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Old January 23rd, 2015, 11:11 PM   #1
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Keep footage forever or delete?

Here's something that's been bothering me for a while:

I shoot for a lot of out of town clients, whom I then send the footage. They do post, my part is done (until the next time). I do occasionally do post myself, but send more footage away never to be seen again than I do editing.

I do not try to be a production company, or market myself that way, or act like one.

I'm wondering if any of you in the same situation keep footage for every shoot forever, delete after a certain time, or what? I don't even shoot that many days a month (so far), and I'm starting to have HD space problems keeping raw footage from XDCam shoots and other smaller formats. I've already bought two cheapo internal drives (2TB each) that I put older stuff on, only to be messed with when needed, they're copies of each other 'cause I'm too paranoid to only have one. I see nothing but this cycle of accumulating drives and archiving continuing forever, wondering how silly it is.

Problem is, simply asking them "can I delete?"/"is it backed up on your end" has led to taking forever to hear back, and once I sent them one of my Lacie portables that it took about 4 months to get back--almost seemed like less trouble just to not bother asking and keep the raw footage. Feel like I can't win either way-- one way I spend a lot of time and (possibly unnecessary) money archiving, the other way it's a heck of a lot of effort to clear up some HD space.

Your experiences?
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Old January 23rd, 2015, 11:40 PM   #2
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

Most of what I do falls into two categories:

Things I am hired to shoot, produce, and edit - we edit on a 12TB RAID, keep everything live on the RAID for approximately 12 months so we can make changes at a moment's notice. Then we offload onto bare SATA drives (originally 2TB, now 3TB, soon 4TB each), and, like you, keep an identical copy for backup. These are labeled by year.

I am occasionally hired just to shoot an event for a one-time client. If the client is there in person, I usually try and hand off the media directly (once it's out of my hands, it's not my problem), but if I need to mail it I do copy it to the RAID before I send it. Your problem here is how you're phrasing the question - you are asking them to confirm that the media is good and you are asking permission to delete something off your own hard drive. Turn the question around next time - i.e. "The disk is in the mail, you should receive it Monday. I will be deleting my copy of the files on Friday, so be sure to let me know before that if you have any trouble with the files."

I shoot on 32GB cards - a 3TB hard drive ($99) will hold 93 full media cards - more than I shoot in a year. Sure it's costing me $200 a year to back up this media, but it's a drop in the bucket IMHO.
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Old January 23rd, 2015, 11:52 PM   #3
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

Hmm, that is a good point about telling folks "I will be deleting this on x day." Seems a little "hard assed" to me. But I guess if it works. . .

Yes, I back up even before I send off, lest something should happen.

These internal drives (I use them with a thing called a "Voyager" which allows you to stick in an internal drive, hook up via USB to your computer, and use it like any other external drive) are about $60 for a 2 TB.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 01:11 AM   #4
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

This is the new reality and it's a great question. I do probably 70% 'end to end' productions where I shoot, edit, create graphics, license music and put it all together. In those cases I always archive the footage. But when I am doing as you describe and shooting then shipping a hard drive full of video? I used to keep it for a month or so, and send them the email as Mike described, that I will be deleting the files on a given date and to let me know if they have had any issues.

That being said........for end to end projects I have a copy on my work RAID drive and a short term 'backup' on an external hard drive. When the project is done and ready to be deleted from the RAID and the external drive, I archive it to Blu Ray discs. I know people bad mouth discs, but I have about 100 Blu Ray discs full of camera original files (starting 3 years ago) and not a single one has went bad. It's nice as I print on the front of the discs, a list of what is on the disc. Anyways, sometimes when I shoot something unique for a client, I archive it onto a Blu Ray disc.....after all it's like 90 cents for a disc from Amazon, not exactly expensive. A year ago, I shot a pilot for a client. They got the footage, copied it to their computer and sent my hard drive back. I archived it to Blu Ray just because it was so unique I thought I may want it for demo reel material someday. About 8 months later.....I got a call from the editor. Seems he was very busy and hadn't cut the pilot yet. He had finally finished the backlog and decided to start. That's when he discovered that someone had taken the footage off the work drive...the space was needed and after all, it was backed up on an external. And the editor pulled the external out and fired it up.....to discover that it was full of new footage as he had copied over it with other footage. He knew he had screwed up and was not expecting much but thought it was worth a long shot to call me. When I told him, yeah I have a backup, I was kind of the hero. I copied the files from Blu Ray to hard drive and sent it off to them. And earned a reputation as a shooter who thinks of every possible problem and helps make them look good to clients. Any guesses who that company uses any time they have work in my area? Because of this incident, I have started archiving almost everything from clients. And charging more, but that's part of trying to be seen as the 'professional' that everyone wants to use. Your costs are higher, but I can guarantee that if you save a client with backup footage like this one time they will not complain about how you charge more than anyone else in your area. In fact they will gladly pay the extra.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 01:56 AM   #5
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

I am not at the level where I can get away with that and still get work, unfortunately. My rates are actually on the low side for my skill level and time I've been in the industry, but experience has taught that I'm right where I should be as I have plenty of "prospectives" turning me down because of my fees. So charging more and justifying such with the archiving thing is a no go for me.

I'm all for what you said, keep for month then send email about deleting. However, again, experience has taught me that I will have people who simply never reply, and those that say "oh um, let me ask so and so" and then I have to keep harassing to get an answer from someone six degrees removed from who I'm actually talking to. I even feel like I've had a few occasions where I had to send 'em the raw footage again on a drive they send me or one of my own, at no cost to them (except reimbursement for shipping), but that might have been 'cause originally I sent them a final cut and not the raw and I'm just confused.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 03:39 AM   #6
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

Two things here. First, when you email them, be sure to put the onus on them! In other words it is something like this:

'Unless I hear otherwise from you, I will assume that you have been successful in transferring the footage I shot and sent to you, to your computer. I highly recommend that you back it up just in case. If I do not hear back from you, I will be deleting the footage from my hard drive on Friday the 25th, two weeks from today. If you find you would like me to keep an archive for you, I am happy to do so. The charge for that will be $350.
Again this footage will be deleted from my computer in two weeks, on the 25th, unless I hear from you. Thank you for your business.'

Now it is up to them. If they do not tell you there was some issue, you have given them ample time and opportunity to and sent a reminder email. You have offered to archive it for an additional fee. If you are not going to do as I do and just archive it all, I think you have done all you can do. Just don't give them the opportunity to 'talk to my boss and see'. Tell them plainly that unless you hear otherwise, you are assuming all is fine and give them a reasonable time period to respond. In other words, you aren't waiting for an answer, because you have made it clear that the absence of an answer, is an answer in and of itself.

Secondly, I lose tons of work because I am too expensive. It's one of the hardest things about this business. I will not attempt to tell you what to do, because every person is different and every market is different. You gotta do what you gotta do to pay the bills and put food on the table. I will say that a lot of the work I lose, turns out to be a good thing. I will also say that just yesterday I had a meeting with a potential client. They have an annual event and I produced it for them 2 years ago. Shot the whole thing, multicam, edited, graphics the whole deal. Last year they went with someone else as I was too expensive. This year they are coming back to me. I don't know why, but clients are clients. Of course they are going to shop around on price. I do on most things as do most people. But do you always buy the cheapest? I know I don't. I look for 'good value'. If my mechanic charges $5 an hour more but I know he does great work do I opt for the cheaper guy I know nothing about? Do I buy the cheapest tripod I can? The trick is, positioning yourself to be 'competitive'. In other words you may cost a little more but your reputation is such that people see you as worth the little extra cost. And it's hard finding that balance. That's why so many businesses fail. You gotta do what works for you, not what works for me. But know, you aren't alone in losing plenty of work because it happens every week to me.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 05:31 AM   #7
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

That all sounds great!

Except. . .

Let's say I send the email putting the onus on them, only to hear back, two months later:

"OH MY GOD, I WAS OUT OF THE COUNTRY FOR THE LAST TWO MONTHS ON AN ARCTIC EXPEDITION AND HAD NO ACCESS TO EMAIL! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?"

I joke, but the basic gist of that is a problem. How do you KNOW they've seen that message and understand it?

Just thinking of ways these things could backfire.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 08:46 AM   #8
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

Within a week you will get an order for a file you just deleted.
I see wd have a 4tb usb drive now for under a hundred.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 09:19 AM   #9
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

In the very least we should be charging for every file/footage transmittal we do. That puts the onus on the client, else you end up being a free extra staff member for them.

You wouldn't expect repeats of dessert for free at a restaurant, would you?

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Old January 25th, 2015, 09:56 AM   #10
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

I have a HDD toaster and bare HDD's (not too expensive) to store archival footage (in duplicate). Every 2-3 years I update all the drives to avoid the horror of HDD failure. I prefer bare 2.5" drives now, simply because they're still an acceptable means of shipping footage (get an inexpensive USB enclosure, low-level secure format old storage drive, pop drive in with footage, ship). This saves me from having to buy shipping media, I can effectively resell the old media to clients in expense invoicing, plus keeps storage drives current.

That said...

My general MO on day shooting gigs: I state clearly that once I send footage, it is the client's responsibility to create backups and verify footage integrity. Even so, I keep archives for about a year, just in case (what's ~20GB going to hurt me?). Client footage which aren't really demo-reel worthy are deleted at that time. Projects that I think have significance outside of the day gig value, I'll keep around but may trim down to only the exemplary footage.

Total production jobs have the eternal archival fee (basically whatever the HDD space cost) built into the quote.

In the one case where I had a non-payment (after over 6 months), keeping the footage for that long meant that, since I still retained the copyright until payment, I had rights to the footage and could sell it as stock... so in that case, I wound up making 2x the original invoice value over the past 4 years.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 10:29 AM   #11
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

About 80% of my work is shooting only. With these clients I either ship or upload the footage and tell them upfront "if i don't hear from you otherwise, I assume you received the footage and I will delete my originals after three months". I have days when I shoot over 100 GB, it would be insane to keep all of that forever.

On those projects where I do the production too, I keep the originals for a year or so - I've had edit requests coming after a few months. I keep the final master copy forever.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 10:53 AM   #12
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

I would put in in the contract how long you plan on keeping raw or edited footage after you made the invoice, in that way there won't be any surprises.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 12:12 PM   #13
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

yeah, i just had a shoot that ws over 100 gb (3 cams, xdcam ex mostly)
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Old January 25th, 2015, 01:16 PM   #14
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

My weddings often run over 100gb because I use multiple camera's and that adds up quickly during ceremonies and speeches if you are shooting every week. I have two 2 TB discs that I fill up with raw footage and start deleting the oldest projects when both are full and when adding new.

My finished products that I deliver however I used to keep with me for a period of 2-3 years on external harddrives but since this year I just keep them indefinitely, harddrives are so cheap now and I use green 3TB WD discs that allow me to store about 5 year worth of finished projects per disc, that's less then 30 dollar per year storage costs.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 02:52 PM   #15
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Re: Keep footage forever or delete?

I never delete footage, and the huge racks of different type tapes take up space. I then moved to external hard drives and factor in their cost to the projects, and now they're stacking up - but they seem slightly more resilient to storage - people would often tell me the drives will fail, bearings seizing up etc etc, but no worse, and probably better than dropout on ancient tapes. I usually archive on drives that cost around 50, which they always seem to fall to when the latest bigger one comes out. It's cheap, seems reliable, and not a big deal.

For what it is worth, a client from four years ago just asked if I still have a couple of animations I did for him, but didn't use. A quick run through the drive and there they were, and a few more pounds in the bank.

I'm actually gradually transferring old stuff from Beta SP and Hi8 to hard drives and it's amazing the stuff I'm finding! Also - as I keep the rights to what I shoot, and simply sell the end product, it's possible that at some time it can generate more money.
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