Preserve and Protect Data from a Camera Card

Posted on by Larry

First, and this is most important, you cannot store SSDs or camera cards on a shelf. Within a very few months data will start “evaporating.” According to the storage experts I’ve talked with, solid state media is great for performance, but not long-term storage. Storing cards longer than 4-6 months is “risky,” they tell me. The cards will last a long time, but not the data on them.

If you are recording your shoot using camera cards, you are probably in the habit of either capturing media directly from the card, or copying files from the card to your hard disk. Depending upon what you copy, this could potentially cause problems now and in the future.

It is very unwise to copy only the media files from the camera card to your hard disk. While this reduces the amount of data you are copying, you lose access to important  metadata that describes your media and, potentially, makes it impossible to import the copied media. For programs like Final Cut Pro X, this metadata is essential to track and capture everything your camera recorded.

It is also unwise to capture directly from the card itself, as the NLE will link to the card, rather than to files on your hard disk.

To safely preserve data captured on a camera card, you have two options:

  1. Copy the entire contents of the card – every file and folder – to a folder on your hard disk; one folder per card.
  2. Create a disk image of the card.

The folder option provides a single storage location, filled with files that can be accessed at any time. However, there’s nothing that prevents these files from being stolen or erased.

The disk image option puts the entire contents of the card into a single “file” which can be:

For simpilicty, the folder option is the way to go. But, for protecting your media, nothing beats a disk image. Best of all, disk images are stored on your hard disk, which means they are far faster than trying to access media directly from the camera card.

Best of all, they are easy to create. Here’s how.


Here’s a camera card that I use for my weekly podcast, the Digital Production Buzz. To get started, be sure the card is visible on the Desktop.

Then, open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility). When the card is mounted to the Desktop, you’ll see it listed in the sidebar on the left.

With the camera card selected in the sidebar, choose File > New Image > Image from [the name of the selected camera card in Disk Utility]. (Shortcut: Option + Cmd + N)

In the Save dialog that appears, give this soon-to-be-created disk image a name and location (just like any file or folder on the Mac, you can easily rename or move it later).

But the options at the bottom are what make disk images worth considering:

Using the Format menu, you can compress these files to save space (this is data compression only, so you are not damaging your images to choose this option), or make the contents of this disk image read-only. (Read-only means the files can’t be deleted or changed.)

I like the read-only option, which means that there is no chance I’ll accidentally delete or modify one of my master files.

There are three encryption options:

Depending upon your level of paranoia, you can choose the option you prefer. For me, 128 AES encryption is sufficient for my camera master files.

Here are the settings I use for important media stored on camera cards. Click Save to begin the imaging process.

The process begins, the total time depends upon how long it takes Disk Utility to copy files from the camera card to the disk image.

NOTE: Near the beginning of this process, Disk Utility will ask for your administrator password, as well as the password you want to use for the disk image. These passwords should be different. The default option is to store these passwords in your keychain.

When the disk image is complete, it shows up on the desktop. If you look carefully, this will look like most of the installer packages you’ve downloaded from the web. It’s the same technology, just a different purpose.


To open a disk image, simply double-click it. You don’t need to open Disk Utility to access a disk image.

If you password protected it, a dialog will appear asking for the password.

Once you’ve opened a disk image, it appears just like any other external hard disk inside your NLE. Disk images can be used with any software, they act like separate hard drives.


Disk images are the perfect way to protect camera card data for the long term by securely moving data from the card to your hard disk. Password-protection guards against theft, while read-only means that you can’t accidentally trash a file.

NOTE: Disk images can be used with any data with the same protections. Apple just made it easy for us to convert camera cards to disk images. To create a new, empty disk image, choose either File > New Image >Blank Image to create an empty image you can drag data into, or File > New Image > From Folder to convert an existing folder into a Disk Image.

Files can be imported, edited and exported from disk images the same as from a hard disk, with the same performance.

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One Response to Preserve and Protect Data from a Camera Card

  1. H Le Spencer says:

    Very good information. Timely for me since I’m revising my storage routines.

    H Le Spencer

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