Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve written because I’ve been just too busy.  In that time, I’ve traversed the country multiple times for work and that thing they call a life that I try to fit in between projects.  I learned about the 3AM commute home by train in NYC (it takes a while).  I also learned that Virgin America is a godsend (thanks Google for free WiFi).  And that independent film has funding trouble (I doubt I’m the first to have this revelation).  But these are all just excuses for not writing more here.  I’ll now try to ease back into writing regularly by starting off with a small review…

Last week I started up on a rather large film project that requires I use multiple CPUs with multiple monitors at the same desk: for my Avid, FTP, and personal stations.

This is where the simple open-source utility from The Synergy Project is invaluable.  Originally demonstrated to me by my buddy Jacob Shea (who is an excellent composer FYI) this small program allows me to control all three computers using one computer’s keyboard and mouse.  All that it requires is that all the CPUs in question are connected to the same network.  Getting it to work is a little buggy, as is most open-source software, but once you get there, you’ll never want to be without it!

As utilities go, it’s very intuitive.  Because of the networked control, I am able to move back and forth between computers as if they were all running off the same CPU.  Gladly, though, they’re not, so I can harness each computer’s processing power for different functions without any hassle moving between different desks or keyboards.  It’s just that simple.  And while it seems like a small invention, you’d be amazed at how much more productive you can be without needing to move around so much.

It’s really a simple process.  Follow this link to download SynergyKM.  From there, install it on each computer you want to be able to control remotely.  Open your system preferences to gain access to the SynergyKM settings.  On your host computer, select the “default” location so you can make sure to save the settings.  Follow these two windows as guidance:


In the Server Configuration menu, hit the “+” symbol to create computers to access.  Enter the names according to your user’s Sharing name.  You’ll have to enter this for both the host computer you’re on and the client computers you want to access with the keyboard.  (Note: Spaces in the name should be typed as hyphens.)  No need to attack Server Options, but at least you know it’s there.

Next, on your client computers, use the following images as guidance.

Enter the hostname that matches your server computer’s Sharing name.  If you’re having trouble connecting, make sure the name displayed next to “This computer’s Screen Name” is the same on the server side for each computer.

And from there, voila.  You can now use your host computer’s keyboard and mouse on every computer you’ve set up with SynergyKM.  It’s fantastic.  Huge love to the developers!

Imagine this scenario…you’re an assistant editor, it’s midnight, you’re at home, and all of sudden the director calls.  They want to have a DVD of the current edit for the film you’re working on ready first thing in the morning.  This is about the time when you have that sinking feeling because you know you’re headed back in to the office…an office which is across town.  And on top of that, it needs to have burn-in on the picture because it’s going to go to a vendor after he’s done.  A few years ago, this would’ve meant you’d be packing your bag to spend the a short sleepless night on the floor under your editing bay.  But no longer, faithful A.E. – we are now saved.

Enter LogMeIn, the great series of programs that allow you to remotely manage your computers from any Internet connection.  While its not quite fast enough to play back video (hopefully that’s not too far away) you can certainly navigate all your assistant duties from your remote connection.  From managing media to encoding Quicktimes to anything you can imagine, you can do it all without needing to be there.  All you have to do is create an account, download and the program, and presto!  You can visit that computer from the internet.

It works with Windows and Mac, is incredibly secure with AES 256-bit encryption, and best of all, they have a FREE VERSION!  While LogMeIn offers many different products, but if you’re a handy Assistant Editor such as myself, and you’ve got an iDisk or some other type of cloud storage, then all you need is LogMeIn Free.  Also, if you’ve got $30, it is also totally worth purchasing LogMeIn Ignition for the iPhone or iPod Touch.  Now you can remotely log in to any computer you’ve registered with LogMeIn, as long as you’ve got an iPhone and an internet connection.

Obviously this is not a new concept.  VNC remote management has been around for a long time.  But this has a few twists I think make it the best.  First of all, the entire list of your available computers is right in front of you when you log in, and you don’t have to worry about IP addresses and other such networking information.  Second, it works seamlessly on both Windows and Mac, so you only need to pick one app to do the job.  Lastly, it’s all user-friendly, with one of the best iPhone apps I’ve seen for remote management and truly helpful options when it comes to the desktop mirror.

I can’t count the different ways this product has saved the day.  One day, an editor called because she needed me to help her find her project files, which had been moved from their current home on her hard drive by no fault of her own.  Went to, logged in to her computer, and found the file.  Bam, five minutes, day saved.  Another time, I was on a day trip on a Saturday when a director wanted to come into the editing back to screen the film.  He could press play, but I didn’t want to walk him through the hour of rendering that needed to take place to prep the film.  So I logged in from my iPhone, strung out the reels, and rendered the film.  When he got in, all he needed to do was hit play, and it was ready to go.  To finish up on the story I started at the top, to save the day, I strung out the reels, applied the burn-in, and send the Quicktime Reference to Compressor, all in the same amount of time it would’ve taken me were I sitting right there, and went to bed rested.  In the morning, I ran the MPEG-2 through DVD Studio Pro, and the DVD was ready before the director even showed up.

Do yourself a favor and go download this right now.