Choosing the Best Ingest Strategy for Your Workflow

The way you ingest your media affects the way you’ll work with it during editorial development as well as what additional steps you’ll need to perform in order to finish and master your program. One of the most fundamental workflow decisions you have to make is whether to work in an offline/online manner or ingest your media at online quality right from the beginning and work at full quality all the way through the finishing process.

No matter what kind of media you use, there are three general approaches to ingesting and working with your media.

Ingest, edit, and finish at online quality

Using this strategy, you ingest all of your media at its highest native level of quality. You edit at this quality, and when you’re ready, you finish your project by color correcting and mastering it using the same media that you originally ingested. All the way through your project’s development, you’re working with your media at its most pristine.

Ingesting all your media at its highest quality means that when you’re ready for finishing, there’s no need to reconform, which saves time. However, this can require large amounts of disk space, especially for uncompressed HD, 2K, and 4K formats. Furthermore, some video formats are processor-intensive and reduce real-time performance while you’re editing, which can slow you down.

Whether or not this method works for you depends on the type and amount of media that was originally acquired. For example, the source footage for shorter projects or those using a compressed acquisition format (such as DV-25, HDV, or DVCPRO HD) can be realistically captured in its entirety at the highest native level of quality. On the other hand, projects that have a large amount of source material (for example, documentaries with hundreds of hours of footage) and use a high-bandwidth format (such as the Uncompressed 10-bit or Apple ProRes 4444 codec) may be more difficult to manage this way.

Ingest at online quality, edit using duplicate offline media, and reconform to online media for finishing

This strategy is typical for many programs whose media was acquired using a tapeless recording format. Using this method, you copy or ingest all of your recorded media at its highest native level of quality and then immediately back it up for safety. You then create a second set of lower-quality media files, using either the Log and Transfer window or the Media Manager (depending on the format of media you’re working with). This duplicate offline media has cloned timecode, clip names, reel names, and UUIDs (or Universally Unique Identifiers; see Ingesting Tapeless Media) that are identical to those in the source media. You edit your program using the offline media, which typically results in better performance, allowing you to work more efficiently.

When you’re ready to finish, you reconform your program to the online media that you originally ingested. Because the online media is already on your hard disks, the reconform process should be relatively easy, and you can color correct, master, and output your program at this high quality.

This method of working requires large amounts of disk space because you need to maintain both the online and offline versions of media. However, often the online media is stored on one system and the offline media is used on an entirely different computer. The online-to-offline conversion can be time-consuming but happens only once at the very beginning of the process, and makes it faster and easier to reconform later, when you frequently have less time. In the interim, offline media lets you use a less expensive computer to do the majority of your work.

Note: Although this is the only way to work with tapeless media, this method can be used with any type of captured media.

Ingest and edit at offline quality and reconform to online quality for finishing

This strategy is typical for programs whose media was acquired using high-bandwidth, tape-based formats. Using this method, you ingest your media at offline quality and do your entire offline edit using this low-quality, low-bandwidth media. When you’re ready to finish your program, you recapture only the media that is used in the final program from the source videotapes at online quality, and from this point forward you color correct, master, and output your program at high quality.

When you use this method, the initial ingest is usually fast and has minimal disk space requirements. However, you need to budget both time and equipment for the eventual process of reconforming from the source tapes. As always, the key to a successful reconform in this scenario is to carefully maintain the timecode and reel identification of each clip in your project, as these two pieces of data are key in maintaining the correspondence between the offline and online media. Archiving the source media, especially with tapeless formats, is critical.