Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nothing is forever

Those of us making the transition from tape based recording (DV and HDV) to flash based recording (Compact Flash and SD) are having to come to terms with dealing with lots of LARGE files on lots of hard disks. With tape it was easy to "archive" the tapes in a box and not worry too much about the work files on our hard drives. But due to the cost of flash media, most of us can't afford to use flash cards like tape; i.e. keep the recording media as a back up.

We have to transfer and backup these files on to other media. Unfortunately, depsite the plunging cost of TB hard drives, there are no cheap and easy answers. Even Philip Bloom at last week's workshop admitted he has this problem. He said that he likes to keep THREE copies of files on different hard drives! When asked about long term backup he said that he was looking at LTO systems, but hadn't done anything about it yet. For those who don't know, LTO are tape-based backup systems that can cost anywhere from one to several thousand dollars.

And ironically we'd be going from flash memory, back to tape!

So it's easy to get nostalgic about tape. But those of you with stacks of DV and HDV tapes better not get too complacent.

Tape is Not Forever
If you think that DV and HDV are the perfect archive medium, I have a word of warning for you: Hi8.

The first camcorder I owned was a Sony Hi8 camera. I have a box full of tapes from that camera...but no functioning camera. This stuff was shot before I had access to a computer that could do a good job of capturing the video to a digital file (and/or I could afford a large enough hard drive to consider keeping the material "online.") In short, I have these tapes from 20 years ago, and no way to recover the material as my last Hi8 camera stopped working seven years ago!

Try finding a Hi8 deck or camera now. They are getting few and far between. I thought about buying a new Hi8 camcorder on Amazon a couple of years ago to use as a playback deck - when they were still carrying them - but never got around to it. Now, all you can find are used cameras.

Even more scary is these words of warning from a website I came across yesterday:
Are your precious memories lost forever?
Hil8 tapes have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years - after this the video will degrade & could be lost forever! All recordings made before 1997 are at risk - get in touch today and we can help you save your memories.
Worried yet?

But a few days ago I decided to do something about it; I ordered a Sony GVD-200 Digital 8mm Video Walkman. It says it will connect to a computer through a Firewire link, and plays Hi8 tapes. The plan is to copy all the tapes across to hard drives/DVDs (yeah, I still don't have a solid archiving plan other than multiple copies on different drives.) I'll report on how it works out next week.

Why Should You Care?
You may be siting there thinking; "I don't have any Hi8 tapes, why should I care?" But what about VHS tapes? Forget about VHS; twenty years from now, will you be able to find a DV/HDV deck? Because if the answer is "probably not" then maybe you need to think about getting any important material you'd figure you'd transfer "some day" off those DV and HDV tapes NOW!

Amazon:Sony Digital 8mm Video Walkman
B & H: Sony GVD-200 Digital-8 Walkman


Arlen said...

I am in the exact same situation with 8mm video tapes, Michael. How much did you pick up the Sony video walkman for? I looked into transfer services and used cameras from ebay, etc too. Looking forward to reading your experience with transferring.

Michael Murie said...

It cost me just under $480 through Amazon.

So far so good. Final Cut Pro 7 didn't seem to recognize it, but iMovie recognized and displayed the unit's model number and is happily working.