Monday, December 11, 2017

Bigfoot.......and other important footage.

Two big steps forward.  One big step back.  Although technology has brought us better cameras, more efficient
codes, and higher resolutions for our motion footage, it has also brought us some headaches. 

Like archiving this footage.  Just the word alone brings to mind staying up all night in the library, trying to get 
the microfiche scanner to work so you can get your paper (which is due tomorrow) done in time.  Or maybe
that’s just me.  But now that we are not shooting on tape anymore, how is a ‘filmmaker team of one’ supposed
to archive footage for the long term?   LTO tape?  Too expensive for me.  The cloud?  Well I’m just a small one
person business, but I have a 5TB RAID work drive, and about 15TB of ‘Short term’ storage in external drives.  
Way too much for ’the cloud’.  Hard drives?  I use them as short term backup.  After shooting, I copy the footage 
to a client folder on my ‘work RAID’ drive and another copy to an external hard drive as a backup.  After the 
project is completed, I delete the files from my work RAID, and the ‘short term’ archive on external drives.  
But before I do this, I need to archive all this footage long term somehow.  And external hard drives (full 
of moving parts) fail too often for my liking.

Lucky for me, I had experience working as a news videographer/editor before I started my business making 
digital films.  Our station had an archiving system for our footage. As a staff videographer/editor, I was assigned
around 15 ‘shooter’ tapes.  These were half hour tapes, labeled 1-15 which I would use to shoot my daily assigned 
news stories.  I’d usually use one or 2 for B-roll in a day, and another 1 for interviews.  After I had somehow managed 
to slap together a 1:30 story in the last 15 minutes before air, somehow got the live shot up and was done for the day, 
I had one last task.  I had to transfer over any footage worth keeping from my ‘shooter tape’ to a large 3 hour ‘archive 
tape.’  The ‘archive tape’ also had a ‘archive page’ which was a piece paper in it.  On this piece of paper, I would 
note the start and  end timecode of every shot…and what the footage was.  We later adapted this archiving system to shooting with XDcam disks.  Which is what gave me the whole idea of archiving to optical media.  Anyways, here is an example of a typical ‘archive’ page:

00:00:00 - 00:02:30 - Cruise ship on rock from helicopter
00:02:30 - 00:07:00 -  Coast Guard ship pulling survivors out of rafts
00:07:00 - 00:16:00 - Interviews with passengers
00:16:00 - 00:24:00 - Basketball state playoff game ACS vs. West

These ‘archive tapes or disks’ were also entered into a computer database with keywords. Then, when you were putting together a story, on Bigfoot, and needed some B-roll of the big hairy guy, you’d just enter ‘Yeti’ in the computer database and curse when nothing came up.  Honestly, it did help you find the elusive footage you needed to complete a story, quite often.  Next, just to take the ‘big step’ forward and adapt this to today’s memory card based workflows.

I decided to use this same method.  First, I bought a couple Blu Ray burners.  Now there are all sorts of Blu Ray disks.  Standard ones (25GB), dual layer (50GB)  triple layer (100GB) and quad layer (128GB).  The Pioneer BDR-XD05S is 
an external burner which will connect via USB 3 to any computer and burn any and all flavors of Blu Ray disks…..single, dual, triple and quad layers.  It costs $75 and can be found at Best Buy and other popular consumer electronics stores. 

Next, you decide what your storage needs are.  Currently on Amazon, you can buy ink jet printable Blu Ray disks, in the all the various sizes.  

Now be aware that the bigger ones can be expensive.  And prices fluctuate.  But prices on the 50GB disks (which seem to be the ‘sweet spot’ for price) should be under $2 per disk.  I usually pay anywhere from $30-$45 for a spindle of twenty five 50GB ink jet printable disks.  (Currently $36.94 at the above link.)  Which is 1.25TB roughly for $36.94….not horrible compared even to hard drive prices.  I usually have 4 or 5 spindles in my edit bay.  Now I’m on a Mac, so I really only have one option for software to archive video files to Blu Ray disks……Toast Titanium.

Windows users have a variety of options, with Nero being one popular one.  Basically it’s just like moving files 
to a hard drive.  You open your software, chose ‘create data disks’ (as opposed to creating a Blu Ray disk playable in a Blu Ray player) and then drag all your video files to the window.  

Next use a graphics program (I use Disc Cover) to print the contents of the disk on it’s face.

Finally, use any word processing/database program to enter your disk, and contents along with keywords.  Now whenever you need some footage, just check your ‘database’ and go to your collection of disks…..

pull out the one you need, insert to the drive and drag the video files back to your harddrive from the disk.  This might not help you get footage of Bigfoot.  But it can help you with something almost as elusive.  A cost effective solution for archiving for a ‘one man band’ filmmaker.

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema

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