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Tape not dead yet (again)

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Bernard Newnham
Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:08:26 pm

I was at the BBC Television Centre in West London yesterday. Stupidly, the BBC is leaving its historic home to live in a shed outside Manchester. I was one of 120 ex-staff making a last visit.

In the gallery of TC3 we ran into a technical manager and one of our group asked what the BBC records on these days. Answer - "Mostly tape, XDCam usually.Sometimes we have clients who want stuff on hard drives, but then we have to go through all the stuff about codecs and compression". Which codec? "Usually DNx of some description".

Slightly OT - Someone passed this memo on to me -

"Hi all,
I received confirmation from Alan Fraser at Fuji today that there is
no more Fuji print stock available for sale worldwide. This means
that we cannot purchase any additional Fuji stock for future use as of
today.
Please review your Fuji project pipeline (if any) and Fuji inventory
and let me know if there will be any issues you foresee."

That was pretty much it for filmed features. Pinewood are apparently stopping processing the stuff in the summer.

Bernie


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:16:23 pm

[Bernard Newnham] "Mostly tape, XDCam usually"

So....which one is it?

Mostly tape?

Or XDcam usually?


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Bernard Newnham
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:12:05 pm

[Jeremy Garchow] "[Bernard Newnham] "Mostly tape, XDCam usually"

So....which one is it?

Mostly tape?

Or XDcam usually?"


Sorry - should have written H instead of X - HDCam - slip of the keyboard.

Bernie


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:29:15 pm

[Bernard Newnham] "Sorry - should have written H instead of X - HDCam - slip of the keyboard."

That makes more sense.

If I had an HDCam infrastructure, I'm sure I'd try to squeeze as much out of it as I could as well.


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Bob Woodhead
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:11:28 pm

I'm fairly unconcerned about whether it's dead or not, but damned glad I don't have to use it!

"Constituo, ergo sum"

Bob Woodhead / Atlanta
CMX-Quantel-Avid-FCP-Premiere-3D-AFX-Crayola
"What a long strange trip it's been...."


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TImothy Auld
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:42:39 pm

Tape is way dead (except perhaps for my purposes.) Is film dead? Doesn't really look like it.

Tim


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Steve Connor
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:01:54 pm

[TImothy Auld] "Is film dead?"

it's not dead, it just smells funny

Steve Connor

There's nothing we can't argue about on the FCPX COW Forum


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TImothy Auld
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:39:48 pm

Indeed. Always has.

Tim


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Joakim Ziegler
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:50:28 am

Kind of like vinegar, yeah.

--
Joakim Ziegler - Postproduction Supervisor


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:44:44 pm

[Bob Woodhead] "I'm fairly unconcerned about whether it's dead or not, but damned glad I don't have to use it!"

Tape or tapeless, I prefer recording devices that can accept external sync and have decent onboard audio recording abilities. Multicam field shoots with GoPros, DSLRs and dual system audio recording are things of the devil. I've done a surprising amount of work on productions that still use tape because, well, it meets their needs and they have production pipelines that function like well oiled machines.

XDCAM discs are probably still my favorite medium as I think you get the best of both the tape and the tapeless words of course once off the shelf cards get cheap enough they'll be used as shoot-once media too.




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Shane Ross
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:18:04 pm

I'm with Andrew. XDCAM discs have to be my favorite media at the moment.

A show that is shooting (at the company both he and I happen to work at) is also using tape. DVCPRO HD.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Bob Woodhead
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:58:30 pm

I like my DVCProHD on P2.

Tape = shedding, head clogs, dropouts, stiction, alignment issues. Really fun tape problems included D2 track overwrites and D1 humidity problems.

Pass me some more bits n bytes, ma.


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tony west
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 14, 2013 at 2:29:16 am

[Andrew Kimery] "XDCAM discs"

I like those also, but I just did my first job yesterday with my new Sony F3

SxS cards.


Love the look of that F3
Really really clean in the blacks.


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Aindreas Gallagher
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:57:51 pm

ESPN London out in Chiswick Park is still HDCAM up the wazoo - reckon they'll be a long time transitioning off it.

http://vimeo.com/user1590967/videos http://www.ogallchoir.net promo producer/editor.grading/motion graphics


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 14, 2013 at 3:18:03 am

Talk to any broadcast news organization - there's going to be tape around for a loooong time to come. The trouble will be keeping the decks alive to do the transfers of the archival footage. It's still cheaper to store stuff on tape than it is to digitize it.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Craig Seeman
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:49:15 pm

[Joseph W. Bourke] "The trouble will be keeping the decks alive to do the transfers of the archival footage."

I wouldn't understate the importance of that. Having done preservation projects involving 1/2" reel to reel video and 2" Quad, the archive is only as good as the availability of the decks. Ironically some of the archival work was done to D2. I can also say the same for 3/4" and even 1" As machines become scarce along with their parts it is fraught with challenges. Personally I don't consider tape a great archival format because tape decks themselves are not "archival." I think tape gives a very false sense of security.

Personally I'm not really happy with any of the current solutions. I do hold out hope for an "optical" solution. XDCAM disc seems like a good combination as I suspect the playback mechanisms I suspect can endure. Sony introduced a device not to long ago with high capacity XDCAM like discs but I don't see the kind of push behind it to make it ubiquitous.

Back in the 90's I ran a multimedia dept. for a time. Every once in a while I find one of those master CDs buried amongst my things. There's something nice knowing that I can pop one of those CDs in most any modern computer or an expensive external optical drive and they can still be read (not that the data is compatible with much today).

To me, something is "archival" when not only the media endures but the readers are readily available. There are way too many tape formats that have come and gone for me to have those sentiments about tape.



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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 14, 2013 at 3:56:04 pm

I agree completely with you, Craig - tape is anything but a great archival medium. The point I was making (and I guess I didn't make it clearly) was that the broadcast stations will always opt for the cheapest form of archiving, and that will be tape, at least for the next few years.

I broached the topic at a staff meeting at the station I used to work at, and was told that between hiring an archivist (or putting someone from in-house who knew how to structure a keywording system in charge of the process) and the number of storage arrays they'd have to purchase, such a move would never be in the picture. They were more than happy to limp along with the giant shelving system of 1", 2", 3/4", Beta, and 16mm film, which only the chief photog had any idea what was where. The chief engineer was satisfied that he could keep a small number of decks going, even though parts were getting scarce and expensive.

When you look at the picture realistically, the only "valid" archival medium is 35mm film - it's still being produced (for how long we don't know), you can still play it back and convert it to whatever current digital format exists. Of course I'm talking about stuff which needs preservation: old documentaries, historical footage, early films, not the raw stock from a mailbox fire in Rutland, Vermont. Here's some interesting stuff from the LOC:

http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2012/10/get-your-bits-off-old-stor...

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:18:12 pm

We've had really good luck with LTO tape.

The nice thing about LTO tape is that the standard is still evolving, backwards compatibility is built in to the spec, it holds any digital file format, and it can transfer faster than real time. You don't need a "Sony" deck to playback a "Panasonic" tape.

It is less specialized than video tape. Other industries use the standard to keep their archives, namely IT and data centers as well as financial sectors.

LTO 5 made the tapes look and operate more like hard drives to computer operating systems and LTO6 takes LTFS even further.


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Craig Seeman
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:40:11 pm

[Jeremy Garchow] "backwards compatibility is built in to the spec"

Recently attended a talk on LTO and it sounds like there's some qualification with backwards compatibility.
For example, it was said that an LTO6 Drive and play/record LTO6 and LTO5. It would play only LTO4. It would not handle LTO3 at all. Basically they said the rule of thumb was current and previous 2 generations. Maybe that was inaccurate.



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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:42:39 pm

2 generations is correct.


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Michael Gissing
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 16, 2013 at 3:44:23 am

When I bought my HDCam six years ago, I really didn't expect to get my money back but it was a case of having to support broadcast deliverables and the lack of machine would have seriously compromised the rest of my business due to geographical isolation from any facility that could do the tape out for me.

So all these years later I marvel at the fact that there is rarely any issue with distribution on tape and the total pain that file based distribution so often is. Codecs, wrappers & data rates! Every time I deliver a file finish there is so much more management of these variables and so much more to and fro. Broadcasters want an exchange format that is robust physically and technically. Tape does this and like the broadcasters, I know that a tape deliverable will rarely require any major exchange of emails and testing.

So yes I now know why tape is far from dead or even undesirable. That said, broadcast is not far from dead so eventually tape will die because broadcast will become a smaller player.


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 17, 2013 at 4:45:32 am

[Michael Gissing] "So all these years later I marvel at the fact that there is rarely any issue with distribution on tape and the total pain that file based distribution so often is. Codecs, wrappers & data rates! Every time I deliver a file finish there is so much more management of these variables and so much more to and fro. Broadcasters want an exchange format that is robust physically and technically. Tape does this and like the broadcasters, I know that a tape deliverable will rarely require any major exchange of emails and testing."

This would be fixed with higher bandwidth and a standardized delivery format.

If someone specified D5 and you delivered SR, then there'd probably be some calls and emails.

With something like Telestream Pipeline, or any hardware based file maker, standardized file formats will be as easy as tape.

IMX50 seems to be a fairly standard SD broadcast/archival format, but there hasn't been a clear winner in HD.

I deliver a lot of spots each year and not one station asks for tape. Another distirbition service that I use frequently has a certification process, which means they pre-test that your file are proper, in addition every spot has a pass at QC as well.

Granted, spots are short and easily transportable.

A TV show,or movie, can easily be 200 times the size.

If bandwidth was 100 times faster and we had easy "cloud" storage, tape would stop making sense.

As soon as the digital equivalent of putting a tape on a shelf becomes ubiquitous, then the digital revolution will stop being televised.


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Michael Gissing
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 18, 2013 at 7:00:14 am

[Jeremy Garchow}"This would be fixed with higher bandwidth and a standardized delivery format.
If someone specified D5 and you delivered SR, then there'd probably be some calls and emails."

Tape has always had less variables and machine manufacturers so it has long been easy to have standardisation. Video files and codecs however are getting more diverse and in many ways less standard over time. H265 is going to challenge existing Mpeg2 and Mpeg4 rough standards and of course RED have introduced their own deliverable and streaming 4k codec. In that environment it is no wonder that broadcasters still want tape.

I am delivering a job to a museum and making minor requested changes to frame size and data rates on previously working mp4 files suddenly meant the player didn't work. It also didn't play on the director laptop but it played perfectly on my laptop and my media server into a Sony TV so the files were not corrupt.

Another example. A friend of mine runs the biggest short film festival in Australia. For the first time ever they allowed file based delivery. The mess of codecs, wrappers, frame sizes and frame rates plus the clogging of ftp servers with typical late entries meant so much more work that previous years when tape was mandated. The extra cost and work plus the variable results at screenings has made the organisers consider seriously going back to tape only deliverables.

So it is easy to say we need to standardise. The need to develop better delivery codecs and manufacturers constantly introducing new wrappers means that the chance of getting stable file based delivery consensus is looking less likely that six years ago when many techs at broadcasters advised me that they would accept files within five years. They still don't. So yes it can work but with the current dogs breakfast, tape already does the job.


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 18, 2013 at 3:58:46 pm

[Michael Gissing] "They still don't. So yes it can work but with the current dogs breakfast, tape already does the job."

Of course, because the infrastructure is still in place and the format is determined.

I disagree that it is easy to say we need to standardize. There are no more standards, so how can it be easy?

Lets use your buddy's film festival as an example.

With tape, the format is set. Everyone will know that they need to get their finished file on to tape in a particular resolution and frame rate.

On order for this to be just as easy in a file based system, there are certain things that would need to be in place as well as a decent internet pipe.

There are services such as Aspera Connect which dramatically speed up upload times. If your buddy could rent a server space that offered this service for the entrants, then the "clogging up" of ftps would be negated as the service will be offloaded to a backbone that could handle it.

Then there's the issue of format. There are many digital formats available to choose from, your buddy would have to pick what's best so that it can be easily manipulated or conformed.

As far as the entrants, Adobe Media Encoder can make almost any kind of broadcast compliant digital file.

So, once you have the delivery service and the format, then tapeless is easy and fast, but this costs time, money, and knowledge.

There is no free lunch, tapeless delivery does require some planning and testing. Once that is taken care of, tapeless delivery is much easier and faster than tape.

The distribution service I mentioned in my previous post makes you go through these hoops. During the certification process, you must send a wide body of work that represents that types of projects you will need to deliver. Basically, they are checking your work. Once you pass the certification process, the process is very simple and fast. I can have files uploaded and out to broadcasters in a matter of hours, sometimes it can go faster than an hour.

I can not do that with tape.

I hear you, there's a myriad of options with tapeless delivery, but it doesn't have to be so hard. Tape sets the format rule, so you just have to do define the rules with tapeless.

Jeremy


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Michael Gissing
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 19, 2013 at 3:11:31 am

[Jeremy Garchow]"I disagree that it is easy to say we need to standardize. There are no more standards, so how can it be easy?"

This was a response to your post that said we could fix file delivery with 'a standardized delivery format' That is an easy thing to say and obviously you agree by saying there are no more standards so how can it be easy to do. It isn't easy so it is only easy to say not to do.

The issue with my friends and their festival experience is that it was less economic and actually offered them no advantage to take files. Of course they can improve issues like acceptance and perhaps even publish some basic specifications. My point is that regardless of that, the extra effort did not and may not pay off so why change from a working system like tape until such time as tape is harder and more expensive to them. Deliverables are driven by the clients customer in my case. If it makes it harder and more expensive for them to take files then that explains why they mostly don't.


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 19, 2013 at 4:33:35 am

[Michael Gissing] "This was a response to your post that said we could fix file delivery with 'a standardized delivery format' That is an easy thing to say and obviously you agree by saying there are no more standards so how can it be easy to do. It isn't easy so it is only easy to say not to do. "

Deliverable standards are just as fragmented as everything else in the professional video world.

There are certain formats that do carry recommendations, but they sometimes cost money as you have to buy software to create them, or if they are free, they are not nearly straightforward enough, and therefore they aren't adhered to. XDCam is a good one, 45 Mbit mpeg2 program streams another, Avc-intra MXF yet another.

[Michael Gissing] "The issue with my friends and their festival experience is that it was less economic and actually offered them no advantage to take files. Of course they can improve issues like acceptance and perhaps even publish some basic specifications. My point is that regardless of that, the extra effort did not and may not pay off so why change from a working system like tape until such time as tape is harder and more expensive to them. Deliverables are driven by the clients customer in my case. If it makes it harder and more expensive for them to take files then that explains why they mostly don't."

It goes back to the infrastructure. I'm sure it would be much easier for the participants to deliver files, I know it is for me. The difference being, the delivery infrastructure is pretty well in place for the services I use (and even for station by station deliveries), and I can understand why your friends don't want to figure that infrastructure out. At this point, it's not worth it.

On another note.

What I do find interesting is what Apple did with ACVHD and Mountain Lion in that if it sees the avchd package, the OS turns the files into quick viewable pieces.

It'll be interesting to see if that trend will continue with other 'file bundle' deliverables. It might help to simplify a few of the more complicated formats.


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 21, 2013 at 4:00:35 pm

And have a look here. It looks there is going to be an HD standard emerging:

With third party support, this can work in FCPX today.

http://www.digitalproductionpartnership.co.uk/technical-standards/

A pertinent quote:

"From 2012 BBC, ITV and Channel 4 will begin to take delivery of programmes on file on a selective basis. File based delivery will be the preferred delivery format for these broadcasters by 2014. This announcement represents long notice lead-time to the industry, and will enable production and post production companies to ready themselves for this transition"

Jeremy


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Michael Gissing
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 22, 2013 at 1:29:20 am

Thanks for that find Jeremy. I really hope there can be a sensible international standard for file based delivery to replace tape. I still think we are years off and it is also clear that Apple dropped tape too early but that is consistent with their history of going early.

All this is still consistent with my thoughts that tape is and will be the standard for broadcast deliverables for a while longer.


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Joakim Ziegler
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:56:50 am

Yeah, write one generation back, read two generations back is correct. This is less of a problem than it seems, since you can still buy older generations of tape drives, and they're cheap.

If you're using an LTO-5 drive today, you'll probably not be writing anything older than LTO-4 anyway, and you can read LTO-3 on that same drive. If you have LTO-2 tapes or older you need to read, you get an LTO-3 drive, which can read LTO-2 and LTO-1 as well, and will run you around 1000 dollars.

That's a lot of backward compatibility for very little money compared to video tape. I see a Digital Betacam deck will still run you around 50000 dollars new...

--
Joakim Ziegler - Postproduction Supervisor


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Joseph Owens
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 16, 2013 at 6:22:09 pm

[Joakim Ziegler] " I see a Digital Betacam deck will still run you around 50000 dollars new..."

New, yes. "Used"... anywhere from $1400 to $2500. Just picked up an A500P a couple of weeks ago for 750GBP, and it is in use today. Tape is not complicated -- file delivery seems ridiculously poorly understood and for anything more than 2 GB -- seriously? Three days of upload? FedEx is faster.

jPo

"I always pass on free advice -- its never of any use to me" Oscar Wilde.


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Craig Seeman
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 16, 2013 at 6:33:59 pm

Yet the availability and low pricing of used tape decks itself speaks volumes on the decline of use and value.

Of course tape is still in use. It's declining though. I do think within a couple of years even the use of HDCAM and HDCAM SR for broadcast will decline.

Odd that you mention FedEx. I have no problem FedExing a file on some media (optical disk, flash drive, thumb drive, etc) and often times the package can be a lot smaller.

The issue with file delivery is that there are so many variables that are often poorly communicated. I can't speak for others but I know I can often re-encode and redeliver a problem file faster than I was able to replace and reship a bad dub.



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Joakim Ziegler
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 17, 2013 at 3:52:20 am

What kind of connection are you on?

Just a month or two ago, EFilm in Los Angeles sent me a master in ProRes 4444, it was about 150 GB, and I downloaded it from their Aspera server to my office in Mexico City in about 8 hours or so. We have a 50Mbit symmetrical fiber connection at the office, it costs us something like 150 dollars per month.

I don't see FedEx being faster or cheaper at all.

--
Joakim Ziegler - Postproduction Supervisor


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Craig Seeman
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 16, 2013 at 6:41:09 pm

I know it's just my idiosyncratic view of archival but If I have to keep or purchase older generation machines that bothers me. As the years march on I feel I'm accumulating playback mechanisms over time and they too must be "archived" (maintained or replaced) adding another layer of bother.

Yet, I personally find it comforting that I can still put a 15 year old CD-ROM in a modern Blu-ray drive and read the data. I'm not saying that the current state of that is an ideal archival alternative but my fantasy would that any archive created today would be retrievable on the current technology 20 years into the future.

As I said that it's my idiosyncratic view but I really don't want to archive playback devices.



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Jamie Franklin
Re: Tape not dead yet (again)
on Mar 16, 2013 at 6:17:17 am

Tape is not dead, nor is it sleeping. In the last year alone, to 30+ different broadcasters and international broadcasters and distributors, I have delivered hundreds of HDSR, HDCAM, DBETA...(yes, DBETA....yikes) masters.

Completion Bonds prefer them. Copyright is now wanting DBETA Masters. I don't see this transitioning anytime soon. If anything, it is still years away...


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