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The Network Observer: Kinds of Blue
Posted May 17, 2005 Print Version     Page 1of 1
  
 
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Hello, and welcome to The Network Observer, version 2.0. As a fellow digital media professional and longtime network administrator, I look forward to discussing and probing this madcap world of the care and feeding of digital creators and consumers with network services. This month I'd like to take a look at the brewing insanity with storage media.

Let me start with Dave's First Rule of Production: Don't waste your artists' time. If you have to re-create content, you are either risking losing your client (missed deadlines) or missing out on new clients (lost opportunities). The goal of an effective adminstrator is to create a system that saves people creative time. That means building a highly robust, redundant system including storage: RAID for current production, tape for daily and weekly backups for CYA, and optical for long-term archiving and Web access libraries.

With these three in place, you can deliver these key services from networked storage:

  1. Fast, continual access to live data
  2. Peace of mind from accidental deletions
  3. Ready access for repurposing existing content

So just when we have a viable archive media suitable for video content in blue laser, we get four competing recordable standards—two from the same vendor! Let's just mention the highlights (and low-lights) of these for the archive task.

HD-DVD may be a viable short-term solution for pressed disc production, but the recordable version is limited to a single layer of 15GB. This sounds like a solid improvement over current DVD (4.7GB single layer, 8.5GB dual layer), but when compared with Blu-Ray (with up to 50GB dual layer), HD-DVD starts to seem rather small.

To remedy the situation, Toshiba has proposed HD-DVD recorders that will resort to a completely new triple-layer approach (to reach 45GB) that remains unproven (http://www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=9921). In fact, this multi-layer system requires disc replicators to install all new equipment, eliminating the much-ballyhooed advantage to HD in the first place.

The good news, manufacturers say, is that HD media will cost just 10-20% more than DVD-R. The downside is that first-generation, single-layer HD-DVD has about as much legs as a three-legged horse in the Kentucky Derby. Create an archive with this and you may find yourself five years from now with no drives to read it on.

I don't see much advantage to the "alliance" to unite HD-DVD and Blu-Ray other than to stabilize the market from a format war. The proposed alliance is being stonewalled by HD-backer Toshiba, and maybe Toshiba is right, but for the wrong reasons. There's no physical overlap of HD and Blu-Ray; in terms of creating products that will be viable in the mass consumer market, such a hybrid makes about as much sense as a combined VHS/Betamax deck. Yes, they both use tape (much as HD-DVD and Blu-ray both use 120mm discs and blue lasers), but there the similarities end.

Blu-Ray recordable, known as BD-R for the write-once version and BD-E for the erasable/rewritable version, should be out by the end of the year, thanks to Philips producing a practical recording head that writes to all three media: CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Best of all, Blu-Ray recorders and media are targeted for consumer use, and thus will be ubiquitous, readable anywhere, and cheap in short order. The downside? BD isn't out yet and doesn't have the cachet of Sony's Professional Disc.

Speaking of which, did you notice that Sony has not one but two Professional Disc products? There's the "Professional Disc for Data" (aka ProData) which is gaining momentum, but there's also the less-well-known "Professional Disc" that goes with the XDCAM and various editing decks. (The latter comes in a nifty translucent blue case vs. the ProData's mundane opaque blue.) Naturally, they are not cross-compatible even though their specs are quite close.

So what are you thinking, Sony? It's tough enough to sell us pros on a new technology like blue laser, only now to have you introduce similar-sounding and similar-looking products that seem tailored for our studio but can't work together. The upside though is that ProData is here now and crafted for production use. There's something to be said for being the first on the block to start using a hot new storage technology, but as always, early-adopt at your own risk.

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