The Challenge:

One of our clients, a prolific music composer whose work includes scoring several television shows, has compiled a collection of 4 TB worth of millions of small audio files that he and his team regularly pull from. Because of the way Pro Tools and the other software tools in our client’s arsenal work, his entire team needed up-to-date copies of these audio files on their workstations. However, the problem is that this kind of workflow doesn’t allow for the files to be stored on a shared network location such as a NAS or traditional File Server.

At the time we were presented with the issue, our client had been making due with a $100 commercial file-syncing program that he had set it up himself in a few hours.  It did succeed in getting the job done, but not without some major cons.  The main problem was that, due to the millions of small files it had to check, it took almost 14 hours to complete the syncing process (since a sync doesn’t entail copying all of the data each time, but instead checking the entire folder structure for new or modified files and copying only those files). This meant that when he created new clips, and kicked off a sync, his team couldn’t be assured access to them until well into the next business day. His own workstation would be affected as well, since the syncing period tied up a lot of power and speed. To boot, the only way to find out when the sync was complete, was to check the progress on the main composition workstation, which was housed in another room in the studio. Even worse: a sync needed to take place several times a week.

The Solution:

We tackled the problem by writing a custom script that automatically scans the storage folder on the primary composing workstation. The script syncs the new and modified files across the network to a matching folder structure on the other computers.  When the sync is complete, the script double-checks its own work to ensure a 100 percent success rate, and then sends an email to the entire team to confirm that the files have been synced.  Additionally, we set the script to run in the wee hours of the morning, which means that by the time the team arrives to work to start their day, they are now able to hit the ground running.

The best part is that our script is able to tackle this task in about four hours, or in 28 percent of the amount of time it took the commercial tool.  Even better is that by installing the script on the primary workstation, we are simply harnessing the underlying Unix tools that are already part of OS X, therefore our client doesn’t have to worry about ever paying for software upgrades.

The End Result:

In less than a month’s time, we were able to create and implement our custom script, which resulted in helping our client reclaim previously lost hours per week, gain a more predictable workflow via automatic email notification, and increase overall productivity.