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Understanding Storage Capacity and Gigabytes in Digital Video

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/16/2010

Here is a look at how digital storage methods play with digital video files for storage or editing.

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    Digital Storage

    In the world of non-linear video editing, media management is really the new technical focus of digital video production. When you capture video from your digital storage devices, such as a P2 storage card or digitized from a DV tape, it transfers to a digital file on your computer. This movie file, which can come in different specific formats, acts really as a data file and can be dealt with and stored in the same way that you would with a text or music file. The difference here is that, often times, it has to be referenced by different programs for their project files to work and that it is large for storage. Here is an overview of storage capacity as it relates to digital video and how to work with these files in an effective and productive way.

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    File Size

    There are some different calculations where you can get the approximate file size of the average digital video file based on its resolution, size, and length, but these are so relative to specifics in the coding that it will become irrelevant to most people. It should be understood that digital video files in their raw format are incredibly large no matter what. The first part of this is that the higher the resolution, the larger the general format will be. For example, in HD formats 1080i is going to be a larger file than 720p in general. This is because more information is contained within the file, and in this case this is visual and / or audio information. In standard definition you are going to have less file size per length, but it will remain fairly large in all cases.

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    Limiting the Overall Size

    Video files get into the multiple gigabytes of file size, with large video editing projects going beyond the gigabyte range and into terabytes. As hard drive space becomes larger it seems as this may be more accessible, but the video quality also increases and the file size will as well. To cut this down you should start by deleting any file that you absolutely know you are not going to use. This is especially true when editing narrative films, but should also be employed when you find unnecessary footage for things like documentaries and music videos. If you simply have a large catalogue of video files on your digital storage devices and want to maintain them you should start by compressing the video when you can. What this does is take some of the information out of the video, effectively lowering the video quality, and also limiting the dynamic range of the audio that is in the video. This is standard for putting the video online, onto DVD or Blu-ray formats, or onto portable formats like an iPhone or iPod.

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    Capture Scratch

    If you are having space issues in your digital storage devices you may want to limit the amount of files that you capture or import in the first place. Do this by employing a batch capture method, avoid simple capture now on all digital video tapes, or by putting backup files from formats like P2 storage cards onto your hard drive.