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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.

Autodesk and ASSIMILATE Announce Settlement of copyright infringement

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Autodesk and Assimilate yesterday issued a joint release announcing the settlement of their copyright infringement lawsuit.  This is good news in an era of consolidation that Assimilate is now encumbered from this litigation.   Key Code Media is a partner of both Autodesk and Assimilate and view this as positive for all parties, that being said, we do not have knowledge of the confidential aspects of the settlement and the respective impact to either company.

Autodesk has some amazing products and with the recent Flame Premium bundle which incorporates Flame, Smoke and Lustre, the creative community has a compelling and integrated conform, FX and color grade bundle priced competitively in our new economy.  Key Code Media is very bullish on this combined integration.  Additionally, Autodesk has had solid success with Autodesk Smoke on a Macintosh, OSX this past year.  Although sales did not go to the level of expectations most of the community had expected, the interest and momentum has been a plus.   More importantly, Autodesk has brought the pricing of the tools within reach of a much wider part of the market.  Key Code Media is honored to be an Autodesk partner and look to helping them strongly complete their financial year.

I’ve had numerous conversations with Jeff Edson, CEO of Assimilate, about the longer term business ramifications of this litigation.  I am happy that the biggest threat to Assimilate was some draconian ruling by the court such as a “cease and desist order”   Assimilate, with their Scratch grading solution, offers a powerful grading solution priced in the mid range market.   Assimilate is a dispersed Company with no “real” office, or at least no real office I know of.  That keeps them nimble and they make their office in the community: at resellers and clients.  I like what they bring to the game and am happy both companies have worked out their legal issues.

On another Assimilate front, Tony Cacciarelli has moved on to AJA as a product manager and there is unofficial rumblings of another key person moving on in their career.  This being said, Assimilate is actively hiring new talent and in my opinion has a bright future within our industry.

Mike Cavanagh, President, Key Code Media (www.keycodemedia.com)

Here is the official release:
For immediate release

Media Contacts:
Greg Eden                                Aggie Frizzell
Autodesk, Inc.                                ASSIMILATE
greg.eden@autodesk.com                         aggie@assimilateinc.com

Autodesk and ASSIMILATE Announce Settlement

SAN RAFAEL, Calif., SANTA CLARA, Calif., December 2, 2010 — Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) and ASSIMILATE, Inc. announced an agreement to settle a pending lawsuit for copyright infringement brought by Autodesk’s subsidiary, Autodesk Canada Co., against ASSIMILATE.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, was based on Autodesk Canada’s purchase of the intellectual property, including copyright interests, in a software program called Cyborg from an English company, 5D Solutions, Ltd.  The Cyborg software provided digital compositing, color correction and various editing and art functions for the post production and visual effects industry.  The lawsuit alleged that ASSIMILATE’s software program, known as SCRATCH, infringed Autodesk Canada’s copyright in the Cyborg software.

The parties have now settled the dispute.  ASSIMILATE acknowledges that it used code and design elements from Cyborg in its SCRATCH product.  ASSIMILATE apologizes for such use.
Pursuant to the parties’ settlement agreement, ASSIMILATE has made a quitclaim of its rights in Cyborg to Autodesk Canada and has received a perpetual license back from Autodesk Canada for use of that code and those design elements and a release for any past use of that code and those design elements.  Other terms of the settlement are confidential.

About Autodesk
Autodesk, Inc., is a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software. Customers across the manufacturing, architecture, building, construction, and media and entertainment industries  including the last 15 Academy Award winners for Best Visual Effects  use Autodesk software to design, visualize and simulate their ideas. Since its introduction of AutoCAD software in 1982, Autodesk continues to develop the broadest portfolio of state-of-the-art software for global markets. For additional information about Autodesk, visit http://www.autodesk.com.

About ASSIMILATE
ASSIMILATE, a leading force in developing digital cinema technologies, is transforming the post-production of complex imagery projects with its SCRATCH® data workflow and DI tool suite. ASSIMILATE is committed to empowering the broad spectrum of creative and post-production professionals with state-of-the-art, intuitive, data-centric solutions that enable increased productivity and deliver optimal price/performance. To learn more about SCRATCH, see http://www.ASSIMILATEinc.com

Autodesk and AutoCAD are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. Academy Award is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All other brand names, product names or trademarks belong to their respective holders. Autodesk reserves the right to alter product offerings and specifications at any time without notice, and is not responsible for typographical or graphical errors that may appear in this document. © 2010 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved.

SCRATCH is a registered trademark of ASSIMILATE, Inc.