This blog is aimed at helping anyone who works with digital media. In this post I will be covering the mTape Thunderbolt LTO system and how it has impacted on our workflow in a digital age.

Old HD Cam tape archive

The role of media manager is a vital tool for any production company. If you are new to media management, facing endless media files shot in a variety of formats, it can be a minefield of codecs, card readers and consolidation. But the way you prep and store footage can save hours in post. In an industry that has become increasingly reliant upon accessing footage for fast turnaround and quick delivery. Understanding your workflow has never been more paramount.

It’s not hard to appreciate our reservations about taking what seems like a backward step in tape archiving techniques. And so at Clean Cut Media we invested time into researching the options available to us which would satisfy the following requirements:

  1. We needed something affordable. Let’s face it media storage is not cheap. Finding a storage method that could be used in conjunction with digital archiving that wouldn’t break the bank was important.
  2. Working in a Mac dominated environment a fast thunderbolt connection seemed like a relatively future proof option… although this could all change tomorrow.
  3. Lastly we were looking for a solution that could work alongside existing hard drives to securely store media for decades rather than years.

This eventually led us to the mLogic – mTape LTO 6 ThunderboltFinally, a safe storage device that wouldn’t cost a small fortune.

 

Straight out of the box we connected the hardware to our Mac Pro Tower and downloaded the mTape Utility free software that accompanies this hardware (https://mlogic.desk.com/customer/portal/articles/1643263-mtape-utility).

Using a new LTO 6 tape I opened up the mTape utility software and selected “format tape”. We use our existing barcode system along with a new LTO numbering system so we can add these to our existing database but also create a LTO tape log to separate and find media more quickly.

Copying to the tapes could not be simpler. Although not as fast as digital hard drives transferring, roughly 2TB of media can be copied in around 12 hours. It is best to copy large files overnight as the system can then focus on one task rather than running background software and any noise the machine makes won’t affect anyone else’s work. It seems that because of the structuring of the tapes, copying large volumes of media in one session is more effective than copying in small batches.

Once footage has been copied to a drive all that is needed is to un-mount the tape (this could take several minutes). You will then need to eject the drive by pressing eject within the mTape Utility software once.

NB: Do not press the eject button more than once as this may cause a conflict with the tape.

Coming from a digital storage background using Promise, G-Tech and Cal Digit technology it initially took some time to get my head around recovering media from these tapes for use. I found through practice that the fastest way to copy clips was to begin a transfer and then close down the Finder window for the LTO Tape as the tape appears to continue searching for a sync point whilst copying slowing the transfer down. Using this method once the tape has found its mount point it can take just a matter of minutes to find several GB worth of footage.

NB: It takes longer to search for media and ultimately to copy media from an LTO tape that has more media stored on it.

When copying media back off the LTO tape it is crucial to plan ahead. Although quick for recovering media from a tape you cannot expect the same speeds you would get copying from a hard drive. It is important therefore to adapt your workflow accordingly. Planning ahead will save frustration later when deadlines are looming!

Once the tape has been mounted it can take some time to find a sync point on the tape once you have clicked onto a file stored on the tape. Be patient and wait for the hardware to find the mount point. Once this is done you can drag to copy the media from the tape into your selected destination as you would from a traditional hard drive.

Useful Tip: The copying process speeds up if you close the finder window with the LTO Tape open. This seems to stop the mTape searching for a sync position whilst simultaneously copying media.

It is safe to say that LTO tape will not become a day-to-day tool for wrangling media for an edit. However the long term benefits that this has given us with storing large volumes of media for corporate clients and archive rushes has been invaluable. The mTape has given us an affordable and hardy method of storing priceless media files.

To finish a word from Clean Cut Media’s Co-Founder and Managing Director, Rob O’Farrell on how LTO storage has changed our media management:

“Thanks to the introduction of mTape at Clean Cut Media, we can ensure that our clients’ material is stored 100% securely and is easily accessible”.