While some films will have a digital imaging technician (DIT) to handle all footage shot who also brings a serious amount of gear, many low-budget films suffer from a lack of crew. Because of this, camera assistants are often given the responsibility of downloading and storing the footage. It was my job on Below the Beltway, and I’ve done it countless other times while AC-ing the same shoot. For me, I like to use a laptop with portable, small hard drives that makes it easy to quickly set up a download station anywhere on set.
1. G-Technology GDrive Mini
G-Tech drives are known for dependability and are used by serious film professionals for everything from backups to editing. When handling what is essentially the “film negative,” brand dependability isn’t just a buzzword – it’s security. What I like about this type of drive is that it is bus-powered. That means the drive is powered by the connection to the computer and doesn’t require an adapter/outlet. These particular drives have two FireWire 800 ports and a USB 2.0 port and are available in 5400RPM and 7200RPM speeds. Though it’s tempting to go for the 5400RPM model because it’s cheaper, 7200RPM speed is faster and more dependable for film applications and I strongly urge you do not skimp on storage solutions. The drives range from 250GB to 500GB.
2. OWC Mercury On-the-Go Pro
Some of the first drives I ever used on a RED shoot were these On-the-Go Pro drives from Other World Computing. They were fast, reliable and they got the job done without one clip lost, damaged or erased. The only issue was the intense heat that built up alongside the drive’s heatsink, but that’s only because they were working hard for 12 hours straight on set. They’re easy to set up and quick to break down and they are already formatted for Mac OS X. Like the GDrive Mini, the On-the-Go Pro comes with two FireWire 800 ports and a USB 2.0 port and is bus-powered. There are other options, however, such as a USB 3.0 model for those with kitted out workstations. Again there is the option of 5400RPM vs. 7200 RPM, but on average the cost difference is only a few bucks so I don’t suggest being cheap here. Storage space ranges from 250GB to 750GB. Those looking for higher capacities and an eSATA connection should check out the OWC Elite-AL Pro Mini.
3. LaCie Rugged Hard Disk
I don’t have personal experience with the LaCie Rugged Hard Disk but I do know people who have and I do read a lot of recommendations for the company’s storage. Part of the draw to this drive is, of course, its ruggedness that is supplied by a “scratch-protected aluminum shell and shock-resistant rubber bumper. ” That sort of design is optimal for those shooting in harsh conditions or on locations far away. Like the other drives, this is offered with FireWire 800/400 ports and USB 2.0 and is bus powered. Its prices are aligned with our GDrive Mini, making this portable soldier a good deal for what it offers. LaCie offers the drive with up to 1TB of storage, but there are only two 7200 RPM options at 320GB and 500GB.
The Trade-Offs of Portable Hard Drives
The only downside to the smaller hard drives is, of course, a smaller amount of storage. Feature films, which will move tremendous amounts of data, make it impractical to use these types of drives as downloading AND backup solutions.
The best option then, in my opinion, is to use some of these smaller drives to download footage on set. Then each day the footage can be transferred and backed up to more robust hard drives (such as a RAID) off-set when there is more time.
The whole point of using smaller drives is to be able to quickly transfer data on set in a portable setting until the footage can be placed in a more secure drive.
All prices are for 7200 RPM/Triple Interface models