Entertainment Biz Still Struggling with Storage

Entertainment industry grapples with storage

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When it comes to generating data, the entertainment industry holds its own. How well it preserves it once it's been created is another story. Fred Maher, a digital recording engineer, captured a terabyte of music data in a single five-hour session this June, recording the Crossroads Guitar Festival, a benefit concert featuring Eric Clapton, ZZ Top and Carlos Santana, to name a few.

Making it all possible was a 3.5TB A/V SAN Pro from Studio Network Solutions, St. Louis, MO, which makes a Fibre Channel storage array and file-sharing software bundle targeted at the entertainment industry. Maher calls A/V SAN Pro "robust, kick-ass and fast." He hooks it up directly to a Verari Systems DAW64 with dual AMD Opteron processors running Windows and Nuendo 2.0, music production software from Steinberg Media Technologies.

A/V SAN Pro works great for recording live data, but is equally adept in the studio, "where the performance [of Fibre Channel drives] really kicks in," Maher says. Because music data is "contiguous, when you're writing, the disks just go." But "on playback, you're doing random locates, and the disks really have to scramble to give you what you want."

All in all, the terabyte of data Maher captured will be trimmed to fit on a 650MB CD or a 9.6GB dual-layer DVD, slated for release before Christmas. What will become of the original data? "It will get saved off to a FireWire drive, and eventually out to LTO," he says, preserved in case the session needs to be remixed and re-issued some day.

But not all of Maher's peers in the entertainment industry are very diligent about saving original recordings. "You would die if you saw what they're doing." When it comes to data management, "we're still in the dark ages." In fact, Maher says, a lot of material recorded in the early 1990s has already been lost.

Part of the problem, Maher says, is that the recording industry isn't as flush with cash as, say, the financial sector. "We don't have the money to go off and spend $3,000 on a tape drive," he says. And while the cost of primary storage has come down, "the price of actually backing it up has stayed more or less constant."

But the entertainment industry's digital content problems run deeper than money. It's also a question of awareness. "There's a huge technological knowledge gap between the Fortune 500 business world and the entertainment business ... people just don't understand backup and how crucial it is."

This was first published in September 2004
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