Los Angeles Cameraman

LTO4 — 5 Months In

Shooting on P2 cards, like almost any tapeless format, means addressing one issue that never existed with tape: how do you archive your footage, since it’s initially recorded on media that’s designed to constantly wipe clean and re-use?


For years, this question scared some producers and shooters away from P2; why bother answering the question when you can skip it altogether by shooting on tape (or perhaps optical disk), and simply store that physical media on a shelf?


But here’s another question: is the 30-year habit of collecting, organizing, and storing dozens, hundreds and maybe thousands of conventional tapes/disks really the best way to archive your footage in the 21st century? 


That's the question I was asking myself when I finally invested in a Mac-based LTO4 system a few months ago. I 'd been reading up on LTO4 drives for about a year, and with the help of some trailblazing users (particularly a guy named Warwick Teale, who's been active on the RED forums), I finally put together my own LTO4 package consisting of an HP Ultrium 1840 drive and backup software called BRU Producers Edition



After five months of regular use, I'm sold on LTO4. A few impressions: 



  • LTO4 tapes are just $50, and store 800GB of data, which is more footage than 50 DVCPRO HD tapes can handle. Plus, they last for 30 years, which is far longer than conventional video tape does. 
  • I can archive video directly off my P2 cards (when they're installed in my PCD35 reader), or from my editing RAID.  
  • Speed-wise, the Ultrium drive reads and writes data at about 120 MB/s, so it's faster than almost any hard drive around. On the other hand, the BRU backup software does a verification pass when writing or reading data, so that adds some time to the process. In the real-world, it took me about an hour to backup 250GB of footage (roughly 4 hours at 1080/24) . 
  • The BRU backup software is very easy to use--you just select whatever files or volumes to backup, give the "archive" session a name (like "Churchill_Interview" or whatever else), and then click a button to start the backup going. 
  • The backup process, by the way, takes virtually no bandwidth, so you can run it in the background, even while another application, like Final Cut, reads the P2 cards. It's easy enough that I've had no problem training myself to immediately backup everything I shoot. 
  • When you go to restore files, just select the Archive session you want, and then restore it completely, or just a few files/folders. 



I assembled a package that cost about $3000 total, including the HP drive and BRU PE software. You also need a way to connect your LTO4 drive to a computer; fortunately, I already had an ATTO R380 card for my Sonnet RAID, and was able to use the ATTO's second SAS port to connect the Ultrium drive. 


Anyway, it's been smooth sailing so far with LTO4. If you want to read a few more impressions, I wrote a review of a similar Mac-based LTO4 set-up for Studio Daily right here