There are important lessons to be learned from Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. The popular Netflix show is a cautionary tale of drugs, arson, stalking, illegally breeding wildlife and relying way too heavily on sequined leopard print.
In the aptly titled episode, “Playing with fire,” a blaze tears through the GW Zoo’s production studio, killing seven crocodiles and destroying countless hours of footage. Was it deliberately set by Joe Exotic, or his equally motivated arch nemesis Carol Baskin? Digging even deeper down this wormhole of depravity and missing teeth, one might point a finger at at Reality Producer Rick Kirkham. Though the answer is most likely a combination of all these theories, the show’s fans who work in television and film seemed to be the first to decry the biggest lesson of all on social media: Data Management.
On that note, I asked my talented network of professionals about their methods of storing the files that their livelihoods so heavily depend on. So who is the Data King? Let’s find out.
Rick and I have spent many of hours working in post-production together. He has one of the best workflows for post-production I’ve ever seen, whether he’s working on feature films or short form content. However, is his file management and storage up to par? Check out the audio interview below.
- 16 TB Raid Drive for Current Clients in office
- 10 TB Drive (recent clients) in office
- 6 TB Working drive for personal work
- All files are cloud-backed up through Backblaze
Video Producer, Shooter, Editor
Luke is extraordinarily talented and a technical expert in just about all phases of production. He is the coveted triple thread (Producer, Shooter, Editor). His method for backing up data is similar to mine — it comes down to hard drives and a spreadsheet for his video files. For his photos, he stores them in the cloud. For priority clients or projects, he makes sure the client or partner company retains a copy of their files. So his method is reliant on multiple copies of raw footage in the hands of those with a stake in the project’s success.
Audio, New York
Brett and I have had the pleasure of working together on many shoots dating back to an IKEA campaign in 2016. He brings his A-Game and dry sense of humor wherever he goes, providing a much needed dose of levity to the most stressful of days. With Brett on board, you can focus on other things because you know audio is covered.
Brett backs up all media on an external hard drive and retains those files as long as his client requests, but usually much longer. Most days files stay on there for about 9–12 months before being deleted. It’s also important to note that when Brett delivers audio files, it’s usually to a Producer who then backs up all footage and audio from the day at least 2X to 3X. So his audio files essentially serve as the backup of the backup.
In 10 years, I’ve been asked several times if I still have the files (just to review and talk) But only once have I been asked to send the files over again because their hard drive was destroyed. I don’t think they had a backup- it was a low budget doc. I sent them the files again, all was good.
Director of Photography, London
Malcolm and I met on a commercial for Marriott Hotels being shot in London in 2014 and have since been friends and met for a pint whenever I’m across the pond. As predominantly a shooter (and less of an editor) Malcolm holds a similar responsibility to retaining footage that Audio expert Brett Ainslie does — his footage is essentially retained for his own purposes and a last-resort backup since he delivers footage to a production company or editor who then retains responsibility for it.
A lot of the time my drives are on the desk next to my computer but I do keep them in a locked cupboard and behind some books on a bookcase when I go away. I started this after a friend of mine was moving house packed his stuff into boxes went for dinner with his GF and when came back had been burgled taking the whole computer box including back up drives! I don’t use multiple drives. A lot of my work is production only so its less required for me to retain backups as that falls in the responsibility of the editor. . I feel like there is usually someone here, + it would be four lock to get in and the downstairs flat would be first not a risk of flood as no one above, fire maybe but we have fire doors and alarms. But I am worrying about more now haha!
Joe and I crossed paths when I had sold him my old laptop and he was coincidentally about to attend the same graduate program I did. Joe is currently a Freelance Video Editor for Harvard University and MIT, and has years of honed technical chops.
Mine is pretty simple. I have current project files, footage, etc on my imac, three external hard drives and then finally on google drive. So, my files are backed in four places. I’ve been told that’s a bit much, but I once dropped a drive that was not backed up anywhere. I lost everything. Never going through that again.
Video Editor, Photographer
Chris and I worked together in an in-house creative team, as well as several projects since. He works off external SSD drives while backing up his Adobe Premiere project files in the Adobe cloud. As well, his entire project folder (with folders within for Premiere Project, Footage, Graphics including AE files, Audio and sub folders for Music) all get backed up to secondary external drives once complete.
Most of what I work on for video, also usually exists on an “initial” backup drive of just footage as well. So in reality while I am working on a project it lives on one SSD… and when complete the whole thing gets backed up to a second traditional external HD.
Chris also has a specialty in real estate photography. His method for backing up those smaller photography files is more geared towards the cloud.
My originals really only live in one place at a time… first on a “working” SSD — although I rarely format a memory card before I have processed the images and uploaded finals to an online source. Photography only projects are obviously much smaller so theoretically easier to back up to the cloud. Also, Amazon Prime members get I believe an unlimited cloud storage for photos. Personal photos “finals” are usually uploaded to Flickr, and often Facebook and sometimes Amazon. Real estate photos “finals” are uploaded to my cloud service.
Call me a cynic, but I’ve always operated under the assumption that my drives will eventually fail, and that something bad will happen to my apartment. Whether fire, flood, theft, I’ve always been waiting for the other shoe to drop so my method of managing data roots in assuming the worst and preparing for the best. My system is also constantly evolving as cloud-backup options are getting increasingly accessible. Though when things get busy, I often fall back on the trusted and true methods.
Each drive I acquire is assigned a unique name, after actors, artists and writers I admire and will remember. IE: Macklemore, George Ezra, Billy Wilder, Ann-Margret, Jack Lemon, RuPaul, Elizabeth Moss and Rachel Bloom.
A database in a google worksheet which tracks every project, the client it pertains to, where it is stored and the date that file was last worked on. Monthly, I download this file and back it up in the cloud.
- My highest priority projects are backed up a minimum of 3X, in at least 3 separate locations locations geographically (IE, office, storage unit, sisters apartment) and each drive is incased in a fireproof and waterproof case.
- My lower priority are backed up between 1X and 2X and stored in least 2 locations.
- My method is heavily reliant on physical drives because it can be so difficult to upload and download large 4k video files. However, as cloud-based backup systems continue to be more accessible, I am continuing to back up more of my files this way.
Crown Someone, Already
Someone who operates less on the technical side might be wondering why we don’t just backup everything on the cloud. While it’s true that some people do, there are issues that prohibit those who work in film, television and video production from 100% adopting cloud-based file storage. For the 4K, 6k and even 8k video files that take up many terabytes of space, uploading and retrieving those files from a cloud can be a difficult and time consuming process. This leaves us heavily reliant on external hard drives and servers. Eventually, technology will advance and our broadband will increase, making file size less of a road block to cloud storage. But for today, it’s still necessary to rely on physical drives.
Don’t get stuck in your old ways — technology changes quickly, new options open up so change with them. There will be a day when physical hard drives are a thing of the past, so while we all may be reluctant to abandon the security of a metal drive that worked for so many years, it’s important to adapt to those changes.
So who is the ‘Data King?’ Unfortunately no one. (womp womp). There is no one-size fits all approach and no one’s method is perfect. Rick has partially adapted to the cloud, Luke ensures safety of files through client copies, Brett goes above and beyond with storage of backups well beyond his required scope, Malcolm delivers footage to clients and keeps a spare, Chris files is photos in various cloud-based locations and I utilize multiple locations for physical drive backups and rely on a database.
Everyone has a method that works for them. Create one that works for you.
Thank you for reading. I’m the founder and principal of RMP NYC, a strategic video production company based in NYC. Visit our website for more information, or reach out with any questions on data management practices.