Friday, June 15, 2012

If you think you've got storage problems

I'm catching up with what promises to be a 6-part film released by those nice people at BBC R&D, describing the 'challenges' in making the BBC's film archives available to the public (on the basis, as DG Mark Thomson points out, that we paid for it in the first place).   If you yearn to see rolls of 16mm and 35mm mag, D3 tape boxes and even the odd 2 inch tape spool once again, this is the nostalgia trip for you.   None of the regular readers here will be surprised to know that archiving video/film is a never-ending game of chase the format, trying to keep one step ahead of machine obsolescence, and the Beeb has this problem writ large.   For instance, (as I know to my cost), DAT has become obsolete, to the extent that eBay is the only source of players.  I have fond (well, not very fond actually) memories of the masterplan of the 1970's to transfer movies to 2 inch tape, to avoid having to grade them live on TX - and guess which format, 2 inch tape or 35mm/70mm film, has gone to its grave?

In some ways it's an irritating programme (which most of us would probably want to re-cut for pacing, and certainly colour grade:  poor old Roly Keating appears to have been interviewed in an aquarium) but there are plenty of nuggets of information to be had.  The current estimate for the BBC's archive is some 20-30 PB (that's petabyte, or 10 to the power of 15 bytes or a milliion Gig) compared to the 'typical' digital archive online of 10TB.   Try to fit that in a thunderbolt enclosure.

It's commendable they've decided to share their experiences and I get to use PB for PetaByte in a blog.  Follow the story here for the first episode.