Creating A Deep and Sustainable Archive of ALL your Digital Media

Man holding a hard drive.

Your movie may well have a huge digital footprint. If these assets get lost or deleted, it may not be your fault, but it sure is your responsibility.

I know of at least one feature film that was abandoned due to the team loosing hard drives.

Exactly HOW to backup and archive EVERYTHING related to your film.

For years now I have struggled with media management. Stuff I made ten years ago, twenty even, it all needs storing and cataloguing for future access.

If you have made feature films you should know this never goes away. Recently I was asked for some assets from a feature film that I made over 20 years ago. Movies are like kids. You think they have left until something comes up and suddenly you are dealing with a crisis you thought you had left behind in a past life before the apocalypse.

Whether it’s rushes, contracts, music cue sheets, unedited photos, masters, edited photos, edit projects, EPKs, key artwork, press releases, reviews, DCP’s, stem mixes, final mixes, pro-tools projects… yada yada… the biggest mistake you can make is to make is to assume that your editor, photographer, designer, DP… that THEY have it backed up. And in more than one place.

They may well have, but what happens if they get hit by a car? Or you fall out? Or they recycle a drive? Or most likely, they just lose it?


Remember, if it gets lost or deleted, it’s not your fault but it is your responsibility.

Five years ago, my editor friends and myself got together and created a Google team with unlimited cloud storage.


This meant we could have a set of local backups on drives and have a clone, a mirrored drive in some ways, up in the cloud. Then Google changed their terms and that deal was over.

They were good enough to give us 50 days to sort it out. No mean feat too, as some of us were close to 100 TB of data. I am running at 47 TB right now. Collectively the five of us were approaching a quarter of a petabyte. Yikes!

Off to Dropbox then with their iron clad promise of ‘As much storage as you need’.

Except it’s not.

At 80 TB they said as much as you need is actually 1 TB extra per month. Of course this is to protect other users. Poor excuse Dropbox. Change your deal now and make it clear.

So a major fail there from Dropbox (and I am fan and have been with them right from the start). Massive trust has been lost.

Enter Backblaze!

Now we are all using Backblaze which is super cost effective at $130 for two years of unlimited storage. And yes it is unlimited. Or at least so far. You can sign up to Backblaze HERE with my affiliate link and get 1 month extra free, and I do too.



So how does it work? Or how do I do it myself?

In short, build a simple set of disks in a box, organise and copy ALL your stuff to that dedicated box used ONLY for archiving, then clone the box onto the secure Backblaze servers.

Drive enclosure

Local Storage
I used a simple drive enclosure so that I could re-use a bunch of old hard drives that were on the roomier side, and I also bought some new 18 TB drives. Installing them in the enclosure is super simple and the box was set up as JBOD – short for Just A Bunch of Disks. Effectively this means that the box is just a giant USB enclosure with several hard drives inside it. The drives can be removed or replaced easily, and the drives can also be read on other computers too. If you want to use RAID, you can BUT I think this is a mistake as this is long term, storage and not regular access drives. It’s way more expensive to do too.

Impact50 folders

Copy Data
Don’t rush this. It’s your opportunity to organise ALL your old digital stuff. I chose to create folders for each year, then sub folders for projects. Each project sub folder would then have multiple further subfolders such as ‘Stills’, ‘Rushes’, ‘Contracts’ etc. You get the idea. Usually this stuff, especially the older stuff, may be scattered over many old dusty drives, or with other people, or even in the cloud. Download the cloud stuff as it’s NEVER 100% guaranteed not to be lost (or a company be bought out or go bust).

You may also bump into old tech like floppy disks, zip drives, CDr and DVDr. You may need to buy some tech of Amazon or eBay for this. If stuff is on tape, this is a whole other post and I will cover that in the future.

Once a project is fully organised, you can move onto the next project. Often you will find stuff in later digital expeditions onto old media, stuff that you will then add to those older projects. You will find stuff that you forget even existed!

old film project hard drives

Old Drives
Carefully and clearly store your old drives with the original data and resist the urge to delete and reuse. It’s very likely you may have made an error and may need to go back to the original drives at some point. Under the bed or on-top of the closet they go.  


Backblaze Begins
As you work on your new drives and archiving, Backblaze will begin backing all your stuff up to their servers. Remember this is a backup and should be considered only there for emergencies such as a house fire, failed drive or burglary etc. Backblaze has some files that it excludes from backups. I chose to disable that so it backed up everything as older projects could have weird naming conventions.

Then just get into the habit or organising, labeling and copying stuff onto the archive drives and storing original drives under you bed.

That’s it! Sorta…
Old projects from ten years ago had small footprints. Newer projects seem huge in comparison, so you may well end up running out of space and needing to replace older small drives with bigger new ones. Hence my recommendation to buy a box that is bigger than needed.  

NOTE: Backblaze needs to sync your drives once a month, so you need to remember to spin them up every few weeks or so. Or you can get the 1 year option that means you only need to sync once a year. That’s an extra $2 a month ATM.

A steal really.

From what I understand, we are also reaching the limit of hard drive technology too, with 22 TB getting close to the ceiling of what is possible. Of course, I am sure they will fix this, but it is worth noting. Solid state drives will no doubt be ubiquitous in a decade and older spinning drives a weird throwback.

OK good luck, it’s a lengthy adventure, but you will sleep better at night. Let me know how you get on and if you find out anything that should be mentioned here.

Chris Jones
Filmmaker, Author and Firewalk Instructor
My Twitter @LivingSpiritPix
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What am I doing now?
Directing splinter unit on Mission: Impossible 8
Exec producing The Enfield Poltergeist

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