LA Mar’14

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Hard drives in the age of RAW/4K

I know, I know. How dull is this?

Well, I see so many comments on other camera blogs about people complaining re rAW and 4K: ‘omigod what will we do re our hard drives and backup? I can’t afford it’.


This week is pretty quiet for me, so its was time for my annual cleanup on my hard drives. We’re talking 6 2/3TB drives full of stuff generated in the heat of business that need to be backed up/cleaned up. So far, its taken me 3 full days, plus some copying overnight. 
Here’s the thing: I will have ALL of that condensed and backed up @ least twice to @7TB TOTAL by the end of the week. From over 11TB. And how was this miracle accomplished? 
Simple. Only keep the files you NEED to backup. 
If you shot H.264? If you converted to ProRes for any reason, erase the ProRes.
If you shot ML RAW? Keep the DNGs, NOT the original R01 files (or you can go the other way, but i find having the DNGs around very handy). 
Apply this to ARRIRAW, F55 4K and RED .R3D files as well. 
Run the excellent Duplicate Detective (Mac): you’ll be amazed how many times you double-copied in the heat of the moment. I found one job I had THREE copies of for some reason. 

Once you’ve shrunk down, now think about your backup options.

I use cheap USB3 drives (@$80 per 1TB, $130 for 2TB) and back up one drive per job. Most of them fit easily on a 1TB. I have one long-form job shot Log-C that I squeezed on to a 2TB. 
I use USB3 because they’re cheap, but if you have a machine that speaks USB3, fast enough to access in an emergency.
PLUS I have a version of all those jobs on two 3TB 3.5inch WD GREEN drives ($115) that have multiple jobs on them. Those I use in a cheap FW800 dock ($50), and I store them in cheap plastic cases ($4 per). 
Total cost if I was buying all of these drives new: @$500. And obviously I’m reusing drives I had already bought during the year, so my actual cost to archive ALL of 2013 was actually 1 extra 3TB drive, so $115. 
If you can’t afford $115 to back up a years work, then what are you doing for a living?

So that’s archive, but what about during the job? How can i afford to work with these large files? 
I bought exactly ONE fast drive that is my ‘work’ drive. Its a Seagate 3TB Thunderbolt that cost me $250. Its great because it has two TB ports, so I can daisy chain back to an external monitor. Its REALLY fast on my 2011 iMac. 
Shooting ML RAW on a drama I will shoot around 128G a day minimum. Double that for DNG conversion – each day is running 256G. So even without dumping the original RAW files, I can run for 10 continuous days and still have headroom.
I can count the times I have to shoot 10 continuous days per year on 1 hand. But even if I had an indie feature with no off days, that’s only another $250 drive! 
Before you say ‘what about triple backup?’: on our fictional 20 day indie we would only backup the DNGs. So we’re talking 5TB of backups: that’s another $375 in USB 3 drives. So a TOTAL of $875 for our work drives PLUS 2 more backups. That’s should be an inconsequential number, even on a film costing >$10k (and if you can shoot for 20 continuous days @$500 total a day you’re doing very well). 

If you have a better strategy, or see holes in mine, let me know!