It's an unfortunate fact of film and media production that everybody will, at some stage, lose a vital piece of data that their project hinges on. This could be a single shot, a graded sequence or a finished edit, but once it's been lost, the chances are very slim of recovering it. To best limit the chances of this happening to you, it's crucial to be well aware of what constitutes proper file and media management.
It's imperative for productions to have the necessary equipment and best practices in place.
Breaking down data management
Data management is one of those critical elements in film production that sound simple in concept, but are much harder to execute than many would realise. It's a problem that's existed for as long as the medium itself, with spools of exposed film presenting just as much of an archival challenge as a bag of SD cards. What has changed, however, is the sheer amount of media to keep track of. Modern 4K cameras produce simply vast amounts of data, so much so that a normal hard drive can be filled up in a matter of hours.
Of course, the files produced by a modern camera are digital rather than physical, so labelling and identifying them is easier. Even so, the volume of material that needs to be managed continues to grow, and it's imperative for productions to have the necessary equipment and best practices in place. The biggest danger area is typically post-production, but it's important set a good tone for media management from the very first day of shooting on set.
Data management during production
Whether you're working on a small documentary with a crew of two or a blockbuster boasting a cast of thousands, data management on set is critical. In most cases, you won't have enough recording media to simply switch to a new drive every time the current one gets full. This is where 'data wrangling' comes in, and it's essentially the process of managing your files by backing them up to another source as soon as they've been removed from the camera. Most DOPs will recommend keeping every file stored in at least three different places, ensuring that even if one is lost and the other crashes, you've still got a copy of your footage.
Your data wrangling process will in many ways be dependant on budget, with larger projects typically having one person dedicated solely to looking after files, known as a Data Management Technician (DMT). Even if you can't afford this luxury, it's critical to have a clear plan before shooting starts, as explained in a recent article in MovieMaker:
Post-production is where data management really becomes complex.
"Prior to the first day of principal photography, a good DMT will work with the producer and the director of photography to acquire the correct size, speed and number of hard drives needed to digitally store the entire project. The DMT will calculate the number of terabytes needed based on the number of shoot days, the number of cameras and their resolutions, and how many channels of audio (as well as sampling rates) your sound department will be recording."
Even if the role of DMT is being performed by one of your skeleton crew members, clearly outlining these responsibilities can prove vital when it comes to post-production – the area where data management really becomes complex.
Data management during post-production
Managing media during post-production is complicated, but if not handled properly the entire post process can be compromised. The reasons for this complexity are the many different aspects of post that typically happen simultaneously, with all of your files being used for everything from grading to sound mixes and edits. The scale of this will again depend on budget and the size of your project. Smaller projects may have all post work carried out by one person at one computer, while larger undertakings may necessitate complete post studios with multiple workstations all accessing the same data.
To cater to both of these workflows, there are two main types of storage to consider – direct attached storage (DAS) and network attached storage (NAS). As their names suggest, the differences between these two systems comes from how they connect to a workstation. Direct attached storage plugs directly into a computer, in the same way as a USB drive, while network attached storage connects to a network in order for multiple workstations to access the same files.
The intricacies of each system will depend on your unique setup, and it's always best to consult the expert team at DVT to find a solution that's going to best suit the size and type of production you're working on.
In the meantime, check back in for part two of this series, where we'll take a more in-depth look at both NAS and DAS, as well Storage Area Networks, which provide the best of both worlds.
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