Media Management

22 11 2010

When dealing with file-based system (SDHC cards, CF cards etc), how do you manage your files when offloading them onto your hard disks? Here’s something that I’ve read from Hurlbut Visuals Blog.

Media Management For DSLRs
We are so excited to feature guest blogger Mike McCarthy on the HurlBlog. Whenever I am asked about the post production work flow and technology, I always consult with Mike about what he feels is the best. Visit Mike’s website to learn detailed post information and workflow at

Mike is that he has been at the forefront of designing the Canon 5D work flow since the camera was created. He understands the camera platform inside and out, how it writes its media and is a genius in post production process. Mike takes the time to get out there and do the research by blogging or reading about technical data. He constantly educates himself about the medium and always has a can do attitude with a smile. It is an honor to have his brain trust on our blog because Mike’s IQ is about 180.

Media Management for DSLR’s

“I am Mike McCarthy, the Director of Technology at Bandito Brothers. I have been working with Bandito Brothers since the company started in 2006, and have been involved with projects using almost any format imaginable. (Film, SR, HDCam, XD, EX, P2, Red, Si2K, and DSLR among others) I work with many different hardware and software companies through their beta and development programs, to find the best solutions to the work flow problems presented by new formats and tools. I also document many of the solutions I come across on my own website, and do occasional consulting work for companies that are trying to adapt their existing work flow to new tools and formats.

At Bandito Brothers, we have been working with Shane over the past year or so, to really push the Canon DSLR work flow to the limits. This is in regards to both visual quality and organizational efficiency, factors which are both critical to being able to scale the Canon DSLR video work flow up to larger projects. Hopefully the things we have learned from this process, and presented here, will be of benefit to others who are sure to find themselves in similar situations.

A large part of my job over the past year has been to develop a solid work flow for handling Canon DSLR footage, from shooting through to final delivery. This work flow has evolved dramatically over the last year, as new projects had different needs, and new tools have been developed. While media management is a subject that has been touched on by previous articles on this site, this one is going to focus on certain steps you can take to process and sort your media as you shoot, that can greatly simplify your post process. We have developed this work flow while supporting many different Canon DSLR shoots, from commercials to feature films to documentaries. Most of these tips can be applied to any project and will improve your editing experience regardless of whether you are cutting in Avid,Final Cut or Premiere.

Backing up your Footage:
The first step in that process is to make multiple backups of every card before it gets wiped and re-used. Due to the possibility of drive failure, I make sure that every clip is backed up on at least two drives before releasing the card to use again. Usually this will be a copy from my Express Card CF Reader onto my laptop HD, and onto an external drive. If I have power available, this will be an eSATA drive for best performance, but frequently it is a bus powered USB drive sitting on the palmrest as I work in the seat of my car, or where ever else we happen to be shooting. Once the footage is on two separate drives, I rename the folder on the card. This causes the camera to acknowledge that there is data on the card, but shows nothing in the playback window. That way the camera assistants know that the footage is backed up, and also that they need to format the card before they begin using it again.

As long as the footage is duplicated on two drives, I feel safe, until the end of the day, when I make up four copies at night and send them different places. Once I have the footage safely on a Raid5 array the office, I wipe all but one of the backup drives and return them to the field. The copy on the Raid becomes my master copy, that I use for for all the remaining steps detailed below.

Sorting your Footage:
Good media management is clearly important for any tapeless workflow, especially with DSLRs, and that goes far beyond just making backups. Naming conventions play a large role in organization, since having all of your footage named MVI_####.MOV is not ideal, especially if you are shooting with multiple cameras. Eventually you are likely to have overlapping numbering, leading to duplicate filenames. I deal with this by sorting all footage by camera as it is shot and backed up. This is a much simpler process if all of the cameras are shooting in totally different ranges of numbers. The cameras can be forced to start numbering the files where ever you want, and once you have the footage sorted and logged, it is a good idea to rename each file using a convention that makes it easier to sort through and organize them. I have a very specific breakdown of how I would recommend doing that posted on my site here.

Logging your Footage:
Keeping a log of your footage and file names is important, not just for sorting through the content, but because it allows you to retrace your steps if necessary, and it can also assist in automating certain steps in the work flow, for example the file renaming process. Once you have a folder full of properly sorted and renamed MOV files, (and a few backup copies as well) you are ready to begin the real post work. I will give an overview of the post production options and recommended work flows in another post coming shortly.”

A Media Manager Has Your Back

In the world of HDSLR technology, media management is a very important position. Every Elite Team member has held this position at some point during the untitled Navy Seal Movie to gain an understanding of HD image capture in a small footprint work-flow system and they all have jumped in head first!

The unique skill set that my Elite Team brings is that they all have a film background and are comfortable with certain rituals that accompany being a motion picture film loader and 2nd assistant cameraman. These include: managing the truck; keeping track of the gear and specialty pieces of equipment; creating an inventory and log; assessing how many magazines you have to load and color coding it according to the stock; labeling the magazines with the date, job, film stock and amount loaded on the magazine itself; and writing a camera report with the same information.

The system we designed for the untitled Navy Seal Movie is a mixture of the traditional film loader combined with the DIT job in the digital world. On our movie, Mike McCarthy who is a brilliant post production guy at Bandito Brothers with an IQ that I swear is above 180, set up our media manager work-flow system. The Media Manager station is very simple and compact. Sticking with the small footprint approach we employ a Mac Book Pro Laptop, a 24” HD Cinema Display monitor, and 4 External 500GB hard drives.

We shoot 10 to 15 minutes on a 8GB card. I like using the 8GB cards the best because the counter on the top of the camera kicks in depending on jpeg settings at approximately 15 minutes of media recorded. This is a great gauge. Once the counter starts to come off of 999 we re-load the card. Just like a 1000 foot magazine on a film camera.

There are three important reasons to do it this way:

1. We can get that to the media manager and he can check the focus on his big monitor. We all know how critical the focus is with these cameras.
2. The cards tend to heat up and when that happens the noise factor goes up. So keeping a fresh card in there is very good way to keep the image as clean as possible.
3. It promotes a steady pace of backing up cards, so if for any reason something happened to the camera or the card you are not losing a whole day worth of footage.

In our work-flow system, the 8GB card from the 5D camera goes to the media manager. He downloads the media into the computer and simultaneously sends it to the 4 external hard drives. After the download is complete, he checks for focus and exposure and labels each set-up for the assistant editor with as much detail and description as possible. Then, he formats each card before sending it back to the cameras in the field. When the cards go back to the field to be reused, the camera assistant knows to double check that each card is coming back empty.

Next, one hard drive is shipped to the editor to start logging the footage; one is a back up if the original one gets lost in shipping. A third is for the director to view on his laptop. The last one is a “cloned master “of what we sent to the editor, which is held in post. This system has been successful in delivering the entire equivalent of 1.8 million feet of film safely into the edit room.

And here’s another good read: Managing Footage in Tapeless Workflows.




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