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  • How to handle 200 Hours of footage?

    Posted by Misha Mazor on May 13, 2007 at 7:22 am

    Hey all,

    I’m starting work on a documentary that has close to 200 hours of footage (half DVCPRO50/half DV). The director wants to digitize everything to have all of it on hand. How do I handle this amount of footage?

    I calculated the necessary disk space:
    200 hours @ DV50 & DV = 4 TB
    200 hours @ PhotoJPEG (50%) = 900 GB

    1) Should I capture/recompress the footage to Offline PhotoJPEG? Is there another offline codec I could use?

    2) Is it OK to change the PhotoJPEG frame size to 720×480? (I heard that there is a RT Effect problem & CPU usage problem with the codec.)

    3) What drive system would be best–a couple of 1TB FW800 drives or a 2.5TB SATA Raid?

    4) Will the computer slow down to a crawl no matter what I do?

    My budget is about $2500 – $3000.

    Dual 2.5 PowerMac G5
    3 Gigs RAM
    ATI Radeon 9600
    FCP 5

    Thanks so much,

    Shane Ross replied 17 years ago 12 Members · 20 Replies
  • 20 Replies
  • Bouke Vahl

    May 13, 2007 at 8:10 am

    I don’t get it.
    What’s up on such a low budget? If you have to ingest 200 hours, i would suggest that even if there are no TC breaks you’re facing at least 5 weeks of ingesting (assuming you have only one digitize station), but more realistic is 6 weeks…

    (i cannot remember having a job taking more than 5 weeks including ingesting, seems quite good business…)

    So you definitly want a protected raid system, as you do not want to loose this amount of work, no matter the cost.

    smart tools for video pro’s

  • Jerry Hofmann

    May 13, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    An external SATA would be best. I’d not bother working in a lower res, and I’d also capture the DV footage as DVCPRO50…

    The budget you mention is for the raid, not your whole edit, right?


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  • Mark Raudonis

    May 13, 2007 at 6:45 pm


    200 hrs isn’t so bad. We’re regularly ingesting 30 -50 hours of material PER NIGHT on the projects that we do. (Using multiple stations to ingest simultaneously)

    Yes, we use Off-line RT, at 320 X 240 pixel size. I would NOT change the pixel size… that’s kinda defeating the purpose of using Off-line RT. You want as small a bandwidth as possible.

    Just know that if you’re committing to an “Off-line to Online” workflow, tape labels, clipnames, media management and matching timecode become more of an issue. It can be done, but you need to know what you’re getting into.

    The only other way around this is to bite the bullet and buy enough storage to hold all 200 hours. Don’t forget to have extra space for renders… they add up.


  • David Bogie

    May 13, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Your director is a total nut case.
    We see similar posts from documentary producers all the time, “We’ve got to capture every second of our precious footage so we can always know we are going to make the most supremely creative decisions.”

    This is total nonsense and bizarrely ego-centric. First, every second of your footage is not usable and, second, even if every second was perfectly exposed and crucial-to-the-film, you’re not releasing a 200-hour film and, third, even if you were funding the release of a 200-hour epic, no one would watch it for five weeks, and, fourth, do you people think you invented documentary production? How do you think doc producers have been editing beautiful work for the last 100 years?

    They do it by finding their story first. Dub your stuff to VHS with window burns, do a decent paper edit, capture what you need, go back and fill in the holes as they come up.

    I’d bail on this loser before he/she takes you to the booby hatch with him/her.


    This is my standard sigfile so do not take it personally: “For crying out loud, read the freakin’ manual.”

  • Mark Raudonis

    May 13, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Woof! That was pretty harsh!

    While I agree that “finding the story first” is always good advice, in this digital day and age, the first step in the process seems to be “get it digitized”. With that in mind, I’d suggest using multiple systems with a mountain of storage and just get busy digitizing it all.


  • Steve Wargo

    May 13, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Have the director bring a 1 Terabyte drive to your place for you to digitize to.

    About 11 years ago, one of my clients heard about computerized editing (Avid) and asked me to digitize all of their footage (around the same 200 hours) so thay could all have it on their desktop. An associate of ours had an Avid and he gave me a bid of $315,000. The client went ballistic and fired me. A week or so later, they called to apologize. They actually thought it would all fit on a 1.4Mb floppy.

    We have strict rules on how much space for how long. If it’s a long term program that will take some time, we usually put th client’s footage on an isolated external drive.

    When necessary, we rent hard drive space. It goes for $1 per gig per week. Billed bi-weekly.

    Steve Wargo
    Tempe, Arizona

    It’s a dry heat!

  • Steve Wargo

    May 13, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Sorry about that. I meant to say “Have the director bring a 2.5Tb raid”.

    Steve Wargo
    Tempe, Arizona

    It’s a dry heat!

  • Steve Wargo

    May 13, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    I am watching a great NASCAR race and hitting the Cow during the breaks so my attention is not quite there.

    OK. It’s over. Gordon won.

    So here is my actual reply. When we get jobs like this, we hire a knowledgable student to do the ingest with the director sitting with them, if possible. During ingest is the time for the director to pick his selects and it’s surprising how many shots they will suddenly find unnecessary. However, no director wants to sit in an edit bay for 4-5 weeks.

    Why a student? They need practical experience in the real world. They need to understand more about the shooting experience. These are not beginner students, but rather those who are close to becoming editors. They can also stay on and do the rough cut if budget is a consideration. Some have gone on to complete the project.

    As far as charges, the student gets $8-10 an hour, the edit system goes for $25 to $50 per hour and the tape decks go from $50 per day (dv) to $600 per day (hdcam). To digitize 200 hours, we would put the cost of digitizing at around $8050 and discount it to $7000 if we were also cutting the doc or $7500 if it were going elsewhere. This is considering that the student is going to run a log of the footage at the time of ingest. If the director just wants to dump it all in so he can figure it out later, we might consider a price of around $22 per tape on their drives. This would be $4400.

    Keep in mind that if you digitize all of this footage for $3000, you will be working for $15 per hour. If you also do the edit at about another hundred hours, you are now working for under $10 per hour including all of your equipment, electricity, wear and tear, your workspace, your freedom, and time that could be spent seeking a job that pays better.

    Steve Wargo
    Tempe, Arizona

    It’s a dry heat!

  • John Buck

    May 13, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    i’m with bogie an
    please explain to your director that by virtue of DV recording in its own codec the material is already digitally stored- on those camera tapes. burn some dvds or vhs clones. and ask them to do a paper cut.
    by the way how are you going to deal with the video head servicing bill just from running 200 hours through your machine?
    or take steve’s approach. and say “sure no problem”, ask the director to rent the deck and the hard drive and hope that you make as much money as the rental companies – but i doubt you will


  • Shane Ross

    May 13, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Sorry, I’m with Mark. It is the editors job to do the editing, not the producers. I do think it would be wise to have timecoded tapes for the producer to look at so that they know the footage as well, or give them a copy of the footage on a drive for them to look thru, but their job is to write the script and NOT to edit the show. And I am also one to want everything…I want everything. Who knows what hole I need to fill, or what editing challenges I need to surpass that some odd shot would cover. Don’t have the shot, then can’t fix it.

    Capture everything. Look at it all. The producer should have a copy, but they need to be writing. They can even put footage suggestions into the script (which I get all the time), but it is not their job to edit. It is yours.


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