The past 20 years have seen digital technology take over the world of filmmaking, not only in terms of how we shoot and edit, but also how we store our footage. However, spinning hard drives have a fatal flaw when it comes to the prospect of long term storage; unless they're regularly maintained by turning them on, thus allowing the internal drives to spin, these drives can become ineffective and data can be permanently lost. However, a new innovation from Sony might just make long-term storage of massive amounts of media a non-issue. A cassette tape recently developed by the company has a storage capacity of a whopping 185 terabytes, and depending on the logistics of the new device, it could have massive implications for the filmmaking world.
Storage of media has never been as daunting of a challenge as it is today. As more and more people choose to shoot 4K RAW files, often at high frame rates, the sheer amount of data that shooters are generating is enough to make anybody tasked with the job of triplicating and archiving want to sit in the fetal position and cry. Add to that the fact that mass storage is still not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination (although it is certainly getting cheaper), and it's clear that long-term storage that's also cost-effective is a legitimate problem in this industry.
Enter Sony's new magnetic cassette, which in case you missed it, has the potential to store upwards of 185 terabytes of data. In order to accomplish this rather astounding feat, Sony is using a process called sputter deposition, which, in the words of ExtremeTech, "creates layers of magnetic crystals by firing argon ions at a polymer film substrate. Combined with a soft magnetic under-layer, the magnetic particles measured in at just 7.7 nanometers on average, able to be closely packed together." Through leveraging this new technology, Sony can cram upwards of 148 GB of data onto a single square inch of tape. In order to put that number in perspective, current tape technologies that are in use today have a maximum data density of roughly 2 GB per square inch.
LTO (Linear Tape-Open) has been a common method of long-term storage for industrial and corporate data, and it has also seen use on a good number of Hollywood films. However, as independent content creators generate more and more digital data, the necessity for viable and affordable long-term storage solutions with higher capacities has never been greater.
There are a few major questions that need to be answered if filmmakers and other content creators are to adopt magnetic cassettes as a long-term storage solution on a mass scale, as they have already been in use for years at big post houses and in Hollywood. First and foremost is the matter of read/write speed on these cassettes. How quickly will they record your data, and more importantly, how quickly will you be able to access your data if you need it in a pinch? Chances are that the answers to those questions aren't all that positive, especially considering that current LTO tapes read/write speeds range from 150-400MB/s depending on the compression of the data being transferred.
The next major question is cost, and the news is a little bit better on this front. LTO-6 tapes are relatively inexpensive for the amount of data that they can store. Most tapes, depending on capacity, are in the range of $60 each. They're even cheaper if you want the older LTO-4 and LTO-5 tapes. Sony's new tapes will likely be a bit more expensive than current LTO technologies. The real expense, however, is the drive which is needed to record to these tapes. Most of the LTO drives are at least $2K, and that's at the very low end.
All in all, Sony's new cassettes are an exciting development in the world of data storage. Whether they're going to be adopted as a storage solution in the media production industry depends on a number of factors, so it remains to be seen.
What do you guys think of Sony's tapes and the idea that cassettes could be the future of long-term storage for our massive media files? Let us know down in the comments!
- Sony develops tech for 185TB tapes: 3,700 times more storage than a Blu-ray disc -- ExtremeTech
- Sony develops tape tech that could lead to 185 TB cartridges -- IT World