The basics of media management

Got a call yesterday from a still photographer who’s going through the transformation and becoming a videojournalist. He’s facing what we all face when we enter the netherworld of technology – and in this case it’s media management. What is media management? What is your stuff (what kind of files), where is your stuff (where is it stored on the computer), and how do you store it long-term.

In the beginning there was the gigabyte. A gigabyte is a ton of storage space for most folks. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigabyte) defines it as 1,000,000,000 bytes. If you go to this site you’ll find some good information on conversion rates.
Exposure/UK also has a good site showing compression and space requirements for different types of video (http://www.exposure.co.uk/eejit/nledit/index.html)…although here in the US one GB generally will hold about five minutes of video.

If you shoot thirty minutes of raw tape for a story and import another five for audio track and other miscelaneous files, you’ll need 7GB just to import your materials. I have a MacBook with a 60GB hard drive and I filled it up with more than 40GB of programs, leaving me with 5-7GB to use on a daily basis for projects (the rest taken by other files I use regularly). My solution is a LaCie portable hard drive – only 40 gigs and five years old and still working. I work on projects stored on the LaCie and can move between my desktop and laptop with ease.
So my recommednation is that you use your computer for programs and have a separate hard drive (desktop or portable) for your media. When I can swing it, I want to putchase a new portable with 80GB or more.

Back to media management – I said I keep my files on the LaCie. When I open Final Cut or iMovie and the program asks me to name my project, it also asks where to store the files. I always specify a set location (the LaCie). Too many newbies just tell the computer to save, but don’t watch where it is saved. At that point they lose their files and have no idea where to find them.
Here are some hints for Mac users (for now). First, look in the Documents and Movie folders. This is where most media is automatically stored (Final Cut usually goes to Documents and iMovie to Movies). If you don’t see it there, go to File>Find and then type in the name of your project. A list will appear. Click on the file you want to view and at the bottom of the window you will see your username and then a progression of locations that show how to find the file.
And next time you create a project, don’t just give it a name – specify a location. Two reasons for this: it makes finding projects easiers AND eventually you are going to have to trash (throw out) all of your raw files to make room for new projects you are working on.

Which gets us into types of files and long-term storage of completed projects. The easiest way to store is to export back to your camcorder onto a tape. But you can also burn to a DVD or even a media file. The latter has the same advantage as tape – you can import it into an editing program and edit again.

There are a number of commonly recognized (universal) video file names. These include .avi, .wav, .mpg, .mov and others. In order for a file to be recognized (be able to be opened by a program) it must have a recognizable name. Nonlinear editing programs use one or several of the file names to create your completed projects. In iMovie you “share” to QuickTime. In Final Cut you “export” to QT.

You can go beyond the presets and create your own custom files. My photographer friend mentioned up at the top of this post created an iMovie with video and stills and was not happy with the final quality. He used the basic “share” to a “full quality” QT. I walked him through “share” and then “custom” QT, putting it in the highest quality setting and then NTSC 720 by 480 size. Final result made him much happier.

He could then put into iDVD and make a DVD project or even drag the QT directly to a CD (if the file is smaller than 650MB) or a DVD (up to 4.7GB) and store it as is for retrieval later on.

That, by the way, is what I often do with my files. Shoot a project, do a raw edit (toss all of the bad shots), log and script and edit, and then store the edited raw, scripts, log sheets, and final project all on a single DVD. Face it – when you shoot that thirty minutes, your best stuff is probably less than half anyways. So you can fit twenty minutes of video and scripts and final project onto a DVD easily. I’ve even made multiple CDs or DVDs up and given to students, complete with a file explaining an assignment and all they have to do is drag and drop into the computer and get to work. They’re all using the same video and same script but their final projects are indivdual (makes a great final for broadcasting classes by the way).

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