Bridging the Set-To-Post Gap: A Case Study on Shadow Magic Studios

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In film production, doing your job well is only half the battle. The other half is effectively transporting all of the decisions, metadata, and information from the set to the post-production team so that they too can do their jobs well. In this article, Jordan Maltby, CEO of Shadow Magic Studios talks about how his company, focused on remote dailies, brings value to the film production pipeline by acting as a communication bridge from set to post. 

Digital Revolution

Currently, Jordan lives in LA where he remotely runs Shadow Magic Studios. But, before moving to LA to pursue his dream of becoming an indie film editor, Jordan grew up surrounded by the arts. 

As the son of a Broadway director and lyricist, and the brother of an actor, choreographer, and director, Jordan’s musical theater upbringing made choosing film as a career feel like a mild rebellion. 

“I like to say that the apple fell far enough to be rebellious but stayed in the orchard. I was particularly drawn to film as the intersection of art and technology, both of which were particularly exciting as I was growing up. There seemed to be this kind of revolution happening, and at the same time it was affecting cinema.” 

Later on, while attending the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University to study film, Jordan found widespread skepticism about the digital revolution. 

“I would get lectures from the head of the cinematography department on ‘why film will never die and digital is a fad’. That was around the time the RED camera came out.”

Given Jordan’s mildly rebellious nature, he couldn’t help but lean into digital. 

“Digital was clearly going to be disruptive. Everyone was very confused about how to use [the RED camera], about the new specific workflow that could only be read by certain applications, and I just went on Apple’s website and read the white paper. Suddenly, I was the only one in college who knew how to use the RED camera.”

Whether it was dumb luck or secret genius, Jordan was right. But not only that, he saw digital as an opportunity. 

Leveraging Digital into a ‘Side Hustle’

After school, Jordan continued to focus on his goal of editing indie films. 

I believe that indie films are where culture is made. That’s really where you get to hear unique and interesting new voices contribute to the ever-growing mythos of the human story.” 

However, as creative and inspiring as Indies may be, they’re not nearly as financially fulfilling.

“They’re not the financial boon you’d expect them to be. It’s somewhat of a thankless task, so I knew that I wanted to have some mechanism to afford to be able to do the one thing I’m passionate about.

It was maybe the first time in the industry that it was the younger kids who understood the tech better than the veterans in the industry. The DIT role was created to give more technical support to aging DPs who were just transitioning onto the digital platform. 

So I thought, ‘Well, if I understand the pipeline and then control it a little bit, then I can set myself up for success, especially in the indie world when you’re not necessarily having high-level oversight over everything you’re doing.”

He took a job with Light Iron in LA and started training as a dailies operator where he developed “a bank of knowledge,” to then leverage into his eventual company— Shadow Magic Studios. 

“I got in the tool shed and I put together what was the first iteration of the magic box. I thought, if I could put this rig out in the field and control it remotely, then I could do multiple shows, and I could sort of scale it a little bit.

Magic Box setup in a production office
The Magic Box

It turned out to be a pretty big unintentional success. DITs were recommending it because card clearances came faster, and processing times went down. Then suddenly, we were doing 5, or 6 shows simultaneously at any given time. We hired a few operators, and we started to make it a slightly bigger operation.”

Shadow Magic Studios

The main service that Shadow Magic Studios offers is remote dailies, which they’re able to do by way of their “Magic Box.” But how does it actually work? 

“[The Magic Box] is a Mac with a battery, drives, and software. There’s no needless complexity. And how it works is we take this pre-built box, we ship it to your production office, [so to] not interfere with Local 600’s jurisdiction, and connect it to the internet.

A PA takes the drive from the DIT or loader at the end of the day, plugs it into the box, and then leaves it unattended. We take it from there and work overnight remotely to do the edit dailies with everything synced, and an avid bin with everything pre-named with scene and take, as well as the web dailies.”

Magic Box setup in a production office
Magic Box set up in a production office

Simple enough. Now, let’s go through Shadow Magic Studio’s workflow in a bit more detail. We’ll start by offloading the camera data onto the drive. 


“[On set], we try to maintain a sense of continuity. Oftentimes, DITs are using Silverstack, which is an ideal situation.

All the metadata, [and] look information is offloaded for best practices with the archive. We take every bit of data that is on the card.”

The DIT offloads the PSLA from their Silverstack onto a shuttle drive that gets plugged into the Magic Box.

“We try to [use] NVMe shuttle drives. We’ll download that shuttle drive to whatever our onboard storage is. While that transfer is going on, we’ll also start bringing it into Silverstack and start processing the dailies.

Silverstack Lab is kind of the all-in-one dailies lab solution. You can verify the checksums of the card, it also auto-reads the file format and then automatically applies looks based on those profiles. It reads the whole ARRI folder structure to find the look files and apply them. 

Additionally, Silverstack Lab can pull in everything from the dynamic data tilt and pan, so if there are smart lenses, the focal distance, the ISO, and all these critical pieces of information for the VFX department. 

Magic Box setup on a DIT cart on a runway with planes in the background

We will do everything from sound syncing to bringing in the CDLs and looks from the DIT to applying our own best color grades on top of it, to QCing, to reporting, and being a connection point between post-production and set. 

If we have a fiber connection, [we can] archive that whole day overnight to the cloud, and then issue card clearances the next morning. 

Without a fiber connection, we can still transcode the dailies, and upload them for review and editing with no problem. Uploading the originals is a little more challenging. 

In that situation, we include a RAID as part of the rental fee. When the show is done, we’ll get the RAID back and upload it to the cloud from there, or offload it to LTO.

With regard to ShotHub, which is a little unsung hero in this pipeline, I use it religiously to move projects between systems. ShotHub acts as essentially a living breathing camera report. 

It gives transparency to the process— here’s everything that came in, here’s all the metadata, you can look everything up, it’s all right here. 

Everyone is responsible for data integrity and completeness every step of the way. We always try to get the DIT or Data Wrangler to use Silverstack or something that generates an MHL so we can verify it and keep that chain of custody all the way through the archive.

So, we run the gambit of everything that you would expect to be done at a major lab.”

Different Configurations

Since no two productions are the same— regardless of whether it’s a feature, TV, commercial, or reality— Shadow Magic Studios makes sure that their workflow can adapt to the needs of the show.

“There are sort of few stock configurations. If you’re doing more data wrangler tasks, we tend to only do that on the shows that shoot less than 4 terabytes a day. The box is a small nimble machine that has 2 SSDs built in and a third that would travel. That’s all self-powered with a battery that lasts up to an hour on its own. 

For dailies, it’s much more of the configuration of the system and a battery for the external drives if we’re not doing card downloads so we can be pretty minimalistic.

When it is necessary to do LTO on location, that will be a different configuration. Where it is necessary to have lots of cards and transfers happening at the same time we will stack up lots of card readers.

When we’re doing more of an unscripted show we often reconfigure it in a way that we call the “magic beast” which will have a big battery, 2 use of RAIDs, maybe stacks and stacks of card readers, maybe 2 Mac studios, we can build it up.  We have to make sure that we’re downloading 20 cameras at the same time and that we’re keeping up with the traffic flow.”

How DITs Benefit

Shadow Magic Studios brings efficiency and accountability to each production they work with. But beyond that, it brings a unique set of benefits to especially the DIT.

DITs usually carry a limited amount of cards on set. When they work with Shadow Magic Studios, their services “kill their anxiety,” when it comes to juggling the cards that need to be offloaded and cleared, and whether or not they need to get more from the rental company. 

Another benefit is allowing DITs to stay in their preferred lane. 

“Oftentimes, DITs don’t want to wear these multiple hats. They don’t get paid more to do it. It’s a lot of tasking someone whose primary job is creative. They want to work with the DP to run the iris and make sure the image fidelity is as good as it can be. Having to manage this other thing is a juggling act. Working in concert with DITs, we add a lot of value to that pipeline where we each get to focus on one thing.

We are remote, and we’re cloud first, which means the lab comes to you so the turnaround time is a lot faster, a lot more efficient, we’ll catch things faster, out of your secure environment, so there’s less travel, less time delivering a drive to the next state, which is often the case.

Us coming in and working as sort of a low-level workflow architect or low-level workflow supervisor and having that interaction between the editorial team and the on the set team, and then having the follow through to make sure that everything’s going to work properly for the conform down the road is definitely like an essential part.”

Holistic Approach to Film Production

What makes Shadow Magic Studios so valuable to productions is their knowledge of how to solve those transition-period pain points. Most likely, this is because Shadow Magic Studios not only comes from a post-production background, but also has a “script-to-screen production company, and a post-supervisor service.”

“We have this holistic approach where, when we come in, we’re already having these post-production conversations, we’re already bringing in vendors, we’re already setting ourselves up for success.

A lot of people are just day players where they come in to do a task because it says ‘task name’ on their resume. And once their task is done, they leave which also means their accountability, and their follow-through leaves with them. 

We are like water in the cracks of the street, and we complete every missing piece of the puzzle.  We ensure not just that each task is getting done but also take responsibility, follow through to delivery, and the asset management of the deliverables. So we’re accountable all the way throughout the entire lifecycle of the film.

Not a lot of production companies were born out of post-production which is a bit of irony.”

Finally, we asked Jordan if there was anything he’d like to share that we’d left out. 

“I’d like to reemphasize the holistic expansion into being a fully-fledged production company that can take all of these best practices and incorporate them all together.

I would also maybe highlight that we have a growing network of resellers in various states, in case anyone is interested in becoming a reseller, especially if you’re interested in having a chat. 

We definitely want to reach the point where when you go to your camera rental house and someone is there saying ‘You know, we can be your lab too.’  “Powered by Shadow Magic” is something that we’re going to be excited to explore in the coming year.”

Thank you, Jordan for sharing these incredible insights with us! And for all intents and purposes, this article is ‘powered by Shadow Magic’.

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About the Author
Mae is a Marketing Content Manager for Pomfort’s Silverstack and Shothub applications. When she’s not chasing down exclusive production insights, she’s busy planning a constant stream of editorial content.