From tape to memory card

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Ken Wilson
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From tape to memory card

Post by Ken Wilson » Thu Oct 20, 2016 10:12 am

Hi all. About 3 weeks ago, one of our Sony Z5 cameras seized up at the end of a wedding. I ejected the mini DV tape and the door stayed open and now will not close even though I tried the routine of removing battery/ turning on and off and so on.
We had the second Z5 to finish the shoot. So then afterwards there was the dilemma of what to do next. Was it worth paying a few hundred pounds to repair a 6 year old camera that has had heavy use and using with what is now old technology?
The second Z5 is still operating but has a few problems itself like a viewfinder fault and this one no doubt cannot be relied upon for long. So I decided I had to bite the bullet and buy new cameras.

Of course this meant memory card operation and no more tapes which I have trusted and been happy with. I knew this situation would come sometime and changing operating practises from a tried and trusted system is always a real pain for me. It might be unusual but getting new equipment is a burden not a thrill for me, but there was not really a good alternative option.

So basically, I am asking for hints and tips on cameras using memory cards. I bought some Sandisk SD extreme cards with a "10" marked for speed as recommended by the man at "Prestons." I see there are lots of options on numbers and sizes of cards but currently this means little to me. Is it better to have large sized memory (64 GB) or lots of smaller ones (16 GB/ 32 GB)? And what`s the difference between these numbers: SDXC: SDHC and so on?

I always archived edited videos back to tape to save for the future. What do people save the footage from cards to? Or do you save the cards and always buy new ones...not a cheap option. Hard drives on a computer would seem a likely possibilty, but this will eventually fill up so do you buy a number of stand alone (external) hard drives?
Any hints or practical tips would be appreciated. Thanks.

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John Roberts
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by John Roberts » Thu Oct 20, 2016 11:31 am

Hi Ken, sorry to hear about your camera issues and enforced change of system, always a stressful time!

I'll keep this brief as other forum members will no doubt have more detailed and authoritative answers than I. I note that you mention you've bought some memory cards but do not mention whether you bought a new camera system to go with them :lol:

Personally, I've always used Sandisk cards - on my GH3 I use Sandisk Ultra SDHC Class 10 16GB. I've found them to be 100% reliable so far and they are fast enough to not cause any backing up of data when writing to the disk. 4K cameras or using extreme bitrates like 240Mbps might require the use of the newer generation UHS speed cards.

I tend to prefer a number of smaller capacity cards as opposed to one big one but I suppose it depends on what you're filming, how many cards you have or want to carry around with you and whether you can transfer to a computer on location to free up a full card. I don't know what the maximum recording time is because it can vary between systems and settings, but I've never failed to record less than 30 minutes on my ancient 16GB cards at the GH3's highest framerate and bitrate. If I were buying cards now I'd probably go for 32GB and roughly one hour recording time.

SDHC cards are High Capacity storage and SDXC are eXtreme Capacity storage, other than that I believe they are the same.

Archiving can be an issue if you shoot a lot of footage. I don't, so I tend to backup onto external hard drives and rarely exceed 100GB of footage per project at maximum. Some folks copy the entire card folder structure, which can be useful if you want to put the files back onto the card for some reason, I just copy the individual .MOV files to whatever folder project I am working on, and that works fine. I then delete the files from the card using the device I am copying with (usually a laptop) and pop the card back into the camera and it's empty and ready to go again. Some folks format their cards, but others warn against this, I think something to do with the cards not liking repeated formatting. Again, I've never had an issue so just keep doing what I've always done :)

The price of memory (at least until the Brexit effect) is very low, so memory cards can be ridiculously cheap. External hard drives are also cheap enough these days, probably £ for £ the same price as buying a stack of writable Blu-Ray discs, and I know which one I'd trust with my work!

Here's a handy guide I've just found which might be of use to you...

http://photo.net/learn/memory-card-guide/

Hope this helps - John

Michael Slowe
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Michael Slowe » Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:02 pm

Ken, I feel for you but you have done what I've been guilty of in the past - let time pass you by! Things have changed so quickly these last ten years and it makes me yearn for good old 16mm film. Alas, we have to address the situation.

I abandoned tape (reluctantly) some eight years ago when I started shooting on the wonderful Sony EX camera, in HD. This only used the very expensive, but utterly reliable, Pro S X S cards (8, 16 or 64 GB's). I found the transition easy enough. I found that there was ample capacity for a day's shoot, John's advice to use multiple cards rather than one big capacity one is sensible, that way you can minimise the danger of disaster and means that you can download to a portable drive as the day progresses. I take a laptop if I'm going to do this, together with a drive. There is a huge advantage with recording to cards in that it is easy to review clips in the camera, very useful to check lighting, exposure or even audio if you have doubts.

Don't be alarmed that everything is now file based, it's a fact and we have to face it. Back up to separate drives whenever possible because I'm assured that DRIVES FAIL EVENTUALLY. Act on this assumption at all times. As John says, prices of drives have come down, always get a good quality, G-Tech or similar. When it comers to archiving productions follow the same rules. I know that it's nice to see a row of tape cassettes on the shelf and to know that you can always access them. However that is not necessarily going to last. I have a Pro Sony deck that might run for years but I'm not counting on it, transfer tapes to files while you can is my advice. Archive in duplicate AT LEAST. The pro houses are using a system called LTO tape for archiving files for clients. That's not for us as the recorder/player costs upwards of £3,000 and you also would need a complicated file search and access system, only necessary in the commercial world I would think.

Ken, you will be happy once you have made the change, shooting is more secure, no moving parts, and changing cards is quick, most cameras automatically switch slots anyway (two cards in the camera). Archiving is the big issue in my opinion, still in a state of flux until reliable static cards are the norm at reasonable cost.

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Stephen
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Stephen » Thu Oct 20, 2016 9:27 pm

some good stuff in this thread...

I still own the trusted Z5 which has just been fully serviced, the viewfinder monitor fixed (common fault) and the sensor cleaned.
Better than new as it does seem even quieter than before especially the tape mechanism and zoom.

I also own the Sony AX100 4k with SDXC memory card..... as Michael points out about these cards they are very very handy but err choose them wisely!

there is a but with SD cards though....

I am having a nightmare archiving the footage .... unlike tape from the Z5 (and files on the CF card) I just label the tape and archive it (13GB on an hours tape)
I then use the files from the CF card to edit.
Now sitting with 18TBs of HDD space ( I have many projects on the go!) and saving my pennies for more space as some of my drives are coming up to 3 years old. the tapes are in cupboard ... :-)

when I finish a film it is archived to tape from the PC as well the to the HDD .....
bought an excellent 2nd hand Canon HV30 HD camera to use as a tape deck (saves the motors on the Z5) ... it cost 100 pounds

I am happy archiving to tape.... it is tres simple and it just works and I feel it is very secure...
keeping the files on a hard drive feels very vulnerable ..... have had 4 drives over the years go rogue..... not nice.... when its gone ...its gone...

technology is fer sure pushing us into digital files ... eg 2TB cards/SSDs are there but jeez expensive the next step holding all your stuff on the cloud.... but thats fer another day!!!

just a thought or two...
Stephen

Film making is not a matter of Life and Death
It's much more important than that.

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Dave Watterson
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Dave Watterson » Thu Oct 20, 2016 10:22 pm

Archiving is a problem for which there is no decent solution as yet. First ask yourself how much you want to archive. Once you have delivered a wedding video, do you really want to hang on to all the footage you shot?

One side note ... since your failed camera was new the technology has improved at every level. You might consider using cheaper, smaller cameras for work like the weddings, where as you have told us most couples only want DVD output anyway.

Michael Slowe
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Michael Slowe » Fri Oct 21, 2016 8:01 pm

Stephen and Dave are missing the point. You will not be able to play tapes within ten years, I bet, short of using a facility house or having a really solid pro deck such as the Sony DSR 20. In any case, to what tape are you archiving HD, you won't have an HDCAM deck I'll be bound, I used to have to rent one for a day. at £200 a throw!

I agree that we mostly don't want to keep all camera originals once a project is finished, but we do want the production itself, on at least two drives as I said. By the way, I had to send a film to an American festival and I put it on a 64GB stick! The file was 40 GB and they offloaded the file and projected it off a computer. That might be the way to go, I don't know how reliable those memory sticks are.

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Stephen
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Stephen » Fri Oct 21, 2016 9:15 pm

yup.. thats about right Michael...... but........ my 300 or so DVtapes will no doubt be transferred to the next mahoosive storage device in the blink of an eye........... well within the next 10 years...

DVtape fer sure is disappearing fast from us N-C workers ..... but in the meantime I'm happy with my archive to tape and await with some excitement on the next storage device...
Backblaze created a 360TB Storage Pod with HGST (helium drive) this year alone
Sony's 185Tb tape cartridge storage system
the list is endless...

Tape remains the cheapest form of data storage ........

no good for our real time editing suites I know but excellent for long term archiving which was the only point I wanted to make

the other crazy thing in this equation is the way I can compress a film
eg 1.5 hour hollywood film on DVD down to a 400mb file on my HDD
near perfect quality on my 50" TV....... .... mad
Stephen

Film making is not a matter of Life and Death
It's much more important than that.

Michael Slowe
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Michael Slowe » Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:47 pm

Stephen, you make some very good points and I did say originally I believe, that the pro houses are archiving to tape, it's the LTO system and it's very different indeed to your DV tapes! They are storing the files exported from the edit, you are storing the actual film - don't ask me to explain the difference because I don't understand it!

You also mention that things are changing fast and we have not yet arrived at the solution, I have news for you, we never will! But, we have to try and keep up with some of the stages otherwise you will suddenly find that you're stuffed. Did you know that the studios are archiving feature films back on to film? Even if it is originated on tape they are so mistrustful of today's technology that film is still considered to be the safest medium.

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Stephen
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Stephen » Sun Oct 23, 2016 9:47 pm

Thanks Michael...
interesting that the LTO has a long run yet..... its at version 07 at the mo and specs are out for 10.
as you say its for pro houses and bears no resemblance to our dinky DVtape but its an interesting observation that they trust tape ..

in a former life with the MoD I used to archive errr interesting material to a vhs recorder ... the late 1980s we were storing 500mb of data on a 3hr tape.... but I would have to kill you if I told you more !!!

as for some studios using film to archive (from digital stock too!!) I am not surprised !!
Did the BBC not embark a changeover from tape/film to a type of SSD a few years ago... then retract it rather quickly?

marvellous aint it.... its even more important for us die hard N-C film makers to stick together and share best practice through the likes of the IAC forum.....

happy daze!!!
Stephen

Film making is not a matter of Life and Death
It's much more important than that.

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John Roberts
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by John Roberts » Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:58 am

Some very interesting points here, and I think Micheal has hit the nail on the head by stating that there never will be a solution to our archiving/storage issues! At least not at a price we can afford! :lol:

Stephen, your post reminded me of my current music archive. Anyone remember the Sony PCM system where audio was recorded in digital format on Betamax tape? I used this system as a mastering tool for many years in my studio and also as a live recording system and have endless tapes, both on Beta and VHS (which work equally as well). I was still using the system regularly until about 2005 when I finally went fully computer based and the only part that ever failed in the previous 20 years was one of the encoder/decoders.

Although slightly off-topic, there is another element to archival storage that is often not considered - that of equipment failure. I am lucky that the Betamax and S-VHS decks I have still work, as do the pair of PCM decoders gathering dust in the corner. However, my original PCM unit failed, not through overuse but because the specialised processing chip turned to mush. This is also an issue on a large number of vintage synths from the early days of digital; they simply stop working and the only spare parts available are of the same vintage. It is for this reason I transferred my music archive to a computer based system, with three copies - one on the PC and two hard drive backups on different make and model hard drives to eliminate the possibility of manufacturers errors.

As for CDRs and DVDs - I do not trust them at all for archiving. I archive using HDDs and at the slightest hint of trouble of any of them I will replace them and transfer the data over. At least there's no degradation in quality. Incidentally, all my PCM tapes (my earliest is 1988 I believe) play back perfectly and 'track' on the decoders as well as the day they were recorded. Although I have transferred to digital files, I still have the tapes :lol:

John (with apologies to Ken for taking his post off-topic!)

Michael Slowe
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Michael Slowe » Mon Oct 24, 2016 7:56 pm

There you are Stephen, John has explained it all, it's all digital files now, no going back now, unless you want to risk not playing your stuff in ten years time. This does of course cover Ken's original post. He is just moving from tape to card, that means, inter alia, to digital file creation (and storage).

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Stephen
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Stephen » Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:43 pm

doncha just love this forum!!

great stuff chaps
Stephen

Film making is not a matter of Life and Death
It's much more important than that.

Ken Wilson
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Ken Wilson » Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:21 am

Thanks everyone for all the comments even though we went a bit off topic at times, but still all very interesting. I thought I should add a few comments of my own to explain some things and fill a couple of gaps.

Yes I have now already bought two new Sony cameras. When it became clear back in March that a few operating issues were appearing with the Z5s, I thought it might be a good idea to get a new camera as a back up. Like Stephen, I was always happy with the Z5s and using tape was still fine for me. But of course all new cameras now seem to be card based.
I wanted something big enough to fit the bill for our own movies but also for weddings. Dave mentioned smaller cameras and I did buy one of these in March to use when we had our first cruise holiday. It seemed fine for this purpose. But it`s much more than being about mere picture quality. At weddings you see all kinds of devices where guests are shooting the day (although hands shaking and hose-piping away of course!) So the option of shooting a wedding with small cameras regardless of the actual quality is a non-starter. They have to look the part as well! If we "looked" the same as everyone else why would they book us?

As the Z5s are basically hand-held, filming the dances at a wedding at the end of a long day, can be a killer. For this reason, the new camera I bought is a shoulder mounted one. I did a quick test with it and put it to one side where it has sat for about 6 months.

When the Z5 camera (1) ejected it`s last tape and wouldn`t take another on October 1st, I then searched the internet and bought a new (similar to the Z5) replacement (the Sony HXR NX100 for those who like to know these things.) It is slighly smaller, but has a similar layout.

So now both cameras have had a couple of hours of testing, learning where the controls are and discovering that new cards have to be formatted, something not made clear in the, as usual, almost useless instruction books. You buy a tape and put it in ready to use...not so with cards!

But ALL the master tapes from ALL the weddings are saved and MOST of the original camera tapes. A very few of the camera tapes were re-used but a few of them had short bursts of images left un-erased so are not to be trusted. I would guess I have around 2000 mini DV tapes.

Dave asks if it would it be neccessary to keep the wedding edits once the DVDs are made and delivered? Well, yes, in some form. There have been a few occasions when a couple have returned two or three years later to ask for a new DVD copy. Admittedly, this has possibly been only about 2% of those we have shot, so should I disrergard this? I have no actual obligation to keep everything and storing them all on seperate memory cards would be uneconomic. Seperate hard drives would be an option. But it`s only my own self-imposed moral duty to keep it all for the future as long as possible, which decides this. So by my calculation, about 98% of the wedding master tapes have never been requested after the first few months.

Our own films of course are a different matter and most are less than 15 minutes long and so keeping them on memory cards or tapes or USBs or whatever device at any resonable cost is not a problem.

It is also a fact that for the couples` getting married, they care nothing at all about any of this. Over the years, about 3 people from many hundreds we have spoken to, have ever asked about HD/ Blu-ray and everyone has been happy with a DVD, so however it is shot and edited and whatever it ends up on, they just want their day capturing by someone reliable, creative and competent which I think includes us. The vast majority of the general public never notice anything technical on TV or at the cinema, so our quests for perfection are really for our own satisfaction and for those on this forum with similar interests. (At a fairly recent cinema visit, all the lights had been left on when the main feature started. It seemed that only myself and one other man noticed and he bet me by going to tell someone about it before I did.)

So onwards and upwards and lets see what happens next. Thanks again to you all for your advice and comments.
So now it will soon be time to try and test a new system and wait for the results and problems.

Michael Slowe
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Michael Slowe » Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:57 am

Sorry fellows, I sense that Ken has 'shut the shop' on this thread but I can't resist commenting on his needing to impress his clients with a pro looking camera. i have just the reverse problem. In making 'fly on the wall' documentaries I have often met resistance and aggression from members of the public with comments like "I don't want my picture on TV". I'm only using the Sony EX1, not even shoulder mounted (I use a clever brace), but they all think that I'm BBC or something (chance would be a fine thing!). So, I'm changing to the far smaller and less conspicuous new Sony the PXW-Z150 which I hope will attract less attention. Maybe I can then muscle in on Ken's business - only joking Ken.

Cathy Poole
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Re: From tape to memory card

Post by Cathy Poole » Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:44 am

Sorry Michael,

But I have to disagree with you and say that the cameras you have listed do look
like slightly smaller versions of professional cameras.

The Sony Z5 - EX1 - and the PXW Z150 may look like small amateur cameras to you,
but to most people in the street who don't make films, and some of us who do,
these machines look incredibly sophisticated.

Have you ever thought of using something even smaller such as The Sony HDR CX 115?
It can shoot on HD.

Please have a look at a film made by a friend of mine, shot on a tiny Sony HDR CX 115.

WHAT'S IT WORTH? by Susie Walker

https://youtu.be/f8PFcWoWhAA

This film-maker went out into the street, and shot many interviews of television presenters,
professional camera operators, sound recordists, and antique enthusiasts.
All of these people seemed very co-operative and looked as though they were quite happy to be filmed.

Was it the small camera used, or could it have been the friendly person behind that small camera?

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