One of the biggest challenges we face as a company often surprises our clients… it also isn’t something many people are going to think about when envisioning the creative realities of film production.

People are generally aware of the weeks of painstaking development and numerous in-house tests, mixed in with the reams of schedules, licenses and miscellaneous paperwork that are generated for any production.

But once the battalion of crew and equipment are assembled on the day, everyone’s thoughts are on executing the concept. Although there is one unglamorous task which is possibly the most important – capturing, storing and keeping your footage safe.

The acquisition of footage always takes centre stage; with most people assuming that the hardest and most demanding process in producing a film is preparing for and executing the shoot, but that is literally only half the story! What then happens with that all-important footage is often over-looked.

Our ‘Red Epic’ digital cinema camera takes 5K raw HDRx image data from its award-winning 35mm sensor at a rate of 124MB for every second of footage.

That’s the equivalent amount of data as a 5-minute full HD YouTube video recorded into every second of Red footage and all that uncompressed colour and detail quickly adds up.

By recording onto specialist 240GB SSDs, that cost a whopping $1400 each we can allow ourselves 33 minutes of filming before a magazine change. Once the SSD is full, we swap it for a fresh drive and begin unloading the footage onto our on-location systems in order to make the card ready for use again.

To put this into perspective, 240GB is the equivalent data of the complete Lord of the Rings Blu-ray Trilogy captured into 33 minutes of footage, and this is where the maths starts to swing out of our favour…

The limits of today’s technology means it takes around an hour to transfer the footage from a card that takes only 30 minutes to fill. That just doesn’t add up and we all know how irritating copying files can be. So, we need a bank of fresh cards just to keep up with the rate of filming and ensure minimum downtime on a shoot.

Next, take into account that we need to both store the footage AND back it up.

For every 240GB card we fill, we actually generate 480GB of data that needs somewhere to live. This is around the same amount of storage that a home computer would have, for only half an hour of footage!

Once we get back to the studio from an average shoot, we’ve generally filled around 4 cards amounting to a grand total of 1.9TB of data with redundancy.
To make it more mind boggling, big projects can have weeks of shoots generating 1.9TB a day! That adds up to over 10TB of raw footage for some jobs, that’s almost 20 average home computers worth of storage, and at any time we’d have multiple productions going on in unison.

This is where the advent of digital filmmaking has caused an awkward point for high-end filmmakers. We no longer record onto celluloid or tape and in turn we no longer have a physical element to our footage that can be stored. Gone are the days of popping your reels and tapes into boxes and archiving them, they now need computing power and computing space in order to exist.

We currently upkeep a RAID server with space for over 50TB of live projects networked to a suite of Mac Pro systems that allow staff members to seamlessly collaborate with each other whilst being completely backed up and protected from any nefarious events. On top of this we have hundreds of TB’s of long-term archive storage and off site storage locations for jobs that are completed and may need to be reinstated in the future.

Every stage of a production needs a raft of professionals to facilitate its execution. Film shoots are elaborate, sprawling, forces of nature and it’s only through proper training and decades of experience that you can guarantee the creative content of a production, as well as the long term investment in the project!