File Management for a Creative

12/4/2020

As a videographer, photographer, and designer, I create a lot of content and need a place/places to store it all. Most people come up with an elaborate external hard drive solution. I’ve seen hard drives dedicated to the year and month, RAID and NAS setups to archival and team collaboration, even people that only store the final version and delete all RAW and unedited files.  I do not handle my file management like any of those and here is why.

My entire storage and backup setup consists of my computer(s), 2 working hard drives, a backup, and cloud storage. I use a MacBook Pro and an iMac on occasion. I recommend having at least 1tb of internal SSD space, so you can handle alot of work off the internal hard drive. I’ll talk about this more later. When I cannot work off my internal drive I use one or both of my external working drives. These drives are both Samsung T Series external SSD’s. I own a T5 and an older T3, both of which are 1tb, but the T5 is a tad faster. I do also have one 6tb My Book RAID, but only use it in certain circumstances. My most used location and by far the wrench in this setup, compared to most, is Google Drive, specifically G Suites version. I’d like to preface this with, there are different tiers for G Suite. I have the highest level, with unlimited storage. Anyone can get this, but there is a team minimum to have unlimited, which I believe is 5 users, as of writing this, but I only have 2 users (I’m grandfathered in to some old plan).

Since I have unlimited cloud storage I take advantage of this by offloading and backing up all my businesses images, media, and archival video here. At this point I have upwards of 6tb of data used on Drive and it is still climbing daily. To access and flex all this storage to the max I use the Mac desktop clients for Drive, yes there are two of them and both have a different purpose for me. Google breaks up their offering into Google Backup and Sync, which is the consumer offering and Drive File Stream, which is the professional version. You would think I would just use the professional version, but File Stream has a terrible solution for keeping files offline. See, File Stream is a cloud first solution. This means you are only caching offline copies, editing/creating them, then sending them back to the cloud. So for things that I need to have access to regardless of internet connectivity, I use Backup and Sync. Using this, I select every folder that I want access to offline and store a local copy that just syncs to Drive. The biggest pain point for this, is that finding folders to sync that are not located on your local takes a very long time, and the more storage you have used up on drive, the longer this takes. Example of this headache: you have 5 folders on your computer, you have 10 on Drive, you access the utility to sync a 6th, but before you can add it to your computer the utility needs to scan the entire folder structure for changes and show me my options. In my case, with 6tb of data, just to show me my available folders takes about 5-7 minutes, and this is with 100mbs internet. Most people would wonder what I actually stored in the cloud that I need to access, well let me explain how Drive is used for me.

Being a videographer, photographer, and designer, I store photos, video files, and design files all in the cloud, with a few exceptions.

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Video workflow A:

  • Import footage from an SD card(s) to an external SSD, which becomes my working drive.
  • Duplicate folders to a second, slower hard drive, which is my backup drive.
  • Once both copies are safe and accounted, I erase the SD card(s).
  • Usually I ingest that footage to a more manageable codec.
  • Work on the video.
  • When I am at a stopping point or made large changes, depending on the size and length of the video, I backup the working drive to the backup drive.
  • I repeat this as the project is ongoing.
  • Once complete, I take the backup and back that up to Google Drive in a Video Archive and make a folder for the final video, associated versions and assets to a client/project folder in Drive.
  • Once the backup to Drive is done, which can take minutes to days depending on the size of the project I delete all external drive copies. The only exception to this, is if the project is 750 + gb, then I back up to Drive and keep a local version of the entire backup on my external RAID drive.

Video workflow B:

  • Import footage from an SD card(s) to internal hard drive, but specifically in a folder that is syncing to Google Drive, I call this the “Ongoing Project” folder. This is now the working drive.
  • Duplicate the folders to an external, slower hard drive. This is now the backup drive.
  • Once the copy on my Mac is backed up to Google Drive and to the external I erase the SD card(s).
  • Usually I ingest that footage to a more manageable codec.
  • Work on the video.
  • Occasionally backup your computers copy to the backup external (this part is optional since it is actively being backed up to Google Drive).
  • I repeat this as the project is ongoing.
  • Once the project is complete all I have to do is go to Google Drive or use Google Drive File Stream to move that project folder out of “Ongoing Projects” to a video archive folder. Once this is done, that folder will be removed from your computer and kept in Drive only.

Photo workflow:

  • Import images from SD card(s) directly onto a Mac.
  • The folder that the images are being added to will be actively backed up to Google Drive.
  • Once import is completed and Drive has synced the entire project I delete the SD card(s).
  • I usually then sync to Lightroom, not copy. The only copy that lives in Lightroom are the previews that are created.
  • I edit in Lightroom and if needed use Adobe’s dynamic link to open an image in Photoshop from Lightroom. I only make an additional copy of the PSD file if the edit was extreme, like a composite or a full retouch.
  • I export from Lightroom into a folder that also lives nested in the original folder in Google Drive.
  • When the need for local access ends I unsync that folder from my Mac.
  • I can sync it back at any time using Google Backup and Sync, getting images one-by-one using File Stream, or even downloading it right from Google Drive.
  • This solution requires no use of an external hard drive.
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Design workflow (this one is easy):

  • My entire design folder is synced locally on my Mac.
  • As files are updated, it syncs on Google Drive automatically.

In a perfect world where I have a 4tb internal SSD and gigabit wifi, I would not need any external hard drives. I’d be able to store all my necessary files locally, syncing to Drive and manage them with speed.  Until I can afford that insanely pricey machine and move to a hip town or a major city, I think this a solid solution. The great thing about this solution is that everything on my Mac(s) is backed up automatically to the “cloud”, so I never have to worry about a traditional backup, like using Time Machine. Not only is this solution pretty mindless when you get used to it, it is also very affordable. I only spend $10 a month per user plus the one time cost for those few drives. In comparison I’d be going through drives constantly and be limited to having files with me only if that drive is within reach. I know this solution isn’t for everyone, but if you create content similar to mine, this might be perfect.