How to catalogue all your raw video footage for offline access

Video_Production_backupsv3

Note: I am in no way affiliated with any products mentioned in this post, i have not received any financial reward, it is purely my opinion.

1. why is it a good idea to catalogue raw video footage?

To catalogue your raw video production footage in an easily accessible way can save you hundreds of hours of productivity over the course of a few years. 

When it comes time to refresh that showreel or find specific shots a client is requesting, finding those specific shots from the last few years over a range of external hard drives can be painful and very time consuming. Having an organised footage library that has searchable keywords will make finding that shot much more manageable and claw back those valuable minutes in each day.   

As a freelance DOP / camera operator, I produce hundreds of hours of raw footage over the course of a year. During my career, i have produced 1000’s of hours. From day one, my video footage has been slowly filling up external hard drives, sitting in the office collecting digital dust in the form of ones and zeros. 

I have been fairly meticulous in my organisation of client projects, labelling the folders and sub folders in an identifiable way so that i can find them within a few minutes… Ok that was a bit of a white lie, sometimes i found them in a few minutes, but most of the time, finding a specific shot could take anywhere between 5 minutes to 2 hours – not ideal!

As time went by and more and more video projects were archived and backed up, the organisation was not what it was in those early years. So i decided to get on top of things and catalogue my raw video footage. I wanted to be able to do the following:

  • Quickly find out where any shot or video project was
  • Search all my external external hard drives in one search command
  • Be able to search on either my main desktop editing Mac or on my MacBook Pro
  • Be able to search when i'm anywhere in the world - even without an internet connection
  • Have (at least) a thumbnail image of every raw footage camera file shot for easy visual identifying.

2. Video catalogue app research

Finding a suitable app that was geared to video wasn’t as easy as i initially thought. There are quite a few apps out there that will scan the files on your external drives so that you can still search them even when the drive is offline. This is where i first started. Speaking to an editor friend, he recommended that i download Disk Catalog Maker

After downloading, i scanned my 10 external hard drives and voila! I was able to search and see every video production project i had created content for over the past decade or so. I then copied the drive database that the catalog maker created and uploaded it to my google drive storage. 

Now i can access all of my footage for reference purposes on my laptop or desktop. This definitely has some value and did save me a ton of time when i needed to access an archived project.

It still wasn’t 100% what i was looking for though, ideally i wanted to be able to see thumbnails of all of my footage and be able to search for specific shots via keywords.

I continued my search to find an app that would do just that, i spoke to a few industry friends and was finally pointed towards NeoFinder

diskcatalogmaker
Disk Catalog maker is great for viewing what files are on your external hard drives when they are offline

3. how to catalogue your raw video production footage with neofinder

Just like the Disk Catalogue Maker app i mentioned above, NeoFinder scans all of your external hard drives (as well as your local drive if you want) and indexes them in a database. The free version allows you to catalogue up to 10 drives which is very good, if you need to catalogue more than 10, the paid version is around $40 which in my opinion, is worth the money.

Once you have downloaded and installed the app on your desktop or laptop (for reference, i used an Imac), I would recommend doing the following:

  • Decide if you would like to sync the catalogues across your desktop and laptop via the cloud. If your answer is yes, before cataloging your first drive / volume, go to the NeoFinder preferences and change the database folder location to your cloud storage space such as Adobe Cloud, Google Drive, Dropbox etc.
  • Make sure you have the necessary software on all your machines to read the raw footage of the camera you use. 

NeoFinder will natively generate raw footage thumbnails on .mov, .mp4, .avi, .divx, .m4v, .qt, .flv, .mpg, .mkv, .dv, .wmv, .3gp, .webm, and .EyeTV file formats. 

As i own a Sony FS7, i shoot primarily on .MXF format, i quickly realised that i needed to do some additional work to generate thumbnails. I downloaded the ffmpeg driver and pasted the file into the /Users/yourname/Library/Application Support/NeoFinder/ folder. 

The next time i opened up the app, there it was, thumbnail images generated for Sony Raw Camera files in the MXF wrapping as well as MPG, M2V, M2TS, MPV, MTS, TS, WEBM, FLV, and even VOB.

Note: If you have r3d camera files from a RED camera, you will need to have REDCINE-X PRO Software installed on your machine to see thumbnails of your footage.

NeoFinder_Camer_footage_thumbnail
The NeoFinder interface displaying raw FS7 footage thumbnails after installing ffmpeg

3. Cataloging your raw video footage

Once you have downloaded the app & installed the necessary drivers, it’s time to start cataloging your drives / volumes. to do this, go to File > New Catalog from Volume. Select the drive you want and click ‘start’.

Depending on how big your drive is, it can take a 20 minutes or so to catalogue raw video footage. My advice is to catalog all your drives first before starting to keyword the footage.

By default, NeoFinder will read all the files on the drives (including non video files) so a handy tip is to right click on the volume > find > All media files in this item. 

By now you should be able to see thumbnails of all your raw video footage in a list with thumbnails! Ahhh! 

You can sort these by Name, Size, Creation Date, Modification Date, Path, Kind, Rating, Comment, Label, EXIF date or duration. 

NeoFinder_Sort_by_creation_date
You can sort your footage with a range of options.

4. key-wording your raw video footage

Here comes the time consuming part: Key wording! I’m not going to lie, this took me a while! About 3 days in total as i had thousands of raw video footage to wade through. One important tip is you need to have the drive online and connected to NeoFinder to save keywords as these are appended to the file metadata itself, not the NeoFinder database.

For key-wording your raw files, i recommend sorting by ‘creation date’ as i am generally shooting a similar genre / type of video on a specific day which makes it easier to bulk keyword. To enter keywords, click on the video file you want (or select multiple files) and type in the ‘Tags’ section of the ‘get info’ tab on the right hand side.

I key-worded my footage into various genres with the main idea of making the footage easily assessable when it comes to re-doing my showreel and making additional showreels such as drone, slow motion etc.

The keywords you use will probably be very different to mine but as a start, some words i used were ‘sport shoots’, ‘corporate video’, ‘branded content video’, ‘TV Series’ ‘TVC’s’, ‘Architecture’, ‘Automotive’ etc. 

NeoFinder_Raw_footage_keyword
You can enter keywords / tags in bulk by selecting multiple clips

5. catalogue raw video footage - additional benefits

Find Duplicate Footage

I’m still exploring more feature as i use it but at the moment, the app is doing what i set out to achieve above. Another feature that i plan to use is ‘find duplicate footage’. This is great for making sure i don’t have triple and sometimes quadruple backup copies of old freelance projects. 

Movie Contact Sheet

The movie contact sheet can generate more than one thumbnail for each video file. This is especially useful for longer clips. You can also generate added meta data. To generate a movie contact sheet, right click the file in NeoFinder or right click the file in Finder (on a mac).

Video Playback When Online

The heading pretty much explains this one itself, when the volume that the video file is stored on is online, you can play the video files from within NeoFinder. I probably won’t use this feature much but it’s good to know!

Advanced Raw Footage Search Of All Hard Drives

Once you have catalogued all your hard drives / volumes, you can quickly do advanced searches of all your video production footage such as Size, Duration, Keyword, Path, Video Codec, Image Codec, XMP & Name. These can also be combined. For example, search all travel (keyword) footage shot on .r3d file format.  

5. conclusion

I’ve been meaning to catalogue my raw video footage for a long time and key-wording the files did take a bit of work (being able to bulk keyword did help a lot!) But now that it’s done i am already seeing the time saving benefits. In the coming months i plan to create mini genre based showreels and now that the ground work is done and the assets are organised, i will be able to find specific genre based shots in a flash. NeoFinder seems like a pretty powerful tool and i’m looking forward to trying out the more in-depth features. 

Hire Paulfor your next video project

Paul and his team of trusted video crew are available for day rate hire or project rate hire in Adelaide at local rate, Australia wide or Global at very competitive rates.
Camera kits can be built for custom jobs. See full kit list here 
Get in touch for availability and rates

Videographers: 5 ways to stay productive when video work is quiet

Videographer stay productive

When work dries up, how do you stay productive as a videographer?

Making sure you stay productive as a videographer is paramount to keeping motivation and hunger up for the next gig. 

The nature of running a small business or being a freelancer in the media industry naturally means that work will tend to ebb and flow. One minute you don’t have enough minutes in the day to finish that edit, plan the next shoot or make sure all those batteries are charged. 

Then, before you know it, there can be times where you have a quiet spell and you’re wondering ‘what do i do now’? Well, hopefully these 5 tips will help to make sure you stay productive as a videographer so then when things do get crazy again, you’re ready for it!

 

1. Create a new showreel / specific GENRE BASED showreels.

Not updating our showreel as much as we should, we are all guilty of it! When things get busy, updating the showreel is often cast back to the bottom of the priorities list and before you know it, it’s been 6 months, a year or maybe more since one of your most important advertising vehicles is out of date and in need of some love.

When you have a few days off, gathering some of the best footage from recent production shoots together and adding them to your showreel can not only remind you of what you’ve actually been doing recently but help freshen up your reel and keep things interesting. If you have even more free time, editing together some specific genre based showreels can be a great way to showcase any specialities you might have as a videographer. For example, you can create a drone showreel, a slow motion, time-lapse, architecture, sport or corporate video production specific showreel. Then when you get that video enquiry for that amazing landscape drone job around your area, you can fire off a specific reel that will go a long way in assuring the client you know what you’re doing.

premiere pro editing
Line up some of your favourite snacks or a few glasses of wine and smash out a new showreel!

2. Network in real life / get in touch with past clients

I can see all the introverts reading this one and hitting the scroll button to the next tip, but networking in real life should not be ignored – it’s easily one of the most beneficial ways to land new work. 

Always have a few business cards on you, you never know who you are going to meet! Some of my most valuable clients i have met in the most random of places or circumstances. Maybe your local camera equipment hire house is having a networking evening to showcase a new piece of kit for example, i have found this a great place to meet fellow industry people and collaboration opportunities.

Another way to keep busy when you’re quiet is to send a friendly email to your past clients or enquiries. I recommend having a fairly legitimate reason for getting in touch. For example, you could let them know you have a new showreel to check out, a new piece of equipment or package deal etc. Make it brief with a call to action.

freelancer in a cafe
Get yourself your favourite hot drink and write down a list of past clients to get in touch with

4. give your freelance business a financial audit

Not the most interesting thing to do on a Monday morning i know! But keeping in touch of where you are at with your finances and business as a whole can create a fantastic sense of clarity both on paper and in your head day to day which results in less stress levels and a good sense of where you are at.

Giving your video production or freelance crew business an audit can involve a number of different tasks depending on your specific position. If you’re just starting out this could mean setting up some accounting software or researching if your current rates reflect your experience and equipment you are including. 

If you are more established, setting up income and spending categories so at the end of each year you know what you’re spending too much on & whats earning you the most money can help give you a clear idea of what you could be working on. One important financial part of freelance life i never look forward to is reconciliation of spending account for GST purposes, I need to lodge my GST in Australia every 3 months so whenever i have a spare day i keep on top of my reconciliation so i don’t have a giant list of receipts to go through when GST is due.

For more in-depth tips on freelance accounting see my article 7 accounting tips I wish I knew when I turned freelance

4. work on a passion project

In my opinion, being a freelance videographer, getting paid to make videos is an amazing way to make a living. 

Seeing clients genuinely happy on set is a great feeling. But every now and then, nothing beats working on your own project, with no-one to answer to, no client or producer brief to follow. Just coming up with an idea for a short film, a documentary or experimental video and getting lost in the process of script writing, scene selection and planning is a great way to stretch your creativity and skills. 

It’s an opportunity to try something new, something you have be wanting to learn and master that you’ve been too nervous to try on a paid job. Having a week or so with no client work is a great opportunity to get out there and see what you can create! 

A few years ago, i was doing a lot of sport related video content, i always wanted to shoot a promo video in a dark gym with only one key light but the style never quite suited the brand i was shooting for at the time. This was a perfect excuse for a passion project to a) see what a dark gym / one key light would look like and b) to make any mistakes so that when the time came for a paid job with this style, i had an idea of what to look out for. My test / passion project video “Ring Masters” is below

Play Video

5. Walk away from work / pick up a new hobby

They say a change is as good as a holiday, if you’ve been burning the midnight oil lately with work and late night editing, having a complete break from all things work and video production can be a great idea. 

Take a mini ‘staycation’ if you can’t leave your town due to other commitments, work on a project around the house or pick up a new sport or hobby for a few days or a week. Having a mental break can result in coming back to freelance life a week later feeling refreshed and ready to stay productive as a videographer & maybe get stuck into a few of the ideas i’ve raised above! If you have the funds and capability, go on a short break away and enjoy the finer things in life!

6. (Bonus idea) sell old video production gear

If you’re like me, when you started out, your equipment took up a few shelves in the wardrobe, then it migrated to 1/2 of the wardrobe, then all of the spare room and before i knew it, i had gear everywhere all over the house! Selling old gear that you no longer use takes a bit of a push as you may always have that little voice in your head saying ‘what if i’ll need it again one day’. While this may be true you have to ask yourself if it’s financially viable. 

If you have a piece of equipment worth $1,500 that you use twice a year, are you better to sell it for $1500 & hire it twice a year from a rental house for $90 per hire? With technology advancing so rapidly it may be financially better to sell rarely used or old production gear sooner rather than later while you still can.

Selling that old vision switcher or old workhorse camera can free up some much needed storage space in the office or house as well! Some places to sell old gear include:

Sell old camera gear
I recently said goodbye to my steadicam setup and sold it onto someone who will make more use out of it

Hire Paulfor your next video project

Paul and his team of trusted video crew are available for day rate hire or project rate hire in Adelaide at local rate, Australia wide or Global at very competitive rates.
Camera kits can be built for custom jobs. See full kit list here 
Get in touch for availability and rates

Freelance Sony FS7 camera hire in Adelaide

The Sony FS7 has quickly penetrated the TV & video production industry over the past few years and for good reasons too! It’s an incredibly versatile camera that produces crisp 4k images which a lot of bells and whistles.

This camera 4k image produces stunning images along with 180p Full HD 150fps slow motion. These are captured through a super 35mm sensor which enables film and photography lenses to be used, which, in turn produces that shallow depth of field look (with the background blurry and the subject in crisp focus). 

The sensor is capable of capturing 14 stops of dynamic range which allows for more detail in the image to be captured when there are a lot of highlights and shadows in the picture (bright white clouds and dark shadows in the foreground for example).

If you have time and budget to grade the footage, i can shoot the video in a flat cinema profile such as S-log2 or S-log3 which allows for even more dynamic range. If you would like the picture coming out of the camera to be colourful and ready for broadcast or upload to youtube, i can ‘bake-in’ the colours as i record the video which still produces amazing pictures.

I have written a detailed article on what’s it’s like on set using the Sony FS7.

Sony_FS7_hire_Adelaide
Sony FS7 4k camera & videographer / camera person available for hire in Adelaide

Sony pxw-fs7 specs

  • Super 35mm 4K Sensor
  • Resolution 4096×2160 (4k)
  • 14 Stops Dynamic Range
  • ISO 2000 Base Sensitivity
  • Internal 4K XAVC 10-bit 4:2:2 (Intra/Long GOP) up to 60fps
  • 1080p up to 180fps
  • MPEG HD, 4:2:2, 50 Mbps (HD only)
  • Slow & Quick Motion for over-and under-cranking
  • Dual XQD card slots (with dual recording support)
  • Supports S-Gamut3 Cine / S-Log 3 &S-Log 2 encoding
  • Uses EF Canon Lens’ with Metabones speedbooster

 

Do you need a freelance camera person in adelaide?

I am available to hire as a camera man as a package with the Sony FS7 for half day, full day, weekly or on a project basis, get in touch for rates and to discuss your needs.

OTHER CAMERA TYPES & BRANDS ARE AVAILABLE! 

My experience includes operating Canon, Panasonic, DSLR, Broadcast & Alexa cameras, not just Sony FS7 cameras. I have over 14 years experience operating video technology in a wide range of genres

I have a kit list full of varying video production tools such as drones, gimbals, DSLR photography cameras, lights, wireless microphones and lens’, you can see my full kit list here

Based in Adelaide, i am available for hire on a day rate or project rate basis. My skill set ranges from directing, camera & edit.

For more information, feel free to get in touch

Do you need to rent an fs7 camera in adelaide?

If you are a professional / video agency / TV production company looking to rent a Sony FS7 in Adelaide, this camera is available on a day rate, weekend or weekly basis. See here for prices and more information

Hire Paulfor your next video project

Paul and his team of trusted video crew are available for day rate hire or project rate hire in Adelaide at local rate, Australia wide or Global at very competitive rates.
Camera kits can be built for custom jobs. See full kit list here 
Get in touch for availability and rates

7 accounting tips for video freelancers

I have to admit, accounting is not my strongpoint! I was one of those people who paid zero respect to being organised on the accounting side of the business when i quite my full time job and jumped into freelance life 8 years ago.

Over this time, i have gone from a chaotic mess of having faded receipts laying around the office, spending hours at tax time trying to find everything for my poor accountant & using Microsoft word invoices to knowing exactly where i am with my expenses & income, being able to compare with the previous year and spending an average of just 30 minutes per quarter doing my GST Bas statement.

This is not a definitive list, some might work for you and some might not but if I was starting over again as a freelancer, these are the things i would do from the start, so let’s go, these are the 7 accounting tips I wish I knew when i turned freelance.

1. set up a seperate business account at your bank

Bit of an obvious one to start but the sooner you do this the better, most banks (in Australia) will add on an additional account to your personal account free of charge or for around $15 a year which isn’t too bad. I have set up my internet and mobile banking to be in the same place so i can see where i am personally and where the business is financially side by side.

Set your default invoice bank details to go into this account. You can also start using this account to purchase anything you need for your freelance business.

Doing this keeps things cleaner. Use your personal account for personal things and business account for business transactions.

2. get a business credit card (optional)

Some people may be against this one as credit cards do cost money per year but, when used correctly can bring some nice rewards.

For any purchase i make for my business i will generally use my credit card. Two years ago i picked an airline in Australia that i was going to stick with for frequent flyer reasons, i also signed up to their credit card for the additional points benefits. Why was this worth it? Well it’s fairly common for me to purchase flights or pay for hotels for travel work and then bill it back to the client in the invoice, as i’m getting the money back when the invoice gets paid, it’s essentially free points. 

Make sure you keep an eye on the interest rate terms and conditions though if you get a business credit card, never spend more than you can afford!

3. sign up to a cloud accounting subscription

This is a definite in my mind. When i first went freelance i was using excel and word to do my invoices and keep track of my expenses – what a headache! I hated it and avoided it as much as possible. I signed up to Freeagent about 5 years ago and am still using it. It’s designed specifically for freelancers which means i’m paying for lightweight accounting software and not overpaying for in depth features i’m not likely to use. 

Being able to quickly see where i’m at financially is great (and even a tad addictive!) I can see what bills I have outstanding, what invoices are outstanding, quotes sent vs approved and how much revenue vs profit I have at that moment is so convenient!

There are tons of different options out there these days including free memberships like wave so it doesn’t need to cost you any money. I’m happy to pay $20 a month for my subscription as the amount of time it saves me makes it well worth it. 

If you are looking to sign up to Free agent, you can get a 10% discount on your membership here (or use this code if the link doesn’t work: 457pu5r2)

4. link accounting software to your business bank account

Most accounting platforms allow you to sync all transactions that occur in your bank account and/or credit card to the accounting software. 

Transactions usually sync about 24-48 later. What this does is forces you to keep tabs on all outgoing and incoming transactions within your business. I try to set aside 1-2 hours per fortnight to go through the transactions and explain them within the software. Make sure you keep your receipts from any shop front type transactions (such as meals or taxi fares etc) until you reconcile within the software. 

When reconciling transactions, i take a photo of the receipts with my phone and airdrop them to my desktop to attach them to the transaction, that way if you lose the receipt or they fade you have a digital copy stored in the cloud.

There are services that automate this but i still prefer to make myself a coffee on a quiet morning and doing my reconciling manually.

Another benefit to syncing your bank account is in the overview page of your accounting software, you can see a semi live (about 24-48 delay as explained above) display of your account bank balances without needing to log onto internet banking.

5. setup expense and income categories

Setting up expense and income categories from day one helps you obtain a birds eye view on how your are earning your income and what you are spending the businesses money on by generating profit and loss statements.

When i quote for a new project, I attach each item to an income category. For example: If I quoted for:

  • 1 day shoot for myself including standard camera equipment.
  • A sound recordist
  • A drone
  • 2 days of post production

There would be 4 income categories assigned here (In house Production, Freelance crew (sound), Equipment – production & In house post production)  

What this does is provide me a revenue breakdown at the end of each year.

The same reasoning applies to expense categories, for example, i can see that from July 2018 – November 2018 i spent $71.41 on AA batteries for the equipment – that’s about $150 per year so it’s a good idea for me to buy in bulk and save a few dollars or look into rechargeable solutions. 

The main categories I tend to use are:

  • Insurance (separate for public liability, equipment & car etc)
  • Travel (separate for Uber, Taxi, Parking, Flights, Hotel & Public Transport
  • Communications (separate for Internet, Phone, Mobile etc)
  • Equipment purchases (Pre, Production & Post production)
  • Subscriptions (separate for each subscription)
  • Professional Fees (Bank fees, accountant fees, business registration fees etc)

Depending on your industry and needs, you can set up as many or as little categories as you like.

Good to know: try and find an accounting software that has a mobile app, i frequently take photos of my receipts on the go and attach them to the job in the app. When i send the invoice, the expense is automatically added!

6. setup recurring expenses and bills

For any bills or expenses that are recurring that you won’t be paying via your business account, it’s a good idea to set them up in your accounting software. These will be added to your expenses every time you specify (daily, weekly, monthly etc).

The reason i do this is to save time and also to stop me from forgetting to add them. For example, I use a home office at least one day per week so i have set up a weekly expense for the cost of use of my home office. Once i set it up, it deducts this amount in the background without me having to worry about it. When it comes to tax time at the end of the year, it’s all there ready.

7. create quoting, invoice and email reminder templates

In the spirit of maximising your time, spend a few hours creating a quote & invoicing templates. You should be able to easily add your income categories when creating your quotes and invoices (remember what we talked about in step 5!)

You can even setup automatic invoicing if you have landed a retainer contract or have an agreement to invoice the same amount weekly.

Email reminder templates can save you a lot of time in the long run. In my accounting software i have set up the following based on 30 day invoicing terms:

Day 1

Send invoice on day one using an email template that displays the invoice reference, amount due, invoice date & the due date.

Day 23

An automatic email template is sent with a friendly reminder that payment is due in 7 days.

Day 29

An automatic email template is sent with a friendly reminder that payment is due tomorrow. The email contains the same information as the original email.

Thank you email

This is sent to confirm payment had been received. This is triggered when the received amount is ticked off in the software from the automatic bank feed we were talking about in step 4.

Summary

So thats it! There are a ton of things you can do to make your workflow save you time in the long run. Everyone will have different way of working and some of these will work better for certain types of industries. I work as a video producer which means i travel a lot and am frequently paying for unexpected things while out and about. 

Using a cloud based accounting software means i can even take a photo of receipts on the go and they will be listen on the invoice automatically when the time comes to send the invoice, perfect!

If you have any more tips or shortcuts, add them in the comments, I always like to learn more!

Hire Paulfor your next video project

Paul and his team of trusted video crew are available for day rate hire or project rate hire in Adelaide at local rate, Australia wide or Global at very competitive rates.
Camera kits can be built for custom jobs. See full kit list here 
Get in touch for availability and rates