25 January 2010 ~ Comments

The Future of Tape

For generations, tape and video have worked hand in hand.  Since the very first video picture was seen on a black and white monitor, we’ve needed a way to record and store the images we create. Live shots are great, but when we developed the ability to play them back later, we opened the door to tremendous freedom and creativity.

So in the early 1950’s, videotape recordings began. Since then, videotape has changed in many ways. As the technology of tape (and recording methods) evolved, the quality increased and the size of the tape decreased.  Any veteran of TV production can recall the whirl of 2” reel-to-reel Quad machines as they shuttled to their next cue. Compare that to today’s mini-DV tapes that can hold an entire hour of video in a pocket-sized shell, and it’s like another world.

Each new leap seems like we’ve finally reached perfection, but the progress doesn’t stop. Technology is once again changing the way we record, store, and play back our media.  Since video has transitioned into the digital realm, the ability to store gigabits of ones and zeros on ever-evolving media is growing rapidly.

The reasons are pretty obvious. High capacity media like hard disks, thumb drives and SD cards are much more affordable than tape. They are also faster – instead of copying footage in real-time, digital storage allows transfer of files at much higher speeds. Speaking of saving time, when the media is in a digital file form, media can now be edited immediately—goodbye capturing. And of course, there’s no need to purchase expensive equipment like extra VTRs.

various video tapes

Several years ago, a client came to me with a question that made us think outside the box.  He’s a small producer, airing in a couple local markets.  He hasn’t invested in the expensive TV gear, but his station required the show be delivered in BetacamSP.  It wasn’t long after talking with him that we worked out a solution so he could deliver his shows to us on a hard disk.  We took care of everything else: closed-captioning, duplication to BetacamSP, and fulfillment to the TV station.

In that moment, I realized that the old mindset of tape was soon going to be replaced.  Sure enough, it wasn’t long before I began noticing other tapeless solutions develop.  From Sony’s XD-CAM to the AJA Ki Pro to Panasonic P2, one look at today’s marketplace and you’ll see that tape is “old news” for acquisition.

By this point, maybe you’re asking what this has to do with closed captioning. To be honest, it has more to do with how content will be delivered to stations in the future. I think that this revolution we are experiencing with acquisition, editing, and storage will soon migrate over to station playout, as well.  I’ve heard reports of some stations already beginning to accept delivery of programming on a hard disk or thumb drive.  I also foresee that as available Internet bandwidth increases, stations will begin accepting full-length programs via FTP.

As we witnessed in the audio industry, the days of the videotape may be numbered.  Production and program delivery of today and of the future will require new tricks and new ways to be effective, accurate and efficient. When it comes to your productions, make sure your entire team is ready to adapt, because before you know it, even our most familiar tools will be a thing of the past.

  • Lbranda

    Your right... Tapes as a method of delivery is definitely targeted for replacement by more conventional means... but the long term storage problem hasn't been solved yet.

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