Disk space for multimedia files

As I prepare for my trip to Africa and for capturing audio & video on my journey, I’m realizing I need a lot more storage space for the media files I’ll create. Questions are coming up:

1. Should I upgrade the drive in my 12" PowerBook G4 to a larger size than its current 60GB?

I’ve already had advice from my friend Tantek to definitely have a pro do this if I go this route since its a fragile operation. (Of course, I could get an immediate 28GB upgrade by moving my iTunes folder off, but since this is my primary stereo, that’d only be a temporary solution and is unattractive).

2. Should I buy some small physical size, high storage USB drives to store things on? What are the largest ones available?

I saw Seagate has a 5GB. Anyone know of others or have experience with them good or bad? Seems like I’d want to carry at least two so I could back files up to both in case of disk failure.

3. Where can I learn more about video capture and editing so I can work with the largest file size I need and no larger?

Friend of a friend Elli recommended I get Quicktime Pro which will let me edit my movies and export them to other formats. Any other recommendations? Good books or online tutorials?

4. Anyone got any experience with or know any resources to help me with safely and securely uploading posts and/or media from random internet connections? Advice on extending battery life and recharging while traveling (especially in regions with flaky power supplies) would also be most welcome. (I don’t suppose there’s a good solar charger yet…)

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Dinah from Kabalor

Author. Discardian. GM. Current project: creating an inclusive indie fantasy ttrpg https://www.patreon.com/kabalor

9 thoughts on “Disk space for multimedia files”

  1. I’d get a couple of bigger (160GB?) raw drives and a single firewire enclosure. Then, when and if you fill up a drive, you can swap out one with another. What are half-heigh 160GB these days? $180 w/tax? And a good enclosure is about $40. More expensive enclosures have card readers so you can download memory cards to them without even having to boot your computer.
    Instead of a USB powered hard drive (which will suck your battery like vampres), I’d say bring a spindle of DVD-Rs. They’re cheap as hell, and hold 4.5GB apiece. Plus you can make two copies, and put one in the post to send back home for extra security. 100 of ’em are heavy, but that’s nearly half a terrabyte of data capacity!
    As to upgrading your PowerBook hard drive, if it’s in good order, I wouldn’t even trust a professional to crack it open before leaving on your trip — if they fuck up, it’s going to be hard to find a Genius Bar in Africa. That said, I just replaced a failed HD in my own 12″ PowerBook, and just needed a very small phillips head, some small hex wrenches and needlenose pliers — you can get all the tools for around $20, and I’d recommend them in case you really do have to make repairs in the field.
    If you’re shooting on a tape camera, what I would do is download the tape once and encode into DVD format (MiniDV is about 17GB/hour). If you’re shooting on an iSight, I’d also go with DVD format. Whatever you do, play the tapes as little as possible, and if you can (say, with another bloke’s camera), make a copy of your fresh tape and post it home.


  2. Just to make things difficult, my personal storage space during this 15 day safari is limited: “Baggage on this tour is limited to your locker space (length 80cm, width 30cm, height 34 cm).” What is that? About 31″x12″x13″. That’s for clothes, toiletries and any electronic devices I’m bringing along. For reference, my Powerbook would take up 28x22x3cm of that space, not including cables, extra battery (or batteries).
    So, bringing extra external drives would be problematic. However the “device I can download a memory card to without booting the computer” idea is intriguing. I should definitely dig into that.
    My plan at the moment is to capture digital video with the iSight camera which is very compact. Yes, it means having the laptop running which is awkward and power-greedy, but when I was going down the “don’t bring the laptop” path, I was hung up on the issues of storing my newly created video & audio, powering the devices, and, here’s another painful side, having to buy the camera & audio recorder.
    One thing to bear in mind that I will have a small, very lightweight digital camera borrowed from my good friend Edmond, so I can capture the “wow! Look at that!” moment. The laptop & iSight will come out more occasionally, probably only a couple times a day at most.
    My first priority on the trip is experiencing it all myself, not documenting it, so I don’t mind the constraint of not having a video camera ready all the time.


  3. My first thought was to suggest taking a little DV camera, because on a journey like this, tape is your friend. An itty-bitty miniDV tape stores an hour of nigh-on-broadcast-quality video – 13.5Gb. My ageing Sony camcorder has a high-capacity battery and will record for about three hours or so; for a weekend away, I don’t even bother backing a charger. “But!” you interject, “13Gb and hour is huge! I can’t fit that on a PowerBook!” No. So you don’t. You capture and edit the video when you get back.
    However, if you’re going to use an iSight… Hmm. The best small hard drives I can think of are… iPods. No, really. Forget the media player bit, you can capture to them quite happily, and they have a battery. An iSight I think spits out standard DV, so it’s still 13.5Gb/hour.
    Alternatively, you can configure QuickTime Broadcaster (free from Apple) to compress DV to MPEG4 on-the-fly, and save it to disk. You’re throwing away quality, but if your eventual delivery medium is the web, you can afford to drop really quite a lot, and since compression can be done in real time it’s fairly easy to fiddle around until you find a compromise you’re happy with.
    I don’t know if iMovie et al will handle less-than-DV well (they didn’t used to, but I think that may have changed with iLife ’05). But QuickTime Pro is unbelievably useful, and well worth the shareware fee for this sort of stuff IMHO.


  4. To be clear: you capture video to an iPod by mounting it as a hard drive on your PowerBook, and… oh bother, there’s only one FireWire socket? Umm… drat. Unless you can do a FW800-400 adaptor for either the iPod or iSight.
    Tape. It’s cheap, robust, and the quality rocks.


  5. And so we come back around again to the question: “Should I bring the laptop or should I buy some kind of little camcorder and little audio recorder (and the necessary batteries and additional storage media for them)?”
    *sigh* It’s like a merry-go-round planning this trip, I swear.


  6. I’d say as long as you keep your individual video moments down to 15-20minutes, then you can just save the raw video from the iSight on a DVD. No external drive needed (but I like the iPod idea, VV smart). And you can back up your still pics, typed notes, etc, and it’s pretty inexpensive to make two copies of each backup just in case.
    But using the iSight means you’re going to be tethered to one place — a laptop with an iSight clipped to it and a microphone dangling off it isn’t tres portable. In that case, a compact MiniDV camera (which can be had for around $500 these days) might be your better solution. Remember, you can record CD-quality audio using the camera, as well, and most will do progressive-scan 1.2mp stills, as well. Jonathan’s right about the tapes. Plus, you’ll probably be able to get more Mini DV tapes once there (at least, in the major urban centers and tourist shops), which I doubt is the case for DVD-Rs.
    I think for the video, unless you want them all to be more confessional-style, you’ll have a lot more fun with the camera.


  7. These folks (http://www.pbfixit.com/Guide/) make awesome (free) upgrade guides. They make it so easy they even give you a little page for you to set the screws on after you take them out. It’s an easy job if you or a geekier friend is willing to pop open the case. It is slightly daunting but if you’re not afraid, you can probably do it. Make sure you have the right size tools when you start, it’s a lot easier that way 🙂
    I’d swear I did a post about how easy this was on my blog, but I sure can’t find it…


  8. BTW, I think the largest drive you can get these days that fits is 100GB.
    At the time I’m pretty sure I used the 100GB 2.5″ Seagate Momentus 5400RPM ATA Notebook drive with 8MB Cache (SEAST9100823A), I think I just saw it at Best Buy for $199.00 but the few mail order sites I just checked say 5-10 dollars more than that…


  9. Good to know.
    When the sound got squirrelly the other day and squeezing the case made it go back to normal, I decided it was time to do my semi-annual upgrade a year early. Maybe I can make myself get 3 years out of the replacement machine. Once I have the new PowerBook (with its 100GB hard drive), then I’ll migrate data and extra memory from this one and put it in for repairs (assuming the insurance will kick in).
    On the down side, it could be seen as spending $900 I wouldn’t have otherwise (since I probably would have upgraded next summer and I expect to get at least 2 years use out of the new one). On the up side, I can probably sell this current one. And before I do, I’ll save myself $129 by using the battery from it on my trip instead of having to buy an extra.


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