Is R3D Data Manager Worth Your $80?

Is R3D Data Manager Worth Your $80?

Some say it's a life saver, while others call it sophisticated copy and paste. But in cold hard facts, R3D Data manager is a piece of software that allows you to safely transfer R3D files and RED camera footage from a card or drive onto multiple hard drive backups. There's no doubt that the program works. I've used with success and it does what it says it's able to do, but the big question is: is it worth your $80?

Before I give an opinion, I want to clarify that my experience with R3D Data Manager was in a production environment where it was used to make backups of data.

I first used it when I was data loading on a feature film called Below the Beltway. On a few occasions, I have run into the program again as part of a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) station or data loader’s laptop.

Since that first time using it, R3D Data Manager has become a more robust program with several post-production oriented features. For the purpose of this article, I will be approaching the program from a production standpoint where it is mostly used as a data transfer system.

So you want to know whether or not R3D Data Manager is worth the $80 pricetag? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the program.

Pros of R3D Data Manager

1. Reliability

R3D Data Manager is a stable piece of software. That’s good because it has to be since many people are filtering thousands of dollars worth of production time through it in the form of footage.

The program is tested thoroughly before even the most minor updates are released. You know with the program the chance of it crashing and corrupting your files is minimal.

2. Checksums

One of the best parts of R3D Data Manager is it securely transfers footage and also checks that all the little bits and bytes add up between all the hard drives involved in the transfer.

As part of the checksum process, the data from the original files is vetted against all the backup drives. If there is even the tiniest bit of data missing, the program sends up a red flag.

3. A big green check mark

This is the real money maker for R3D Data Manager: a big green check mark. It’s the reason most producers enjoy seeing this program on computer screens. It’s comforting, relaxing and lets you know that everything is A-OK.

A DIT I worked with once said that he paid $80 for the big green check mark. I don’t blame him. The check indicates the transfer went smoothly, everything is in place, and the card is OK to format.

Cons of R3D Data Manager

1. Price

R3D Data Manager is not super expensive compared to most film production tools and software. It is, however, high enough that not every Joe Schmoe is gonna plunk down 80 bucks for a copy.

And I have to admit, the price is what grinds on me a lot when it comes to a product that is essentially sophisticated copy and paste, at least for production purposes.

2. Added Transfer Time

When I was data loading on Below the Beltway, I kept paperwork and timed every transfer I did to get an idea for how long the dumps were taking. On day 1, I used R3D Data Manager at the urging of the DIT and found myself quickly backed up with cards.

When I stopped using the program and did a simple drag and drop, the data loading time was cut almost in half.

What was R3D Data Manager doing with all that extra time? Compiling, checking, and running through those checksums we so covet.

3. A big red “X” mark

If the big green check mark is the absolute sign of comfort, the big red “X” mark is the symbol of apocalyptic hell.

The problem is, it’s not always accurate.

In my experience, R3D Data Manager threw up a big red “X” on the screen on several occasions when no clips were lost, the manual check sums I did added up, and the card was not damaged.

I don’t know why the program put up the “X,” but I grew tired of having to manually checking the cards to find nothing wrong. It defeated the whole purpose of using the program in the first place.

Is It Worth It?

That depends on your financial situation and the production you’re a part of. I wouldn’t say R3D Data Manager is a necessity or a must-have program.

It is useful and can be optimized to do some really great stuff, but all the software does is essentially copy, paste, and check footage. If you have somebody on set already doing that, R3D Data Manager is redundant.

But on the flipside, can you put a price on keeping your footage safe? On making sure it’s all there? The cost of adding another day of shooting (or even half day) because some footage was lost far outweighs the sub-$100 price tag of R3D Data Manager. For $80, you can purchase piece of mind.

For the DIT and data loaders out there, the program is good to have in your arsenal, especially if you can justify the cost against your earnings. But if you’re tight on a budget and could use the money elsewhere in your production, put it there.

The program serves its purpose well, but the purpose isn’t necessary in the first place unless you need the automation the software provides.

What is your experience with R3D Data Manager? Are there any alternatives out there you would recommend? Or is copy and paste good enough for you?

  • Phillip Jackson

    It’s a hard call, I’ve been on a Red shoot where we just copy and pasted and I’ve been on them where we used the Data Manager. I don’t know enough about it to say either way.

    • Evan

      Have you ever had problems or lost footage with either method?

      • Phillip Jackson

        I’ve never seen either way mess up any clips. But I’ve heard stories from peers where they’ve had files get corrupted. It’s annoying that with these 0s and 1s we don’t have as much control over it as we think.. It’s annoying that with these 0s and 1s we don’t have as much control over it as we think.

  • Ben Cain

    I’ve found transfer errors in footage copied via R3D Manager despite checksum confirmation and the big green check mark. That was the last time I used it. Though the checksums aren’t MD5 in Shotput Pro, I’ve been using it for quite awhile and have never had an issue.

    • Evan

      Was that a recent release of the software? I never had a problem with footage while also getting the check mark. Good info to know though.

  • Daniel Quesnel

    I believe R3D Data Manager is a must for all professional DIT’s and DMT’s working on full scale film productions shooting on RED. It helps provide piece of mind for ones self and the production. If you are doing color timing the ease of syncing the RMD (“look”) files make it worth $80.00. I use R3D Data Manager as well as do a manual checksum and visually verify all footage.

    It helps me sleep at night.

    • Evan

      If it helps you get a good night’s sleep, then you cant put a price on that!

  • Dara Yem

    Let me just say this..if you can’t afford $80 for a software that would save you from catastrophe…then maybe you should go back to flipping burger… the same for those people bitching about how the new Thunderbolt cable that Apple is selling for $49 and people can’t stop complaining about the price…ok let move on..I was on a project shooting a on Red1…it was a low budget indie..and the producer and director just wanna use the copy and paste method..and wasn;t willing to pay the extra buck for my service…

    It work out fine..until one day we were shooting and i transfer the footage it all look fine until i scroll and QC some of the footage and the i notice there a were green horizontal line on some of the footage…1) My first mistake was to call on the AC to take a look at it and he said maybe the red 1 was doing randomly and we ok since the green line was in the footage that wasn’t going to be use we continue shooting..but later it came back to hunt me..

    The green line came up again but this time it was in the footage that was a lock shot…so this time i call the DP..DIR and AC to check it…again we suspect the R1 was spitting out those green line…and then it came up again…we stop production trying to find out what was going on…turn out one of the pin in  the CF card reader was BEND…again the producer and director was using a cheezy card reader..i guess u get what u pay for..Luckily we found this out before the set was strike…imagine if  we have to re shoot..I know i would probably get the blame…

    • Evan

      Well, I do not think R3D Data Manager guarantees to save you from catastrophe. It tries to limit it, but in my experience with it, it actually caused panic in instances where there was no catastrophe. And in many cases, slowed down the data loading to a point where it could’ve affected the speed at which the production was moving.

      I also think that just because something is affordable, doesn’t mean it’s worth the money. I can afford the $100 leather iPhone case, but that doesn’t mean I should purchase it.

      There are also a good amount of people in the industry who wear multiple hats who may not have the kind of money to re-invest. Say an AC like me who occasionally does data loading stuff, I am not going to spend $80 on a program that I may use only once a year or so. It narrows the money I actually do make.

      Productions, on the other hand, that’s a different issue.With that said, technically your issue on set was completely unrelated to the copy and paste method. I understand what you say, though, about you get what you pay for — and that’s certainly true.I am curious why the AC was so blaze about the green line. I wouldn’t have been OK with that and I know a DP I work with who would’ve been furious.Were you DIT or data loading on this project?

  • Dara Yem

    On this project I was data loading…they want to shoot in Rec709 so
    there was no need to bring in my Gamma and Density stuff…i just
    brought my laptop..its true on what you said on the R3D not guarantee to
    save you but it at least a 3rd eye for me on set when im to busy doing
    other stuff..I would love to see what the 1 Beyond Wrangler system
    does..or the “The Vault ” from Codex..but might have to wait a bit..way
    out of my league..for now..!


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  • Steve Sherrick

    I have been using the software since 2008 and it has always been reliable for me. It has flagged clips correctly when they are corrupted. The thing is, if you are not checking every clip, frame by frame (which is good practice but sometimes not practical), then you need some assistance to flag these things. Sometimes the problems are not very obvious. Might be a few corrupted pixels, which are sometimes easily missed in a scrubbing of the clip. In one particular case, R3DDM alerted me to a clip that hadn’t transferred correctly. I had it redo it to no avail. I then proceeded to troubleshoot the hardware until i determined it was a bad cable.
    Now, in fairness sometimes the Mac OS will catch some of these things too, with error -36 messages, etc. But I have come to rely on R3DDM to be a second set of eyes and for the most part it has been very reliable. It’s written and used by a working camera operator/DIT. He has run the digital equivalent of millions feet of film through it. When there have been issues (which were sometimes just reported on a few computers) he would respond and address it.
    There are now many other solutions available, so it’s wise to try them all out and see what works best for you. In fact, if you know enough to get under the hood, there’s a lot you can do on your own without a GUI per se. But on a busy set, I’ve leaned on R3DDM for the RED jobs. YMMV.
    As for price, if you are charging for your kit this cost is made up very quickly.

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  • Cheryl

    What kind of drives and connections were being used to transfer the footage onto? What would be the fastest pipeline for transfering, even for dragging and dropping (IE USB 3, firewire, etc.)?

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  • AXsanders

    Just lost data on two jobs in a row clicking and dragging on site with a laptop. Wish I had known about $80 peace of mind sooner…