Documentary Workflow (and general tips for people documenting a project, event, or just filming in general)


Note: While this focuses on DSLR’s, the same rules can be applied to basically any camera. We use these practices with our Black Magic Pocket Camera, which requires way more storage than DSLR’s.

One of the challenges my team and I face is how best to store/share our footage. We are producing a feature-length documentary and a web-series simultaneously. This model means we need to not only stay organized and backup our content, but also produce quality, consistent content very rapidly. DSLR’s shooting in HD (typically 1080p) require a few hundred megabytes per minute of recording, meaning one video can take up a lot of storage. How do you deal with it?


1) Dump your cards immediately. Your exhausted, you’ve been filming all day, but you simply cannot risk losing that material. As soon as you are done with your day (or if possible, have someone around doing this throughout), dump all your footage onto harddrives and keep them neatly organized in folders.

2) Harddrives. Lots of them. This cannot be stressed enough. Do not store your video on your main computer—buy externals to store and work off of. Seagate, Western Digital (WD), and G Drive are all very popular makes. Make sure all your footage is stores on at least 2 drives in case one crashes. You can do this by setting up a RAID array (which makes one drive mirror another) or simply saving all your footage on multiple drives.

3) Google Drive. Unlike drop box, which we find typically not as “share friendly,” Google drive makes it incredibly easy to share with your team while having an online backup. It’s also very cheap for lots of storage.


In general, people on DSLR’s shoot in 1080p (HD) and export the videos in 1080p as well, but there are always exceptions to this standard.

1) 1080p/720p: 720p, despite being HD, is noticably less crisp than 1080p, but it is also way smaller in size, meaning much faster uploads. Have a funny, thirty second moment of your director goofing off in the car? You should consider 720p. Beautiful shot of the Grand Canyon at sunrise? 1080p. That being said: do not film in 720p. Do 1080p and scale down if needed to 720p when you export/upload.

2) Youtube or Vimeo: There’s a very simple rule for this—Vimeo is official/professional, youtube gets eyes. Youtube videos go viral way more often than Vimeo ones do, but film professionals and people simply looking for “legit-looking” content will go to Vimeo. We generally upload to Youtube first then to vimeo for a formal location of all our content/to link to on other pages.


52businesses will be applying Greg’s thoughtful advice each week as we film and air weekly webisodes including footage of the Monday Morning Meeting, team member confessionals, and footage of the trials and tribulations faced throughout the week.  Be on the lookout for our first webisode detailing the team’s experience building Touracle at Destination Hackathon coming to your computer screen soon!