The first step of media management is to have a place where you can backup your source files. Depending on what operating system (Mac or PC) your editor will be using, you want to format your drives accordingly.
While communication with the post-production department is key, sometimes I’ll go into a job without that information. If that’s the case, I’ll work with a pair of FAT32 formatted hard drives.
FAT32 drives can be accessed from both Mac and PC systems. It’s important to keep in mind that FAT32 drives can’t hold files over 4GB in size. That said, Canon DSLR cameras don’t generate files that large. So, that limitation should not be an issue with DSLR shoots.
Disk Utility is located in the Utilities Folder inside Applications
Select the proper disk on the left
In the Partition Tab, change “Current” to “1 Partition”
In “Options” ensure that “Master Boot Record” is selected as the Partitioning Type
(If the drive is over 2TB, select “GUID Partition Table” instead)
Close the Options Pane, enter a volume name, and then select “MS-DOS (FAT)” in the Format selection.
Media Management Organization
The next step I take in the media management process is labeling cameras and assigning file numbers. Using a sharpie and electrical tape, I’ll assign each camera a letter (A, B, C… and so on).
Then, on the side of each camera, I will mark three pieces of tape with the camera letter as well as a number (A1, A2, A3… or B1, B2… etc.). The pieces of tape are important because as soon as a card has been shot, the operator, cinematographer, or camera assistant can simply pull out the card and stick it on the pre-marked label.
The labels are just one way to help organize media as well as ensure that a shot card is not accidentally formatted. Aside from labeling, you can change the file number sequence of each camera.
If you look at the files generated by DSLR cameras, they are named MVI_0000, MVI_0001, MVI_0002, and so on. As you know, each take is given a file number in consecutive order. Even if you delete a take, the next shot will be named a different file number. The purpose of manually assigning a file number is simply another way of differentiating your cameras.
During production, accidents happen; cards may be lost, they may be mislabeled, a camera might not be functioning properly, etc. By assigning file numbers to each camera, the media manager will be able to tell which card came from which camera and in what order each card was shot. To do so, you would reassign camera A, MVI_0000 (the 0000 series), camera B, MVI_1000 (the 1000 series), and camera C, MVI_2000, (the 2000 series).
Reassigning File Numbers
In order to reassign file numbers, the first step is to format a card in your camera. Then, take a single shot. You’ll notice that the file number could be any random number (ex. MVI_4511). After taking a single shot, eject the card, put it in your card reader connected to your laptop, and open up the 100E0S5D folder. Rename the single shot MVI_4511 to whatever series matches the camera you will be assigning.
For example, since we want camera B as the 1000 series, I would rename MVI_4511 to MVI_0999. Eject the card from the card reader, put it back into your camera, and take another shot. You’ll notice that the file number generated is not MVI_4512, but it is now MVI_1000. Then each shot following will be MVI_1001, MVI_1002… etc.
File numbering is extremely important
Let’s play out a scenario. You’re media managing on a job and you get a card labeled B1. It has files MVI_1000 through MVI_1011. Everything seems fine. The next card you receive labeled B2 contains files MVI_2012 through MVI_2023. Something isn’t right. You can tell immediately that this card was mislabeled because the 2000 series represents another camera.
Here is another scenario: the second card you receive is labeled B2 yet the files are numbered MVI_1030 through MVI_1037. As you can see, there is a discrepancy between the last take on card B1 (MVI_1011) and the first take on card B2 (MVI_1030). Essentially, this means that the real card that should be labeled B2 is missing.
The third and final scenario we will play out is a defective camera. If there is a dead pixel or some other error, the media manager, using the file numbering assigned to the cameras, will be able to determine which camera is not performing properly and report this finding to the camera department.
To summarize, file numbering is another safety measure that you can take to ensure that you are not missing cards and that each camera is performing properly.
Once you have multiple backup drives and you prepared your cameras, the primary mission is to make sure that every card is backed up onto two separate hard drives before it is formatted and returned to the camera department.
The safest way to do this is to copy the entire card into a new folder. Check the properties to verify that the number of files and bytes are identical to the source. The folder should temporarily be named as the card (ex. A1, B2, C3… etc.)
Once one backup is created, it is faster to create the second one by copying from the folder that was just created, instead of the original card. This also frees up the card reader to backup the next card while the system is creating a duplicate backup of the data from the first card.
Sort Folders into Directories
Now that the data from a card has been safely backed up, I would sort the folders into directories by date (Jun12) and then camera (CamA). I would also move any random stills into an “Other” folder, and the .THM files in its own folder “THM” (The .THM thumbnails are actually JPEGs with a different extension).
Depending on the job, it’s important to keep these files just in case. Post may want them for the log and transfer process.
Log of Shot Footage
After organizing the folders, I would then make a log of all the shot footage. Each individual clip should be entered into an Excel spreadsheet.
The key information to put into the log is the Original Filename, Camera, and Description. This should be provided based on the contents of the shot and any info visible on the slate.
Values for Card, Date, Audio, Take, and Notes (from script supervisor) are all helpful if that info is available. Every clip should be included in the log, and false starts or bad takes should be clearly identified.
Rename File Numbers
The last step in media managing is renaming the file numbers. A consistent and well-thought-out clip naming convention is necessary for a relatively automated online. The naming convention should encode important information about the name, and allow the clips to be alphabetically sorted in a logical fashion; Camera, Scene, Shot, and Take.
Keep in mind that place value is important for sorting, so use leading zeros or underscores for single-digit numbers. Files should be uniquely identifiable from the first 8 characters of the name and avoid relying on the directory structure to identify files. (In case they get dumped together for import.)
A proper footage log makes renaming much simpler, as all of the needed information should be readily available in that document.
The fastest way to rename your source clips is to add a new “Asset Name” column to your log, and assign names this way. Once you have a list of new names, and corresponding source names in Excel, that document can be fairly easily converted into a batch file to rename the individual MOV files automatically.
Document Conversion Process
The document conversion process, although quick, is reasonably complicated, so that step can be done back at the office, as long as we have the log with all info including new and original filenames, with the footage.
The renaming structure I use is ex. 101a_10b. The first three placeholders are used to identify the scene, followed by a scene variation. If there is no scene variation, I will insert an underscore instead. (Ex. 101__10b).
The very last placeholder (the b in my example above) represents the camera. The corresponding two or three placeholders before that (the 10 or the _10) are designated to represent the take.
Keeping 8 placeholders at all times, my renaming structure provides post with a file name that includes Scene, Shot, Take, and camera.
The Bottom Line
Let the discussion begin! How do you manage your media and what tricks/ tools have you picked up in the field that have made your job easier?
Looking for mentorship in the film industry? Schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with DIT and Colorist Derek Johnson today! This is where you can get expert advice from an industry professional on your career or a particular project.
Derek Johnson is a Digital Loader/DIT with credits in commercials and films like Need for Speed, Nightcrawler, The Ridiculous 6, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows.
Since 2014, Johnson has worked as a freelance colorist and commercial projects that include Cartoon Network, The History Channel, and Jeep. Other color work includes the documentary The Undocumented Lawyer (streaming on HBO) and Broken (ABC series) as well as music videos and short films.
Johnson works as a Digital Imaging Technician and colorist on feature films, television, and commercials where he values each project as an opportunity to collaborate and learn. As of 2020, Johnson also works at Streamland Media as a Software Operations Specialist supporting numerous feature films and episodic projects. Taking a holistic approach, Johnson pulls from his vast knowledge of set work and post-production to help inform his work.