Why Can’t I Delete Any Clip In Camera?

The Digital Bolex D16 is as close to a digital 16mm film camera as possible. But replicating the feeling of a mag reel isn’t the reason the D16 can’t delete random clips in camera. If you’ve ever used a professional digital cinema camera on set before, you may have noticed that ALL cameras that use SSDs as a storage media do not allow for selective deletion of clips.

SSD as Storage Media

Many professional cinema cameras today use SSD drives to store footage. SSDs are safe from physical damage like a spinning-disc hard drive suffers, while able to hold more footage and record at higher bit rates than SD cards or CF cards. But SSDs are more than just a bigger, faster version of an SD or CF card. There are fundamental differences in the way that data is written to an SSD, and how the SSD is formatted, that make selective deletion of clips a no-no.

If a clip is deleted from the middle of an SSD drive, it causes potential fragmentation of the drive, which can create major write-errors in new clips whose recorded data is sent to those now-unoccupied pockets of space on the drive. For instance, what happens if the new clip is longer than the deleted clip? The new clip becomes fragmented: part of the new clip is saved in the space left open by the previous clip, and the rest of the data gets sent to the back of the line. This greatly raises the likelyhood of many different types of errors in your footage, and reduces the lifetime writeability of the drive.

Last Clip Deletion

Some cameras, like the D16, have developed a compromise to allow deletion of only the very last clip recorded. This minimizes the risk of fragmentation by allowing the unoccupied portion of the drive to be formatted in its entirety. This micro-formatting, however, is not entirely optimal for the lifespan of the drive, but does allow users some flexibility.

What does this mean for your shoot?

Plan ahead. Know how many minutes of footage you have remaining on your camera, and how many minutes you have left in your day—or at least until your next break. For a feature film, especially when using a 512GB or 256GB camera rather than a 1TB camera, we recommend shooting the first portion of the day, dumping and backing up your footage during the lunch break, and wiping the camera before beginning again after lunch.