Celebration in a sombre time

Hi Everyone

Today marks the 19th birthday of RestrainedElegance.com.

Given the global pandemic it feels a bit weird to be sending out a cheery message about what a wild ride it has been, celebrating our harmless little funny kinky fantasy photosets. I wasn’t even sure whether to post, let alone what to say.

I decided that I should because what is keeping me going is in large part light-escapist-fantasy books, films and TV shows. So we hope that our light-escapist-bondage and barefoot fetish fantasies will help keep you going, too. Art is important because it can keep us sane and raise our spirits, perhaps especially when it is looking a bit bleak outside.

I was going to do this anyway but it seems even more important while so many of us are on lockdown- we’re running a SAVE 50% OFFER on all purchases on our Classic Restrained Elegance and eStore shopping carts. I was going to run it for 24 hours, but instead I’ll leave it running for a full week.

Now is a great chance to catch up on sets of favourite models and themes you may have missed from the 1150 videos and 4500 photosets we have produced over the last 19 years. Go stock up and enjoy with 50% off and our immense gratitude. We hope things we make cheer you up and help you get through.

If you want to see all our latest updates on release day, memberships at RestrainedElegance.com and SilkSoles.com remain the most economical way to support us and see everything we produce. The three-month membership for RestrainedElegance.com in particular is fantastic value.

Thank you for being with us for the last 19 years, and we look forward to sharing our kinky escapist fantasies for a long time to come!

Lockdown

The UK is heading towards lockdown, and not the sexy sort.

Ariel has just cancelled her next modelling tour. RE shoots with anyone except Ariel (and at home) are on hold until further notice.

We’ve just finished a long run of shoots and have over 18 months of video and two years of stills on disk. We were planning on a working holiday in Ireland for a month which we’ve cancelled. We’re going to have the same thing, but at home. We’re going to catch up on editing. So updates on RestrainedElegance.com and SilkSoles.com will proceed as normal. I upload the updates a month or two in advance anyway so if one or both of us gets ill the site will update as normal, so long as we don’t get it really badly.

We hope to avoid getting coronavirus, or if we do get it that we’ll have a mild case and recover. Obviously we hope the same for all of our lovely friends, colleagues and customers too! Please stay safe, follow health/government advice especially to protect vulnerable people even if you yourself are not particularly at risk.

We will be filming customs starring Ariel (and me as on-camera dom/rigger if you need me) – contact her at askarielstudio.com if you have an idea you’d like us to shoot for you.

I hope we can avoid panic-cancelling of luxury things like website memberships. Obviously we’ll completely understand if you are ill or have lost your job! But for the rest of us, the closer we can keep things to normal during the pandemic, the less the economy will collapse and the quicker society and the economy can recover afterwards. I’m going to chip in a bit more to my favourite artists and creatives for as long as I can to support them and I urge you to do likewise.

Models are likely to be switching to platforms like OnlyFans and Clips4Sale and web-camming for the duration, since they won’t be able to go to many or any photoshoots. Please consider chipping in to help your favourites if you can afford to do so. Be kind as people find new ways to work. And be patient with these big platforms if a sudden influx of newbies makes their systems a bit unreliable for a while – remember that they will be operating with reduced staff on lockdown too, and data centres and internet service providers don’t run themselves. If stuff is a bit patchy and unreliable for a bit, be kind, you don’t know what sort of stress the operators might be working under.

And I guess that’s my message to everyone: be safe, be kind to each other, support the people you can support, obey the medical and government advice, and I hope everyone stays well. We’ll do our best to cheer you up with some glamour and sexiness in the meantime.

Backup strategies for BDSM productions

Hi All,

Ultra-nerdy post occasioned by some Twitter discussion about backup strategies. I’ve been in the business nearly 20 years and have had to transition my backups to new hardware many times. So far (touch wood) I have not lost anything.

I thought it might help newer producers and especially model-producers who aren’t used to having to do digital imaging tech jobs the way that most webmasters are.

Basic Principles

  1. You don’t have it until you have three copies of it.
  2. Don’t delete it from the card until you’ve backed it up at least twice.
  3. One of the copies has to be physically separate from the others. If your laptop gets stolen, it does you no good if your backup drives all went with it.
  4. Figure out what you can afford to lose and plan accordingly.
  5. You have to have a routine.

Three Copies

Hard drives fail often (see https://www.backblaze.com/b2/hard-drive-test-data.html) about 2% of drives used by industrial backup company Backblaze fail per year. If that 2% includes your single 8 TB external drive with everything you’ve ever shot on it… YOU ARE FUCKED.

Want to start selling all your old clips on a new store system? You’re out of luck.

At least in fetish porn, there’s a LONG sales tail – stuff I shot two decades ago still sells and a lot of the profit I generate comes from these steady sales of older clips, since the costs are all paid any sale is pure profit.

That’s why everyone needs at least three copies of your work. Hard drives are cheap compared with the lost sales or the cost of production.

Don’t be cheapskate. Buy an extra hard drive or three. Think how many hours of work it took to create the data. It quickly adds up to tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds, and many work months or years. Suddenly £100 here and there on more hard drives sounds like a fucking BARGAIN considering how much it cost to shoot what’s on there.

Don’t delete it from the card until you’ve backed it up twice

Your footage is at its most vulnerable when there’s just the one fragile, easy to reformat, easy to drop down the loo camera card. Don’t leave it un-backed-up for a second longer than you have to.

Newer cameras are starting to have a second SD card slot so you can record two copies simultaneously in case a card fails. Follow that maxim- get a second backup as soon as you can. Don’t just read the footage in to your laptop – copy it to an external hard drive immediately too. Two external hard drives is better.

I take small, cheap, external portable drives with me on location shoots because I have to format the cards during the week. Two or three £50 drives might be all that stands between me and losing a the footage from a trip that took thousands of pounds and many person-hours to put together.

Cards are cheap – buy more, I’m doing this now the fast ones have come down in price so hopefully next location trip I won’t even have to wipe the cards during the week.

One copy offsite

If your house burns down, that’s grim. If you can afford it, you’ll be insured. But if your house burns down with the only copy of years of filming on it, you might also be out of business. And if someone steals your laptop on the road, make sure all the copies of yesterday’s shoot aren’t with it.

There’s a limit to what you can do here but tucking one of your portable external HD copies in your suitcase or your car glove box rather than having them all in the laptop bag is worth doing.

When you get home, the same principle applies. But how do you get that additional off-site copy?

Hard drive in a friend’s house works well. (Encrypt the hard drive so said friend can’t pirate your stuff even if they were so untrustworthy as to try). I did this for ages, swapping a big box of hard drives with my ex-wife who lived around the corner (and who is my best friend).

It’s a pain, though. What about a more sensible and automated strategy?

Raw images and unedited video footage are huge. Backing everything up to a cloud provider would be prohibitively expensive for 20 years of raw footage (it comes to 100 TB or so for me!) More importantly the bandwidth of domestic internet connections means it would take a decade to upload.

So you need to be smarter.

What can you afford to lose?

This is the bit of analysis I’ve not seen much in generic “back up everything you have” advice by data security companies. I’ve got more data in my study than many medium-sized enterprise computer companies, but I don’t have the budgets to match. We generate huge data sets which we have to deal with using cheap consumer methods.

Work out how much each class of data is worth to you. Concentrate on backing up the high value stuff. For me, this goes as follows:

  1. Unedited footage and unprocessed images. This is highest of high value because I have invested all the time and money into shooting them but not got any return yet. That’s why you need to be ultra-paranoid of data straight out of the camera: you can’t afford to lose it, especially once everyone has been paid and gone home.
  2. Finished clips and edited photos, in the best quality possible. Let’s call this “archival quality”. This stuff is useful to hold on to because in future you might wish to make a more compressed version is another format. I always keep a “master copy” of edited videos in full resolution, using a high bit-rate codec like Apple ProRes. If you’re shooting in 4K but selling clips in 1080p HD, you’re throwing away the opportunity to sell in 4K in two years’ time if everyone now demands it. Ditto if you kept WMV copies, and everyone now prefers MP4, you’ve lost resale value. Export very high quality JPEGs of images in full resolution too. When I started, 1 megapixel was a huge image. Now people like to download the full 42 megapixels. I wish I’d exported full resolution JPEGs of my earliest images. I’ve frequently gone back to my archival edited copies to export in a new format when fashions change; we’re probably all going to swap to HEVC/H.265 formats in the next few years and people will increasingly be wanting 4K. It’s easy enough to be prepared, it just takes some disk space.
  3. “Sale-quality” images and clips. This is the heavily-compressed full HD MP4 files and JPEGs you’re probably selling today. These are your actual products, and you MUST at least back these up somewhere so when “NewClipsStoreEveryoneLoves.com” opens up you can upload your back catalogue. On the plus side, you might have multiple off-site backups of these already if you use something like the FTP interface to Clips4Sale – you could download all your old clips from there if you needed to. So long as C4S haven’t gone bust of course, so don’t count on it one hundred percent, have another independent offsite backup as well.
  4. Raw footage for sets you’ve processed and put on sale. It’s vaguely worth hanging on to this if you like to allow later reprocessing, but I’ve hardly ever done that in two decades. So the raw footage goes from being the most valuable data on your hard drive to the least valuable at the point where you’ve exported the video and put it on sale.
  5. Maintaining your edits. Saving things like Final Cut or Premiere Pro projects or Lightroom catalogues. In my experience I might go back to an edit after a few days because someone pointed out we left in an “action/cut” call, but beyond that, I never re-edit stuff. I keep a copy for video out of paranoia, but strip out large files like proxies. I don’t bother keeping anything for stills, not least because the skin smoothing software I use is works on rendered pixels not parametrically like Lightroom. So just high quality final JPEGs is OK for stills. I could save 16 bit TIFFs but they are huge so I don’t.

It’s that change in the value of the raw footage that makes our backup strategy different from a lot of other businesses.

We’ve got very high value unprocessed raw data. Very high value sale-quality data that we’re about to put on sale. High value sale-quality data which has been on sale a while. Medium value archival quality data that we might want to strike a new format export from one day. Then low value old raw footage and projects for films we’ve already edited an exported.

To keep costs sane and to automate the process, I use a cloud backup services for my offsite backups these days but I only back up the unprocessed raw data and the sale-quality data. I want to be able to stretch to the archival “master” video files one day, but right now my bandwidth won’t cope with 60+ GB a week.

When you run out of space on your current backup hardware, which you will because file sizes keep growing, migrate your unprocessed data first, then your sale-quality data, then your archival data and only back up the old raw footage and projects if you think there’s any chance of going back to them to re-edit later.

I keep that stuff on general principles, but I’m relaxed about not having offsite backups of the old raw footage in particular.

Routine

Automated backups which happen without you remembering are much better.

I use Carbon Copy Cloner to keep my local backups up to date and Backblaze to automatically backup to unprocessed stuff and sale-quality stuff to the cloud. The only thing I trigger manually is a “push” of data from my working disk to my archival RAID arrays once I’ve offloaded the cards and organised photos and videos into sets at the end of shoot day. Then the archival RAID automatically backs up to a second one daily in the small hours.

My Advice

I hope this has helped a bit to think about your backup strategy. Think about how much of a disaster it would be to lose some of your footage at different parts of your workflow and plan accordingly. £50 spent on another hard drive might literally save you thousands of pounds of lost work and lost sales.

Elegant Erotica, Silk Soles and Restrained Elegance

Hi Everyone!

As you may have seen from my recent posts, we’ve been upping our production of customs.

This has been very successful, many thanks to everyone who has ordered a custom! I’ve got 20 in my work queue in various stages of pre- and post-production for the autumn and more are coming in each week. This is fantastic and we’re having a great time making them for you!

The majority of custom requests are for videos. So this represents a significant increase in our video production rate. It also gives me a (very nice!) problem: I suddenly have more finished videos than the regular membership website schedule calls for right now.

In business model discussions with members, fans, models and other producers I learned that the majority of bondage production in the English-speaking world is supported by the customs-plus-clips4sale way of working.

Custom video customers cover the main production costs (the model fees, usually) and the producer makes their wages selling the resulting clips individually via Clips4Sale and other individual purchase sites. Clips4Sale has a LOT of traffic, and a community of purchasers many of whom seem to shop almost exclusively via C4S.

I’ve therefore decided to change my long-standing business practice of releasing everything on the membership sites first: some stuff will now debut on Clip4Sale and the eStore first.

I’ve also decided that some of the videos need a separate branding, as they aren’t always bondage or foot fetish.

We’ve chosen “Elegant Erotica” for those videos, and the web page www.ElegantErotica.store now points to our Clips4Sale store accordingly.

So moving forward, video clips in general and custom videos in particular will often debut on Clips4Sale before becoming available on the membership sites.

Will it become available on the members’ site eventually? That depends.

If the clip is branded as www.ElegantErotica.store like this:

it is exclusive Clip4Sale content, not enough bondage or foot fetish for it to be at home on either membership site.

It will therefore be available only for individual sale through Clips4Sale and other sales channels including our eStore of course.

It won’t be making an appearence on the membership sites, so if you want to see it, you’ll have to buy it individually.

If the clip is branded as SilkSoles.com (i.e. it looks like this):

Then it is non-bondage foot fetish content suitable for Silk Soles and will eventually make its way onto the Silk Soles membership site. Given the current production rate, I expect every clip we shoot like this will make it on the membership site in time.

If the clips is branded as RestrainedElegance.com (i.e. it looks like this):

it is a bondage clip suitable for RestrainedElegance.com.

If a film releases on Clips4Sale and the eStore first, it will not end up on the members’ area for months, possibly years, MAYBE NEVER.

So if you like the look of a clip and it is debuting on C4S and the eStore, don’t hold your breath for it to show up on the RE members’ area, buy it now. My intention is that all the clips with the RE branding may eventually show up on the members’ area, but I need flexibility in scheduling to manage bandwidth budgets on RE as well as making sure we have enough variety of models and bondage in the videos on the site.

I know this is not the most convenient for you as a customer. To date, we’ve been able to guarantee that everything apart from EleganceStudios.com long films will definitely be on the members’ area eventually, so if you stay a member you will see everything. But with production running so far ahead, this isn’t possible for me to guarantee, sorry.

Business Model and Forward Planning Digression

That’s the end of the public service announcement part of this post.

I know some people are interested in my business model thoughts, so I thought I’d explain what’s going on. Feel free to skip this bit.

For 18 years I’ve had a pretty stable release schedule. We’ve done a few tweaks over the years – from an update being by definition the photos that came of a single 36-exposure roll of 35mm film, to daily updates splitting sets into multiple parts, adding video at one per week, then consolidating to the current 5-days-a-week schedule with four photosets per week, not split into separate parts unless they are deliberately conceived that way (e.g. as a multi-part story with each part in a different tie and a different location). Plus one video per week. Plus one stills set a week for SilkSoles and videos for SilkSoles as and when timing permits, which in recent times means “only when we get a custom video”. I’m proud of never once having missed an update.

This schedule is nicely inside my control and allows me to plan ahead, something which is quite necessary to manage a 6-day-a-week schedule (312 updates a year, of which 52 are video, 52 are Silk Soles stills and the rest are RE stills).

For a while we made cinematic films under the EleganceStudios.com banner, but the time we used to allocate to this has increasingly been taken over by custom videos. We still intend to make Elegance Studios films, but most of the recent ones have actually been long customs rather than our own productions, and the couple of longer films we’ve shot in the last year are still waiting to be edited behind the growing queue of customs.

We’ve now reached the point where the video production needs to step up to meet demand and as I said at the opening of this post, that gives me a new problem, albeit a pleasant one- right now, we’re producing videos faster than we can use them on RestrainedElegance.com.

I don’t know if this is a temporary thing- maybe the custom work will expand even more, in which case the RE membership site model needs to shift towards video, or it might settle back to something more like the one-video-a-week RE schedule. And it’s a challenge because I’m not in control of what people want us to shoot. We can get a sudden rush of costume drama 45-minute films which will need slicing up into multiple parts for RE to control bandwidth costs, and leave the nude-in-metal fans a bit bereft. Or we can suddenly have everyone wanting 5 minute struggling videos with the same model. Maybe the custom production will suddenly drop off, as it did a couple of years ago.

For all these reasons, I’m keeping the possibility of putting clips which have been shot as customs months or years ago up on the membership site to “damp down” these clusters of flux and flow in what gets commissioned. But if the production continues to outstrip the one-a-week RE schedule, some stuff may never make it.

Planning for this is tricky.

I’ve also got a year or so of content plus months of shoots planned on the assumption that the update schedule is going to stay the same. I know a lot of RE members are members mainly because of the stills, so I’m reluctant to go to an alternative schedule which would be two videos and two stills sets per week. Videos take more time to produce and critically more bandwidth on the site, so if I’m upping the commitment on the videos, the stills have to come down significantly.

Most producers seem content to surf the waves of what’s happening this month or this year, but I guess having been in the business for nearly 20 years now, never having missed and update and wanting to keep it that way, I’m more prone to looking forward and worrying about stuff. It’d probably be wiser to make money while the sun shines, pile ’em high while the sales are good on C4S and not worrying about this stuff. And certainly not post about it, which is almost certainly counterproductive as far as sales go. (However hypothetical my discussions, someone always seems to decide it means a complete change of direction and cancels their membership accordingly. Sigh. But I like being open and writing these blogs focusses my own thoughts, too).

In the longer term, I must acknowledge that I’m no longer in my early 30’s as I was when the site launched. I’m now in my early 50’s, and with the best will in the world the update schedule will have to come down at some point. It is possible that the whole business will have a new golden age and I will be able to employ younger people with less creaky backs and knees. But if that doesn’t happen I’d rather reduce my output, reduce the membership price accordingly and gently keep doing the stuff I love for as long as I’m physically capable. Realistically, I’ll HAVE to reduce the output when I hit 60 in nine years.

Left to my own devices I’d vaguely thought sometime around a decade from now when I hit 60 to think about ramping down the video production to maybe one every two weeks, and the stills down to two per week and regard that as semi-retirement.

In the meantime, I need to actually increase my video production while there is demand. That’s fine, it eats up our contingency time where we used to shoot Elegance Studios videos and do other business ventures like landscape photography, but it is totally sustainable for now. It just messes with the RE video schedule a bit.

I could separate off the stills and videos components of RE entirely, that would certainly allow more flexibility. But given how confused customers can be by the fact that stuff on the shopping carts isn’t all on the RE members area all the time, I can only imagine how much bafflement that would bring. I may do this in the future if the video side continues to dominate, I guess.

For now I’ve decided that this is the least dislocating option. The RE update schedule stays the same, we use our contingency business time to shoot customs, I release the customs on C4S as soon as they are ready and they await possible addition to the RE members’ area some time in the future when it suits the RE schedule.

Cheers, Hywel

UPDATE: Foot fetish customs

Hi Everyone,

I’ve just filled up my shoot calendar for the rest of the year, and I still have a few custom video or photoset slots available to shoot.

So if you’d like to see your fave model shot in sumptuous 4K video or awesome 42 mega-pixel still photos, beautifully lit and shot to the best of my ability, drop me and email to webmaster@restrainedelegance.com.

We’re offering a significant discount on our usual prices: you can have a 10-20 minute video or 100+ photos for just 250 UK pounds or 300 Euros or $300 US!

Customs are still available with:

Hannah Claydon

One slot remaining

Chloe Toy

New! Two additional shoot days added, more slots available!

Sophia Smith

Two slots remaining

Ariel Anderssen

One slot remaining, two or three girl videos possible with Lucy Lauren, Zoe Page

Lucy Lauren

One slot remaining, two or three girl videos possible with Ariel Anderssen, Zoe Page

Zoe Page

One slot remaining, two or three girl videos possible with Lucy Lauren, Ariel Anderssen

Lauren Louise

Just added! Four slots remaining.

Rachelle Summers, to be confirmed

Aiming to shoot Rachelle soon, waiting to hear back from her on dates, let me know if you’d be interested in a custom with her!

Don’t Miss Your Chance!

Don’t miss your chance to get a custom foot fetish film or photoset shot by one of the world’s top professional fetish photographers – at a special offer low price!