The Culture Change to Tapeless Video Management

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With the proliferation of tapeless video camcorders, the entire video management industry is currently facing a fundamental shift in workflows and processes. It started with the shift from analog to digital video, but has really become a hot topic in video asset management with the widespread adoption of the Panasonic P2 HD camcorders...IMHO the best bang for your buck for HD video acquisition.

Panasonic HVX200A
Panasonic HVX200A

The different model numbers and brand names may move into the top spot, but the fact that after you shoot footage on these cameras, you need to find something other that a $1000 flash card to store it on. For old school video people, you shot on tape, digitized, or captured your footage, which was stored on hard drives while you were in edit. Then you dumped the footage off the hard drives and relied on the tapes as your archived copy. It made sense. The tapes were not going anywhere, and you already paid for them. Fast forward to today. Now you shoot onto P2 cards, transfer the footage to your editing station’s hard drives, then clear off the P2 card to use it on your next shoot. After you are done editing, you…… what with the footage? Where’s the tape? My company wants some sort of digital asset management software system, but how do I store all of this footage?

Now what do you do? So far, most websites, blogs, articles point to LTO tape being the most inexpensive way to store video footage shot on tapeless camcorders, more so than putting the footage on disks. The more I thought about it, the more that did not seem to make sense. Not only did it not make sense mathematically, but there is a fundamental difference in shooting tapeless that makes it more efficient than shooting tape based….making it even more of an apple to oranges comparison.

First the math. If you shoot tape based DV on miniDV tapes, a $6 high quality dv tape holds roughly 13 gigs. That roughly equates to 77 full dv tapes equaling 1 TB for a cost of $462/TB. Keep in mind that this is assuming all 77 tapes are 100% full….which never happens. If your tapes are 75% full on average, the cost jumps to $618/TB.

If you shoot tapeless and are considering archiving on LTO tape, first you need to purchase a LTO drive (LTO4) which is $2500. Tapes are $75 per TB.I will use 18 TB as an example later, so for 18 TBs of LTO storage, it is $214/TB. Much better than tape.

Polywell NetDisk 8000V
Polywell NetDisk 8000V

If you shoot tapeless and archive onto spinning disk, like a NetDisk 8000V NAS, your math would look like this: 18 TB NAS is $4000, which is $222/TB. “But Al, isn’t that is more expensive than LTO tape?” Technically yes, but the NAS is raid 5, which protects the data from a disk failure. It has an operating system that emails you if and when a disk fails, notifying you to replace the faulty disk. If the LTO tape fails, you are out of luck. Which means to have a fail safe, you would have to make 2 copies of each tape. So double your price. This does not even get into efficiencies gained by having the footage instantly available and searchable on a network drive, verses having to wait for tapes to rewind, locate and transfer data at a slower rate….oh, and you have to find the tape, put it into the tape drive as well.

So the math points to storing on disks. But as I said earlier, there is a culture shift. We are shooting more video today than ever before. Projects further down the totem pole are finding that video is now an affordable tool to promote, train, demonstrate…these projects are not the “Zapruder film.” They have a lifespan of usefulness that is rather short. Depending on your type of footage, after a certain amount of time, the cost of keeping the footage is more than what it would cost just to reshoot it.

As far as Digital Asset Management is concerned, it is much easier to access video assets on spinning disk. It is easier to open, move, convert, and run reports. Start there. 

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