A short time ago we had a crew give us a call and ask for help figuring out what was wrong with the footage they’d copied off their camera cards the previous day. The first clip would open, but none of the other files did. “We don’t understand," they said, "we ran the checksums and they told us everything was okay.” Something had gone terribly wrong, and they couldn't figure out how or why.
The switch from film and analog video into digital video technologies has had a great freeing effect in every area of motion content creation. From the largest feature films to the smallest low budget content made for YouTube, digital technologies have given more people the ability to produce the stories, advertisements, training videos, or other content that they want. It’s created industries that exist today that didn’t exist a decade ago. With the quality of video that you can get on today’s phones, prosumer cameras, and digital cinema cameras, the cost of acquisition and the skill needed for operation in many cases has dropped significantly.
As the industry shifted towards digital production, it brought with it a new set of risks, risks that are far more intangible than those of film. In some cases, there are perceptions of risk where there is none because of the technologic complexity.
This is the first part of a three part series on protecting your digital assets. In this part we’re going to explore the whys and the hows of checksumming: How did checksumming become common practice? What does checksumming actually do? and Why isn’t it needed?