Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Are TV & Video Prodcos Knowing The Cost Of Everything & The Value Of Nothing ?

As the techies from the TV industry return from Amsterdam and their annual trade show, IBC, their colleagues responsible for trying to commercialise the programmes produced are gearing up to venture down to Cannes and the annual MIPCOM sales fair.

Nothing has really changed very much for decades. Well, apart from one thing: the format of the products that they produce and sell.

What used to reside in film cans, on one inch, BetaSP and digiBeta tapes is now a digital file.
This brings with it both problems and opportunities.

The main problem is how to store this vast amount of data.

The main opportunity is in opening up new markets for content in the form of clips, programmes, formats and channels or feeds.

These are not unrelated. However, the industry cannot see its way past the problem since the cost of storing master content in the cloud is significantly more expensive than that of storing tapes.

Or is it ?

The trouble is that the calculation is made based on the TV world we used to live in, not the one that we will inhabit.

Most production and post production companies employ a lot of people. Almost all other industries have seen a huge decrease in employees due to the introduction of technology, with massive productivity and cost savings. Everything from milk to car production.

Currently, most production companies are using a variety of strategies to deal with the issue of digital file storage:

Using an online/nearline/offline strategy using networks, NAS (network attached storage) and LTO (yes, the irony of it, the content ends up back on tape). But the cost of buying deploying and operating an LTO is considerable.

Buying cheap HDDs (hard disk drives) and hoping for the best: these consumer devices are mechanical and easily break, rendering a six figure shoot or production lost forever. The time to manage, index and duplicate them is considerable.

Here is a table that some might find controversial, but it levels the cost of redundancy and management alongside actual storage costs:

5 TB Video Storage Costs Over 2 Years
Base storage Cost
Redundant Storage Cost
Time Management Cost
Total Cost

Attached HDDs
£500
£1,500
£3,000
£4,500

Nearline Storage
£1,175
£2,350
£30,000
£32,350

Cloud Storage
£3,600
£200
£3,800


But there are other factors at play. Here’s a crude analysis of the different features of these approaches:

5 TB Video Storage Comparison
Accessibility
Security
Redundancy
Opportunities

Attached HDDs
2
4
5
2

Nearline Storage
5
8
8
2

Cloud Storage
10
6
8
6



Obviously, content held on HDDs or nearline has no accessibility to show and sell. On HDDs unless there is a very disciplined (and expensive in terms of manpower) approach to logging the content could be difficult to find, causing additional costs in the edit suite down the line.

You can add other benefits such as automated QA, automated technical metadata and full metadata management to the cloud proposition.


So the industry needs to take a long, hard look at how it operates and what it needs to do moving forward: I’m afraid that IBC and MIPCOM may becoming echoes of the past.