All Aboard The XDCam Recycling Service


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For many television producers, archiving content is a fairly simple process. It generally goes something like this: 1) Pick up tape/disc/hard-drive. 2) Extend arm across to wall area. 3) Put tape/disc/hard-drive on shelf. 4) Retract arm. 5) Rinse and repeat.
And that’s about it. Some people might add labels and go as far as adopting a cataloguing system (chronological, by genre, alphabetical, autobiographical etc) but, for many, archiving content is simply a matter of making sure that footage is within arms reach should it ever be needed again.
In this day and age with exploitation of archive footage all the rage this seems a bit of a waste. It can work out to be quite an expensive way of archiving too, especially if the producer happens to use the same media for archiving as he or she does for production.
It is the latter scenario that broadcast equipment hire company HotCam recently came up with an alternative for, specifically for users of XDCam.
“Until now, producers with returning series have been very apprehensive about wiping their discs for fear of losing the footage forever,” says HotCam’s managing director Trevor Hotz.
“As a result, many have just kept their old discs on a shelf as an archive and replaced them with hundreds of brand new XDCam discs each time they go to make a new series. This can work out pretty expensive.”
Hotz argues that if a producer is making a long running or returning series it is far more cost-effective to transfer the footage to ‘something else’ and then wipe and re-use the XDCam disks. This ‘something else’ could be a consumer hard-drive, he acknowledges, but they are far from reliable. His solution is called The Mobile Transfer System (MTS), a roll-on-roll-off rig developed in-house at HotCam that uses Sony’s new PDW-U2 drives.
“It works by transferring up to twenty-eight full 50GB XDCam disks onto a single LTO ‘super tape’,” explains Hotz. “That single LTO tape then becomes a more reliable archive for the rushes than a hard drive would be, for example, and will take up a faction of the space of the XDCam discs would when storing the footage. It’s quick too, transferring as many as 40 50GB XDCam discs per day.”
The argument against using Hard Drives is an interesting one. Although there are very few published studies on failure characteristics of disk drives, it is widely considered that the magnetic properties of a hard disk will diminish in the very long term. At the very least they can be affected by environmental factors such as strong magnetic fields and, most importantly, through lack of use. Basically if you don’t turn on your hard drive regularly there’s a good chance it won’t turn on again at all. As a long-term storage medium that contains valuable footage that is simply not an option.
An LTO tape, on the other hand, is generally considered to be a robust method of archiving. It is also cheaper than an XDCam disk, holding 1.5 terabytes of information and costing £55. A Sony PFD-50DLA Professional XDCAM Disk on the other hand costs from £30 to £70 and holds 50GB while a write-once Quad-layer XDCam archiving disc costs from £50 and holds 128GB. I’ll let you do the maths on that one.
By ‘recycling’ XDCam disks it is even possible to effectively make money when compared to the high cost of buying hundreds of new ones for every shoot. Or, at least, move some money from the spreadsheet line marked ‘stock’ and put that cash into the section called ‘on screen.’
“A typical series, like 12 Yard’s Coach Trip for Channel 4 for example, uses around 600 XDCam disks,” continues Hotz. “Using the MTS system, once the transfer is done you will end up with 22 LTO tapes and 600 blank XDCam disks that you can use again. Those 22 LTO tapes will cost you roughly £1000. Buying 600 more XDCam discs for the next series could set you back £4000. Yes, you have to pay for the MTS service but it will be a whole lot less than the £3000 difference. By the time the fourth transfer is done, producers will actually start to make a profit against the cost of the discs.”
Hotz says that to avoid liabilities, producers remain responsible for all discs until they reach HotCam. A legal document is then signed to say that Hotcam can wipe the XDCam discs and return them. The wiping only happens once footage has been transferred and LTO tapes have successfully been delivered to the producer.
From that point, concludes Hotz, “the footage can be easily accessed having been preserved on a stable, secure, and virtually lossless medium. That should provide piece of mind for producers and execs alike.”

Tags: iss069 | xdcam | recycling | hotz | hotcam | Sony PFD-50DLA | N/A
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