Did I just buy my last spindle of DVDs?

I've been on DVD-Autopilot for the last ten years. Shoot a job? Back it up on two DVDs. Deliver a job? Send it on a DVD. Seems like a workflow that became a routine that became a habit. Now, don't jump in and tell me I should be backing up everything onto successive hard drives because I've been doing that too. In fact, I have a large filing cabinet drawer filled with carefully labeled external hard drive filled with stuff I probably don't need and never want to see again. But every quarter I hire an assistant to come in, plug each drive into an older computer station and spin em up. Just to check em. We run disk repair on them for good measure, let them spin down and put them back into the drawer. Costs me a couple hundred bucks but it keeps the freelance anxiety at bay. Or at least on a leash. 

Lately, when client insist on "owning all rights" we make them sign a waiver informing them that once they receive the materials we have no obligation to archive the images or make any sort of replacement of the images for any reason after the first 30 days. We STRONGLY encourage them to participate in a good back-up strategy. With implied ownership comes a new layer of responsibility for them. 

So----I've been in the DVD habit for a decade and in the last year all jobs were actually delivered using alternate methods. We sent a lot of single, retouched head shots and hero advertising shots to various clients with on line services such as DropBox (Thank you Samsung for giving me two years of 50 gigabytes of free space!!!). That's worked out well and clients like the delivery system. They tend to want to keep stuff up on Dropbox so they can use it as a defacto storage platform but we send them a notice, give them a time window and then relentlessly sweep out the folders. 

For bigger jobs, especially those under 16 gigabytes of finished files we use thumb drives/memory sticks/usb flash memory (call it whatever you like). We load up the images on the stick and hand it off or send it to the client via USPS Express Mail or similar service. Takes longer but that's really a lot of material to get through some company firewalls done over the web....

For really big jobs that exceed 32 gigabytes we bite the bullet, grab a portable, USB powered hard drive and write out the job to that. The drive is handed to or shipped to the client and we generally don't ask for the drives back. Although some make their way back to us when a client does another job. They usually bring the HD along with them and ask us to add the files to it. 

So why am I still burning these damned disk? I'm guessing this is my last spindle. I need to research the state of HD reliability and move to a series of ever bigger RAID arrays. Not happy about it because I have the prejudice that optical media is more robust than magnetic media but I'm ready to be proven wrong. 

The biggest driver for change? HD Video and the looming memory black hole that is 4K video. We need to back it up. We need to move it and we need to share it. And very few projects I've done, even the 30 second spots in an editable state will fit on the meager pastures of the DVD ranch. 

Funny how changes in technology relentlessly push changes in storage. I guess I've been lucky to have lasted in the "old school" paradigm of DVDs for this long. 

Quick data point for those who are interested. I've been randomly pulling out and checking CDs and DVDs from as far back (CDs) as 1996 and I have yet to come across an unreadable or corrupted disk. Many of our CDs and DVDs were burned onto various maker's "Gold Disks" (Kodak, etc.) and while I don't image that they will last forever some of them are coming close to 20 years of service. We keep them sleeved, in the dark and in temperature controlled environments. Fingers crossed we'll last until someone comes out with indestructible storage and I'll hire that assistant to come back in and spend a month transferring.....oh boy! That will be fun.

Don't care how but you really should be backing the good stuff up. All the crap you shoot? Just stick it in the cloud....everyone else does.


Hal Knowles said...

Great post Kirk! Maybe the futue is neither optical nor magnetic but rather biological?

DNA as a digital media storage device

Wyatt said...

DROBO + cloud for reassurance. I can still find all my negs, they're sleeping in the file cabinets I've dragged around for 40 years.

PittsburghDog said...

You might consider buying a Synology Diskstation. You might need a 4 bay or larger Diskstation. I bought my first one 7 yrs ago and it is one of the few pieces of tech I really still admire. Depending on the size you buy, you could enable multiple redundancy drives for protection. Also, you can set up your own private cloud, separate client user account for them to download directly and securely from the diskstation. It can be accessed remotely from PCs and from iOS devices. It may not be right for you, or too expensive, but we run our business backup needs, home office storage and even our media collection from it. I'm NOT a "tech guy", and I set it up myself...so they must be easy to setup. They are at least worth consideration.

Anonymous said...

As long as DVDs are stored and handled carefully, they can be a very reliable offline storage method. But, as you're finding out, today's storage needs (4K video, etc) are far exceeding optical storage capacity. Your current offline storage using external drives is currently a very good solution.

Online storage for editing current video and stills jobs is a different beast. RAID drive units with large capacity is probably what is needed. And two external RAID units for insurance. I have seen enough RAID controllers fail and take out the entire RAID array that for critical needs, one RAID unit is probably not enough. And even worse is the cost of a good large RAID device to handle video not to mention 4K video. And to add to the cost, UPS/surge protection so power issues don't scramble the online storage.

bottom line, no amount of $ can buy 100% reliability and trying to figure out what is just right is somewhat of a crap shoot. You really don't know if your doing it right until it fails!! I've seen inexpensive drives last for years and very expensive drives die young.

Michael R

Dennis Mook said...


Be very wary of sending any flash based memory through the U.S.P.S. It can be wiped out. Please see this recent blog post.


Craig Yuill said...

In the 1990s and early 2000s I used CDs for archival storage. In the late 2000s I used DVDs, but mainly because that was how I was presenting the videos I was more into making at the time than still photos. Right now I am importing photos and videos onto a hard drive, then doing backups onto a second hard drive. For photos and videos taken while on an important family vacation I decided to also leave the images on the original SD cards until further notice.

I am concerned about the future of optical media. Many promising media (Remember Zip drives?) have come and gone in a short time, replaced by better/more-economical technologies. Apple has removed optical drives from most, if not all, of their computers - and Apple seems to take the lead in what tech remains, and what tech gets removed from computers. I think that as long as drives/readers are available that can link to a computer via a standard interface like a USB drive, then a type of media remains viable for the foreseeable future. But a major museum in Britain once found a problem with adopting the latest/greatest storage media for archiving material - they had decided to use Laserdiscs (Remember them?) for that purpose. After a while, they couldn't get replacements for their Laserdisc players and recorders. I am guessing the Laserdisc devices probably were connected to other devices using SCSI ports (Remember those?).

I am thinking that a regimen suggested by Thom Hogan might be the most practical one at this time. Keep three copies on hard drives - originals, backups on site, and backups off site. It has also been recommended using a different brand/model/batch for each.

Which reminds me - what am I going to do about all of that video footage I have stored on MiniDV cassette tapes (Remember them?)?

santo said...

Hi Kirk,
The technical term for your HDs in the drawer is MAID (Massive Array of Idle Disks): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-RAID_drive_architectures

The question is whether you leave it dormant until needed, or periodically start it up? I am leaning toward the former.


Anonymous said...

Postal service can do 2 things to mail: X-ray or irradiate

X raying is similar to what is done at airports

Irradiating definitly can cause damage, not just to electronics.

Mail Irradiation started due to a malicious idiot(s) sending anthrax in the mail in 2001. Even then, it was done on a limted basis.

Intent at one time: irradiate all mail

What I could find are 2 mail facilities irradiate mail (Ohio and New Jersey).

This effort has been scaled back. Currently if your sending mail to the White House, congressional offices, federal buildings in DC then its irradiated.



This is probably why Kirk has never had an issue since the state of Texas is radiation free.

Try FedEx if your worried about this

Michael R

Dave Vargo said...

What about EMP damage? It seems like optical media would be ideal for resisting that or am I mistake ?