26 Oct 2013

Play your cards right

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Index

Off the top of my head, I can think of quite a lot of different kinds of flash storage device that are used by at least one sort of motion picture recording technology: multi-manufacturer standards such as CompactFlash, SD, SSD, the proprietary types including P2, SxS and AXS (in all their varieties), and expensive device-specific formats such as SR Memory, RED's flash devices, and the packs made by companies such as Codex for their general purpose recorders

There's a fairly wide range of speed and capacity in devices on that list, something that's controlled by both the underlying technology and the way it's organised and interfaced to the outside world.
Even so, this gap has narrowed in the last few years to only a single order of magnitude, even when comparing the most and least capable types which range from a few tens to many hundred megabytes per second. With all this variety, one would think that there would be very little need for the development of new types, given the data rates typical of digital cinematography work. Relatively low-cost consumer solid state disks, capable of rates approaching one gigabyte per second, are capable of storing more or less the entire uncompressed output of any extant digital cinematography camera, and even the venerable CompactFlash has recently been updated (or, if you like, replaced) with the very capable CFast specification.

Benefits to Commoditised Technology

All of these things are intended for and used by both the consumer and professional markets, and benefit from commodity pricing, but there are more reasons than cost to like commoditised technology. For a start, it's available: in an emergency, I can buy a compactflash card or even a 2.5” SSD in a whole lot of places worldwide. What's more, they're all made by a wide variety of manufacturers. Now, it's true that regardless of the name on the packaging, a lot of the underlying flash memory technology is made in Asia in just a few factories, but this is still a better situation than the one that pertained with regard to HDCAM and related tape formats, all of which were made in a factory in eastern Japan that was destroyed in the 2011 tsunami. I've heard the opinion that the resulting shortage of Sony's premier tape format is probably one of the things that served to popularise data recording in the first place, although Sony tell me the format is still a big seller. And finally, as consumer or at the very least widely applied industrial devices, there's an amount of competition going on that encourages healthy competition and plentiful R&D.



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Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes is a Cinematographer, Technologist, Writer and above all Communicator. Never afraid to speak his mind, and always worth listening to, he's a frequent contributor to RedShark.

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