Sync Hacks: Using BitTorrent Sync to Simplify Motion Graphics Workflow

via Stephen Thomas
Stephen Thomas’s work

In Sync Hacks, we spotlight cool uses of Sync from the creative minds of our users. Sync is our free, unlimited, and secure file-syncing application. If you have an interesting use or how-to, shoot us an email at sync[at]bittorrent.com. Can’t wait to hear what you guys cook up.

In this week’s Sync Hack, Stephen Thomas (@blurredmotion) explains how BitTorrent Sync simplifies the workflow of a Motion Graphic artist. A great read for anyone with massive creative projects. Read on to find out why.

I work as a motion graphics freelancer in the lovely city of Cardiff in Wales. Being freelance means that sometimes I’m asked by production companies to work away from my office space, but at the same time, they don’t always have reasonably powerful machines to render out the projects. I have a Macbook Pro, which is edging towards retirement at 5 years old and a Hackintosh I built last year. It’s quite safe to say that a lot of the projects that I work on would be absolutely impossible to render on the Macbook Pro, with projects taking between 10 – 20 times longer to render compared to the Hackintosh.

Screenshot-Synchacks

I found out about BitTorrent Sync a month or so ago. After the whole NSA scandal, I was looking for an alternative file sharing service to Dropbox, something that wouldn’t share my files with a foreign government. I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to transparency with such things, so if a company is claiming to keep my files private and secure, but at the same time providing a back door for someone to browse my files as they please, well… I just don’t agree.

Sync Blender preferences

The first thing I used BitTorrent Sync for was to sync the preferences of Blender between my laptop and Hackintosh. Blender is the main tool that I use for my work and so it’s quite important that I have everything set up the way I want on both computers. I had a similar setup before working with Dropbox, after following this guide.

It worked perfectly. Nice and quick and now whenever I change my preferences on one machine, the other is also updated. I also didn’t need to create Sym links of the preference files, as BitTorrent Sync allows you to sync any folders. Great.

Keep project folders up to date, handle huge files, work remotely

Last week, I started a project with lots of assets, images, video, textures, 3D models, project files etc, but I had to work away from my Hackintosh. I started out copying the entire project from one external hard disk to another, as I usually do in such situations. Whenever I need to render, I connect to the Hackintosh using Apple’s VNC, Back to my Mac. I then mount the drive containing the project and upload any files and assets that I’ve added and/or edited since the last render, then hit go. The only problem with this is that if something is forgotten, such as a texture, there will be errors in the render. Blender is a great application, but it does have quirks, like not warning you of missing linked files when hitting the render button. This means that I have to spend extra time making sure that I’ve copied over everything that’s needed. Not ideal.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 2.16.36 PM

When I render out an animation, I render to an image sequence. I do it this way as a safeguard. If Blender crashes half way through the render, I can just open it up and have it carry on from where it left off. It also means that if there’s an error in the render, I can just delete the required frames, fix the error and just render out the bad section. Great. I got to thinking while waiting for a render ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the image sequence was immediately available on my Macbook Pro once the Hackintosh has finished the render’. I was still stuck in the mindset of using Dropbox, which has a dedicated folder that files must be placed into for syncing. It then clicked that BitTorrent Sync can sync any folder on your file system. Fantastic. I set up syncing on the image sequence folders, and hey-presto, as soon as a frame had been rendered, it was automatically downloading to my Macbook Pro. Fab. I could then put the sequence together on the Macbook Pro soon after the render had finished. I then thought, if I can sync the image sequences using BitTorrent Sync, I can sync the whole project folder. Any new assets I create will be automatically uploaded to my Hackintosh, ready for when I hit render, solving another problem of keeping both project folders up to date.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 2.16.55 PM

I wouldn’t have been able to work remotely with such efficiency and ease without using BitTorrent Sync and I’ll no doubt carry on doing so when working remotely in the future.

–Stephen Thomas

Stephen Thomas (@blurredmotion) is a motion graphics artist based in Cardiff, UK. At the minute, Stephen is freelancing to production companies, while also in the process of starting up his own production company, Spin the Yarn Productions, with a likeminded film person. A Blenderhead by heart, Stephen uses Blender for his day to day work. He loves Pixar films, Chinese food and is adamant that Kevin Smith’s Clerks II is the best film ever. Keep your eyes peeled on www.spintheyarn.co.uk for his upcoming production company.