What size drive do I need for my shoot?

As you may already realize, this is a complicated question to answer; hopefully, this quick guide will set you up with the resources you’ll need to answer that question for yourself and your production team.

Resolution and Frame Rate

The first step in figuring out how much total hard drive space your project will need is deciding what resolution and frame rate you’re shooting in. 


With resolution it’s tempting, of course, to spring for whatever is the biggest available, but in a world with an increasing number of ultra high-res recording options, it’s important to keep in mind that every production will reach a point of diminishing returns for one reason or another. For example, if your shoot features lots of green screen and VFX, it might make sense to spring for a higher resolution so your VFX Editor has maximum flexibility. But say, instead, you’re shooting a 3-hour concert with multiple cameras; if you were shooting 8K you’d be burning through data like crazy.

As for frame rate, it’s important to consider that a higher frame rate will mean more data - as in, 1 minute of 4K video at 24fps is going to be significantly less data than 1 minute of 4K video at 96fps. If your shoot is going to be high-speed intensive, make sure not to forget about this.

As for frame rate, it’s important to consider that a higher frame rate will mean more data - as in, 1 minute of 4K video at 24fps is going to be significantly less data than 1 minute of 4K video at 96fps. If your shoot is going to be high-speed intensive, make sure not to forget about this.

Codecs and Data Rates

Next, you’ll have to decide what codec you’ll be recording in. There are tons of codecs out there (many of which have confusing and/or overly similar names), but the good news is that once you’ve decided which camera you’re shooting with, you’ll only have a limited number of codec options to choose from. 


The key thing to look for here is the codec’s data rate. This is usually measured in megabytes-per-minute of recording time, but it could be in other units, such as gigabytes-per-hour. In general, you should be able to find these numbers online without too much difficulty. In fact, many manufacturers now have calculators on their websites where you can see instantly how many minutes of footage a card will hold under your given recording settings. Here are links to some of these calculators:

What about card size?

It’s one thing to know how much total data you’re going to be needing to store, but another major consideration is how large your camera’s individual cards are and how many of them you have. On certain sets this may not make a huge difference, but on others this will be an absolutely essential consideration. 


If you’re shooting an interview, you may know you need space for 2TB of footage, but if it’s important that you get the whole interview in a continuous take, you need to make sure your cards are big enough that you won’t have to swap in the middle. If this is your situation, you may also want to consider getting a camera that has two slots for media and has a “relay mode” option, which means that when one card hits capacity, the camera will automatically start recording on the second card without missing a frame. But do note that not all cameras with two card slots will relay record automatically from one card to the next (for example, the Arri Amira).

It’s one thing to know how much total data you’re going to be needing to store, but another major consideration is how large your camera’s individual cards are and how many of them you have. On certain sets this may not make a huge difference, but on others this will be an absolutely essential consideration.

If you’re shooting an interview, you may know you need space for 2TB of footage, but if it’s important that you get the whole interview in a continuous take, you need to make sure your cards are big enough that you won’t have to swap in the middle. If this is your situation, you may also want to consider getting a camera that has two slots for media and has a “relay mode” option, which means that when one card hits capacity, the camera will automatically start recording on the second card without missing a frame. But do note that not all cameras with two card slots will relay record automatically from one card to the next (for example, the Arri Amira).