Data management in the field

It is advisable to have it as part of your workflow to extract the media files either at the end of a recording session, or at the end of the day. This way you stay organised and you free up your SD cards for the next time you need them. Have an additional back-up on a different device or hard drive (keep them in two locations, i.e. not in the same pelican case, so that if something catastrophic happens to one, there is a greater chance that your back up is safe).

Some of you may work in an area that has access to power, others may work where all of your power comes from solar panels. Some may have access to generators. Some, a combination of the above. In a field site with limited power, you may not want to use all of it running your laptop in order to organise your file names, typing in metadata, etc. In this situation I have found a simple way to keep files organised, yet spend a limited time extracting files from SD cards to make them available again when needed.

I first create a folder based on the date (20160404). Within that folder, I create subfolders for each recording session or event. I number the event (01_, 02_, 03_, etc.) so that I know the order in which they took place, then add a brief description to facilitate finding things quickly whilst in the field (Morning bird walk, Picture task, Night time dance, etc.). The subfolder names give a clue as to the recording event. Each subfolder would have a short text file or word doc containing relevant metadata describing the recording event and who participated.

I organise these folders by date because I tend to have a quick turn-around for recording sessions and I end up pulling out batteries and replacing them multiple times in a day. Each time the batteries come out, the default date for the recorder resets. I do not want to spend time resetting the date, so the files are written with incorrect date metadata. Zooms do offer an option to create files names based on dates, but I find this is not a good use of my time. As a result, my files names are generic and carry very little metadata:

  • 4CH000I.wav (4 channel zoom audio)
  • STE-019.wav (stereo channel zoom audio)
  • 00001.MTS (Canon video file)

Placing them in a folder directory that is structured by date and then by event allows me to quickly transfer files that have a useless name, into a system that offers information that will later help me when I do have time and power to better name and organise my data.

So, to sum:

1. Place the generic named filed in a “smart directory” which provides you with important metadata:

2. You can then go back to provide your files with better, PARADISEC-friendly names when you have more time and power (for more information on what a well-formed PARADISEC name looks like, see: File Naming for PARADISEC Archiving):

After reading through this guide, if you still have questions, or you wish to request a service, feel free to email me (, or better, visit the CoEDL Service Request Form. CoEDL members use the Member login at the bottom of the CoEDL webpage. Then click the General Members tab, the link to the request form is in the left-hand panel.

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