Find it in the archives


Back-up and storage – or archiving if you like – is becoming increasingly important as
more and more footage is shot on a wide variety of formats. Traditionally film was a
standard archival format which until recently was pretty future proof. However, in
this day of digital acquisition fast taking over from film, other forms of long term
storage must be considered.

Like film, tape would also seem to be a potentially obsolete medium. However Linear
Tape-Open (LTO), a magnetic tape data storage technology originally developed in
the late 1990s as an open standards alternative to the proprietary magnetic tape
formats that were available at the time, may provide the answer.

The standard form-factor of LTO technology goes by the name Ultrium, the original
version of which was released in 2000 and could hold 100GB of data in a cartridge. A
version released in 2010 can hold 1.5 TB in a cartridge of the same size. LTO is
widely used with small and large computer systems, especially for back-up.

Marc Eckstein of Media Cloud comments: “The problem we all have is that video and
multimedia is what we refer to as unstructured data. Traditional institutions like
banks all used structured data which was easy to accommodate in their data
centres. The term “big data’ is becoming more and more common and one petabyte is
not that much information anymore.

“We find that media companies need to keep their content on hard drives and
servers for longer periods and many of them just use data tape formats like LTO for
back-up. A long term solution for viable data archiving that will exceed a hundred
years remains elusive. Film is probably the only long term stable solution right now.’

Ryan Martyn of Syntech SA observes: “The South African market is very price
sensitive and in many cases storage is purchased on a “just in time’ basis and
comprises mostly external hard drives like G-Tech or Lacie.

“This method is particularly inefficient because information is often duplicated for
multiple users – or there are normally several copies backed up in case a drive fails.
This means that 1GB of data may actually occupy 2 or 3GB of space.

“It’s very difficult to keep track of what is stored on multiple external drives and
often it’s very time consuming to have to find specific information. Although many
external hard drives are equipped with fireware and eSATA, there is an ever
increasing demand for more speed and we anticipate that the Thunderbolt, SAS or
fibre storage will become essential in the near future.’

Making use of a good archiving solution does require an initial capital outlay but it is
ultimately more cost effective when compared with the cost of an external hard
drive for every project, not to mention the price of data recovery if a drive fails.

National archives

Formed in 1964 The National Film, Video and Sound Archives (NAFVSA) is an
institution set up by the then government to access, preserve and make available
films made in or about South Africa. They have in storage a short film of Adderley
Street in Cape Town shot in1898, and the earliest full length feature film there is
Harold Shaw’s De Voortrekkers (1916).

At a rough estimate 80% of their archive material is film and 20% tape and rights
issues preclude them from converting. They are considering the possibility of a cloud
based archiving system in the future.

SD to HD

Of course the recent move from standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD) also
presents archiving problems. Betacam SP, VHS and early digital footage was shot in
SD in 4:3 aspect ratio, whereas the more contemporary HD has a 16:9 aspect ratio,
like film.

From the earliest days of the emergence of HD, there has been an ongoing
controversy about whether HD would dwarf and eventually snuff out SD footage.
Many stock-footage companies and producers are concerned that their SD libraries
will become irrelevant.

Using an effective archive, filmmakers could save production costs by searching and
reusing footage from previous shoots.

The potential exists for some great annuity income streams by converting archive
video to stock footage and making this accessible online.

By Andy Stead

Screen Africa magazine 2012


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