Archiving Your Original Files

In the rush to finish a project, it's easy for the original source files used to create the project -- the raw video, audio, or photographs -- to fall through the cracks and become lost. Often times, you don't even realize that things are lost until months later, when you want to re-edit the piece, or re-use or reference the footage for a new purpose. When it's months after the fact, old media may have been discarded or overwritten, memories are fuzzy, and people involved in the project have moved on and are more difficult to contact. Therefore, it's best to archive your source on a regular basis.

The best way to do this is to purchase an external Firewire or USB hard drive and use that as a central repository of all your media. You can capture media directly to the external drive, or simply use it as a back-up. Here are some basic steps:

  • Create a directory structure that is logical and intuitive: organize files by date, media (video, photos, audio), by author or creator, by subject, or some other system of categorization that makes sense to your project. It may seem obvious now, but
  • When capturing or importing media, make sure to do it in a raw or uncompressed format. This guarantees that you'll have as high-quality a copy of your media as possible. The files will take up more space, but it's worth it in the long run. In the process of compression, data is thrown out to reduce file size. While you can always add compression to a file, you can never take it away from a file that's been compressed: lost pixels are lost. Having the full-quality media gives you infinitely more export or output options in the long run.
  • External hard drives can fail or become damaged or lost, so the more places you have files backed up, the better! External hard drives are inexpensive, so it may be worth it to purchase two, to safeguard the future of your footage.

If you can't afford an external hard drive -- or if it's not practical for your needs --then there are other archiving options.

  • If you have a CD or DVD burner on your computer, you can burn a data CD or DVD of your files. DVDs will offer more space: a data DVD can hold up to 4.7 GB of data, while a data CD can only hold about 700 MB. (1 GB, or gigabyte, = 1000 MB, or megabytes, of information.) Label your CD or DVD and store it somewhere safe where it won't get scratched or be damaged by heat. Again, there is safety in numbers, so make multiple back-ups and store them in different places!
  • Another options is to use an online service like Streamload. A free account gets you 25GB of online storage space. Just upload your files (be patient--uploads tend to be much slower than downloads) and presto: a safe offsite back-up you can access from any PC. The only hitch with the free account is that your download bandwidth is limited to 100MB per month. If disaster strikes and you need to retrieve all your files, you'll probably need to upgrade to one of the fee-based accounts, which start at $4.95 per month for unlimited storage and a number of other options. 

Finally, if you have footage on video- or audio-tape, remember to label and save the original tapes! That way you can always re-capture footage as a last resort.

Happy archiving!