DATA



LTO Linear Tape Open

Format for long-term archiving data in film production.

Thanks to the move to file-based production, HD and now UHD, productions have to deal with ever-increasing amounts of AV data, metadata or other information as part of their filming processes.  All this information is usually stored on hard drives or, for performance reasons, on RAID systems.  Due to the nature of fast-turnaround productions and their commissioning process, these hard drives and RAID systems will often be used for longer-term storage of programme rushes and finished programme files. This is not a robust or resilient approach to programme and rushes storage.  The media durability of normal hard disks is known as a potential risk, as they can be damaged through dropping, lack of use or mechanical failure. The RAID system allows for drive resilience in some configurations, however this is only really suitable for on location and short term storage. It is not a truly resilient backup. 

If large amounts of data need to be stored long-term, securely, then LTO tapes are an attractive option. LTO stands for Linear Tape Open, an open standard for magnetic tape storage for archiving. LTO is an evolving format, with different generations of tape used to support different transfer speeds and native capacities. LTO 7, was introduced in December 2015, and is characterised by its ability to support uncompressed storage of 6TB and 15TB compressed. LTO 7 offers transfer speeds of 300MB/s (750MB/s compressed). The increase in speeds for LTO 7 make location back-up possible, however productions need to budget for the backup time and then retrieving that data in the edit.   
LTO Drives allow for writing on the current generation and then reading at least two generations backwards compatible. As a result of this, production should expect to migrate their LTO library every 6 years. The media durability is specified as up to 30 years, and is used in other industries for financial and medical record management. The tape cartridges from different manufacturers are compatible with each other, and operating costs are low. Individual LTO tapes only cost € 80-90.  

LTO tapes also support a process called WORM (write once, read many times). This enables productions to ensure that material cannot be deleted from the tape drive, as it only allows writing to tape a single time.  Thanks to LTFS, the Linear Tape File System, a tape cartridge acts like an external hard drive or a USB stick. All data contained on the tape can be displayed in an Explorer or Finder window and it can be accessed via drag'n'drop. 

This works by storing the data and information on two levels. When a tape is inserted, all the metadata about the content contained on its memory and the locations can be read at the beginning of the tape. This allows any file to be addressed directly from tape by a file explorer on the computer.  LTO drives can be connected via standard interfaces in existing hardware. There are compact drives with USB 3.0 interface, which also work like any other external drive. The technology, however, is scalable up to fully automated robot controlled tape libraries, where large amounts of data can be automatically migrated.

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