by Bobby Amm. The move from film to digital in the production of television commercials has had a major impact, not only in the way things work on set but also in the way the final product is stored. Where once we relied on physical reels of film stored in film labs, digital files are now stored on remote hard drives.

Adequate insurance

Agencies and production companies need to communicate effectively when it comes to the storage of advertising material and must also check that adequate insurance is in place to cover potential losses. If this doesn’t happen, material that has cost millions of rand to produce may easily be lost or corrupted. Long-term storage solutions should always be discussed from the outset so that all parties understand their responsibilities and are well-positioned to meet them. The production company should note in its quote cover-letter the process to be followed, and this should be quoted for (on post-breakouts).

The production company is responsible for storage on an appropriate hard drive on the shoot day. This process is generally insured under the production company’s “Producer’s Package”, which should be carefully read to ensure full compliance with the insurers’ recommended protocol. Generally, the material must be transferred to two hard drives which are independently transported to two different locations. This is to ensure that one drive is secure in the event that the other is lost or destroyed. It must always be remembered that hard drives are not a reliable source of long-term storage as they get old and sometimes fail for no reason.

One of the two master drives should be sent to the post-production house for the edit and the other should be kept at a safe location. This is to ensure that at least one of the drives is secure, should a catastrophe occur at either the post house or the alternate location. Of course, this doesn’t rule out all eventualities (such as a natural disaster that may destroy both locations); however, the chance of this occurring is extremely remote.

Secure backups

Once the commercial is completed, the production company should make a secure backup on one of two popular long-term back-up systems, LTO or Clear. Generally speaking, the production company arranges this but after a certain amount of time — usually six or 12 months — the responsibility will be handed over to the agency, which will then oversee the long-term storage of the material on behalf of its client.

In order to effect this handover, the production company should send the master material to the agency with a delivery note that is signed by a representative of the agency. At this point, the responsibility to safeguard the material transfers from the production company to the agency. It is recommended that each agency has a protocol in place which it can follow on delivery of the master material; this will safeguard against mistakes and the loss of valuable footage.

It’s also important to note that the work that the post facility does after the shoot isn’t insured under the production company’s insurance policy. The advertising agency must check that the post facility has adequate insurance in the event that the data is lost during its work time. If the facility were to lose the data, it would have to redo it at no cost in the event that it carries no insurance.

Far-reaching consequences

While the long-term storage of material might not be the most-pressing issue on everyone’s agenda, its small details could have far-reaching consequences. If you don’t yet have a protocol in place on how to deal with storage, now is the time to look into it.


Bobby AmmBobby Amm is chief executive of the Commercial Producers Association of South Africa (CPA), the trade association of production companies that produce television, cinema and internet commercials for the local and international market. After a brief stint in journalism, she began her career in the industry at the Consultative Committee for the Entertainment Industry in the early 1990s. She first joined the CPA in 1997 but left three years later to join a production company. After finding that she missed the big-picture perspective of the CPA and the interesting issues which continuously perplex the production industry, Bobby returned to the CPA in 2003. She contributes “The Martini Shot” column monthly, covering developments, trends and insights into the commercial production and film services industries in South Africa, to MarkLives.

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