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Monthly Archives: May 2004

FilmHelp FilmHelp: Post-Production Films

Avoiding and Dealing with FireWire Harddrive Crashes

By Greg Pak

We edited my feature “Robot Stories” using a Macintosh G4 533 MHz dual processor running Final Cut Pro 1.2.5 with eight (count ’em, eight!) external FireWire hard drives. During the six months of post production, we had a number of crises with our FireWire hard drives, including three or four occasions in which drives would crash, giving us an error message saying the drive could not be recognized and asking us if we wanted to reinitialize.
Now when you have five hours of footage on a sixty gig hard drive, you don’t particularly want to want to reinitialize, which would erase the drive and require you to spend a day redigitizing your footage.
At least twice, we did just that, because none of the disk utilities programs (Norton Utilitles and Apple’s Disk First Aid) were able to help us. But I’ve recently been able to save drives which have crashed in this way using my new favorite program, DiskWarrior.

Why drives crash.

In most cases, I have no idea why our drives crashed. At least twice, my editor Stephanie and I watched in horror as images which were playing in Final Cut Pro began to break up. Broken horizontal strips of color would flash across the screen until the images disappeared altogther. Upon restart, we’d discover the computer would no longer recognize the drive on which the media was living. We had no idea why these problems surfaced.
But yesterday I saw these problems crop up while I was in the process of unplugging and replugging the FireWire connection to a camcorder attached to the computer. Now theoretically, messing with the camera shouldn’t affect the drives, since I had the drives plugged into a separate FireWire jack. But I’m pretty sure the events were linked. Perhaps messing with the camera cable sent a static electricity shock into the system? We’ve had incredible static electricity in the office this winter — I suspect that’s somehow to blame.
At any rate, my current thinking is NEVER MESS WITH CABLES OR MOVE DRIVES when your computer is on or when you’re running your programs.

A success story

Yesterday I was messing with the FireWire cable connected to a camera while playing a project on Final Cut Pro. I glanced over and saw the tell-tale breakup of images on my computer monitor. I shut down the computer and on restart, the computer couldn’t read one of my FireWire hard drives and asked if I wanted to reinitialize. It was a 60 gig Maxtor FireWire harddrive which I’d bought in October 2001.
Instead of clicking “Initialize,” I clicked “Eject.” Then I popped in my DiskWarrior CD and tried to run the program. But the program didn’t list the bum drive in its menu. The drive wasn’t mounted and the program couldn’t see it.
It seemed like a Catch 22 — the drive wouldn’t mount because it was damaged. But the program to repair the damage couldn’t work unless the drive was mounted.
I tried using the Maxtor Utilites to get the computer to recognize the drive. No luck. But I was using version 3.2 of the software. I visited the Maxtor website, downloaded and installed Maxtor Utilities version 3.4. Which recognized the bum drive. And then Disk Warrior recognized the drive. So I was ran DiskWarrior, which successfully repaired the drive and saved my data. Woo hoo!
Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t mess with cables when the computer is running.
  2. When in doubt, download the most current software and drivers for the hardware.
  3. DiskWarrior rules.

A sob story

While I was out of the office shooting a short film, a couple of friends were using their FireWire hard drive with one of my computers. The drive mysteriously crashed. On restart, they got a message asking them to eject or reinitialize. Since they’d done little work on the drive, they reinitialized. But they’d screwed up — they’d just crashed MY FireWire drive and reinitialized it. Now if they’d just left things alone, we probably could have used DiskWarrior to bring the drive and its data back to life. But reinitializing the drive has put its repair beyond the ken of mere mortals such as myself. I’m now researching professional data recovery companies — preliminary conversations indicate that it’s very likely they can recover my data, but the names of the files will probably all be lost. And (here’s the kicker) it’ll cost me anywhere from $600 to $2000.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t let people borrow your equipment/computers unless you’re clear about what they’re doing and you’ve taken precautions to safeguard your data.
  2. Never reinitialize unless you’re ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of what you’re doing. Namely, never reinitialize your drive unless you’re absolutely certain it’s actually your drive.


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