Is Flash Memory the New DVD?

Remember VHS? Laserdisks? If youre lucky enough to remember the chore that was rewinding tape, then you probably have a healthy respect for how quickly media storage can change. From VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray, media storage has gotten smaller, cheaper, and easier to use. So whats next?

In regard to video and film, flash memory may be the answer. Historically, flash memory has taken a back seat to optical media such as DVDs and Blu-Ray. Just recently however, the tide has begun to change. Studios and distributors have realized that flash memory, with its quick read/write times, durability, and small size allows consumers to enjoy their movies without all of the hassles that VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray usually bring. Seriously, how many times have you rented a DVD only to get it home and find out it has more scratches than a good D.J.? Also, how many times have you sat around waiting for a DVD to burn only to have a mysterious error force you to start all over again? These are the kinds of problems that flash memory can avoid.

Recently, flash maker Kingston unveiled a deal with Paramount Studios to start selling movies on flash cards and USB drives, making it easy for those without expensive Blu-Ray players to enjoy movies at home. Even the video rental business has started to see the benefits of flash memory. A company called Portomedia has begun to set up kiosks that will let consumers download movies to a flash memory key or portable hard drive. Ideally, you could go shopping for groceries, and with your flash drive in tow, choose from a catalogue of over 5,000 movies and have it downloaded at a kiosk in a few minutes time.

I personally love the idea of saving shelf space with SD cards and believe that with the price of flash memory dropping exponentially as technology improves, its probably only a matter of time before flash memory takes over as king of media storage.

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Dan Bruns is an award winning cinematographer and editor.

8 COMMENTS

  1. How does flash memory compare in quality and longevity in archiving home video transferred from celluloid film? I am looking to buy a camera for that purpose.

  2. Good question tsreitz! Flash memory, much like all technology, has only gotten better in quality since it first debuted. Currently, most flash memory has a guaranteed life of 300,000 read/write cycles. However, if you’re willing to spend more, the best flash memory has a guaranteed life of up to 1,000,000 cycles. This is very close to the kind of longevity that you can expect with hard drives and so the idea of archiving footage on flash memory has increasingly become a viable alternative to hard disc drives. Hope that helps!

  3. Thanks brunsdan. That does help. Another question somewhat off subject. I’ve been led to believe that when transferring film to video it is best use a minidv camcorder for the most accurate archival copy. Then transfer the minidv to flash(or DVD) memory for accessibility and viewing. If quality and longevity are just as good with a flash media camera then that could be use as the original copy. I have many reels of 8mm & 16mm film I would like to store digitally with the best quality at a reasonable cost. The old home movie projection system is no longer a viable media for future generations, ergo the films and their content becomes inaccessible. So what recording media do I use for that digital archival copy?

  4. Another good question tsreitz. I believe the answer to this question all depends upon the company doing the film to video transfer. Some film transfer companies will only transfer your film into a DVD format while others can transfer it in HD, then give you an uncompressed color corrected digital file of your film. Personally, it would seem that the most flexible and time saving way would be to have the film transfer company that you use give you an uncompressed HD (if possible) digital file. This way you get the highest possible quality, giving you the greatest possible options in choosing how you want to deliver your film whether it be on HDD, Blu-Ray, or DVD. Also, this method allows you to keep all of your files on flash memory giving you faster access, greater physical storage savings, and a more shock proof casing. This will also save you time since you will not have to digitize a mini-dv tape in order to make a digital file or DVD of your film. Additionally, an uncompressed file on flash memory will have a better, cleaner quality recording than even a mini-dv tape can offer.

    If instead you have your film delivered on DVD, then you should probably just store the DVD’s without transferring them to flash memory in order to save on costs and quality of your film. Many DVD rippers on the market today struggle to get the best quality recording off of discs. As a result, in order to preserve the most color and resolution from your films, I would just keep the DVD’s as they were given to you from the film transfer company.

    Again, I hope this helps tsreitz and I wish you success on your desire to make great video!

  5. brunsdan, you’ve been a great help in getting me up to speed. One caveat in this whole thing… due to the sheer volume of film I have, I will be doing this myself with a HD camcorder. Either reverse-kinescope or rear-reverse-kinescope. I have the necessary projectors. You have convinced to record directly to a flash memory(no minidv). My feeble understanding leads me to a AVCHD system, high bit rate, uncompressed storage file that can be delivered to a convenient viewing media as needed. I want to store the highest quality fiscally possible. I need direction on specs for a camcorder purchase…ccd or cmos, best file system, lens, etc. Plus any other pertinent qualities. I would like to use the camcorder to shoot 35mm slides also. willing to spend +/- 2g. thanks for your patience with a video neo.

  6. Hey tsreitz,
    This may sound a bit confusing, but I think knowing your situation a little better, it might be better for you to store your HD footage on a series of HDDs rather than flash memory. Having an AVCHD system recording uncompressed (although AVCHD is already compressed for speed purposes) is still a great idea. When it comes to storage though, flash memory at this point is probably going to be cost-prohibitive, especially with the volume of film that it seems you have. Instead, you might want to think about recording your footage as high bit rate, uncompressed files to flash memory, then plug your flash memory to your computer and transfer it’s uncompressed contents to a hard drive or series of hard drives. As you’ve probably noticed, hard drives have become more affordable than ever and have the unique advantage of running off SATA controllers from your computer’s motherboard. This allows for direct editing of your footage without the wasting valuable time relogging from tape. Unfortunately, even with all of its other advantages, flash memory has not dropped in price enough to be a viable solution for most large file storage.
    When it comes to camcorder’s, Videomaker has a great buyer’s guide resource that you can find here: http://www.videomaker.com/article/14143/. You should be able to find all of the information you need to know about file system’s, lenses, sensors, and prices there. I hope that helps you tsreitz!

  7. Hi,
    Sure thing. It sounds like you’ll be needing some DVD ripping software to get the video back onto your computer. For Windows users, TMGP Express is currently one of your easiest options for ripping DVD home movies back to your computer. For Macintosh users, there really is nothing better than DVD Ripper in conjunction with MPEG Streamclip. MPEG Streamclip is free and has a huge set of video formats that it can export. Once you’ve ripped a file onto your computer and converted it into a popular video format such as MP4, MOV, or AVI, you can then transfer them to flash cards or an external hard drive for permanent storage. For more information, here is an article reviewing some dvd ripping software from Videomaker: http://videomaker.com/community/forums/topic/full-guide-how-to-enjoy-your-favorite-dvd-videos-on-your-portable-devices-at-w-9. Here is another article about how to transfer from film to DVD if you still have some old film lying around the house: http://www.videomaker.com/article/3656/. Hope this helps!

    Thanks,
    Dan Bruns

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