It's all spinning wheels and self-doubt until the first pot of coffee.

Videos on tape (Travan, not VHS)

Oh and while I'm writing about watching video files on my TV, I've been thinking of getting myself a tape drive. Sure, I'll use it to actually, finally, back up all the important things I have littered around my handful of machines. Having established a backup routine at work, I've gotten to thinking.

How bad an idea would it be to use a tape drive to store TV shows? I've been capturing them with the VCD format, which gives me around 600MB per hour of show. This fills up my drive pretty quickly, obviously. I know I really should take sometime to revisit things and try another video codec, since originally I used VCD because I burned everything to CD for my DVD player, but now I'm streaming files to my Powerbook over the network which gives me a lot more flexibility in recording options.

However, not burning to CD leaves me with a hard drive full of video that I'm hesitant to delete yet have no good reason to need laying around on a high speed hard drive. But, burning all that to a spindle-worth of blank CDs without a Lego Mindstorms based CD-changer robot leaves me shuddering. I recall reading about a DJ-bot that did this for playing music, and I notice via Slashdot that someone with a decent woodshop has provided plans for such a beast for a CD writer. But I can't afford the Legos at the present moment, and I'll only end up hurting myself working with power tools.

Then, I remember that high capacity tapes make backing up lots of data easy at work. I know that the tape trade off is capacity and price for speed of access. But, if all I need to do is skip from one file to the next and only need relatively low bandwidth to stream the file from the tape, this sounds like a great way to archive video. Depending on the video compression, maybe I could fit a whole season or two of a show onto a single tape.

Seems like a good idea, though pricey. But maybe the price and cost of media would offset the pain in the ass of any other method. I probably should look more into the price and pain of a DVD burner, but the idea of more disc-like things laying around worries me.

What do you think?


Archived Comments

  • I would like to see how this works out for you. I have several big hard drives full of vide. When I reach 99% I then burn to VCD or DVD. I have to have a whole self just for storage, and the drives re-fill. I'm a digital pack rat. I've been looking on ebay at tape drives in the 20/40 gig range. I think it is cheaper.
  • I have concidered this many times. The problem is simple: tapes are expensive, even when we forget the price of the tape drive for a moment. The best value tape I could find in a large webshop was FUJIFILM Super DLTx1-160 GB at 163$. The cheapest harddrive was Samsung 160GB SpinPoint V80, concidentally also at 163$. So in my opinion you might as well buy harddrives.
  • I agree with mesh - tape drives are simply too slow, finicky and prone to break down. I use a pair of external Firewire hard drives for my backups. Read this interesting interview of database pioneer Jim Gray: http://www.acmqueue.org/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=43
  • For the tape question... hdd's are cheaper and faster - long term they're not exactly known to be reliable yet, but people haven't really done long term tests on them that I can see. A used DLT drive (even an autoloader) doesn't run for too much on Ebay, but the tapes are pricey, ~$30 even for refurbs and you'll be lucky to get 50GB's out of them with compression turned on even using DLT-IV (since this is mpeg1/vcd expect to be closer to the 40GB limit though). Meanwhile, even a non-techno savvy coworker was impressed that 120GB 7200rpm hdd's were about $80 a pop now. Very very tempting. Look around and you might find even better bang-per-buck Another interesting development, that seems a lot more tempting than Firewire and USB enclosures is eSATA (external Serial ATA). Such as can be found at http://highpoint-tech.com/ It's potentially a lot faster than USB & Firewire (SATA is currently 133MB's threshold, which is basically the max of a standard 32bit 33Mhz PCI bus anyway - disks do not write anywhere near that quickly mind you), and potentially a bit cheaper too. I haven't done the digging there, so SATA prices, a controller & enclosures might actually rule that out, but it is worth looking into. Regardless, of nitpicking prices though it will definitely be cheaper & faster than used DLT crapola, plus in all likelihood you might need to buy a USB2 or firewire controller anyway, so getting a SATA controller instead isn't like to be much extra work, though it might be less standard (maybe buy a combo firewire & USB2 enclosure in case you need to bring it to a friend as well). As an aside, you might want to contemplate using something like MPEG4 or DivX instead of mpeg1/vcd - you get much higher quality than VCD's with about the same density of data.
  • so yeah i sorta was doing a search on how to record stuff from my tv to my apple powerbook. i have a dvd burner in it and stuff i just wanna know if its possible. i know what cord to get to hook up my powerbook so i can watch dvds on my tv. is that the same cord that i would use to record tv onto my powerbook? what kind of software do i need... so yeah, can this actually be done? whether i burn it on a dvd or just a cd... help! please!!