A couple years ago, I nervously left tape behind and began shooting everything to compact flash cards. Dazzled with the promise of a tape free workflow and never digitizing again, I never stopped to think about the benefits I'd be giving up. Believe it or not, there are still 5 good reasons to shoot on tape.

1) Reliable Storage – I've worked places that literally had tapes from the very first shoot the company ever did. We're talking decades old, and still completely intact and available for use. It's easy to label a tape, throw it on the shelf with a catalog system, and know it will be there when you need it. How many hard drives have you seen laying around that are 10 years old and would still function today?

2) More Disposable – If you manage to destroy one of your tapes, you're not going to be thrilled, but at the most you might lose an hour of footage, and you'll put a new tape in. However, if you break your memory card, you might very well be losing your only means of recording new footage, and it's much more expensive to replace.


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3) Long Shoots – Unless you've got the money to buy a lot of high capacity memory cards, you'll need to have an offloading solution on site to shoot for an extended length of time. But a case of tapes can keep you shooting for days, without an extra hard drive for storage.

4) Timecode – If you have to sift through a lot of footage, timecode and a detailed shot log can save you hours. It's an old school technique, but it works extremely well.

5) Standard Formats – with the ever-increasing number of digital formats, the standardization of tape formats ensures that nearly every edit program will work flawlessly with your footage.

So if you're still loading a tape in your camera, appreciate the advantages that it gives you. Shooting to a memory card may be the inevitable future, but there's still some great advantages of keeping a foot in the past.

Greg is a Media Production Specialist for Chico State University.


  1. Well I guess there's no free lunch, eh? The convenience and low cost of shoolting to SDHC cards winds up costing more in the long run by demanding greater computing horsepower in order to process the cumbersome AVCHD file format. Certainly not a low-cost solution, I prefer the Panasonic P-2 media and their DVC50PRO-HD file format doesn't require any file conversion before editing.


    Rick Crampton

  2. Although I chose two tape based camcorders, for the aforementioned reasons, I would be greatly tempted if resolution were improved significantly. That would be a catch22, requiring even bigger card capacities…

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