One month ago, I started work at my new job, a trading firm in Chicago. I live in the western suburbs, so I have to take a train in to the city. The train ride is only 35 minutes each way, but due to a bus hookup that I have to make, as well as my scheduled working hours (trading hours), I spend a little over an hour on the homebound train. All told, I spend 1h45m sitting still on a train each day. This is time I used to spend computing, which is why people haven’t heard from me in a while.
With a new job comes some new pay, so I considered it an investment for my sanity to purchase a laptop for the train. All the time I spent waiting to arrive home can now be spent working on projects and answering email. For someone who commutes so much, and has The Combine™ at home to crunch HD video (more on The Combine™ later), I initially thought that I would grab a tiny Dell notebook; they have a supremely tiny 9” model for $300 that can run for hours on fumes. Less to carry, good enough for syncing email for offline review, and I could even surf if I had to (via USB tether to my smartphone). They even come with a choice of shipping with Ubuntu.
The only problem with that idea is that the #1 project I have to focus on, with a deadline no less, is MindCandy volume 3. MC3 poses some significant challenges for me:
- We have no dedicated DVD/Blu-ray author this time around (Jeremy is working full-time for Futuremark/Sony), which means I have to author it myself
- The footage is a mixture of 720p (main program) and 1080p (special features)
- The combined footage (special features + main program) is over 15 hours long
- We don’t have any graphical artist for the motion menus, which means I have to design/create/render them myself (if you want to volunteer then by all means please contact me!)
MC3 post-production is essentially a one-man show, as you can see above. And with over 2 hours a day LESS free time, I am understandably nervous about getting it done before the end of the year, as is traditional so that you can snag it as a holiday gift. So, I have to work on the project on the train, which means the laptop would have to run Adobe CS4… and would have to play back HD video, including 1080p… and be able to render 3D graphics for the menu work… and it would have to hold at least 300G of low-res proxy footage video data (the real video footage is over 2 terabytes). So the tiny notebook idea was out.
Hey kids, how do you take a normal laptop and turn it into a Blu-ray production powerhouse?
- Install nothing less than a Core 2 Duo
- Replace the 720p LCD with a 1920×1080 LED-backlit full-gamut RGB screen
- Put in a 500G hard drive
- Upgrade the RAM to 4G
- Swap out the DVD burner for a Blu-ray reader
- Shame the embedded Intel video controller and install a Radeon HD 4570 with 512M dedicated video RAM
- More power means more juice, so toss the 6-cell battery and install the 9-cell model
So that’s exactly what I did, taking a Dell Studio 15 that normally goes for $750 and injecting it with all of the above, then applying a magical 25%-off-anything-with-an-obscene-cost coupon. Final damage was around $1200. Yay Dell credit!
Here I am, laptop the size of a planet, and all I’ve done is write a blog post.
Man, this thing is heavy.