TL;DR backing up your footage

You finished your video shoot. You have your cards or drives or whatever you recorded with in hand. Now what?

Ready the computer (1)

Back up the media before you leave the set, and back it up right. Begin by pulling out the computer and restarting it. Once on, close Dropbox, Google Drive, and any other programs that might have a hand on the status of plugged-in external devices.

Set up the back-up drives (2)

Plug in two (2) fresh back-up drives. I say two because one is not enough. Because even if you’re transferring to that fancy-fancy RAID storage from the back-up drive as soon as you get home, something wild could happen. There’s a reason why that “egg all in one basket” saying exists.

Anyway, those Western Digital My Passport drives that come in all sort of colors should work just fine. Just get two. Save one as the back up shuttle between shoots if you want to save money.

If on a Mac, format the new drive to ExFat. If on a PC and plan to stay on PC throughout the edit, go with NTFS. If you think you might mix PC and Mac, find a friend with a Mac and format it to ExFat before the shoot. Drives that are formatted as ExFat by a PC do not work when plugged in to Mac computers. It’s a dumb limitation, but can be really tricky when handing off files later on.

Next, get out your media. How many cards do you have? What day were they shot on? Figure out a system for labeling the media before you begin to back it up. Make sure that system is something that would also make sense to look at once inside your editing program. “20190819-FarmShoot-Day2-Drive3” might look organized in Explorer/Finder, but it’ll quickly get renamed in the editing program once you see it as “201908…..rive3.” Make a folder for the day and then make a folder for the drive/card.

Transfer the media (3)

If you have SD cards, flip the switch on the side to the lock position. This prevents your computer from flipping out and trying to write something to the card if something goes wrong. It also prevents you from accidentally formatting the card in camera.

Plug in your media and begin your transfer to the correct folder on the first back-up drive. Once finished copying over the media to that first back-up drive, begin the copy from the original source media to the secondary drive. Do not copy from the first back-up drive to the secondary drive. If files got corrupt on the transfer to the first drive, then those files will be corrupt on the secondary drive.

Check for corrupt media (4)

Once the media is fully backed up, do a quick spot test. Compare file sizes. Click through some of the media on the back-up drives. If all is good, you are good to go.

Format the media drives (5)

This step is up to you.

If you have ever been looking down at a stack of SD cards wondering which one was safe to format and use, then it might be a good idea to make a new rule: only drives that have been backed up twice and have been formatted in camera can go back into their case.

What is the greater risk? Formatting a drive from a few weeks back that you are 90% sure has a back-up or formatting a drive from the same day that you have just backed up and verified twice?


Now that you have backed it up, why not create proxies? The next post in this series is about creating proxies from your backed-up footage to streamline the edit process.

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