As a media professional, video editor, colorist, or media ops person you have no doubt had to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about your file delivery workflow. The file sizes of raw footage is a huge issue for most media professionals when dealing with time-critical projects and tight production budgets. Let’s break down some of the considerations you should keep in mind when planning out your file delivery workflow:
Planning your RAW footage Transfer workflow
How large are your files?
When shooting high-quality video you are likely to produce very large raw files. Before you kick off your on-set shooting you should estimate how much footage you are likely to generate each day. Depending on the format, frame rate, and length you could have wildly different file size outputs. Here is a quick video file size calculator to make it easier to estimate your footage output: https://www.digitalrebellion.com/webapps/videocalc
What options do you have?
There are 3 primary options for handling deliveries that are greater than 20 GB in file size.
- Put it on a hard drive and ship it through the mail
- Courier your hard drive or hand deliver it
- Send the data using an online file transfer tool
Each of these options has its place in your planning process. If you are sending less than 20 GB or your deliveries are not time critical then something like Google Drive or Dropbox can make a lot of sense. At that size, cost should be your main concern instead of transfer time. If you are sending more than 20 GB and either you or the recipient does not have a large upload or download speed then shipping hard drives is a logical option.
If you are sending a lot of data but your only sending it locally then it could make sense to courier a hard drive or hand deliver the data to its destination. Another common scenario is that your shooting footage in the field but are intending to travel back to the destination it’s being edited in. In this case, as long as you have enough storage capacity it could make sense to bring it with you and hand deliver it as long as that fits within the project timing. Last but not least the most scalable option is to send your data using an online file transfer service. If both you and the recipient have sufficient bandwidth this can be the most convenient option and the least prone to delays.
It offers the greatest flexibility to react to situations that are unanticipated with the fastest turnaround time. Tools like massive.io are a good option in this instance. You want to choose an online file transfer tool that can make the most of you and your recipients’ available internet speed. For example, many companies use FTP to handle their deliveries but due to issues with FTP underlying protocol (TCP), it is common to see FTP only being capable of sending data at 10% of your total transfer speed. MASV is built to send data at least 90% of your total available transfer speed over any distance.
What is the frequency of your deliveries?
Frequency matters when determining your file transfer workflow. As mentioned previously if you have the storage capacity in the field it could make sense to store all your raw footage on a drive and just bring it with you when completed. More often than not you will be on a tight production schedule and need to edit your files while the footage is being captured. In this case, a common occurrence is users will shoot all their on-set footage over the course of a week and each day the footage is transferred using MASV from a location with a decent internet connection back to the post-production facility where the footage is to be edited.
This workflow allows you to not have to keep as much storage on hand in the field and makes it possible to start the editing process in parallel with the shooting. Frequency also matters if you are on the broadcast side of this equation. Although you may be receiving more compressed footage if you’re dealing with tens or hundreds of large deliveries per month from varying inputs it is really important to have a scalable and predictable system in place to handle these deliveries. Depending on postal services or FTP is dangerous for being capable of scaling your operations it is important to use a system that really is designed to scale and makes it easy to manage your deliveries.
How many users are you sending or receiving files from?
Let’s say you need to send a very large file to three recipients at the same time. Those three recipients are in different offices or parts of the world. In this case, you should consider using an online file transfers service instead of shipping a hard drive. The reason is that a hard drive can only be shipped to one location without needing to use multiple drives and pay the shipping cost for multiple routes. An online file transfer tool can send to as many recipients as you wish at once without any extra effort and less cost.
How fast is your and your recipient’s internet speed?
Upload speed matters when you are sending files online. To calculate your upload speed you can use a tool like speedtest.net. The way you translate upload speed into time estimates is by understanding how many megabytes per second you are capable of transferring at. For most online transfer tools you have to upload first then have your users download second. In this scenario it is important to consider both the upload speed of the sender and download speed of the recipient.
For example, let’s say you are transferring 300 GB of data to a recipient. You have a 37.5 megabyte per second (MB/s) internet connection and your recipient has a 12.5 megabyte per second (MB/s) internet connection. 300 Gigabytes is equal to 300,000 megabytes (300,000 / 12.5 = 8000). In this instance it will take you 8,000 seconds to upload or 2 hrs 18 min 20 sec to upload the file. On download it will take 24,000 seconds or 6 hrs 40 min to download. The total duration of the end-to-end process will be at least 8 hrs 58 min. This is how you can estimate roughly how long it will take to deliver using an online file transfer service. Considering shipping a hard drive overnight can take more or at least the same amount of time you can see that if the transfer service you use is reliable enough it can be a better alternative.
We have made it really easy to calculate these times using our file transfer calculator that also compares transfer times to shipping a hard drive with FedEx. Here is the tricky part. If you use a tool like Dropbox, Google Drive, or FTP you are unlikely to get transfer rates as fast as what the speed test tool claims you have. This is because cloud sharing tools and FTP are not designed to maximize your bandwidth as they are primarily built for moving around or syncing small files not very large files that need to get to places on tight deadlines. Imagine the above scenario at only 10% of your speed capabilities. That would mean the overall delivery would take 3 days 16 hours and 53 minutes. Your choice of tools matters greatly when dealing with file sizes of raw footage and investing in an adequate internet connection to run your business is important if you’re serious about scaling your operations.
Plan for the unexpected
When dealing with tight deadlines you should never have just the success path planned out because whatever can go wrong usually does. Due to internet constraints lots of our users end up shipping hard drives for projects that make sense to do so. Our most experienced users will both transfer the data over MASV and ship a hard drive to safeguard against a single point of failure if the cost of project delays outweigh the cost of multiple delivery methods. It is much more difficult to resend a new hard drive in the mail if it gets lost or delayed in customs then it is to load the files into MASV and click send if something goes wrong during a transfer. Having more then one method in your tool kit will protect you from surprises and make you keep your delivery promises more often. Ultimately the best way to avoid delays is to plan for delays and have options for dealing with them.