Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


So you go on a shoot and start filling up you expensive memory cards, at some point you will have to start off loading your material onto something else. In the field this is likely to be hard drives of some sort. Backing up to a single hard drive should only be done as a last resort or for media that you don’t mind loosing. You have several options here, you could use Shotput Pro to backup to single or multiple drives. I really like shotput as you can use it to eliminate a lot of user errors. For a start shotput can be set to backup to multiple locations simultaneously from the source media. Then once it has made the copies and verified the copies it can, if you wish, format the card, ready for re-use. Allowing Shotput to format the media helps prevent human error. How? Well if I ever put a card in my camera and find it has footage on it, it means that card has not been backed up and verified by Shotput. This is better than backing up yourself as there is always the risk of a mix up between backed up and not backed up cards. The other way to backup with a computer is to use the Sony XDCAM EX Clip Browser. You should never use the windows explorer or Mac finder to backup your valuable media as there is no form of error checking. Clip Browser has built in error checking which is enabled under the preferences tab.

A further option is to use a dedicated backup device such as the NextoDi products or soon to be released Sony PXU-MS240 backup device. These are easier to use than taking a laptop into the field. The NextoDi devices can backup to 2 drives at once (full review of the NVS2500 comming soon) and the Sony device backs up to removable esata drive cartridges.

So what sort of hard drives should you use? Well I am currently using pairs of USB Western Digital “Elements” hard drives. Where possible I use 3.5″ drives as opposed to the smaller 2.5″ laptop type drives. These are low cost yet so far have proven to be reliable and of good quality. The larger 3.3″ drives should be more reliable, but they are bigger and bulkier and require mains power, so in the field I use the 2.5″ drives. By storing these drives at separate locations, one at home and one in the office, I have a very safe system. If my office were to burn down or get flooded, I would have a spare copy at home. Over time however these drive will fail so every couple of years I move my footage on to new, larger hard drives. Another hard drive option is to use G-Tech G-Raid drives. These units contain two separate hard drives and can be used in raid 1 mode so should one of the drives fail your data should be safe. The cost is similar to using a pair of drives and it’s certainly less fiddly than using pairs of drives but it doesn’t give the security of separate storage locations. If you are doing corporate videos then you could consider selling drives to your clients. The client then keeps the drive and as a result you are no longer responsible for it’s storage or safety, just like if the client kept your rushes tapes.

For longer term storage, again there are many options. I backup a lot of my material to BluRay discs. This is not a fast process, use high quality discs and you should be good for 20+ years. Another option is to backup to Sony Professional discs using a Sony PMW-U1 drive. This is a lot faster than most current BluRay burners and the discs are protected in a rugged caddy. Sony claim a life of 50 years for the discs so it is a very good long term storage solution. The new Sony PMW-350 and EX1R as well as the Convergent Design NanoFlash (next firmware release)  have shooting modes that allow footage to be saved on XDCAM discs (Sony Professional Discs) as video clips and not just data files. Using these modes you can put the discs in a player and play back the material directly.

A further long term storage solution is LTO tape. It seems strange to be going back to tape, but LTO4 tape is very reliable and widely supported. It’s not suited to applications where you need quick access to your footage, but is very good for long term security. A good compromise may be one copy on a hard drive as a working copy along with a backup on LTO for archive.

Raid Arrays can be used for long term storage, but even Raid arrays can fail. If the lookup table becomes corrupted it can be next to impossible to recover the data off the discs, so do be careful. Do remember however you store your footage try and be organised. Store your material in a sensible folder structure that will help you find your rushes quickly and easily. If you are out shooting for a day you may be generating a hundred or more files, do that day in, day out and you will generate thousands and thousands of files. Make sure you work out you clip naming and clip prefixes in such a way that you won’t get duplicate names and can find your footage quickly and simply.

And just one more reminder, always save the full file structure. In the case of XDCAM EX keep the full BPAV folder and all it’s contents, also don’t rename the BPAV folder. Even if you edit on a Mac and use the Sony Transfer Tool to make .mov files you should keep the BPAV folders as trying to edit the  .movs on a PC or AVID is a nightmare. If you have the original material you can easily work with it on any platform.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

5 thoughts on “Working with XDCAM EX material by Alister Chapman

  1. It is really kinda scary isn’t it. I’m a P2 guy, it sucks having the “original” sitting on a hard drive or two, or three. It doesn’t feel the same as a tape, there’s something about that tangibility that I miss.

    I think if you really want a backup you should print to tape! That’s what I do with all of my most important stuff.

  2. Archive is a mega problem with P2 especially with the cards being so dear, you could do what I used to do and back up onto Blu-Ray disk, I don’t trust hard drives.

  3. Archiving to tape is not without problems. Tapes deteriorate over time and I well remember losing valuable footage and priceless early productions when U-matic tapes deteriorated to the point where they would no longer play. Although modern metallic tapes used for digital recording are more stable than their analogue forbears, this route still requires the availability of well maintained tape decks.
    Storing digital data on media in several locations is still the most secure option – and one can always duplicate this as media improves.

  4. This article is really good and indicates that videographers are able to back up XDCAM EX files onto blue ray discs. As an educationalist trying to archive the XDCAM files onto soemthing ohter than a variety of hard discs – how ???
    I have the Lacie Blue ray burner and failed to record using 8core Mac Pro and also Windows pc. I do not want to buy the Sony PWU unit as my students ideally should be able to play the blue ray discs on blue ray players. If anyone can give advice to a non expert that works I would be forever grateful

  5. This depends on what you are trying to do…

    You can burn the original BPAV folder (SxS card) from a Sony EX-1 or 3 onto Blue Ray this will be watchable only via the Sony XDCAM Clip Browser (Mac or PC) but the upside is that your footage is now archived and can be transferred to the timeline via the Clip Browser software. NOTE. Transfer the BPAV folder into another named folder ie. Classroom #1 as you cannot rename the original BPAV folder.

    Or you can make a Blu-Ray DVD via Adobe Encore CS4 onto your Lacie burner, this will allow your pupils to view the footage but will no longer be editable.

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