Memory Cards


Memory cards are where you will record video, audio, and photo data into cameras and digital audio recorders. As of Fall 2016, all of the CINE cameras and audio recorders use SD (secure digital) memory cards, although some cameras on the market use other storage media (for instance, the Canon 5D and 7D DSLRs use CF (compact flash) cards).

We suggest that you eventually have numerous SD cards for both video and audio. These will act as “reels” or “tapes” if we want to use an analogy to the days of physical media.

While there are numerous brands on the market, we strongly recommend that you purchase the SanDisk brand memory cards.  Although cameras and audio recorders may have specific requirement for SD cards (if you have your own gear, check those requirements), in general CINE suggests:

  • For video/photo: SanDisk 16GB or 32GB, Class 10. These will work with the Canon Vixias, Canon 60Ds, and Canon C100s.
    • SanDisk Ultra 16GB, Class 10 memory card available at the Duck Store for $19.95.
  • For audio: SanDisk 1GB-8GB, Class 10 for audio (the Zoom recorders tend to be very slow with cards larger than 8GB). You can find these smaller cards at various local retailers, as well as at second hand stores.
  • Here you can find a list of cards compatibleYour with the Zoom H4N recorder.

There are levels of speed/writing that you may explore with more cost (i.e. Extreme or Extreme Pro), but the Ultra speed writing category should suffice. Here is a guide that explores buying SD memory cards.


SD memory cards should only be used to capture video, photos, and audio. You should NEVER use them like you would a portable drive to store data and edit from.

All SD cards must be formatted or initialized in the device you’re using (even if you use it on multiple hardware) before you can capture media to it. Formatting will erase all the data on the SD card if it has files on it (all devices will ask you “are you sure, all data will be lost” before you format the card). There is a somewhat painful process to recover this data if you accidentally erase it and often this is not possible.

In order to format a card, see the operation manual or the CINE user guide for the camera or audio recorder (or, ask your instructor).

Best Practices for using SD cards:

  • When deleting files on your memory card, always reformat or initialize in the hardware device. Do NOT drag and drop files into the trashcan on a computer. Instead, transfer all the files to an external drive, back them up on a desktop drive if you have one, and then reformat the memory card in the recording device. This will minimize the chances of your memory card corrupting.
  • When transferring data from your memory card, we recommend you pushing the small “lock” switch to the locked position. This will mean that you cannot write or overwrite data to the card. There is always a chance that when transferring data you may lose the information on the card if it is corrupted. By locking or making the card read-only, you cannot overwrite or erase the data on the card. Once you’ve transferred the data, remember to turn off the lock so you can reformat and record to the card.
  • We STRONGLY suggest that you do not rename files on the cards. If using cameras that record in the AVCHD codec (Canon Vixia or C100), you must keep transfer the Private folder and not rename files or change the file structure. If you do this you will have to transcode files”manually” instead of ingesting the media from the Private folder in FCPX or Avid. We have more on file management and transferring files on this guide.

This page was written by Andre´ Sirois for the University of Oregon Cinema Studies Program and is published under Creative Commons license (CC BY NC SA 3.0)

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