This comes a day late for 2017’s World Backup Day. I’m not April-Fools-ing you. Yesterday was World Backup Day. In a totally planned move, I want to bring you a product review to match. Handling digital footage, like celluloid, requires care and precision. A hastily hit delete key can really screw up your day. The industry-standard solution to avoid data loss is backups and archives. Essentially, you should always have at least two copies of a file in two different places. I won’t go into excruciating detail what is considered a backup or an archive, what different types of backup there are and how best to ensure the long-term persistence of data because that would totally be an entire series of blog posts. Here I want to talk about the way we create copies of our footage.
Whenever we copy files, the safest way to ensure we actually created an identical copy is by verifying the transfer of ones and zeroes. We do this by “hashing” the file – sort of like a digit sum of the file. This hash is mathematically designed to be unique, so no two files will ever have the same hash unless they are exact copies of one another. And there we go. By copying a file, then creating a hash for the original file and the copy, we now have a method of verifying the copy is actually an exact replica of the original file.
When I looked into options for backup software for the post facility I work for, I came across Pomfort Silverstack, a solution I’ve used on a few student films where I was DIT. While Silverstack packs a host of additional features besides the copy-and-verify function, it is also priced at $400 USD per year. Not exactly indie. Well, it does come with proxy rendering, quick color grading tools for on-set grading and much more. But I don’t need that. I just need a lightweight program that does my copying.
Hedge is such a program. After some searching, I found this solution by a small group of filmmakers and friends from the Netherlands. They kindly supplied me with a full version of Hedge for the purpose of this review. I have since used it at work to copy and verify heaps of data, from offloading camera media to copying editing projects from our editing NAS to our archive drives. If you are looking for a sleek, Apple-style solution to transfer media from A to B interface, Hedge is that tool.
Besides doing multi-source and destination verified transfers, Hedge focusses on transfer speeds. Their blog over at Medium is a great resource for learning about improved file transfer workflows and how they speed up copies compared to simply copying files in Finder or Windows Explorer.
While I really like the program, there is one thing I would love to see included: renaming. Renaming files upon copy is something that indie productions have to deal with frequently. When shooting on a Blackmagicdesign camera, ARRI or Red, you get smart filenames including camera and clip numbers so duplicates within a project can be avoided. However, when shooting on DSLR or mirrorless cameras, you are frequently stuck with something like “MVI_9201.mp4”. Therefore, renaming would be a great addition. And yes, you can always rename manually (actually the macOS rename tool in Finder is great!). Taken the 0€ entry-level Hedge Free and the incredible 90€ Hedge Premium options, I can live without renaming, though.
All in all, if you need a smarter solution than just copying files and want to avoid nerdy solutions like using the command line, Hedge is a great start to increase security and speed up footage transfer between various media.
Also published on Medium.