Computer Hardware

Data Storage and Backups for Film, Animation and Multimedia

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Introduction

storage media floppy cd usb
source: pixabay

It is generally considered that there are only three main methods of storing data for use on computers.

  • Tapes
  • Discs and Floppy drives
  • Computer Chips

 

However, these categories should not be viewed as a progression from oldest to newest.  In fact, over time, the technology lifecycle has alternated between iterations of each type of data storage format.  Each one having different specifications, hence different pros and cons.  They each have their own use in today's professional computing.

 

Data Storage Media

Discs Storage

Spinning discs are useful because searching for data is instantaneous.  However, even a small damaged area on a disc can cause a lot of data loss, even if it is not contiguous on the disc.

 

Chip-Based Storage

computer board chips
source: pixabay

Chip-based storage is done through a series of computer circuits.  It is known as a volatile type of memory and is very useful for its ability to access data very quickly.

 

Unfortunately, they also have a few drawbacks.  It usually loses all of its data when they are unpowered, like the RAM memory.  The exception is USB, Flash and for Solid-State Drives (SSD).  However, these devices have been known to lose data after long periods of time.  They may lose some data if unpowered for a long time.  They may also be prone to corruption after very many read-write operations (e.g.: using it continuously as a swap drive in a render farm for 5 years).

 

Tapes Storage

Retro Magnetic Tape

Magnetic tapes are usually thought of as a remnant of the past because of some more famous but obsolete media iterations.

  • Beta / Beta CAM (Pro Video Storage)
  • VHS (Video Storage)
  • Retro Audio Cassettes (Audio Storage)

 

New Magnetic Tape

digital video magnetic tape storage
source: pixabay

But the magnetic tape medium is still very much used today in its digital form in business environments.  When large data backups are concerned, the tape medium is an affordable and cheap alternative for large quantities of data.    Similarly, if safekeeping is needed it is required to have an off-site backup and a tape backup is a good option to consider.  You simply swap between two or more sets of tapes: one being always kept away and other on-site being updated for the next tape exchange.  This is often required by insurance on big productions, but you may want to safe keep your data against damage, fire or theft.

 

  • Digital Video Tapes (DV Cameras)
  • Digital Data Tape Backups (Data Storage)

 

Film Tape

Film tape is the cellulose strip of images visible from the naked eye, generally known as 'Film', the physical object.  It is certainly a form of tape storage, but optical (photographic) rather than magnetic.  It is not a method directly compatible with computer data storage, as it requires scanning for digitalization or printing for materialization.

optical film strip
source: pixabay

Nonetheless, here are the different film formats:

  • 8mm
  • 16mm
  • 35mm (standard)
  • 70mm (IMAX)

 

3D Films

3D stereographic films (with glasses) is not a holographic film strip.  It simply consists of two rolls of film projected simultaneously with a spacing recreating the difference in vision from each of our eye in real life.

 

Recommended Data-Storage Setup

For your main computer used for producing digital images for film, we recommend you a minimum setup like this:

  • 2x Large Hard Drives (2Gb+): For work data, archives and libraries
  • 1x Solid State Drives (1Gb): For the operating system (and programs if possible)
  • 1x External Hard Drive (HD):  For backups and transport
  • 2x USB Keys: For exchange, transport and showcase

External drives are generally spinning hard drives, but they can also be solid-state or a hybrid of both.

We strongly recommend that you buy hard-drives in pairs, to make sure there is always space for backups of the first drive.  However, you don't need to double the SSD.  Indeed, since the data will be compressed on the backup drive, you should be able to store both the SSD and HD content on the backup drive

 

Always Make Backups

You MUST ALWAYS make backups of everything! From your computer to your phone, tablet or other data electronic devices, it is absolutely crucial to make backups!   At all times, you need a working copy of everything on a separate physical device (like a hard drive)!  Seriously.

Drives of every kind is bound to fail eventually; and statistically right after the warranty expires.  Hard drives are also sensitive mechanical devices, that are vulnerable to shock and electromagnetism.  Keep in mind that hard drives will inevitably fail at some point during their lifetime.  This happens rather sooner than later because they are designed to do so.  It's not a conspiracy, it was just tested to last as such.  Even CDs and DVDs have a limited lifespan.  If you didn't know, read our article on this here.

 

The Risks of Not Backing Up

hard drive reading head mechanism
source: pxhere

Drives are of huge capacity these days, but the counterpart of that is you risk losing a lot of data if it fails.  If you're a digital artist, losing your data may mean losing your entire artistic life, from portfolio to libraries, from current projects to past archives.  Here is what you need to think about the risk of losing and the time it would take to build anew.

  • Purchased models
  • Brush or texture libraries
  • Portfolio
  • Current Projects
  • Past project Archives

 

If you don’t have any backups, on a separate physical device when it happens, you will undoubtedly lose all of your precious data.  You will then realize that the options to get them back are much more expensive than a backup drive:

  • 500$ to 1000$ to send the drive for recovery with the company.  And It may not even guarantee a successful recovery if the actual data plate is really damaged.

It happened to most of us before and we lost important data we wish we had backed up.  So learn from the mistakes of others before you and simply make a backup today.  It's simple and it's the only way to make sure it doesn’t happen to you too!

 

How to Make backups

Therefore, the most important thing is to have a recent backup on a second hard drive.  It needs to be physically separate in order to be useful and of at least the same capacity as the disc it copies.  This will enable you to restore the last working state safely onto the same or a new drive, in case of a physical hard crash of the drive.

You will need two things to make your backups:

  • An external Hard Drive as big as the total drives of the computer
  • Backup software that you can boot from a USB key, in case the system becomes unbootable

 

Cloud Backup Solutions

Online cloud-backup solutions will be insufficiently large to store all the data you will produce when you start making films digitally.  Additionally, your internet probably doesn't go fast enough, and you will a huge amount of bandwidth from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) every month.  Finally, free cloud-based solutions will not be sufficient, and it may end up recurrently very expensive to maintain.  This is because films, VFX, CG and 3D projects all produce an enormous amount or images during the rendering of sequences.  Don't risk to limit your ability to make backups quickly and frequently, so that they are useful when the inevitable happens.

 

clouds
source: pixabay

 

Recommendations

Internal Hard Drive

WD Gold 4Tb

Also available on Newegg.com (US)

Solid-State Drive

Samsung EVO 1Tb

Also available on Newegg.com (US)

External Hard Drive

4 Tb Western Digital

 


Go to the 'computer hardware' table of contents:

Computer Key

Guide on Finding the Optimal Computer Components


 

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