Case Study with Valentina Vee

About Valentina Vee

Puget Systems: Tell us about the work you do?

Vee: I’m a freelance director, cinematographer, and editor and I work with clients all over the world. In the past few years, I have directed and shot a docu-series for Discovery, several PSA-style videos with a total of over 200M views, and a travel show spanning 10 countries. I like to focus on creating content that helps people, whether it is educational, directly related to a charity, or is spreading a positive message. I also work with tech companies like Aputure and Adobe to teach cinematography and editing workshops.

Puget Systems: What type of projects bring you the most satisfaction?

Vee: The most satisfying projects are those that have some kind of direct impact on the viewer. For example, a few years ago I directed a fundraising video for a young boy suffering from Sanfilippo Syndrome (aka Children’s Alzheimers). That video managed to raise $1,000,000 towards a new clinical trial for him. Another video that I directed/shot/edited for Prince EA was about how women are affected by the beauty standards they see on social media. The comments from women on that video had me in tears. So for me, the role on set isn't as important as the outcome of the project. 

Tools of the Trade

For directing and pre-production, Vee uses a combination of Google Docs, Trello, Evernote, Apple Notes, and her trusty Shinola notebooks where she jots down all her ideas, storyboards, and shot diagrams. She rents most of her cameras but she owns several camera systems (Sony, Canon, Panasonic, and Fujifilm). If the project requires it, Vee will rent other cameras – recently she's been shooting a lot on the Red Gemini and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k.

As an Aputure ambassador, Vee uses mostly Aputure lights and accessories for all her lighting setups. For post, she uses the Adobe Creative Cloud – Premiere Pro, After Effects, Media Encoder, Audition, Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, and Bridge.

Technical Challenges

Before switching to a Puget workstation, Vee worked on a 2013 iMac. But it became unusable and she switched to a 2016 MacBook Pro for her editing work. With a rapid increase in file sizes and bitrates over the last few years, it became increasingly clear that she needed a powerhouse workstation.

Puget Systems: What were the bottlenecks in your workflow while using an iMac?

Vee: Because these days I shoot everything in 4k, the biggest challenges come in offloading, storing, and playing back footage. A lot of digital content is made under a tight timeline and creating proxies is impossible, so I’m glad I have a Puget PC that can play back 4k footage without breaking a sweat. 

With my old setup, it was impossible to keep more than one program open at a time – not enough RAM, not a strong enough graphics card – the computer just wasn’t pulling its weight. You know you have a problem when you’re playing back a video in Premiere Pro and you press stop, but the playhead only stops 3 seconds later. It became impossible to edit because I had to wait 3 seconds after I pressed any key for the computer to register the move. And with a big 13-episode series coming up (with 16 tbs worth of 4k footage), I knew that I needed an upgrade asap.

Working with Puget Systems

Puget Systems: Why did you select Puget Systems and what has been your experience so far?

Vee: Honestly, the new Mac Pro had just come out and I was salivating over it, but the price tag for the build I wanted was around $11,000. I could not justify spending that much on what is basically just the name “Apple.” I know a few friends who had built custom PCs in the past, but I couldn't do that myself because I’m very much not a hardware person. I don’t know the ins and outs of GPUs, motherboards, etc. I knew that I needed to run several programs at once and I knew that I needed to easily edit in 4k. I asked my friend Sam Mestman (of Lumaforge and and he referred me to Puget Systems. I reached out to a representative and told him exactly what I needed.

The best thing about my Puget Systems workstation is the time I am saving in every aspect of my workflow. I don’t have to wait to start editing by creating proxies. While editing, I don’t have to change the playback resolution to 1/4 just to get smooth playback. When exporting, I know the videos will be done much faster than I am used to. In short, working on the Puget Systems workstation is like butter – everything cuts really easily.

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