other customers, just like us, decided to have the factory make any components that might have been made in China faster. So the factory got slammed with additional work orders, and all their projects got bigger and needed more people on them.

Everything seems to take longer in a pandemic crisis. USA also had some social unrest (Black lives matter!), and FedEx trucks were delayed on some of their routes, affecting our shipments of parts from our lab inventory in Baton Rouge to California.

Stay safe, and talk to your loved ones whenever you can 📞.

What’s in your Vault?

What’s in your vault?

Obviously that’s a play on the funny television commercials from a bank that asks “What’s in your wallet?”

If you’re joining us on our mission to make better and faster film inspections and condition reports, then we know what’s in your vault. Films. Lots and lots of films.

You have a cataloging system so you know a lot about those films. But what do you really know? Do you know what condition they’re in? Every foot and frame of them? Do you know what they might look like on that computer in your pocket?

When those films were put into cans and stored in your vaults, there was paper money in your wallet. Times have changed. Now there’s an electronic credit card in your wallet, and maybe not even that. Maybe you’re like me and you use the computer in your pocket.

What’s in your vault? Let’s find out together. With all the powers the computers offer us today.

Co-Working Spaces

What’s the first thing you see when you walk into our office? Coffee tables made out of 70mm film reels. Media production awards. An ancient film projector and display shelves of film and television devices from every era.

None of those things belong to us but they make us feel at home. This is a co-working space in Baton Rouge Louisiana. It was built by a local entrepreneur and he’s proud of his town. Lots of moving image entertainment has been produced around here.

So what’s it like building a company in a co-working space?

We’re a small company, at least here in Baton Rouge. Half of our company lives in other cities and towns and they work remotely. They’ve all come to visit from time to time. And when they do, it’s a special day.

The other companies in this space are either video production teams or administrating educational programs in the area. We’re all startups, or at least young companies. That gives us a lot in common, lots to talk about at the water cooler.

What are the things that makes life good is social interaction, particularly with people for whom you can have empathy and they for you. So we’re a happy bunch here. We think that helps us to make better products too.

We started this company to serve moving image archivists. Startups and archives and make an interesting juxtaposition. The young and the old. I don’t mean the people, I mean the newest technologies and the longest-preserved films. I might be the oldest person in this co-working space but there are people here of all ages and I love the diversity. It reminds me of my other favorite places, libraries. Retired volunteers, children just learning to read, and every stage of life in between.

I suppose we could have least a warehouse in the industrial zone so we could set up equipment benches, wire cutting benches, 3D printers and so on. But we like this social life a lot better. There’s a video production studio in the back and I love it there too. we rented one corner of it behind the curtain and set up our storage shelves and soldering bench. Some days there’s a video shoot going on and we can’t get to our shelves but hey, that’s a minor inconvenience. With a wink and a smile we can always get to our stuff in a pinch.

How did we get to Baton Rouge? We started research and development in New York. Our CTO’s partner graduated from NYU’s moving image archives program and got a job at LSU. So we’re here, with no grand plan other than making the best of it. And the best of Baton Rouge and a co-working space and the ancient trees on the lake with the egrets and ducks and turtles, well, the best ain’t half bad.

You know what I really look forward to? Our products are designed for mail order. They’ll go all over the world and they’re shipping address is:

Creative Bloc, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

No-prep Workflow

Traditional archival film handling is a workflow. There’s a lot of preparation involved. What if there wasn’t?

  1. First you set up a space with winders and splicers and synchronizers and a light table and a magnifying glass and gloves.
  2. Then you open a film can and load it onto a reel, and another real onto the other winder.
  3. Then you wind the film slowly and take a lot of notes. Footage, frame numbers, visible damage, measures of shrinkage perhaps, edge codes, soundtrack type or none, credits, etc.
  4. Then you wind the film to a specific heads out orientation and put the film back in the can.
  5. Then you carry it to the scanner to make a video of it. Take the film out of the can again, thread it again except this time the rollers and film path are complex and finicky.
  6. Then you turn on the scanner and set the controls (expertise required).
  7. Then you put the film back in the can and take it back to the inspection station and wind it for archival storage again.

What if…

  1. You open the film can and set the film on a platter. Thread it around a couple of big and airy rollers to the other platter.
  2. Type or barcode scan a reel ID and click your mouse to start the photography. Punch a button to start the film rolling.
  3. Watch the video on a computer screen and your mind is free to think about what you see. Maybe take a note or two if you see something remarkable but otherwise just let it run. It doesn’t matter if it was heads out or tail out because the video can be edited later.
  4. When the film is wound to the other platter, simply lift it back into its can, still on an archival hub. Close the can and put it away.

Done. No prep. Open the film can one time, spool it one time, put it away.

Let computer vision measure everything about the film and produce an automatic condition report. At your leisure, or someone else’s leisure, watch the video workprint. Watch it in the comfort of your own desk or on your own phone.

Sound like a good idea?

Tiny Desk Concert

When I started in the music recording business  half a century ago, nearly everything we did involved logistics and heavy stuff. The instruments were big and bulky. The recording studios were insanely expensive and had to be purpose built. They even had special doors and ramps.

Musicians today assume they can do their work anywhere. They’ve got computers in their pockets and in their backpacks. Recording studios are still nice, but not required. They just find a desk and go to work 🎶.

Some musicians can give an entire concert from a tiny desk. What can you do at your desk?

You can inspect films at any desk, and you can choose the one most convenient to the films. Bring your FI-16, pull up a chair and start the show.

We normally imagine the film inspection to be a solo endeavor and the output will be video workprints and condition reports. To be viewed later, like a music recording. Or…

It could be like a tiny desk concert! Everybody is online these days. You could share your screen with viewers near and far at the same time that you’re inspecting. It could be a community event. Or colleagues could join you from their own desk wherever they may be.

Sounds like fun to me.