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Going Tapeless

January 11, 2011 / John Christie

I've been in the editing side of TV for more years than I'd like to remember and one constant has always been video tape. Our production crews would shoot on different tape formats over the years, but the end result was always delivered to the office on tape, ready for editing. We stopped editing tape-to-tape over 10 years ago when non-linear editing allowed us to digitize our tapes into computers and deliver broadcast quality results. We still record our finished shows on video tape to deliver to our broadcasters, but that's the only videotape we use now.

The big change has come with solid state field recording. The newest cameras from Sony and Panasonic record directly to memory cards with very high quality.  The cards are very expensive compared to the cards you put in your digital still camera, but you can record on them 1000s of times in harsher conditions than you can with video tape. And you no longer need an expensive tape deck to load the footage on to your computer, you can use a relatively inexpensive card reader. It's much faster to load the material and it requires less time to prepare for editing.

The scary part of solid state shooting is backing up your cards. If you shoot on video tape and your hard drive crashes, you can always re-load the footage from tape. The camera tape is your backup. But with expensive cards, you need to be constantly erasing them and re-recording on them. So far, we haven't had any major problems, but it does mean that we need to invest in an expensive back-up system. And the irony there is that the backup system records to . . . tape.


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