The Slow Mo Guys is a popular science and technology entertainment channel on YouTube created by Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy. Since the series premiere in October of 2010, it has been described as the biggest and most popular channel for slow motion videos on YouTube with nearly 15 million subscribers and racking up two and a half billion views! Their episodes consist of a wide variety of things filmed in extreme slow motion using a range of Vision Research Phantom high-speed cameras, capable of shooting over 1,500,000 frames per second.
The Slow Mo Guys is heavily influenced by Mythbusters. In a typical episode, Gavin and Dan attempt to film some sort of natural or physical phenomenon in extreme slow motion. Subjects of the filming are often some type of spectacular chemical or physical reaction or stress tests of certain objects under extreme conditions, while some episodes simply aim for a fun and viscerally pleasing result, often by the use of rainbow-colored paints.
The Slow Mo Guys is… the biggest and most popular channel for slow motion videos on YouTube with nearly 15 million subscribers and racking up two and a half billion views!
Each episode features Gavin as the cinematographer and camera operator, and Dan, a former ammunition technician corporal in the British Army who served in Afghanistan, as the rigger and often also as the stuntman. Over the years, Dan jokingly noted that he has suffered more injuries during the filming of the show than during his tour in the Afghanistan war zone.
Episodes are filmed in Gavin’s backyard in Austin, Texas, and as the budget of the show increased and more cast was involved, the experiments got larger and more elaborate. The gear required to produce each episode became increasingly complex, too. Puget Systems caught up with Gavin recently in his studio in Austin to talk about the evolution of their channel, but also the evolution of their gear and the computing power required to make it all happen.
“Since we started Slow Mo Guys, I began seeing the world in slow motion,” Gavin added jokingly. But not really. “I’m constantly looking at things, objects in motion, and thinking, what would that look like in slow motion?”
“I’d been working in the film industry when we started all of this back in 2010, but we didn’t quite have the gear then that we do now. We were filming with cameras borrowed from friends who trusted me, and our computing power was, well, sadly underpowered. We had all of this footage and nowhere to really store it. Back then, with the framerates we were shooting, we were only using about around 4 GBs of storage. But I was converting RAW files down to something we could edit and using an old gaming PC. It was ok, but not nearly what we needed.”
“I then made the leap to an iMac Pro – that at least helped me make the leap from HD to 4k, but it still wasn’t really enough. These days, we’re up to 110 TBs (Gavin to confirm) because we’re shooting at crazy framerates, on average of 100,000 fps, but lately we’ve even been pushing that to over 1 millions fps!”
Needing More, Finding Puget Systems
“Things were not going my way from a computing standpoint,” Gavin joked. “I needed more. I had reached out to a few computer companies and manufacturers, but they weren’t really dialed into exactly what I was trying to do. Sometimes just throwing the most powerful components at the problem is not exactly the right solution.”
“Then one day I was watching Corridor Digital’s channel and I saw they were working with this custom builder – Puget Systems – so I reached out! They were one of only a few who I connected with, but their approach was different. They didn’t want to just throw the most powerful, most expensive system at my problem. They actually sat down with me to design something for my exact purpose. That was refreshing! I explained my situation to them; my workflow, my bottlenecks, and frustration.”
Oscar Tirado from Puget Systems managed the consult and the build recommendation for Slow Mo Guys and talks about the process of really digging into Gavin’s workflow for a better understanding of exactly what he would need to solve his frustrations. “After speaking with Gavin, we quickly understood his workflow, bottlenecks, and what he was trying to accomplish,” said Oscar. “Gavin cycled between multiple workstations and software packages, constantly transferring files from one system to another throughout his workflow, which consisted of Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and Final Cut Pro.”
Oscar was able to determine that one of the goals for this system would be to eliminate this part of the process, allowing Gavin to complete the entirety of the project on one workstation. “To accomplish this,” Oscar said, “Thunderbolt 3, a RAID 1 array consisting of eight 12TB drives (yes, that is correct, eight!), and two NVIDIA RTX 6000 GPUs were clearly a requirement! Gavin’s workflow consisted of 8k timelines, using his previous system’s twelve HDD RAID as a buffer for ingesting many days of filming at once. He would then download a Cinemag from a Phantom Camera via 10Gbe to an NVMe SSD from one of his older workstations and transfer that data immediately to the x12 HDD RAID.”
Gavin would typically do this in one sitting, moving whatever media that was on the twelve-drive HDD RAID to other storage and editing devices on his network, depending on what was filmed and when he planned to edit the project. By including these new recommended components, Gavin could now transfer his data directly to his Puget Systems Workstation via his twelve-drive HDD RAID and take advantage of his multi-GPU configuration in DaVinci Resolve. And, if necessary, he could continue accessing files from his Mac OS formatted external drives using the onboard Thunderbolt 3 ports. It was a workflow transformed.
Gavin added, “I could quickly dump all of my footage right into the system. Oscar from Puget System set me up, stacked with hard drives, an extremely heavy RAID-5 which was great! Also, 10 G-bit ethernet for downloading footage, plus I wanted Thunderbolt so they were able to recommend the right motherboard.”
“My Puget Systems workstation is definitely the best system I’ve ever used. My ideas are no longer held back because of the worry that my system can’t handle it. We’re able to do even crazier ideas and push the limits on system-crushing frame rates. One of our more recent videos was shot at over 1 millions FPS! I wouldn’t have been able to even conceive of that before.”
Gavin concluded, “The Puget Systems workstation is my first real workstation; I had grown so used to using a gaming PC. Plus, it is my first custom-built workstation, and it eliminated every bottleneck, it’s amazing!
Gavin talks about his Puget Systems PC on their second channel, The Slow Mo Guys 2
My Puget Systems workstation is definitely the best system I’ve ever used. My ideas are no longer held back because of the worry that my system can’t handle it.
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