The bane of every editor and archivist is the request to share a video file. For someone without experience in this world, you might assume that this is as easy as sending an email — no, no it’s not.
The size of video files makes them so hard to share that many movie and television studios routinely use couriers and physical hard drives as a means of transferring footage from one editor to another. Is there a better way? — yes, of course there is!
The easiest way to enable high-volume sharing of large video files is to invest in a VAM (video asset management) platform. This delivers security and simple usability. However, there are ways to share your video files without investing in any fancy software packages. So, here are our 5 tips for sharing large video files in 2019.
1. Use transfer sites
The basic solution is to reach out to a trusted transfer site. These allow you to upload your video files to a cloud-based server and redistribute them to virtually anyone by sending a unique link. There are many to choose from, and many of them are free. Trusted transfer sites include:
- Dropbox — Probably the best-known transfer service out there, Dropbox users can upload files of up to 2GB for free (16GB with referrals). Alternatively, there are paid options for those with greater needs.
- Google Drive — If you’re on a budget, Google Drive has a generous allowance of 15GB of free space linked to your Google account.
- OneDrive — Microsoft’s equivalent of Google Drive delivers a similar 15GB allowance.
- WeTransfer — A free and easy to use service that allows you to send files of up to 2GB at a time. Files can be uploaded and shared as often as you like with up to 20 recipients. However, uploads can be slow during busy times.
- Masv — Perfect for larger video files such as those in 4K, Masv specializes in the transfer of 20GB+ files over the cloud. It has a pay-as-you-go pricing model with a cost of $0.25 per Gigabyte of download. There are no subscription fees, support fees or contracts, and no user or bandwidth limits.
All of these solutions are a great fix if you need to share something today. However, for repeat use and large projects, even the generous file size allocations of over 20GB will become limiting. For one time use, you can break apart a file and send it over in bits. However, there can be tricky to understand limits to the number of downloads and uploads different sites allow over a short space of time, particularly for larger files.
Ultimately, transfer sites are not a great solution for professional workflows, particularly the free versions. And, even for low demand use cases, if you are going to effectively use transfer sites, you need to understand compression. Which brings us to...
2. Get creative with compression
In most cases, uploading your master files byte for byte can be extremely unwieldy. It will take too long and will likely eat up your data allowances. Fortunately, compression can be very effective at making video files more manageable over the cloud. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with the basics to make sure you dial in the right settings for every job.
How compression works
Compression uses algorithms to assess video data and either delete or minimize any data that could be considered surplus to requirements. Different types of compression assess files in different ways and you can use different methods to suit different needs.
When fully optimized, compression can offer a 98% reduction in file size, making even hours of footage in 4K easy to handle. However, there are some caveats to that — you likely aren’t going to keep all of your data.
Lossy and lossless compression
Broadly speaking, the type of compression you use will depend on whether or not you need the data that is “lost” in the compression process back, or whether you are happy for it to be permanently deleted.
Compression types that permanently delete data are called “lossy”. Popular lossy codecs are H.263, H.264, HEVC (H.265) and WMV. Lossy compression allows you to get a smaller file that plays at a lower bitrate at the same level of playback quality when compared to “lossless” formats like H.264 lossless, H.265 lossless and Apple ProRes. If you want to cut out 98% of your files size, you’re going to need to embrace pretty extreme lossy compression.
The problem with lossy compression is that the files can never be ‘uncompressed’. You permanently lose video quality. Lossy compression is common for uploads to online streaming sites. But it’s not ideal for sharing footage for editing — that is, unless you are using proxies.
3. Use proxies
Proxies are size-reduced copies of a master video. They play a vital role in remote video editing by allowing for the application of heavy compression — including reducing frame rates and resolution.
The other side of a proxy is ‘conforming’. Conforming is the process of taking a proxy edit and relaying all changes made to it back to a high-resolution master copy of the file. This is done by comparing frame-specific time-stamps in the proxy to the original. Editing software able to create proxies will be able to do this process automatically.
The number one thing you need to ensure when creating a proxy is that exact frame accuracy is retained. With frame-rate reduced proxies, the frames that remain have to correspond with the exact time-stamps for those frames in the master. If they do not, your proxy will be effectively worthless.
Using proxies also requires an editing system that can keep track of those ‘legacy’ time-stamps. You need to use ‘proxy-editing’ settings to make sure that those are not deleted when alterations are made.
The limits of proxies
Proxies are a fantastic technology that enables far greater flexibility when it comes to sharing files online. However, they are only useful if that proxy is going to come back to you for conforming. Otherwise, you are just sharing a low-res, lossy compressed copy of your video.
4. Cloud-based editing
If your goal for sharing a video file is for editing purposes, proxies are a great solution. They allow you to send files away, receive edited updates, and match them with a high-resolution copy. The challenge is keeping track of all those copies.
The solution is to introduce the same kind of ‘single-source-of-truth’, collaborative functions to video editing that Google Docs and Office 365 brought to text files. That means moving into the cloud. Rather than sharing files, you want to enable remote access to a single, central file. With the level of compression that proxies make available, the bitrate issues that have always made this impossible can be surmounted.
Cloud-enabled VAM collaboration
Going from a master file to a cloud-enabled proxy (and back) is complex. If done manually, it will introduce a number of extra steps into your workflow, and create risks of error.
As we mentioned at the beginning, the simplest way to take your video editing into the cloud is with VAM. Cloud-enabled video asset management platforms automate the entire process, delivering simple and robust workflows that make the entire process of sharing large video files easy.
Cloud-based editing also moves the goal-post from simply ‘sharing’, to real collaboration. Working in the cloud allows you to engage with remote teams as if everyone was in the same office. The possibilities here are only expanding, and it’s something you need to keep front-of-mind when developing processes for media creation.
Direct integrations and added value
VAM platforms can be integrated directly with editing software to allow for collaborative and secure real-time editing. This makes the entire process seamless, and is critical to actually delivering a tangible improvement to your workflow, not simply another stop-gap measure for sharing large files online.
This kind of system will actually bring a bunch of other integration benefits beyond simply sharing files. Integrating your production and archive environments can make it far simpler to repurpose your back catalog for new projects. Leading-edge solutions partner VAM with object detection, facial recognition, and natural speech software to deliver unparalleled archive visibility. All of these are worth exploring in their own right.
5. Make sure your security is up to snuff
Depending on the nature of your files, the risk of an online leak might be a huge worry, or not a concern at all. However, whenever putting anything out online, you need to think about how you will retain control over your data.
The basics of online security are encryption. There are a number of video encryption tools you can use to keep your files safe, two great choices are:
- Folder Lock: developed by NewSoftware, Folder Lock uses AES 256-bit encryption and is compatible with most mobile devices. It’s free to download but requires a subscription for full access. Depending on the features you want, that will cost you between $40 and $90.
- AxCrypt: a great tool with loads of options, AxCrypt is a professional solution trusted by businesses everywhere. Able to provide a range of encryption formats, it’s able to integrate directly with cloud storage devices. There is a free version, but you will need to pay a subscription ranging between $35 and $86 per year to unlock everything AxCrypt has to offer.
The problem with simply encrypting your files is that most cyber breaches are actually the result of human error — 90% to be precise. If you want a truly secure online workflow, you need to create processes that automate and standardize cybersecurity, removing as much risk as possible.
This is where VAM enters the picture again. Cloud-enabled VAM makes the application of encryption simple -- standardizing the process. VAM allows you to set permissions and create customized categories that provide different users with variable levels of access. This turns the more basic ability to apply encryption into a functional solution that delivers control over your data. With VAM, you are able to keep everything in a single, secure location.
Sharing large video files doesn’t have to be hard
Digital technology has increased the demand to share large files online. It has also delivered answers that make that sharing easy. In fact, digital tools allow you to go beyond simply sharing files, and enable real-time, remote collaboration online.
Software solution like VAM automate many of the challenges associated with a transition into the cloud. With the proper planning and administrative diligence, cloud-based collaborative editing can be achieved manually. Editing software like Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro have cloud features that can be effectively accessed with the right proxy settings. What you don’t get are seamless workflows.
Cloud-based file sharing and editing via VAM platforms can transform video production. If you are able to spend less time struggling to share files and ensure that the right files are in the right place, think about how much more time you will have to be creative. The tools needed to match new demands for video output exist — 2020 will be an exciting year for video production.