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Sony HDCam tape shortages: Is it time to now truly go tapeless? Or sort of tapeless with LTO-5/LTFS

April 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Sony Corporation’s Sendai factory which produced HDCam SR tapes has ceased operations on March 11th due to earthquake damage and no date is set to restart production. The entertainment and broadcasts industries are now faced with extreme shortages of a primary camera acquisition, production and show mastering consumable. With limited news about when new tape stock will be manufactured, what are the options? De-gauze, revert to SD 16:9, or go tapeless? Tapeless workflows have been a buzzword for many years, and due to this unfortunate tragedy, we may be at the tipping point where a fully tapeless workflow becomes necessity for production and post. As more productions transition to tapeless workflows it is now critical to identify cost effective production pipelines and determine best practices to minimize the risk of losing digital media. Tape has long been the gold standard for productions and the safest choice. That being said, tape does have limitations. Tape is a real-time process; one hour of video takes one hour to digitize and one hour to master back to tape. Video tape is also rather inefficient by the modern measure of how many hours of content fit within one cassette.

So you want to take a walk on the tapeless side?

Here are some options: Capture & Acquisition: First, determine what camera and format will shoot on, and will going to a tape format benefit you down the long winding post-road. Since you will most likely be editing digitally, and outputting digitally, does going to tape really the most efficient way to go? Solutions like the portable and camera mountable Cinedeck allow direct to disk capture from virtually any camera – with a codec of your choosing in pre-compression. This allows choosing a format like Avid’s DNxHD and Apple’s ProRes both are robust and stable in post and easily played by any NLE system. Cinedeck also allows for Cineform encoding; one of the most respected codecs available today, routinely used in DI suites – rivaling and exceeding HDCAM SR quality. Here is a great comparison between Cineform and HDCAM SR: http://www.wafian.com/QualityComparison_CineForm444_vs_HDCamSR.pdf .

Another extremely robust solution comes from Telestream, an industry leader in encoding. Using their Pipeline appliance allows for Real Time DNxHD and ProRes encoding, in addition to a myriad of other frequently codecs. Pipeline, in conjunction with their Episode encoding software, allows for the ability to create virtually any file format that is needed – for post, deliverable, and distribution. AJA has made quite a splash with the Ki Pro family, which also allows for a direct to disk acquisition, focusing on utilizing Apple’s Pro Res codec. Once the files have been delivered into post, and the project has been completed, we now need to contend with deliverables and archival. I contend that new LTFS – that is, the ability to use LTO-5 tapes as you would a removable Hard Drive – is a rock solid way of bridging and unifying these necessities. LTFS allows for faster than real time restoring and play out of the broadcast quality files. In addition, it’s in a native format that any computer can recognize – a stark contrast to the antiquated TAR format, which has been the standard, albeit proprietary, data tape backup format. These same data files can also be pushed via WAN to the intended facility. With WAN acceleration products like StorageDNA, Aspera, or Signiant, the wait time for a physical tape delivery is negated and the workflow has now become completely tapeless. All 3 of these solutions will be at NAB this year and all 3 have comparable speeds – but vary in pricing on the available feature sets. Archive and Restore: At the end of the process, what is going to serve you as not only the most reliable backup methodology, but the most cost effective as well? One LTO5 tape costs well below $100, and prices have been dropping. Each tape holds 1.5 TB – equivalent to 15 Broadcast quality HDCAM SR tapes. Compare this to protected RAID solutions and the savings are instantaneous. With the reliability not found in spinning disks yield a win-win proposition. Coupled with the price and performance gains, when LTO5 is tied in with LTFS, you gain something even more important: compatibility. Current LTO-5 cassettes are smaller than an HDCAM tape and can store as much as 15 hours of content mastered in Apple ProRes or DNxHD. These limitations have continued to be accepted in favor of the perceived ‘safe’ factor of traditional video tape. But is video tape really safer than data tape; is it more secure on a shelf than an LTO tape in a robotic library? Does video tape fail less often than data tape? Perhaps now is the time to acknowledge the limitations of traditional tape workflows and begin to examine the potential for safe and efficient file based solutions. LTFS is universally compatible – remember, it appears just like any removeable drive. This means 5, 10, 20 years down the road, the information is viewable and retrievable – not in a proprietary format that needs a piece of software that no longer exists.

Over the next week of NAB2011, I’m sure we’ll see more tapeless solutions and would love feedback from the community.

IBM, HP, Quantum,StorageDNA and Cache-A have all announced support for this emerging technology. Go see these booths at NAB to learn more about alternatives to a tape workflow: StorageDNA (SL10310), Cinedeck (SL12116), AJA (SL4420) , Cache-A(SL8209), Aspera (SL9620), Signiant (SL5229), Isilon (SL11614), Ultrium LTO N6619.

Below are some recent links outlining the issues of HDCAM. http://www.sony.com/SCA/press/110314.shtml http://www.10pdm.com/sony-hdcam-sr-shortage http://www.ubergizmo.com/2011/03/sony-media-products-experience-shortage-as-prices-soar/ http://www.televisionbroadcast.com/article/115606

Mike Cavanagh, President of Key Code Media, is recognized as leader in blending video technology advances with fundamental business issues. He can be reached at mcavanagh@keycodemedia.com or (818) 303-3900.

AJA Releases New Technology at IBC

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

New IBC AJA announcements

AJA connects across the Board!  Smaller, Faster, Better and Cheaper!

AJA announced today 3 new key products;  Ki Pro Mini, KONA 3G and Hi5-3D.

Ki Pro Mini is the smallest and simplest way of connecting production and post, anywhere shooting takes you.
With a miniature form factor that makes for the smallest camera and recorder package available, Ki Pro Mini is powerful, supporting all four types of Apple ProRes 422 (including HQ, LT and Proxy).  The newest member of the award winning Ki Pro family, Ki Pro Mini simpli”es the link between production and post by unobtrusively fitting in small spaces and acquiring on the best codec for use with Apple Final Cut Studio, Adobe CS 5 and more from any SDI or HDMI camera, along with ability to use on Avid Media Composer 5.x via the Avid AMA technology.
With its high quality digital connectivity, you’ve got the perfect solution for portable on-set digital capture regardless of format.  With its high quality digital connectivity, you’ve got the perfect solution for portable on-set digital capture. Ki Pro Mini records to a small CF Card.

As a comparison,Cinedeck has a view finder and records Cineform, DPX and DNxHD while including a view finder.  This package from Cinedeck runs at $10,000.  AJA is pushing the affordability number down and offering lower cost storage using Flash drives.  Ki Pro Mini goes for an unbelievable entry price of $1,995 with the following options available: Ki Pro exoskeleten for $595 with assorted end plates adding up to another $400.  Still great price.

KONA 3G features 10-bit Uncompressed video I/O, the newest HDMI 1.4a support for 3D work#ows, 16- channel SDI embedded audio I/O, and up to 16- channel AES digital audio I/O.  This standard effec tively doubles the data rate of HDSDI allowing for the transmission of 1080p at 50 or 60 fps over a single coaxial cable rather than t wo. PCIe 2.0 suppor t allows all your data to move around with the extended bandwidth it needs for Progressive Frame work#ows and multi-layer effects work.

This puts the Kona 3G into the Steroscopic workflow world by Through SDI, you can output Discrete  Left and Right Eye feeds with a simple Stereo button choice in the AJA Control Panel.  In addition, all the muxed feeds for SDI stereo monitoring are accessible through tight integration with CineForm’s stereo codecs in Apple FCP and Adobe CS5 timelines for Side by Side, Top Bottom and so much more.  Through HDMI 1.4a, you can utilize more affordable 3D monitors for Side by Side, Top Bottom and Frame Packed needs.
KONA 3G and for a price of $1,995, offers you Stereo Simplicity at unheard of values.

The Hi5-3D is a 3D video multiplexer Mini-Converter that combines two 3G-SDI or HDSDI Inputs into various multiplexed 3D formats for output on true stereoscopic (“stereo”) HDMI 1.4a as well as HD-SDI.
The Hi5-3D is the most flexible 3D Mini- Converter in the market with full access to Horizontal and Vertical (H&V) image flipping, an absolute must for the reality of 3D camera setups.  All outputs are live simultaneously and  configuration is a dream with both dip-switch and remote USB configuration control.

Call us at 818-303-3900 to schedule your demo today.

Key Code Media is a valued and authorized partner of AJA and will be ordering stock.