Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Pixar offers a cautionary tale for filmmakers reluctant to back up their work

The good folks at mental_floss recently uncovered a particularly incredible story from film history that serves as a warning for filmmakers working in the digital age.

Pixar was one of the first studios to work with fully digital animation, and as trailblazers in the industry, they learned hard lessons about the perils of that once-new frontier. Specifically, during production of Toy Story 2, Pixar staff accidentally deleted the entire movie and only continued production after finding an incomplete copy on a colleague's personal laptop.

The whole story, available here, explains that a malicious line of code slowly deleted the studio's files, and a faulty backup system prevented their total recovery. It's startling to think that a mammoth company like Pixar can still be prone to these sorts of failures, but since they were the first major studio to explore this field, it's clearly possible that no one had yet assessed the full dangers of working in an all-digital production environment.

These sorts of historical stories are great reminders of how the film process is continually evolving. Pixar's backup system has drastically evolved since the Toy Story 2 incident, but it's still possible to imagine that current filmmakers working on effects-heavy movies are still learning from the cautionary tale of this near-miss. A similar incident occurred recently in which the entire run of a children's television show was accidentally deleted before it aired (we sadly couldn't find the exact story about this), so it's clear that these sorts of backup problems will continue to be something filmmaker's deal with for a long time.

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