As a filmmaker, being in it for the long haul means never letting a project fall off of the face of the Earth when you're done with it. If you've worked tirelessly to produce something of quality, why wouldn't you want to keep it forever?
Having access to your entire portfolio of work lets you maintain a reel that is always fresh and current. Your clients can rely on you if they ever need anything after the project has been delivered. A long-term mentality prepares you for disaster before it even presents itself. Here's how you can go about preserving your project.
What Does "Future-Proofing" Mean?
Protecting your work includes more than just the finished product. Maintaining an archival copy of all of your raw assets ensures that no matter what happens, you will always have what you need.
If you're working with important clients, this is an especially good business practice to maintain. You'll be ready on a moment's notice if they ever come back asking for, say, some part of your collaboration to be broken down into an ad, or something similar.
How Do You Keep a Project Safe Through Post?
Future-proofing goes beyond the security of the material that you're working with, although that's also something to consider. File corruption or loss may derail the train of production if you're not prepared.
Generally, files face the greatest amount of peril when in transit. Having a clear understanding of your workflow will help you identify any potential danger zones. Planning out each phase of the operation will keep all of your moving parts top-of-mind and accounted for as you make progress. This way, you'll never be taken by surprise or left without something that you really need.
If you would like to work with proxies, for example, converting a copy of all of your footage should be one of your first priorities. Any tasks that involve your entire pool of source material should be taken care of in one fell swoop. This helps avoid inconsistency or an accidentally incomplete effort.
You never want to be dragging, dropping, and copying haphazardly or inattentively. It should always be a deliberate and conscious effort so that nothing is lost along the way.
Archiving and Retiring the Project
When all is said and done, you want to make sure that your entire project is put to bed with care. You should not only retain a high-quality version of the final piece, but each part of the project should be kept alongside it in long-term storage as well. You never know when you might need something years after wrapping things up.
This archive should include at least one version of all of your original project files. An XML or an EDL of your final cut can be reconstituted in a number of different programs, making either a versatile must-have at this juncture. The last thing that you want is to dive back into your archive, only to find yourself with all of the assets and nothing to stick them back together with.
Let's get into some different ways you can store your project.
Physical Media Storage
Storing your entire project physically will be more than enough for many types of projects. Working off of drives is very convenient when collaborating closely with others in a non-remote setting. You can pass them off to each other without even thinking about it.
But having just one drive usually isn't enough. Many of us have learned this lesson the hard way; we all feel invincible until the day that our most reliable drive finally kicks it for good.
At least two drives are always better than one. A working drive and a larger one that holds a master copy of everything should have you covered if you're not taking either drive on-set.
While, unfortunately, becoming a thing of the past, physical media storage includes reels of film, DV tape, or any other type of physical media not acquired electronically.
Never toss your negatives; they can be re-scanned later if your footage needs to be replaced for one reason or another. That, and they're a really cool keepsake to have.
Choosing a Cloud-Based Service
Storing your project in the cloud is one way of guaranteeing the safety of everything that you're working with. Many high-end cloud storage services provide an additional layer of insurance that you can't always match when doing things on your own.
One of the biggest benefits of cloud storage is that you get access to every part of your project from anywhere, which is great when working long-distance.
Cloud storage also takes some of the responsibility out of your hands. In the past, an errant glass of water could very well have been the end of your project. But now, services like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Apple iCloud, and Dropbox are here to protect you from yourself.
Even with the smallest, most manageable projects, however, we do not recommend that you rely on cloud storage as your only means of backing a project up. Keeping at least one physical copy somewhere on the premises gives you immediate access in the event of an emergency.
Other Best Practices to Keep Your Project Safe
Half of the battle will be the habits that you commit to as a professional. A routine of mindfulness and caution will set you up for success, no matter what the future holds.
Organize Everything From the Start
If your work is serialized and ongoing, you will be bringing new material in continuously as you produce every new episode. This pile will quickly mount into something totally overwhelming if you are not methodical about the way that you handle and process everything.
Metadata is one powerful tool to apply here. It can supplement a well-structured folder hierarchy, transforming your media library into a much more manageable collection. You should be logging metadata for everything as soon you ingest each new round of footage.
Back Everything Up Constantly
This should be a compulsion that haunts your every waking moment. There is plenty of smart software out there that can do this part for you automatically. It always pays to back up your project as you go, however.
How you do so will depend on your media management platform. It doesn't matter how each new asset or project file finds its way in backup storage; all that matters is that they all do.
Keep Your Technology Up-to-Date
It's important to prepare for the future of whatever software you're using. Otherwise, you may end up getting stuck with a useless legacy version that traps your whole project.
When a new version of Premiere is released, for example, you can update all of your archived project files so that they are up to speed. Doing so incrementally will help you avoid disrupting a project with an update that should have been made years ago.
Preparing for the Worst-Case Scenario
As morbid as it may feel in the moment, constantly living in anticipation of doomsday builds character. Never being taken off guard means arming yourself against the inevitable, no matter what the cost.