We are so excited to feature guest blogger Mike McCarthy. Whenever I am asked about the post-production workflow and technology, I always consult with Mike about what he feels is the best. Visit Mike’s website to learn detailed post information and workflow at hd4pc.com.
Mike has been at the forefront of designing the Canon 5D workflow since the camera was created. He understands the camera platform inside and out, and how it writes its media and is a genius in the post-production process. Mike takes the time to get out there and do the research by blogging or reading about technical data. He constantly educates himself about the medium and always has a can-do attitude with a smile. It is an honor to have his brain trust on our blog because Mike’s IQ is about 180.
This is Part 1 of Media Management for DSLRs with Mike McCarthy. Be sure to also read Part 2 for the full picture!
Media Management for DSLRs with Mike McCarthy
I am Mike McCarthy, the Director of Technology at Bandito Brothers. I have been working with Bandito Brothers since the company started in 2006, and involved with projects using almost any format imaginable. Below are what I’ve worked on, among a few others.
I work with many different hardware and software companies through their beta and development programs. This is important to find the best solutions to the workflow problems presented by new formats and tools. I also document many of the solutions I come across on my own website, and do occasional consulting work for companies that are trying to adapt their existing workflow to new tools and formats.
At Bandito Brothers, we have been working with Shane over the past year to really push the Canon DSLR workflow to the limits. This is in regards to both visual quality and organizational efficiency, factors which are both critical to being able to scale the Canon DSLR video workflow up to larger projects. Hopefully, the things we have learned from this process and present here will benefit others who are certain to find themselves in similar situations.
Canon DSLR Workflow
A large part of my job over the past year has been to develop a solid workflow for handling Canon DSLR footage, from shooting through to final delivery. This workflow has evolved dramatically over the last year as new projects had different needs and new tools have been developed.
While media management is a subject that has been touched on by previous articles on this site, this one is going to focus on certain steps you can take to process and sort your media as you shoot, which can greatly simplify your post process. We have developed this workflow while supporting many different Canon DSLR shoots, from commercials to feature films to documentaries. Most of these tips can be applied to any project and will improve your editing experience regardless of whether you are cutting in Avid, Final Cut, or Premiere.
Backing up your Footage
The first step in that process is to make multiple backups of every card before it gets wiped and re-used. Due to the possibility of drive failure, I make sure that every clip is backed up on at least two drives before releasing the card to use again. Usually, this will be a copy from my Express Card CF Reader onto my laptop HD, and onto an external drive. If I have power available, this will be an eSATA drive for best performance, but frequently it is a bus-powered USB drive sitting on the palm rest as I work in the seat of my car, or where ever else we happen to be shooting.
Once the footage is on two separate drives, I rename the folder on the card. This causes the camera to acknowledge that there is data on the card but shows nothing in the playback window. That way the camera assistants know that the footage is backed up, and also that they need to format the card before they begin using it again.
As long as the footage is duplicated on two drives, I feel safe, until the end of the day, when I make up four copies at night and send them to different places. Once I have the footage safely on a Raid5 array in the office, I wipe all but one of the backup drives and return them to the field. The copy on the Raid becomes my master copy, which I use for all the remaining steps detailed below.
Sorting your Footage
Good media management is clearly important for any tapeless workflow, especially with DSLRs. And that goes far beyond just making backups. Naming conventions play a large role in keeping organized. Since having all of your footage named MVI_####.MOV is not ideal, especially if you are shooting with multiple cameras. Eventually, you are likely to have overlapping numbering, leading to duplicate filenames. I deal with this by sorting all footage by camera as it is shot and backed up.
This is a much simpler process if all of the cameras are shooting in totally different ranges of numbers. The cameras can be forced to start numbering the files where ever you want. Once you have the footage sorted and logged, it is a good idea to rename each file. You can do so by using a convention that makes it easier to sort through and organize them. I have a very specific breakdown of how I would recommend doing that posted on my site.
Logging your Footage
Keeping a log of your footage and file names is important. Not just for sorting through the content, but because it allows you to retrace your steps if necessary. It can also assist in automating certain steps in the workflow. For example, the file renaming process. Once you have a folder full of properly sorted and renamed MOV files, (and a few backup copies) you are ready to begin the real post work. I will give an overview of the post-production options and recommended workflows in another post coming shortly.
Looking for mentorship in the film industry? Schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with Shane Hurlbut, ASC today! This is where you can get expert advice from an industry professional on your career or a particular project.
About Filmmakers Academy Cinematographer Mentor Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Director of photography Shane Hurlbut, ASC works at the forefront of cinema. He’s a storyteller, innovator, and discerning collaborator, who brings more than three decades of experience to his art. He is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, the International Cinematographers Guild/Local 600, and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Hurlbut frequently joins forces with great directors: McG’s Netflix Rim of the World and The Babysitter, plus Warner Bros. We Are Marshall and Terminator: Salvation; Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed and Act of Valor; and Gabriele Muccino’s There Is No Place Like Home and Fathers and Daughters. His additional film credits include Semi-Pro; The Greatest Game Ever Played; Into the Blue; Mr 3000; Drumline; 11:14, which earned Hurlbut a DVDX nomination; and The Skulls. Notably, his television credits include the first season of AMC’s Into the Badlands.