Proxy Matters

I’ve recently written about proxies and how at times they’re treated like a one-size-fits-all panacea. As capture resolutions keep increasing, file sizes grow, too. Proxies become a way to tackle the enormous amount of data that has to wend its way through the post-production workflow.

But simply asking to “create proxies” without care oftentimes ends up making more work or the proxies provided aren’t used and end up in the virtual trash can. When I say “without care,” I mean not providing enough information. Such as “Why?”

I’m not trying to be flippant here. If you ask for proxies, a valid way for the person creating them to make sure the proxies are useful is to ask you, “Why do you want them—what will they be used for?”

For example, let’s say that you need interview transcripts created and you ask for proxies. If the person creating them never asked you what you’d use them for, they might pick a preset that they use for proxies. So they render out a bunch of mp4s and send you a link to download them. No need to put them on a drive because they’re proxies, not original footage, and they’ve been compressed.

But you’re on the road and the WiFi isn’t great, so it takes a long time to download. Then you have to look at them to make sure you have all the right clips, including the last day’s reshoot because the audio wasn’t great.

Now you want to upload them to the service that creates the transcripts. As usual, the upload speed is even worse than the download was. As you watch the progress bar during the upload, it dawns on you that while the proxies are compressed, they’re also 1920×1080. You ask yourself if you really need to send HD movies to a transcription service. Do they even look at the video? And if they do, wouldn’t a 320×180 size file have worked just as well?

Maybe if a more detailed conversation happened before the proxies were created, you wouldn’t have had to wait so long on uploads and downloads.

But file size isn’t the only problem in this situation. File type should also be a concern. I’ll talk about that next time.

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