Filmmaking Amateur | Best Way to Store Digital Video Files

by Scott U
(Georgia, USA)

Lately, I've been trying to figure out the best way to store digital video files. My iMac has a terabyte of storage space and I've pretty much used that up. I have a G-Force external hard drive that holds a terabyte and it crashed. Luckily, I was able to recover the files and the drive is still under warranty so you don't have to feel sorry for me. I also have some other external hard drives that are filling up fast.

What to do with all the photos and videos I shoot?

All of my photos are stored on hard drives and online. I like storing photos online. If everything crashes, I still have my photos. But video is different. It isn't as easy to store hours of b-roll online. Sure, you can upload it (hours of uploading) only to download it again when you need it (hours of downloading). It's just not as easy storing video. So, it seems the best option is to buy more storage space. It's a vicious and costly game but losing old footage is not acceptable. You never know when you are going to need it again.

Case in point; I was recently asked to create a short video for Cafe Campesino, a local fair trade coffee roastery in my hometown. (Get their coffee, it's great!) I had traveled to Colombia with Cafe Campesino last year to document the local farmers and their local co-op of coffee growers. After going on this trip, I know all to well how important it is to buy fair trade products whenever you can. Corporations do not understand "fair" they understand profit. Buy local and buy fair trade, but I digress.

Luckily for me, I had all of the digital footage I shot (Flip HD) in Colombia on my external hard drive. It was a snap to bring the footage into iMovie and produce a new video. In the old days of video tape I would have to have a closet set aside just to store all the tapes. Digital is great. All my footage sits on my desk in attractive casings ready to be edited at a moment's notice.

The downside is that I risk losing my footage if my hard drives crash which means I need DOUBLE the hard drive space for backing up all my footage.

I can see the writing on the wall. The more footage I shoot, the more this is going to become a major issue.

Anyone out there have a good system for storing digital video files?

Any suggestions for storing digital video online?

Comments appreciated below.

Comments for Filmmaking Amateur | Best Way to Store Digital Video Files

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Sep 08, 2023
The only practical way if you need lots of storage
by: Site Visitor

If you have on the order of tens of terabytes or more (which is not unheard of now that 4K quality is becoming more common), the only practical way is on simple individual external hard drives. At least have 3 sets of identical copies - I recommend 5 (a main copy set and 4 sets of backups) and using at least 2 different hard drive brands and at least 2 different hard drive models) to reduce the risk of manufacturing defects affecting all the drives at the same time.
Cloud storage would be slow and expensive long term.
Hard drives in a raid/NAS/SAN would be dependent on the software/hardware hosting the drives and would get obsolete in the future
Tapes similarly would depend on the program, computer, and tape drive.
CD/DVD/etc would be too cumbersome at that scale of storage, and would be dependent on the CD/DVD drives.

Jan 06, 2023
Get BDXL BluRay Disck Burner
by: Site Visitor

Oh, I was feeling hapless when I shot some Raw Video Footage for an event. The footage and every related files became easily 1TB. Now, I am thinking, if I can even buy a 100TB data storage which can be easily 5,000$, still that wont be enough. I will be counting and stressing once I will finish almost 100 events. Then, I will have to choose which event video to keep and which one to delete. Recently I purchased a BDXL blu ray burner. BDXL blu ray is interesting, as it gives you 100GB.

So, it is a good solution. But, if I have 1TB of data from a single event, I will need 10 BDXL blu ray disk which is also not cheap. I found a 25 pack BDXL blu ray costs almost 500 Canadian Dollars, and at some point, I may pay almost same as the price of a 100TB Redundant array solution. So, what to do? Only solution I found is that, be very careful and make the video exposure right in camera so that I dont need to capture in N-Log or ProRes Raw, which creates gigantic size. I am feeling very sad that, only for storage problem, I may have to give up Raw shooing and post production color editing freedom. I will be still looking for good ideas.

Aug 20, 2020
8 years string and going!
by: Robi

I was curious about this and seeing what others have done. Amazing how 8 years later replies are still coming in strong!

My particular situation was I decided to use a four 4TB drives configured into RAID 5 giving me 12TB of capacity. Until recently when a HDD crashed in the array I thought this was a good idea. Looking into the math putting another HDD to rebuild the array has a 60% chance of a read error. Not good.

I've kept the footage because one day I was going to make some videos from it and the day has come... and I'm greeted with a crash.

My approach to this problem is to evaluate what I want to keep and what I don't. I have hundreds of hours of footage. I need to distill out what is interesting and what is not. And further distill that into videos. Junk the rest.

Herzog said it himself at the beginning of his masterclass trailer: "We are filmmakers, not junk collectors."

After this first round of saving/culling I will literally save several TB of space. I am also changing my RAID from 5 to 6. Unfortunately that gives me 8TB of space. Moving to SSD vs HDD I might consider keeping it at R5. There is always BluRay XL... but I would save that for the "interesting" clips and not raw material.

Aug 20, 2020
Oldy but goody storage idea for photos and videos
by: Greenlandic ice queen

Maby you could try to put some photos and videos on disk where you could re edit it later, you'd need a
Rewriteable disk that would support your file format and any content you put on it, if you got a computer with a DVD/CD burner installed
DVD/CD Rewriteable disk you should be good to go or you can get a cd/DVD writer/burner, it would probably be a good idea to store those files there so you have a physical copy as well as the cloud and storage copy. I hope that helps, takuss! (Kalaallisut Greenlandic for see you later)

Nov 16, 2019
Same problem here
by: Filmmaker

I have same problem. I shoot mostly 4k videos with my Sony a7iii. my two 1TB & one 2TB internal HDDs are full as well as 2TB external. One fine morning I just found that another 2TB external just gone. and then I was wondering nothing is safe and I dont get enough money from my clients that I can take mirrored backup data for one single project. I am talking about to keep all the data that i took in one year duration. :(

Nov 11, 2019
Digital Film Data
by: Film Locker

In the UK we use LTO tape for all our long term storage
of digital film data and film content, advertising and broadcast data. It's safe, stable and can be pulled back easily if you need it. Not sure if that's something you do in the states? We call it rushes and its normal that most long term storage is put on this format rather than in the cloud. The cloud creates lots of CO2 and keeping it on hard drives is tricky as if they're not spun they might fail.
Hope that helps! Film Locker

May 12, 2019
by: Brian Bouley

5D will be affordable one day...all the storage youll ever want that will last till the end of time.....

Jul 04, 2018
Storing HD video
by: Marcani

Don't ever store any photos or video online or Clouds because "cloud" is just somebody computer and somebody will have a aces to your files at any time and still them. I film video with HD and 4K and I store my videos on flash drives because every drive can be inserted to the TV and you can play any video without any problems. Get flash drive's 32/64 or 120 GB and this will solve your problem.

Dec 26, 2016
Storing Videos
by: Anthony Canzoneri

Well, until the manufactures develop a piece of glass or gem (like superman uses with parents).

The best we could do is like the governments (National Archives) way of storing electronic data, and that to keep copying the data every 6 to 12 months, at least that is what I remember (it was a few years ago when I researching this same dilemma). At that time it was also super high end DVD's that were for long term storage of data, but they were limited as well.

The other thing is that even if you had a way to store data long term, in 20 years your type of file would be obsolete and still be unreadable. The science of data changes so rapidly, no one ever stays with anything for very long!!

And those are my thoughts!!!!

Feb 17, 2016
Getting more complicated
by: Peter B

Oh I know all about what you are saying. I'm in the middle of sorting 42.000 family photos and videos. My god, what a pain. For photos my nr1 advice that I have now learned is to be mega-critical about what you actually keep and what goes from the card to the external drive and online backup. I also immediately changed the setting from 24MP to 6MP as if I'm ever going to print billboards with my family photos.

For video pffff that is a challenge indeed! Obviously I found your article because I'm still looking for advice like you are... I have had crashed harddisks, corrupt usb-sticks but also DVD's after 10 years can very well become unreadable.

My preferred and advised storage method for photos is external backup on two mirrored harddisks (you can buy that in one product). And a copy online on Onedrive, google photo, dropbox or whatever (I use Onedrive). I then update the external drivesystem every 5 years to a newer (bigger) model.

For video this is not really ideal and it seems an external system is the best I can do since uploading takes to long for video. Then if upload speeds and megafast glassfiber internet is at a normal price I can use the same strategy for video.

Hope it helps anyone.

Jan 25, 2016
"Simple" is Gone!
by: Anonymous

Used to be easy to take, play and store my home movies, starting back in mid 1980's. Pop in a VHS tape, take 2 hours of video, then pop it in a VCR and bingo, your were watching your creation! When finished, place tape in sleeve and put in a cool, dry place. I know, it wasn't HD, and it took up cabinet space but knowing and experiencing the digital hassle I have currently, I'm about ready to chunk the complicated and go looking for my over-the-shoulder camera stored some place. Know what you are thinking and you are correct: I'm over 70!

Jan 09, 2016
Video Storage
by: Anonymous

I have pondered the same issue; "storage of videos." I had a 500 GB hard drive with a 750 GB external. I started burning my files on to DVD's. While I do realize that they are small for storage, they also do not crash. The upside: You can re-download quickly to your PC.

About three months ago, my PC hard drive crashed. The strange thing was that I got warnings signs that is was going. I backed up all of my "valuables" on to the external drive and filled it. I replaced my "baby" hard drive with a 2 TB drive. Lots of storage now, but I will still use the DVD's; 75 discs and counting.

My only suggestion would be to make some sort of spreadsheet to catalog what you have on each disc.

Aug 23, 2012
Storing Video on Hard Drives
by: Anonymous

Hey Steve. If I read right, it sounds like you are storing your video files on your SD cards (the cards that go in your camera).If this is right, then I would advise that you store the video files on your computer's hard drive. (But we know that video eats up storage space. Eventually, this approach will lead you to my dilemma; How do I store my video footage off of my computer?) An easy way to store your video files is with an external hard drive. But even those begin to run out of space (and they can crash! which happened to me.) The best approach is to have redundancies built in - meaning that you store your footage in two places. But this costs money just to keep up with storage. I've been storing my photography online for years. I have what I have on my computers and some hard drives, but any photo that has meaning or has any potential to be "used" is stored online. This costs me about $100 a year. The web is eventually going to get to the point where you can store video online as well as photos. But, we're not there in mass yet.

After some thought on my dilemma, I've decided to continue buying external hard drives to store my video. I use Lacey hard drives. They are very portable and I have never had any issues with them. My wife uses G-Force hard drives. But we did have one of them crash on us. We were able to recover everything, but it cost us to get it back. - Scott

Aug 14, 2012
Storing Video footage
by: Steve

helloooooo!!!------I have the same dilemma but not on the same level as you! My system is up to capacity and I am now having to think about taking all video off to free it up. I shoot a lot of short videos and them string them together to make a video tour or diary. I used to download from my camera and then delete from the SD card but now I don't do that and I keep the video on the card until it is full. I have only just started doing this and I am not sure if it is the best thing but it is a solution and I can easily access what I need when I need it ---- how safe this is I havn't figured out yet! Longer videos are going to be a pain to have to keep downloading but what other solution is there at the moment. I know good quality SD cards are not cheap and I am wondering if I should limit the size of the card so if i do lose anything it wont be too much. I am new at this and am still finding my way around but it is great fun and I thank god for the day i bought a mac!!!!--thanks for your article and i will be interested to see what comes up by way of manageable and cost effective solutions ---good luck---Steve

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