CHUM Television tunes into Sony for storage

CHUM Television has gotten started on a storage migration that will move the content in its vast videotape library to a digital system based on Sony’s Super Advanced Information Technology (SAIT) format.

The broadcaster installed a PetaSite system from Sony of Canada Ltd. in June, and has been

feeding content into it ever since. The system features four SAIT-1 drives, an Ethernet hub, a terminal server and a PetaSite control unit. Fitting within a 19-inch rack console, Sony says the system will be able to hold up to 12 drives and 216 cartridges for up to 10TB of native capacity.

Bruce Cowan, CHUM’s director of broadcast technology, said the company wanted to come up with a way to better manage its video assets. Now, content from its television programs is stored on shelves, which takes up a considerable amount of real estate. He described the transition to the PetaSite as a gentle migration, given the time it will take to transfer video content into the library.

“”If you had 10,000 hours in a videotape library, it will literally take you 10,000 man-hours to transfer that into the system, and there’s only 8,000 hours or so in a year,”” he said. “”It will take months and months and months, if not years, to fully get this system up and running.””

Cowan said CHUM was particularly interested in Sony’s SAIT format, which allows a tape drive to store up to 500GB of uncompressed data on a single-reel. For CHUM, that’s about the equivalent of 20 movies. The digital tape format (DTF), in contrast, allows around 100GB or 200GB per tape.

Once digitally archived, CHUM’s administrators, librarians and programmers can access a master version of content in the PetaSite for broadcast.

“”I’m being very careful not to use the word ‘copy,’ because that invokes rights protection,”” he said. “”We’re always cognizant of that and will adhere to those (rules). But if we have a movie sitting in that archive and we need to play it to air — because under our licence we’re allowed to do that -— we will pull that out of the archive and that version will play to air.””

After it’s shown, that version of the movie will be purged from CHUM’s video server systems, but the master copy will be retained in the archive, Cowan said.

Tim Algate, Sony of Canada’s storage product manager, said broadcasters usually use applications such as FrontPorch Digital to manage the database of tapes, while other IT managers might opt for a traditional solution from a company such as Veritas.

“”A lot of broadcasters have their SX and betacam tapes, but they don’t have an automation piece to act as a library for it,”” he said. “”All the files are recorded digitally, they can pick what they want for each day — it’s a big time-saver for them, with no hands on the content, really.””

CHUM will continue to build its videotape libraries for some time, until the technology is fully mature, Cowan said. Although he said he has a comfort level with the PetaSite itself, surrounding technologies such as search tools and networking components may need to evolve, he said.

Algate said Sony would be working within its installed base of DTF PetaSite customers such as Alliance-Atlantis to increase SAIT migrations. The company has also established an agreement with storage distributor SkyData to build a network of resellers who will get the system in other vertical markets.

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