May 6, 2014

Sony's 185 TB Cassette: Is the Future of Long-Term Storage... the Cassette Tape?

TDK_LTO_Ultrium6_CartridgeThe 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.

LTO-Tape-Drive

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!

Links:

[via Gizmodo]

Your Comment

40 Comments

Until we figure out some kind of sustainable long term digital storage system that doesn't deteriorate or fail over time, most studios etc have been backing everything up to tape for years

May 6, 2014 at 4:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
john jeffries

HOLY SHIT, YES PLEASE. Everybody loves a good combination of nostalgia and innovation! I hope this goes somewhere!

Am I reading this right, it costs $60?

May 6, 2014 at 4:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
James Calinaya

You are not reading this right. :)

May 6, 2014 at 4:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Ed

See how, below, Robert answered James's question simply by clarifying the point, briefly and helpfully? So much more useful than your comment.

May 7, 2014 at 9:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply

It seems to me your comment about Robert is just as rude as Robert's comment. ;)

May 8, 2014 at 6:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
FabDex

Current LTO-6 tapes are around $60, but chances are that the new Sony tapes will be quite a bit more expensive than that. I imagine that they'll still be relatively "affordable" for the amount of storage that you are getting.

May 6, 2014 at 5:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
avatar
Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4512

If they could bring the cost of the tape machine down, I could see this being a viable solution. But as it stands, it's probably cheaper for most to just keep buying hard drives.

May 6, 2014 at 4:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply

Oh, look! If I want to buy hard drives, I can click on the link that says hard drives. Thanks, NoFilmSchool! I hope this also works for cameras, lenses, computers, and other filmmaking accessories.

May 6, 2014 at 5:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

impressive

options for LTS are important.

well done Sony

May 6, 2014 at 5:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
truthgirl

May 6, 2014 at 5:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply

Woa, this looks so cool. THE FUTURE

May 6, 2014 at 6:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Dave

I heartily support this. Currently I back up the majority of projects to a NAS but for hard backup I use Multiple Blu-Ray Disks. The industry needs to adopt a standard besides film negative for permanent storage that is smaller and more efficient!

May 6, 2014 at 5:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

Robert,

I think you've overlooked the primary fatal flaw in hard drives: they crash. They're fragile, designed for fast access, not long term storage. How many data wranglers offload to a single drive?

Tape is designed for long term storage, where access speed is not a primary concern. How often have you needed immediate access to something you shot eight years ago?

As to price, a $2k drive seems a bargain.

As much as we all wanted to get out of shooting to tape, it won't go away for a long time. Kind of makes you miss film, eh? Under any reasonable storage, film is stable for decades.

May 6, 2014 at 5:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Charlie

Finally a new use for my betamax player!

May 6, 2014 at 6:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Dan

Tokyo, Japan - July 29, 2013 - Sony Corporation (‘Sony’) and Panasonic Corporation (‘Panasonic’) today announced that they have signed a basic agreement with the objective of jointly developing a next-generation standard for professional-use optical discs, with the objective of expanding their archive business for long-term digital data storage. Both companies aim to improve their development efficiency based on the technologies held by each respective company, and will target the development of an optical disc with recording capacity of at least 300GB by the end of 2015. Going forward, Sony and Panasonic will continue to hold discussions regarding the specifications and other items relating to the development of this new standard.

http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/News/Press/201307/13-0729E/

May 6, 2014 at 7:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

4
Reply
DLD

300 gb is not enough. That is only ~14 minutes of uncompressed 1080p footage.

May 8, 2014 at 8:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

Large volume storage: So you can lose a whole bunch of data in a single failure.

For high end archiving companies, this might be worth something. To normal people it would be far more economic to just use SSDs.

May 6, 2014 at 7:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

9
Reply
Bertzie

Wow, it is more sensible to spend upwards of 200.000$ on SAS SSD's (because SATA cannot manage that number of SSD's), than to spend a few hundred on these...
Good thinking...

May 7, 2014 at 5:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Henri De Vreese

How many times have you ever had any project that ever required 185tb of storage? How many people do you know that have projects that large?

May 8, 2014 at 2:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
Bertzie

Surprisingly, this might just work. 185tb might not seem like a lot, but if your shooting a feature with 2-3 epics on a 6:1 ratio, or some high speed, you can rack up quite the storage space.

May 29, 2014 at 2:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply
Tim

You must be an idiot. People want to be able to store all footage and the finished film in single container, that is now multiple terabytes of data. Good luck with your SSDs

May 8, 2014 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

You must lack reading comprehension. What part of "normal people" did you not understand?

No one, NO ONE but high volume archives will even come within a fraction of filling even one of these tapes.

How many people do you know that are going to spend a few thousand dollars on a deck, and a few hundred more on a tape, just so they can record stuff to a single tape?

How many people do you know that have 200+ hours of 4k raw that they need to store on a regular enough basis for this to be worth it?

May 8, 2014 at 2:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Bertzie

First of all what are you defining as normal? Second, they already make a 6TB tape which is affordable, the large ones are obviously meant for doc/feature/archive options, so why are you whining about the size? This doesn't replace your current drive array, it's for th next step. There are always proper tools for the job, learn when they are appropriate instead of thinking that it has to fit the way you work now.

May 11, 2014 at 7:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

4
Reply
Sterlinglarsen

Magnetic film is coming back strongar and bettar. Yeees, yes yes yes xD

May 6, 2014 at 8:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Natt

A cassette tape?

A digital high speed medium with nano level recording cassette...

Kinda like comparing a Kodak Brownie to a RED .)

May 6, 2014 at 9:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
THAT Guy

I allways thought if a high-end form of videotape was developed, it could have the potential of being a true substitute for film stock. At 185 terrabites, it certainly sounds like a possibility.

May 6, 2014 at 10:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
helix

Robert,
FYI, In recent years, almost EVERY A-list movie has lived on LTO tape.
Why in the work would you write:
"Although LTO (Linear Tape-Open) has been a common method of long-term storage for industrial and corporate data, this technology has seen little use in the world of media production.

May 7, 2014 at 1:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Tom

Interesting. For some reason, I was under the impression that archival film was still the norm in terms of long term storage for Hollywood flicks. I should probably research this stuff more thoroughly haha.

May 7, 2014 at 1:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
avatar
Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4512

It likely depends upon the capture method and where in the archiving process is in the pipeline. We used LTO tape on a feature shot on Red.

May 7, 2014 at 1:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Charlie

I doubt they would use film to archive digitaly based motion pictures...

May 8, 2014 at 7:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
FabDex

They do it all the time, using specialized laser printers to print the digitally recorded frames onto celluloid--at least that's what I've heard.

May 8, 2014 at 9:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Kenneth Merrill

"sit in the fetal position and cry" Oh, boy... that one cracked me up ;o)

May 7, 2014 at 1:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Cid

Every job through our post house ends up on LTO.

Its great but it's slower than realtime to come back off tape.

If only someone could invent some sort of 4:4:4 HD tape system that could play back in real time, you know some kinda HDCAM SR or something...

May 7, 2014 at 5:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Andy

If anyone has used ltos in the past you will know they are ridiculously slow. Also once a file is on tape you don't touch it, rename it, or anything (except to restore it). So my experience is moving everything to the lto in one pass. I can not think of a situation where I would need 184tb of space on one lto.

May 7, 2014 at 8:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Thomas

I wonder if this can be used in a micro-cassette form for audio reproduction. Uncompressed 24/192 is ~ 30 GB/hr per track. An 8-track recording that allows a play-back remix would then be around 250 GB/hr. For $15-$25 per tape, one can store his entire music library. Of course, leave the cassette in the vehicle on a hot day in the Valley ...

May 7, 2014 at 8:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
DLD

If this cartridge cost $4400 it would be cheaper than a LTO 6 Tape as far as /GB. This is such a huge jump, Normally tape generations just double.

May 7, 2014 at 2:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
Mike

If this costs in the ballpark as LTO and you can write incremental backups I could see snagging a drive at some point. I've considered LTO—and it would probably fill my needs right now, but media only gets bigger!

May 7, 2014 at 11:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Joel Richards

Tape is the standard now, so it's essentially a new iteration of the same great medium.

May 8, 2014 at 8:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

As a film instructor and a museum director, the idea of low cost storage is very tempting. Museum standard recommendations suggest at least two backups and an original, each stored in a different location, generally recommended to not be in the same general area. The idea of being able to invest $2K in read/write apparatus and $180 for three 185TB storage tapes that would hold every video, music, or photo file in the museum plus backup of everything my film class can shoot for the next 5 or 6 years is very appealing and very economical. I almost lost half of a 2-year project with a HD crash this past year and backup is very much on my mind right now. Bring on the tape!

May 10, 2014 at 1:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

4
Reply
Ronn Hague

It would seem, just as with rental gear, that there is a place for someone to offer the service where you can send off your dupes, have it saved to tape. Cost of tape and cost of transfer and you are done. If you truly have a project worthy of till the end of time storage then this would make cents to me.

May 11, 2014 at 9:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply
Bill Gilbride