Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Supercharging The Free Time

Posted by Trixter on July 23, 2009


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 havenā€™t heard from me in a while.Ā 

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 Combineā„¢ at home to crunch HD video (more on The Combineā„¢ later), I initially thought that I would grab a tiny Dell notebook; they have a supremely tiny 9ā€ 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 donā€™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 1080pā€¦ and be able to render 3D graphics for the menu workā€¦ 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 thatā€™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 Iā€™ve done is write a blog post.

Man, this thing is heavy.

5 Responses to “Supercharging The Free Time”

  1. AlexFBar said

    Trixter, to encorage your work I have some words….

    Im from Brazil, a distant city in south of the country and i have MC1 and MC2 originals and buyed in the release.
    Here this stuff is very very expensive, but i love it. I see the demos since 1992, the era of Second Reality, etc.

    This work is heavy, I agree… but think that.. I live in a thousand kilometers (or miles) from you, but i love this work. It is a piece of art.
    Dont stop then.

    Best Regards and thank you.
    and.. sorry for my poor english..

  2. Trixter said

    Thanks for the kind words — we definitely don’t plan to stop! :-)

  3. simcha said

    who needs tags, i’m here cuz of some dang AT&T PC 6300 or whatever it was you had so much fun writing about on oldskool.org and then i see you’re toting a laptop on Metra that … abomination! ;) as time permits i’ll break the heart of the old pc checking out some MC. good luck with your work.

  4. rednuht said

    what is required for the 3d stuff? I have blender and some time

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