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Re: NO p2 for me! Forget it!

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Peter DeCrescenzo
Re: NO p2 for me! Forget it!
on Apr 4, 2005 at 5:52:41 am

Serge, it's wonderful to hear a strong, doubting voice in a product-specific forum! "Doubt breeds caution." And in this case, caution is a good thing.

Even though it'll take several years for P2 and other solid-state media to replace tape, in the meantime it'll be possible to use P2-style media successfully, cost-effectively and safely.

But only if P2-style media users, like all electronic/electromagnetic media users, execise appropriate caution.

When P2-style media becomes as inexpensive as videotape (how soon this occurs is subject to debate, but it'll happen), some of the following become moot. When P2-style media is inexpensive enough to not need to be erased after every use and considered an expendable like videotape, then only one backup (or "capture") needs to be made, verified, and secured -- just like videotape.

While we await that happy day, the following is one possible P2-style media production (as opposed to post-production) workflow. However, I'm sure there will be other approaches.

Every few or several minutes, as a P2-style media card fills up with video data, the user will make at least two backup copies of the data onto separate backup media such as a hard drive, optical disk, datatape, and so forth.

The transfer time is typically cumulative, with one transfer for each backup. A Qualified Person In Charge will perform, directly supervise or otherwise be responible for the backups, so this requires a certain amount of time away from this person's other responsibilities.

The backups will be "eyeball-verified" in _realtime_ in addition to being electronically verified during the backup/transfer. The eyeball verification should be done by a Qualified Person In Charge to insure data integrity. Don't entrust the quality of the only copies of your video to a computer system or a lowly production assistant. Since eyeballing the video is done in realtime, this task is somewhat time consuming but unavoidable.

As soon as possible, at least one of the backup copies should be moved off-site to prevent loss from disaster such as fire, theft, and other hazards. This task is not P2-style media specific, just a normal data backup practice.

And of course, _all_ of the above should occur _before_ a P2-style media card is erased.

In short: Backup (at least twice), eyeball verify (at least twice), and secure (at least once) before erasing an original recording.

As a result, a P2-style media workflow -- like any workflow which routinely requires destroying original data -- might not end up saving time or money compared to using videotape. This is not to say P2-style media is inherently unsustainable, but only that its advantages may lie elsewhere.

People once thought office computers would reduce paper use and save time. Neither claim has proven true. However, I'd be the last person to recommend against using computers, since there are so many good uses for them. Likewise, P2-style media is unlikely to reduce the use of consumables or save time.

It's important to note that "backup" is _not_ equal to "preservation".

This is not a matter of semantics. No matter what the subject of a particular video production, the recording is history and a cultural artifact. The issues raised by this are not a new phenom, but it's relatively new in the video world, at least in the sense of a P2-style workflow, because a P2-style workflow routinely requires destroying original recordings.

The tasks described above must be performed to insure that the only copies of the original recording are in fact 100% good. These tasks require supervision by highly-qualified humans, which means time, work, and money. Hardware & software can't magically make this expense go away.

When you shoot real film, you don't usually destroy the original film after production. Likewise with videotape, you don't typically destroy the original tape after production. Same with physical 2D artwork; it typically gets preserved. And with pure digital origination, like computer 3D animation or digital photography, you should follow a backup/verify/secure process as described above.

In _any_ situation where valuable original data is planned to be routinely destroyed, extra man-hours & money must be spent to insure that investment is not lost. In the case of P2-style media usage, we're talking about risking many thousands of dollars worth of data or more -- or non-repeatable events -- on each P2-style media card.

Sure, not everyone practices this level of data protection and preservation, but that doesn't excuse irresponsible business practice. And a big hardware vendor's marketing campaign can't make all this magically unneccessary.

It's the order of magnitude of this "shift" which gives me pause, and should give everyone pause. The simple fact of thousands of original recordings being erased every day worldwide is a big deal, any way you look at it, backups or no backups.

Therefore, I hope our much-vaunted backup systems really do work as well as we believe -- no lightning-strikes-twice backup hardware/software failures or device driver software conflicts or multi-vendor finger-pointing blame-games -- because worldwide these systems will need to be nearly 100% reliable for millions or billions of frames-worth of video every day.

Having said all this, for some reason I think P2-style media can be a great tool when used wisely. I guess that makes me an optimist?

Just my opinion; I could be wrong. However, I haven't heard a compelling case against what I've said yet.

All the best,

- Peter DeCrescenzo

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