Can an independent filmmaker or small production company build a cost effective database platform for their media collection? Here we will showcase a basic online archive that has been created with a simple database using Excel software.
Few organizations have both piles of money and skilled preservation professionals from which to organize and maintain a high quality archive.  The vast majority of the world's moving image collections are in the hands of independent filmmakers and small media production companies.  These are the moving image collections that are most likely at risk due to a lack of resources and planning.  
The foundation of any good archive is the database.  Don't procrastinate on getting started with organizing your media collection using a database.  If you wait too long then the whole process of organizing your media collection will become an overwhelming task.  A little planning now will help avoid anguished chaos in the future.  
So what does a basic media database look like?  For a brief introduction, you can view a sample of our Excel database that powers the Footage Seach feature on this website.  Click here to download the sample Excel database file.
An important point for every media database is to create a unique master file naming system.  In our sample Excel file, you can see that we use an 8-digit number under the Filename column.  A filename should only contain numbers or letters with no spaces or special characters.  I would suggest that you use only numbers for your filenames, as numbers are universally compatible with any language database system.  Every piece of media gets its own unique filename, whether it is a short video clip or a feature film.  All the other data inputs in the database such as keywords, format, copyright owner, location, title, length, etc., will be referenced by this master filename.  Checkout some of the articles listed in our Reports section of our website for detailed guidance for creating good metadata / databases.  There are many options to consider and many of these articles by outside experts provide good insight on "best practices" of database management for media collections. 
While I make no claim to being a database expert, I will gently suggest that you pick a database platform that is both simple and is likely to be compatible with other software systems into the future.  I personally selected Excel since it is widely used and will probably be compatible with future software / hardware systems.  My Excel data can easily be converted for use in other database systems like MySQL, should you decide to offer online web access to your moving image library.
A simple media database can be a powerful tool for keeping your moving image collection organized.  The Archive featured on this website showcases a portion of my own contemporary HD collection which is powered by a MySQL database hosted on a regular web server.  You can browse this archive by typing a "keyword" into the Footage Search box.  A successful keyword search will display thumbnail images of all the shots within the collection that match that keyword.  Double click on any of the thumbnails to view the actual video clip.  It's a simple system, but fast and effective. 
A well organized moving image collection brings added value to any media collection.  Time is money in every business.  Being able to find your data in a timely manner allows that data to be more useful to you and everyone else.  Filmmaking is a difficult enough business on the financial side, better to protect your intellectual property by getting your collection organized and having a preservation plan in place… as lost data is worthless data.  
Craig McCourry
American Film Archive

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