Update May 6, 2013: This article will give you a good foundation to start with. However, since the original writing of this post in 2011, I’ve updated my workflow to fit FCPX. Read about it at http://bit.ly/ronsfcpxworkflow.
I currently have a 100% tapeless workflow. Except for a few straggling projects here and there, everything I shoot is on the Canon DSLRs (I have projects shot on the 5D Mark II, the 7D and the T2i). Perhaps the biggest challenge in the tapeless workflow is back-up and archiving. What to do with all that digital media. Here’s how I handle it.
First, let me say that I am by no means an expert at this. Frankly, I’m still learning and who knows, next month I may have a completely different strategy. But for now, this will do. If you have a strategy you’d like to share, please, please do so in the comments.
When Shooting Away from Home
While I’m on a gig shooting a project away from my home office in the evenings (i.e. on a business trip), I’ll dump my cards onto two portable Seagate Go Drives (each about 500 GB). In general, it’s important to have at least two copies of the media in existence at all times. Forever. Then, when I get back home, I implement the regular strategy.
- Drobo – a RAID-like storage resource that uses proprietary technology.
- Archive Drive – a large capacity hard drive used to archive media and project files. Ideally kept off-site. If not, kept in a fireproof safe onsite.
- Work Drive – the primary hard drive on which I do the main editing of a project.
- Transcoded Files – If you have an older NLE, DSLR video files need to be transcoded (i.e. converted) to a format that your NLE can easily edit. (Note: most newer NLEs have the ability to handle native files, so this may not be as much an issue).
- Offline files – refers to a stage in the editing process where the files are transcoded to a lower quality format (usually ProRes Proxy) for speed and saving drive space.
- Online files – once a project is complete, if the final video is intended for anything on an HDTV or larger, I’ll create an “0nline” edit using a higher quality format like ProRes LT or 422. I simply re-connect all the media in Final Cut Pro to the new, higher quality transcoded files.
- Project & Media Files – this includes the FCP file, music, photos, contracts, etc.
- Self-Contained QuickTime Files – once a project is complete, I’ll save a full resolution QuickTime version of the file. “Self-contained” means that there are no render and media files referenced. Self-contained files take up much more space than media referenced files.
- Original raw footage to Drobo and also backed up to Archive drive.
- Create a project folder on the Work Drive that contains transcoded files (offline and/or online), media files, DVD files (if applicable), and other project related files. All files kept within their own sub-folders in the main project folder. I create one project folder per project. If a client has multiple projects within a year, I create a master client folder to hold all their individual project folders. The only files not included in the project folders are the original, unaltered raw footage files.
- Copy each project folder to the Archive drive.
- Save self-contained QuickTime files to the project folders in their own respective sub-folder. Then update corresponding project folder on the Archive drive.
- Move project folders with the self-contained QuickTime files on Drobo to a folder marked “Archive.” As space is needed, add larger drives to Drobo or copy archived project folders to a second Archive drive then remove from Drobo.
- Keep project folders and their accompanying files on Work Drive for ONE YEAR (or until space is needed, whichever comes first).
- Also save Final Cut Pro project files and non-media project files (e.g. contracts, correspondence, etc.) online via Backblaze or Dropbox.com (Drop Box allows you to sync files on your computer online and with other computers. You get up to 2 GB free. Use this link to sign up and you’ll get an additional 250 mb free.)
As I mentioned before, this is an ever-evolving process. This is what I’m currently trying out based on a lot of research. As technology advances, and internet bandwidth speeds up, I look forward to the day when I can have an online back-up strategy for all of my video media the way my wife does for her photos.
Other Great Archive Strategy Resources
I tried to emulate my strategy as close to mega commercial photog/filmmaker super star Chase Jarvis. Check out his excellent blog post (pictures and video included).
Also check out dpBestflow.org’s post on the topic.
Care to share how you do it?