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Video Tape or Memory Card?

Steve Groves is a trainee Creative Assistant with Take One TV based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He spoke to Hasan Khan about his digitising experiences so far.

What are the problems you face while Digitising from tape?

One of the main problems I face while digitising is the fact that once you’ve recorded the tape and you put it in the machine, you have to go over the whole thing again while it’s digitising. For example if it’s a 40 minute long video, you have to sit there for the whole 40 minutes waiting for it to digitise and it’s a big waste of time. The reason you can’t leave it to get done is because you have to be there to check for errors within the recording, such as a break in the time code, artefacts on the video, loss in frames, or dropout.

What’s the difference if you’re using cards?
If you’re using memory cards on any sort of sizeable shoot it’s really a good idea to have someone like me along as a data wrangler. What I do there is ensure the digital files are safe, copied, logged and titled for easier retrieval at the post production stage. With tape it’s fairly easy to run through shots at speed and look for particular shot or sequence, but with memory cards all you get are digital files with a series of numbers attached which is why it’s so important to log the material carefully. We’re really going back to the days of film with digital in that sense. So I suppose it takes less time to off load the raw materials, but it takes longer to check and log them – so swings and round abouts on the budget and schedule.

What method do you prefer, using a memory card or video tape?

In my opinion, they both have their good points and bad points. SD Cards are reusable without the quality decreasing, whilst tapes loses quality as time goes on, which indicates that the lifespan of a card is much longer. Cards also have more storage capacity than tapes, for example some tapes could store 40 minutes worth of video whilst cards could store around 5 hours. Although cards have their plus points, so do tapes. Tapes are mechanical, and whilst the data can easily be erased from the cards by accident, it isn’t that easy with tapes. Tapes are also more straight forward and simple, and you’re less likely to lose a tape than a card. The card is also at the mercy of the camera. There maybe be some video cameras which require a certain type of card or software updates to ensure compliance. All in all, it depends on your needs, but I feel cards have a slight advantage over tapes, at the moment. Though if I’m honest walking away from a shoot with a tape still feels slightly safer than a card cos you can always recover material from crunched tape but with digital technology, it’s either there or it’s not! The hybrid cameras where you get both solid state and tape fill the gap for me!


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