Mirrorless, Around the World — Travel Filmmaking with Sony a7S II: Part 5. File Handling
Five months through 15 countries, here’s what I learned.
One of the strange things about the aS7 II is its video file-naming system. When clips are written to the SD card, they are sequential as you’d expect, but surprisingly they aren’t unique. For example: Your first shot of the day will be called “C0001.mp4” then 0002, 0003, etc. The next day, after you’ve formatted your card and started shooting again, the first shot will again be “C0001.mp4,” it’s not a continuous filename system like that of Canon’s. I’m sure you can imagine the chaos this would cause in post production. My solution was as follows:
The first thing I would do after downloading my daily footage was to run the files through a renaming app. I use A Better Rename, but there are several to choose from. With the first card I shot, I downloaded all the clips then added a prefix of “01_”, by the end of my trip I was at “78_C0298.mp4.” Now, no two files share the same name, as it should be.
After renaming that day’s clips, I’d drop them in a folder named for the city in which they were shot. For me, organizing content based on city names made the most sense. If you’re interested in more information on my recommended project folder structure (and really who isn’t) I’ve written more about it here.
Dailies and the First Editing Stage
In Hollywood, dailies are a daily review of the raw footage. The Director and a small team will review the previous days’ shots and then communicate with the cast and crew what they liked or didn’t like. I did my best to do the same, the only difference being, I’m responsible for every aspect of the project, greatly simplifying communication! I’d watch the clips in full resolution, playback the 120fps shots slowed down, do some stabilization tests, check how my color correction might look on the super flat S-Log footage, etc. If I would have just let the footage pile up on a hard drive, I imagine that the mistakes I was making at the start would have persisted throughout the project.
Traveling and shooting for five months, I generated an embarrassingly large amount of footage: a total of 1.53 TB. The thought of watching through it all, even now, is overwhelming. The only way I was able to get a handle on this amount of footage was to essentially start the edit while I was still shooting. A night in at the hotel, a few hours at the airport, killing time on a train, by the time my trip was over I had an organized FCPX event (like a bin in Premiere) of each location with selects and favorites marked.
This is where the Final Cut Pro X vs Adobe Premiere decision was made for me. On my 2013 i7 Macbook, Premiere couldn’t playback 4k video without getting laggy and severely pissing me off. I loaded the same clips into FCPX and it played back with ease. Not being a FCPX user, I was surprised at how much better it handled playback. For better or for worse, I had to commit to a FCPX workflow.
I left home with a 2TB USB3.0 slim hard drive. After about a month, the fear of losing the drive motivated me to get serious about backing up. I spent a couple million Vietnamese Dong and bought what seemed like the only 2TB drive in southern Vietnam. I then copied everything I’d shot and set it off to a trusted of friend living Asia.
A month after that I got another drive, backed everything up again and always kept it in a different bag than my original drive. Two months later I had another 4TB drive shipped to my accommodations in Switzerland, backed up again, and left my previous drive with another friend.
Long story short — Think about the security of your project. How much is it worth to you? How much are you willing to spend to keep it safe? Whatever figure you come up with, double it and thank me later.
At this point, you, and more importantly your footage has made it home safely. Now how to form that 1.53TB lump of clay into something beautiful?
Next up: Part 6. The Edit (coming soon)
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