Technology changes very quickly in the world of digital cinema and video. High- definition (HD) video is progressively replacing standard definition (SD) video in professional applications, and hard-disk recording formats are replacing tape formats.
The initial change from analog to digital video was driven by the savings in time and money when Sony first introduced the Digital Betacam (DigiBeta) camera format in the mid-1990s. The current change from tape to hard-disk recording was driven by the same cost savings both in time and also equipment savings since multiple playback decks are no longer needed for in-house edit systems.
And now, with the introduction of a variety of tapeless cameras, the digital tapeless camera is becoming the standard.
At Crews Control, we have collected statistical data on the increase of tapeless formats where the deliverable is a hard drive—and found that from January 2009 to December 2011, the use of tape-based camera formats has steadily decreased—by 36 percent.
The shift from tape media to hard-disk recording adds new technical dimensions to the post-production process, including the need for data compression and a compatible codec (compressor-decompressor), along with a hard drive with proper disk-storage capabilities that is portable and has its own power source.
Unfortunately, the increase in tapeless shoots increases the frequency with which data loss can occur as a result of a faulty HDD (hard disk drive) or human error.
So we strongly urge the thousands of videographers with whom we work around the world to provide a new external hard drive for every shoot. The approach seems to be working; the data loss rate on our shoots is significantly less than 1 percent of our total shoots. Here’s why, and how, you can avoid any problems.
1. Understand Why Data Gets Lost.
When an HDD is the deliverable, there are three major risks to avoid: improper formatting, insufficient storage capacity, and damage during transit. Make it a habit to ask yourself these questions about each HDD that you’re planning to use for each shoot:
- Is the HDD properly formatted for data storage or rendering?
- Does the HDD have the storage capacity for the file size of all the footage data?
- Has the HDD has been exposed to elements during transport that may cause format or file corruption?
By becoming familiar with the elements that affect magnetic media storage and knowing the history of your hard drive, you can better manage the perils: age, utilization, environmental exposure, and occurrence of scan errors.
2. Remember, the Person Who Supplied the HDD for the Shoot Is Liable.
Fortunately, most reputable HDD manufactures offer one- to five-year warranties; however data loss is not protected by the warranty and neither is a guarantee issued for a set period of uninterrupted or error-free operation.
So knowing the age of the HDD, how many times the device has been used, what environmental conditions it has been exposed to, and who was in charge of data wrangling or creating backups are important factors that will help you avoid HDD failure.
You can limit the risks by providing the HDD or purchasing a new hard drive from your crew. Hiring a knowledgeable person to transfer the data and create a backup copy limits the incidence of data loss due to human error.
4. Embrace Best Practices.
- If you are not providing the hard drive, ask for the cost of a new, formatted HDD to be built into the rate quoted for your production and the crew will gladly supply one. When exercising the option to provide an HDD of your own, make sure you provide one with the speed and interface that works best for your crew and their media-transfer system as well as your production team’s editing suite.
- Confirm these details with your crew prior to the shoot; they can advise you about which interface and formatting works with their gear. Most importantly the hard drive should be the right size to store all of your data. Use a data conversion calculator to determine the disk-storage requirements to adequately contain the data from a shoot.
- Accurately store media files, or hire an onsite Digital Imaging Technician (DIT). This is another service that can be provided by Crews Control. A DIT, sometimes called a data wrangler or media manager, is a professional who specializes in media file transfer and storage on location to ensure all files are transferred, stored, and backed up properly for post-production.
- Remember, having an experienced DIT on your production crew reduces the human-error factor as it relates to HDD data loss and allows your DP to focus on what he or she does best: providing you with the perfect shoot. If you choose to do your own data transfer onsite or are simply curious about the process, we’ve completed a five-minute tutorial, which guides you through the entire process. Download the video tutorial from iTunes or click to watch on Crews Control’s YouTube channel.
For more information, click here to download more information about Best Practices for Managing the Deliverable in Video Production.