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
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.
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
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?