Building the “Building Braxton” Video: Part I

Braxton Brewing Company officially opened last Friday and one of the things done during the opening is play a little video I dreamed up and then had a chance to edit. Here it is:

You can go to Hoperatives to read more about Braxton and the opening, but I wanted to say a bit more about how the video came about and the challenges of putting it together. This is anything but a woe-is-me exercise because I had an awful lot of fun doing it. There was some pressure, but it was mostly the kind I put on myself. I wanted the final product to be good and it seemed like there were roadblocks every step of the way. It’s a story in and of itself and it ought to be written down somewhere.  Luckily. I have a place to do that. This goes on for a while, so I’m going to go ahead and make a jump. It’s not like I update this blog all that often, but I would like the page to be a bit manageable. So click on down if you want to experience some video nerdery

I first remember suggesting the idea of a time lapse video of the construction of the brewery to Head Brewer and co-founder Evan Rouse over a beer on a Tuesday night at Hebron Brew Haus. It might have been somewhere else on another day, but I’m fairly sure we were drinking at the time. They’d just identified the building they were going into and I remembered a conversation I’d recently had with Ken Waugh. He’d just joined up as Brewmaster with the startup Crooked Can Brewing in Winter Garden, Florida and we kicked around the idea of getting time lapse footage of that process using GoPro cameras. We never got it together, but I’m happy to report they are open as of March 21st.

Anyway, the process of building out a brewery fascinates me and while it seems like one is opening every week, they really don’t. With Taft Ale House opening next week it takes two weeks sometimes. Being able to get end-to-end coverage of the process seemed like an opportunity not to be missed. I’d done a couple of quick-and-dirty stages-of-construction videos of Rhinegeist and Ei8ht Ball, but I wasn’t able to be there as much as I wanted and get the sorts of things I wanted to show. The idea of having cameras in the building all the time was just too much to pass up.

So I pitched it to Evan and he pitched it to his brother (and CEO) Jake. Around the time they actually got the lease for the building signed I went down to the building to identify shooting locations. They had purchased a GoPro Hero 4.  I loaned them my Hero 3 and Dave Dixon provided a Hero 3+. The cameras were all pretty well-matched and we all had purchased external power taps so batteries wouldn’t be an issue. We kept them in the waterproof cases with the “skeleton” door on the back so there was a hole the power tap could pass through. There were three camera positions: the Cellar Pad camera that looked down on where the fermenters were eventually going to be, the Mill Room camera that was across the building but looked back at the same general area covered by the Cellar Pad camera, and the Tap Room camera that hung up front to catch the construction of the future <science fiction echo here>Taproom of the Future</science fiction echo>.

The cameras were set to 12 megapixels (4000 x 3000 resolution) and triggered once every minute while running.  Evan and/or Jake would fire up the cameras using the GoPro remote app when the day started and shut them down at night.1Each camera’s memory card could hold about a week’s worth of shots.  Except Dave’s.  Dave had a card twice the size of the other two.  Because … Dave. Each file was between 3.1 and 5.1 MB depending on the complexity of the image which, in turn, was a function of how much light there was on the scene. There were just under 70,000 individual files. Something like 69,800. It was close enough to just call it 70,000.

I’m still not clear on how the files got off the camera onto the hard drive they eventually landed on. There’s a wireless transfer option that’s really slow, but it works. You can plug in a USB cable into the side, but that means taking it out of the protective case to get to the port.  At that point you could just pop the mini-SD card out. I’m leaning toward the wireless scenario because the cameras never appeared to get bumped except one time on the Cellar Pad camera.  And even that wasn’t much. The slow transfer rate of wireless method would explain why what happened next wasn’t noticed.

UPDATE: I had a chance to talk to Jake last night about how the files got from the camera to the hard drive and the real answer is really clever. Once a week or so Evan and Jake would go up on a scissor lift to each of the camera positions. They’d carefully open the camera enclosure and pop the camera out of it without moving the enclosure. Then they’d pull the mini-SD card and transfer the files to a laptop. The camera would go back in the enclosure. They were really careful because I can only recall seeing a small shift in perspective on one camera one time. Cameras got re-aimed as construction proceeded, but there ware many weeks that the camera never seemed to move even though there were multiple downloads. Anyway, once the files were transferred to the laptop, they were copied to the external hard drive. Knowing this now makes the next part of the story make much more sense.

I started getting a bad feeling when Jake called me to let me know we could come down and get the drive. Between the time Carla and I left to go down to Braxton and the time we got there, he had discovered that there was one more batch of files to transfer off the Tap Room camera. He started it with the hope that it’d be done by the time we got there. it wasn’t. It was no big deal because we’d planned to go to lunch anyway. We did that, but the files still weren’t done transferring. It ran all night and into the next day and finally finished. We wound up picking up the drive while we were headed down to Bockfest. That was March 6th, which was also the day Braxton announced their opening date as March 27th. They wanted to show this at the opening and I wanted it for our post about the opening. I had a deadline now. That’s OK, I like deadlines. I get bored otherwise.

Because of Bockfest I wasn’t able to look at anything until Sunday. Ironically, we were out at Rivertown because Carla was participating in the Pink Boots Society’s International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day. I ran a couple of errands for them, but mostly I spent the time hanging out in the tap room’s private group area trying to figure out what my workflow was to be. There was no question that I was going to transfer the files off the hard drive I’d been given and put them on a different drive. You just never mess with your source files. I plugged in the source drive and noticed that it took a long time to display the files in the Finder. A weirdly long time. Evan had mentioned this and we both chalked it up to there being nearly 70,000 files nested in a lot of directories. Oh, if only that’d been true.

My first indication of an issue was when I arbitrarily picked a single week and attempted to load the stills into the venerable QuickTime 7 Pro player (curse you Apple for replacing it with the awful QuickTime 10 piece of crap). I tried to load them directly off the source drive and I almost immediately got a file error. “That’s weird,” I thought, “OK, I’ll just copy this directory of files over to my internal drive and work off of that.”

It got about a third of the way through the copy and failed. A file “couldn’t be found.” Tried a different directory. Same thing. Oh crap. I went old school and went into the Unix shell and copied it using the venerable cp -Rfp command. The nice thing about that is it will happily skip files it can’t copy, but handle nested directories. And it started to throw up missed files like crazy.


I knew then it was going to be a long three weeks.

Stay tuned for Building the “Building Braxton” Video: Part II: The Nerd-ering” in which I will cuss, buy software and check on the status of the world’s longest file copy from a hospital bed. Don’t miss it! Because I wish I had. (Nah, not really. It was fun. Which says a lot about my warped sense of fun).

1 Usually. I do have a couple of rather dull sequences of the Mill Room at night with no movement whatsoever. But that was rare.