Sheep and Sisyphus – The Toils of a Data Wrangler

As we loaded the van in Bournemouth ready to head off to Chalke Valley, the guy behind the kit desk gave a knowing chuckle when I told him I was to be data wrangler at the festival this year. ‘It’s a fancy name for the poor sod who sits in a dark room transferring files’. Blinded by my hubris, I laughed him off, oblivious to the truth of his words.

It wasn’t entirely true of course, there was no dark room. Just a very hot tent. In a field. There were sheep.

The major challenge I faced was storing the footage in a way that allowed me to later find specific files which needed to be passed on to our editors. This was crucial because over the course of the week I ingested over 10,000 files into the system. The recipient of these files was a hulking external hard drive sat next to me, which I affectionately christened Tobias.

Tobias and the backup hard drive, his son Toby Jr.

Anyway, the system I developed revolved around the file names – I put enough information in the names of the files I was transferring that I could easily find them again. The format I used was day_project_equipment_name and it worked really well. Using equipment as a variable rather than merely camera/sound allowed for the fact that people would often use different cameras filming the same project. Adding their name at the end further helped avoid confusion as to who filmed what.

I set out a portion of the table where people could fill out the relevant information on sticky notes, which they could then attach to their SD Cards and leave for me to ingest. Another feature which saved my life was the ability to mass-rename files (Press F2 with the files selected), saving valuable time in the transfers.

If this is sounding a little boring to you, it’s because it was. Once I had the system figured out it was just a matter of clicking and dragging files across from one folder to another.

What made it interesting is that in amongst this constant stream of transfers, I also had to review all the footage coming in and cut the best of it together into daily roundups. Each day around 5pm the pressure set in to meet the 8 o’clock deadline and I would enter an almost zen-like focus, shaped by the stresses and pressure of the task at hand. Anyone foolish enough to disturb me was met with primeval grunts and a look I didn’t know my face was capable of making. If anyone from the team is reading this I can only apologise.

BUT, I got them done, in the later half of the week helped by the brilliant Naomi. Each day, when the dust had finally settled as I hit that export button, I would look over and see the pile of SD Cards waiting for me to ingest. My very own version of Sysiphus’s toil.

*sad violin music*

 

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