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May/June 2019

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Page 15 of 43 14 POST JUNE/JULY 2019 DATA PROTECTION hen filmmakers and production teams put months into crafting scenes and getting the most out of the talent, the last thing they want is to realize their footage is corrupt and un- readable. All of that hard work is wast- ed, and the group needs to start over. However, there are steps filmmakers can take to proactively protect footage and recover damaged content. First, keep in mind that there's complexity in the way modern cameras output data. Each manufacturer "writes" the data in a different way, with their own formatting rules and process. The data is written to various types of cards, and the storage capacities are usually 256GB, which are needed to handle the speed and stunning crispness of high- end cameras. These cameras create au- dio and video as separate files and then sync them together, which is another complication compared to older cameras that created single streaming files. The problems develop when the high-end files these cameras produce get corrupt. Their underlying complexity means fixing the files is not an easy task, and in many cases the files are not playable at all. But there are several steps filmmakers can take to lessen the odds of damaged foot- age and can also pursue data recovery services if they do encounter a problem. MAKE A DETAILED DATA MANAGEMENT PLAN A filmmaking crew develops a shooting schedule that helps it stay on deadline, but typically does not put the same attention to data management. A formal data protection and management plan is vital because it puts accountability and transparency at the forefront. The plan should detail all of the current and future data sources (not just footage), and describe how they are being held, who has access, and how their protec- tion could be improved. Centralization of the data is an integral part of the plan. A team that's been working together for a while might have some old footage on a Dropbox account or on various external hard drives. Move the data to a secure cloud provider so it's centralized and easily managed. Once it's in the cloud you can then manage access rights and the flow of the information. Performing such centralization might take a little time, but it will pay off divi- dends in terms of protecting footage and helping the team find "that one shot we took eight years ago." HANDLE STORAGE CARDS WITH CARE High-capacity storage cards are fairly reliable, but they can still pick up errors. Sometimes these are just glitches, but it's often a case of "user error" that results in unreadable cards. A common mistake is when the operator ejects the card or turns the camera off too quickly after shooting. The camera's electronics are writing data as fast as possible, but since the files are so large, this process can take a few extra seconds. If the card is ejected immediately, then it can interrupt the writing process and introduce errors. The cinematographer simply needs to wait until the activity LED stops blinking or just count down from 10 before eject- ing or powering off. Cards can also become unusable. Moving cards between different cam- era types or brands means they have to function with differing formatting structures. Cards should only be used in one type of device. Allowing cards to be exposed to moisture from drinks, humidity changes or other liquids can cause problems, as can exposing them to static electricity. AVOID BACKUP ERRORS Some filmmakers will consider their SxS or Micro SD cards as long-term storage receptacles, and simply eject the cards and put them on a shelf. However, such cards are fragile and error-prone, and are meant as just footage placeholders. Once cards are full, the content should be moved to cloud-based storage. Transferring a full 256GB card to the cloud can take a day, but it's a "set it and forget it" activity that only requires a few minutes of time. Important footage should also remain on the card, which can then be stored in a media safe. Avoid reusing cards for every project to avoid re-formatting problems. Redundant backups are essential, so you should look at using several cloud providers simul- taneously. If one is breached or inacces- sible, you have multiple backups and remove any risk of permanent loss. RECOVERING FOOTAGE — THE LAST RESORT Sometimes things break despite your best efforts. If you keep the card and camera away from dirt, water and static shock, there's still a chance of electronic glitches. If the footage is unreadable then your best option is to take it to an expe- rienced data recovery firm. The expert technicians at a recovery facility will run various tests and procedures to assess the damage and then use proprietary tools to pull the data in a usable format. It's advisable to pick a recovery firm before one is needed. Talk to a few pro- spective companies about their expe- rience with high-end cameras and the latest formats. You also want a recovery partner that will safeguard your footage, is willing to sign an NDA, and has proven security protocols in place. Filmmakers should understand that the footage itself is their most important asset — and it should be afforded every possible protection. PROTECTING DIGITAL FOOTAGE FROM DEVASTATING LOSS BY DAVID ZIMMERMAN CEO LC TECHNOLOGY INTERNATIONAL CLEARWATER, FL WWW.LC-TECH.COM FILMMAKERS CAN TAKE STEPS TO SAFEGUARD FOOTAGE & RECOVER DAMAGED CONTENT W

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