Journeys through Archivia

BluRay Drobo Lto Raid-five.

Sounds like a character in an Iain M. Banks novel.

They’re all options for storing lots of STUFF. And we editors have an awful lot of it. Yes, folks, it’s another rant about where to stuff all our stuff, because Rick and I had a little debate on how LTO (tape drives to you and I) just don’t do it for us. Oh – that project I did five months ago? Aah, here’s the backup tape – well, three of them. Client wants to change the end board. Right. 10 mins editing, half an hour compression and upload, A DAY OF RESTORING TAPE TO HARD DISK. And will the client pay for that? No sir.

Yes, this is the professional way of doing things, and there are lots of white papers to prove it.

But I’ve been in the IT world too. These tape archives are like ornaments. You’re not actually supposed to USE them. No. Sheesh – ever tried doing that? Don’t want to do that. You’ll be there all day. Then you’ve got to do the whole thing in reverse. No. tape archives don’t seem to fit.

Ah, but they are long lived. I’ll give you that. The tape, if it doesn’t succumb to mould, demagnitisation, crinkles caused by being stored the wrong way up, are very long lived. Unlike their tape drives, which are heathen beasts that chew tapes the day after their warranty runs out, need expensive medicare to keep them beyond 5 years, when the new model stores 10 times as much but doesn’t accurately read the old tapes.

I did a shoot yesterday in a lovely studio where the busy in-house photo department were raving about their Drobos. One to wash and one to wear, so to speak. But at some point, it/they fill up, surely? Yes, we buy a bigger disk! But what happens when you have 2T drives in all four slots? We buy another Drobo! And how do you do your off-site backup? We haven’t got to that yet, but we could buy another two Drobos! You get the picture. Great, but every Garage Forecourt needs a back yard to stick the bangers in. Not really for display, but too useful to throw away.

Hard disks – cheap ones – are cheap now, and I know people who swear by them, but I know others who swear at them.

I’ve been really chuffed about CD-ROM. I started using that when a friend invested £4.5k in the brand new Philips device. I still have my at-home copy of Backup 001. You’ve read about how the Director file couldn’t be read. I also found a bunch of floppies – 8 inch hard sectored ones.

The point is, dear reader, that an optical disk (a whole bag of them in fact), kept in the dark away from extremes of heat and cold, has outlasted backup tapes (for which the drive is no longer available), hard disks (I wouldn’t know where to start with SCSI these days), Flopticals, Syquest 45s (and hands up anyone who remembers Bernouli), and has better data integrity than a box full of Kodachromes (though that may be my fault as I didn’t tape the box shut) and Ilford FP4 negatives.

But in all of this, I’m not sure what was worth saving.

Rick pointed out that when you’re creating something for yourself, something that will document a special time or place or happening that will be wanted/paid for in years to come, you bloody well look after what you’ve got. I’ve looked at most of the stuff that I’ve got, and it has no value now. Beyond nostalgia.

about 10 years ago, I and a group of colleagues spent a happy day in a car park, chopping up betacam tapes and throwing them in a skip. Each tape had to be rendered unusable, and the cost of having them bulk erased and recycled was rather more than our time, the skip, and the few crates of beer that inevitably showed up. Why did we do this? It was 10 years of rushes, botched takes, bits of white paper, and all the other dross that nobody was interested in. But it contained factual data and so had to be destroyed. I feel very bad about that afternoon now. But who wants our rushes? Our hours of presenters that, once tape rolls, blank out completely for umpteen takes? Our gentle pans round suburban vistas, ruined by ‘life’ at the end?

I have a drawer full of tapes – I don’t know how many, but it’s four layers deep, in racks in a 1 meter wide unit. Full of crap plus 1% gem and 1% historical document, and I have absolutely no idea where the gems and documents are in any of them. I have no desire to ingest 6 months of footage to find it either.

And on my shoot yesterday, every time a take was hopeless, I deleted it. Every timelapse shot was shot in-camera, so a counter counting down from 5 minutes to zero took 4 seconds, not 5.25 minutes. You shoot more, you keep less, it’s good.

I can’t afford to store footage on disk like I can on tape. I can’t afford to lose good footage in the wilderness of tape unlike the well named takes of file based workflow. I just need to offline my file based workflow somewhere cheap and reliable – and duplicatable. Is that a word?

I call BluRay Data – anyone want to raise?

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