December 23, 2010

Dropbox is the Shiznit

I call this: computers,mac,pc,phones,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:57 pm

Over the past six months or so, I’ve written a couple posts which mentioned my interests in incorporating cloud computing into my stage management life a little more. I talked about the wonders and terrors of cloud computing in general, and mentioned in passing about the software Meaghan and I are using on this tour.

Over the summer — I don’t think I talked much about it — over the course of three productions, I quietly and tentatively began using Dropbox to store my folder of show files on the cloud. I used to use MobileMe’s iDisk for this purpose, but being slow as all hell, and just as likely to corrupt and delete your data as to save your bacon when you need remote access to a file, I would periodically back up to MobileMe, but never actually trust it with the primary copy of the show files.

At the urging of several of my colleagues (and readers), I tried out Dropbox. As I said in one of my other posts, “It’s just like MobileMe, except it works.” So while it’s redundant, it’s also completely life-changing. Over the summer I went from cautiously putting my show files on it while keeping backups elsewhere on my hard drive, to using it as the primary storage point. I also back up to a Time Machine drive, of course, so in theory there is an isolated copy that’s at most several days old, even if Dropbox totally fails and deletes an important file both from the server and from my local copy.

The Acting Company tour this year is the first production I’ve done where every file related to the show (except the backup of our SFX files, which is over 2GB) is kept on the Dropbox, and is shared with my ASM. The files are also stored locally, so we also have offline access to the most updated files on our hard drives, for those times when we’re in a basement theatre or the bus has driven into a patch of wilderness, without ever having to think about making manual backups or syncing.

For all intents and purposes, as far as the show is concerned, it’s like both our computers share a single hard drive. And our iPhones can access that drive if they need to, as well. It’s like the most exciting thing to happen to stage management since the headset. Only once have I seen a situation where we both tried to edit the same file at once, and it seemed to have been handled safely, if a little clumsily, with a copy being saved in each of our names. For the most part, Meaghan has things she keeps paperwork on, and I have others, so the odds of us needing to edit the same file at the same time are surprisingly low. We tend to reference each other’s paperwork a lot, but not necessarily collaborate heavily on the same thing. In a different situation the limitations of this system might get more annoying.

Also, here in Minneapolis, Meaghan has been using the Guthrie-provided laptop. She can’t install Dropbox on it, sadly, but can still access and upload files through a web browser, which is not nearly as convenient, but still a great option to have when you’re using somebody else’s computer that’s locked down.

My favorite story comes from the New York rehearsal process of R&J: we made a change to the script, and some hours or days later, I went to add the new text to our Word file of the script. When I got to the appropriate page there was a happy purple bubble pointing to the already changed text telling me that Meaghan had made such-and-such an edit on such-and-such a date. After last year’s extensive re-writes, which Nick and I took turns updating by emailing the file back and forth to each other (and having to be very meticulous about who had the absolute most current file), I was actually stumped for a moment at how this had happened. But it’s so simple. There is really only one copy of every file, so there’s virtually never an issue of “my copy”/”her copy.” We’ve been working this way for three months now, and I can’t imagine how stages were ever managed before this!

So I just want to say to any stage management team: Dropbox. Do it. It will change your life. In the good way!

Let Me Tell Ye: Words No One is Allowed To Say For Two Days

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:17 pm

Let me tell ye. I have been working for ten days straight. I am going to burn the metaphorical yule log for two days, and I hope I do not hear the following words for at least 48 hours:

1. groceries
2. shoes
3. handcuffs
4. bowler [hat]

That is pretty much my week-and-a-half summed up in four words. None of which has particularly much to do with the fact that today we completed our second full run of the show, and it’s falling-down funny (I keep waiting for something to make Ian actually fall on the floor — he’s come almost all the way out of the chair a couple times, but we’re not quite there yet).

But such is life that the things that take up most of my time are the little details that go on in the background, and if I’m lucky, most people on the production never know or need to worry about any of the convoluted process by which they’re made possible.

Yesterday, after I slapped a metal door frame a little too hard in response to #1, Meaghan was like, “can I help?” to which I responded, “there is nothing that can be done for this, it can only be solved by my death.” There is no way I know of to avoid these kind of situations short of not becoming a stage manager. Run away! Hit the back button on your browser while you still can! And if it’s too late to save yourself, well, take comfort in knowing that everyone is going through it.

And with that, I wish all you dear readers a safe and happy holiday. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, then even better — you probably got a couple days off for free just to chill. Which, after a video chat and remote present-opening with the fam in the morning, is what I intend to spend it doing!

And no, I don’t have the same Christmas tree on my desk as I did last year. That’s a recycled picture, cause I never got around to taking a shot of the cute ornament my mom sent me. It’s made all of glass, with a palm tree and flamingo inside a glass ball with sand and a couple shells loose at the bottom. It’s so that we think warm thoughts in rehearsal. It seems to be working.