With Big Video Comes Big Storage

For those of us in the video production industry, proper archiving of media is one of our biggest challenges. When HD video came into the picture, most cameras still recorded to digital tape. Archiving the raw footage didn’t change. We simply labeled the tape and put it on the shelf knowing the data would be safe for many years. As cameras moved to tapeless recording, storing the raw footage became more challenging. Initially, many in the industry turned to portable hard drives, as it was the only storage solution that provided the capacity needed. The practice then was to fill up the drive, make a duplicate as a backup, label the drives, and put them on the shelf just as we did with video tape. However, (and for reasons I can’t explain) time was not kind to those drives. Without warning, they would fail to spin up and the footage they contained would be lost (which is why we would create a backup drive.)

So what could be done to safely store a client’s media? One option is to place media on a high-capacity and expandable RAID-6 hard drive, which allows for 2 drive failures before data loss is possible. The advantages of this method are reliability and fast, easy access to all the data. The disadvantages include higher costs for the drives, as well as space and HVAC requirements for the drive itself. But there is an alternative that more and more production houses have implemented for safer, more long-term storage of client media. Linear Tape-Open (or LTO) media has been used in the financial and health care industries for years because of their reliability, high tape capacity and low cost. As with any technology, there are trade-offs and the most significant trade-off with LTO is speed. LTO is slow …. very slow. Depending on the model and technical generation of LTO used, it can take almost an entire day to archive one 800 GB tape. When you have projects shot on 2K or 4K, the raw data alone can easily reach into the terabyte (TB) range.

As 2K, 4K, 6K and 8K acquisition formats become more common, so is the need for better, faster and larger storage solutions. Earlier this month I tweeted about about a potential new storage technology that could hold 360 terabytes (TB) of data. Now Sony and Panasonic are joining forces to create a new 300 gigabyte (GB) optical disc designed to store 4K video. A story from Doddle says the new high-capacity disc will marketed as an archival system aimed at Hollywood and other film makers who use 4K media.

While I applaud Sony and Panasonic for developing a potentially lower-cost and reliable solution for archiving large amounts of media, they are still using technology that relies on a read/write device that contains moving parts which can fail. I cannot say what new storage technology will come out on top, but I am confident in saying the next great computing revolution will be in the field of data storage.

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