Perils of Digital Moviemaking: Hard Drive Errors

Perils of Digital Moviemaking: Hard Drive Errors
The Red Scarlet Camera- With all it's Useful Add Ons.

Here's something you don't always think about when you think of movie-making these days: most "films" are actually completely digital nowadays and our most recent short film "Recalculating" is no exception. The camera that we used is a type of camera called the Red- and when you hear people talk about The Red camera you can hear the capital letters. Red is actually the brand name: the models of the camera vary, but you might recognize the names like the "Epic" which Martin Scorsese used to shoot "Hugo". In our case we used a smaller sized version of The Red called the "Scarlet".

The Red Scarlet Camera

The first thing that you need to know about the Red camera, whatever model is being used, is that it is basically a computer that has been created for the sole purpose of recording moving pictures. It looks like a very high tech, very expensive brick. Everything that normally makes a camera a camera; like lenses, viewfinders, focus wheels, etc has to be added on.

The Scarlet Brain

The second thing that you need to know about the Red Camera is that the file size for the film-clips that it creates are ENORMOUS. If you happen to be near set when a Red camera is being used you might hear the words "2K" and "4K" being bandied about. That means that each image that the camera is recording is 2,000 pixels to 4,000 pixels wide (respectively). And there are 24 images to a second. That's Really Big. (See Below for a size comparison.)

4K, 2K, and other size comparisons, brought to you by Wikipedia

The third thing that you need to know about the Red Camera is that when you're done setting up and lighting and acting and shooting your entire film sits in your hands in the form of a hard drive. Or, if you're smart, in two hard drives. Or, in our case, three hard drives.

We were half way through the principle photography of "Recalculating" when one of our hard drives started giving us an error message. There is no terror greater to any independent filmmaker.  We were 20 minutes west of Elgin, IL in a beautiful but very remote bit of countryside at the time, and needed all hands on deck to get the next scene ready to shoot, but there are some things that take priority and getting a working hard drive is one of them.

To make a long story short, once production was finished we had one hard drive that had all of our footage on it (which we sent to our editor to begin the post production process) and two drives  which each contained half of the film. For the past few days our task has been to copy over all the footage off the gimpy drive onto the good one, format the gimpy drive (to our non technical friends that means to "erase" the drive) and then to copy all the footage back onto a clean slate. Extremely nerve wracking!

So the bottom line is that we will soon have three full copies of all our footage which we will then be able to safely archive and share with you. Delay is always frustrating, but never fear- it is for a good cause!


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  • Great blog and thanks for the info. I look forward to your film.

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