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Cost of archiving digital movies is not cheap

The next time you need to buy another 2TB hard drive to archive a new year of photos think of what it requires to digitally archive movies. The digital components of a big-budget feature can total 350 TB. That’s 70 4TB hard drives. Seventy! 

The Lost Picture Show: Hollywood Archivists Can’t Outpace Obsolescence

When the renowned cinematographerEmmanuel Lubezki began planning to shoot the wilderness drama The Revenant, he decided that to capture the stark, frozen beauty of a Canadian winter, he would use no artificial light , instead relying on sunlight, moonlight, and fire.

*”Dino Everett, film archivist for the University of Southern California, calls LTO ‘archive heroin—the first taste doesn’t cost much, but once you start, you can’t stop. And the habit is expensive.’ “*

The LTO tape spec only requires two levels of backward compatibility, so anything on LTO-1 needed to be moved to LTO-3 before it was lost. With the rate of these changes to the standard occurring every couple of years, the data has to migrate about every 7, despite the tape itself being good for 30 to 50 years.

*”The first generation, LTO-1, had a maximum transfer rate of 20 megabytes per second; LTO-7’s top rate is 750 MB/s. Then you need technicians to operate and troubleshoot the equipment and ensure that the migrated data is error free. Migrating a petabyte (a thousand terabytes) of data can take several months, says Anastasi.”*

*”And how much does it cost to migrate from one LTO format to the next? USC’s Everett cited a recent project to restore the 1948 classic The Red Shoes. ‘It was archived on LTO-3,’ Everett says. ‘When LTO-5 came out, the quote was US $20,000 to $40,000 just to migrate it.’ Now that the film is on LTO-5, it will soon have to be migrated again, to LTO-7.”*

About The Author

Gary Gardiner

Former newspaper and Associated Press photographer. Instructor at Westerville Center for Photography. Owns SmallTown Stock, the Reasonably Rights Managed stock photo agency. Founder and Director for The American Scene Project, a heritage project dedicated to exhibiting and preserving photography of everyday American life.

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