How To Store Your Media For Long Term Archive

Believe me when I say that we get it, you’ve seemingly finished your video project only to confront the next big decision; do you hold on to the original footage, or free up that precious space for your next opus?

Whilst it’s true that storage continues to get cheaper every year, I’m yet to meet anyone who likes the idea of buying new hard drives every time they want to make a new video.

At Element 26 we deal with Terabytes of data everyday. Whether it’s a feature film shot in 4K across multiple cameras, or a corporate video shot in a day. All this data needs to be stored, backed up and secured.

I wish it wasn’t so, but I’ve heard countless horror stories about video content being stored on hard drives for long periods, only for this material to eventually become corrupted. I’ll never forget a story I heard from a friend who works for a financial services business in North London. She told me about a decision they had made to delete their “old” footage from their drives. “It felt like a logical decision at the time” she told me, however, only a few weeks later, the higher-ups decided they wanted to use that material again. An awkward conversation then ensued.

Thankfully there is a solution, LTO.

What is LTO?

Developed in the 1990s, LTO (Linear Tape-Open) is a tape based format which presents a cost effective and reliable way to overcome the problems of securely storing large amounts of data for the long term.

From the moment footage arrives at our facility and is ingested onto our systems, it is copied onto an LTO cartridge, which is then kept safe and secure for the duration of the project within our fire proof safe.

This is what an LTO Tape looks like.

Once a project is completed and signed off, the footage and project files (as well as any other assets such as voice overs, graphics and final renders) are copied on to the tape(s). This allows us to to confidently remove the project from our server freeing up valuable space for the next project, whilst allowing us to retrieve the project from archive should the client wish to revisit it or reuse the footage in the near or distant future.

Why LTO?

Each tape can store approximately 2 Terabytes of data, and is physically smaller than your average hard drive. This allows us to store large amounts of data within a relatively small physical footprint. LTO tapes also provide much greater longevity when compared to hard drives, due to an absence of moving parts (LTO tapes are essentially comprised of a spool of tape within a plastic housing). Furthermore, as opposed to a hard drive, LTO tapes don’t need to be turned on or read regularly in order to prevent any degradation.

Our LTO system keeps track of which tapes belong to which projects allowing us to easily identify which tape we need to load in order to revive an archived project. The system also keeps track of EVERY individual file copied to tape, which makes it easy for us to revive individual shots, entire projects or anything inbetween.

Got any questions about LTO, data management or how we secure our clients work? Get in touch with us here.

About the Author

Alan Parry

Alan Parry is the Post-Supervisor at Element 26 Ltd. Alan is an expert in all areas of post-production including pipeline management, production formats and broadcast delivery. A proud South Londoner, Alan is also hugely into his rugby and enjoys playing for his local club... for as long as his knee holds out.