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Learning From That Day Your Video Editing PC Got Stolen

Here are a few takeaways related to the recent theft of almost all of my video editing equipment. #lifelessons

Two weeks ago, I moved across the country. I loaded up my car with the bags and equipment I felt needed to remain close to my person, and I hit the road.

I started my journey in Philadelphia, PA, and drove to Denver, CO. The drive in total was around twenty-six hours. Most of my furniture and bedding was stuffed in a moving pod. Riding along in my vehicle were my custom-built editing PC, my pelican-cased camera, lenses, some clothes, and, for foreshadowing purposes, one extra pair of shoes.

I stopped in Pittsburgh, and then drove to Indiana to see and subsequently take a swim in Lake Michigan. The following night, I stayed in Omaha, Nebraska. The next night, the plan was to stay in Fort Collins, CO (only ~1.5 hrs north of Denver) before driving down the following day to pick up the keys to my new place. So, that’s four nights sleeping in hotels. Four nights of my car sitting in hotel parking lots.

As I was a little nervous keeping all of my possessions in my car in these parking lots, I made sure to bring my camera equipment inside each night. Those same nights, I left the PC in the car as it was so intensely bubble-wrapped that it was virtually unidentifiable as anything of value. Plus, you know, it was heavy.

The drive went flawlessly — Pittsburgh is awesome and Lake Michigan is beautiful. Then (ominous music begins swelling), I got to Colorado. As I drove across the state line, there was a hill on fire next to the road. Off to a good start.

After hearing that the fires were causing Fort Collins to be extra smoky, I decided to call an audible and drive straight to Denver. I pulled into the Mile High City, thrilled that the journey was practically complete, and all that stood between me and my keys was one more night. Feeling celebratory, a Very Good Idea popped into my head (ominous music intensifies): Why not splurge and stay at a nice hotel?

I parked on the second floor of the hotel’s secure, well-lit parking garage. (Ominous music reaches absurd, room-shaking levels.) I left everything in the car, because, well,  I had parked on the second floor of the hotel’s secure, well-lit parking garage. (Ominous music becomes sentient and says “Oh, come ON.”)

I slept very well. I woke on time. I checked out. And when I returned to the parking garage, I discovered that someone had shattered the back window of my car and stolen almost everything.

Broken Car Window

The car after being broken into.


What They Took

Leading up to this move, I’d been working on several personal videos for my YouTube channel on film photography. All of my paid gigs were either wrapped up or the final vids were already on drives. But, like an idiot (for whatever reason), I decided not to put around 500-600gb of raw footage on a hard drive.

Now, I know relative to a normal shooter’s workflow, this isn’t a ton of footage. But, in general, the footage was scattered among a year of shooting here and there for bigger/longer projects I was working on. So, it wasn’t just one big bulk of clips, it was a year’s worth of slow work.

Anyway, here’s what they took: The PC, my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, three SLRMagic Cine Lenses, a Canon FD, and an old Mamiya lens for my film camera. In addition, they took a ton of small things, including a Metabones Speed Booster, a few CFast Cards, some batteries, and one of my shoes. As in, a shoe. One single shoe.

I was absolutely gutted. Not because my gear was stolen — I can and have gotten most of the gear back. No, the real pain was realizing I’d lost all of that work. All the countless hours of personal time I spent shooting things I actually cared about — wasted. Gone. Not to mention the time it took me to build the PC. I’m not super tech-oriented, and building it was my introduction to the world of computers.

There were also some other files on the computer that I hadn’t moved over. I had an entire SFX folder with about 30-40 sounds that I’d often throw into edits to fill necessary spaces. Now, I can obviously find these SFX again somewhere on the internet, but I’d spent a good amount of time curating and organizing these to fit seamlessly into my workflow.

Speaking of organization and seamless workflows, damn it, everything on that computer was perfectly fine-tuned and organized to fit my workflow. It hurts. It really hurts.

If only there were some positive takeaways to ease my pain.


My Takeaways

Hard Drive

Back up your footage on external drives. Image via dourleak.

The obvious takeaway is the importance of backing up my footage on external drives. That is obvious. Everyone should always do it. Do it right now if you haven’t lately. I’ll wait.

Regarding all of the lost footage, maybe it’s just the hippy vibes in the Colorado air messing with my head, but I had to ask myself — Why did I really record that footage?

Was I doing it so that I could get a couple-thousand views (maybe, if I’m lucky) on a YouTube video? Not really. Not at all. It’s because I love doing it. I love working with cameras and trying to shoot footage that I like to look at. It’s that simple. It was fun doing it and I actually made some fond memories on some of those shoots.

So, if you’re the one who stole my PC and you’re reading this now, just know: You did not defeat me. Not entirely, that is.


Backing up Before You Edit

Taking that idea further is to be mindful of what you’re doing post-shoot and during your edit. If you’re not going to turn around after shooting with an edit (regardless of the revisions you receive), back your footage up twice — one on your desktop, one on your hard drive or a server (if you have access to one).

Sometimes, it’s difficult to have this mindfulness once you’ve fallen into the flow of an edit — you’re saving, importing, and exporting to your desktop or somewhere else without second thinking.  Just consider this double backup as your pre-edit process. Think of it as a necessary step to completing your video. Plus, you’d hate to lose the file and have a client be left with nothing.

Here are some options for worthy SSDs and HDs that have proven to be reliable for keeping footage safe.


Building Your Own PC

If you’re interested in building your own PC, I literally followed this video (with some of the cheaper options on the list included in the article) to build the computer and had no previous experience with or knowledge of computers and had no idea about what I needed. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’ll be revisiting this video shortly.

Finally, insure your gear. Do it. You can. You should. I won’t get into the details of how or where to insure your gear, but if you’re a working videographer or video editor, it’s absolutely worth your money to insure these pieces of equipment. (Ominous music swells.) Trust me.


Cover image via StockLite.