Monty the therapist is speaking to Vince Codak, manic videomaker. “Sounds like you’re doing well, Vince, but you’re still a bit stressed.”

“When I think of how close I came to losing it again…”

“Losing it?”

“My time, my money, my mind.”

“Go on.”

“I was at my computer the day after the screening. Master tape in hand, I stared at 9 gigabytes of files I had to clear off my hard drive. Those files contained all the clips–video, graphics and audio–I used in my documentary. One huge file contained the finished movie itself. I reached for the delete key. My hand paused above it for a good five minutes, trembling.”

“Couldn’t delete all the work you had done?”

“Right. Those clips took hours of trimming! What if I wanted to use some of them in my sequel, From Dumpsters to Disney? I’d have to find all the same shots again, re-digitize them and re-trim them. If I want to use a sequence again, I’d have to re-create all the editing decisions I’d made in my first movie. ”

“You stopped in time?”

“Yes! An angelic voice whispered in my ear, ‘Back it up!’ ‘Of course!’ I yelped. Why can’t I just dump all the files to some floppies?

“But a deep voice welled up out of the earth. ‘Because they are huge,’ it boomed. I’d need 9,000 floppy disks to hold my 9 gigabytes of files.

“I found a backup drive that holds removable one-gigabyte disks. I could fit everything onto 9 of those disks. I almost lost my way again in a spending spree. The drive itself costs about $500 and each of the 1-gig disks runs about $100. I’d have to spend $900 just for the disks. Is the movie worth the price of the disks it would be stored on?”

“What did you do?”

“A guy at a local swimming pool listened to my problem, nodded wisely and said ‘Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.'”

“That helped you?”

“It’s the principle of leverage! Why save clips when you can save data about the clips?”


“It’s called batch digitizing. I have the computer record a list of in and out points for good clips, and have it digitize only them. The list it makes is a boon to the archiving process. It’s called the timecode log.”

“How did that keep you on frugality’s True Path?”

“There are two ways to find a house. The first is to carry the house with you…”

“And the second is to carry its address?”

“You’re getting it Monty! The timecode log lists addresses of video clips, which themselves remain on tape.

“There is one more important file: the edit decision list. This contains a record of all the editing commands I gave to the computer.

“If I saved my original tapes, I would need to backup only my timecode log and edit decision list. For my half hour documentary those two key files together added up to less than 100 kilobytes! I could save the key files from ten similar programs on one floppy disk!”

“So you keep your timecode logs and edit decision lists on floppies now?”

“Actually, no. I wanted also to archive my subtly mixed audio clips, the titles, graphics and digital still pictures. Now those did add up to 4 megabytes–too big for floppies again. I got a $120 tape backup drive with cartridges that can each hold up to 800 megabytes. I pay about $25 for each tape, but one of those can hold all the information I need for about 200 movies the size of my first documentary.”

“That’s great, Vince. But who was the answer guy?”

“Oh, that was Archimedes.”

“Why was he in a pool?”

“Doesn’t have a bathtub. But that’s another story.”

Stephen Muratore is Videomaker‘s Editor in Chief.

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