Blu-ray victory spells the end of tape.
Data DVD’s have already been used to distribute all sorts of media, as the replacement for the formerly ubiquitous floppy. From short raw DV files, to completed commercial spots, 4.7 GB of space is pretty good. But for completed TV shows in a HD codec, a DVD is very small.
Blu-ray’s recent vistory bodes well for the independent producer because economies of scale will bring down the cost of both the 27 GB and the new 50 GB Blu-ray disks. The optical media that is at the heart of Sony’s Professional Disk system.
In addition to the 50G Blu-ray discs, you can be certain that larger sizes are (were) in the works. At that point, the cost effectiveness of tape diminishes to a point to be offset by the value of random access. Both are easily “shelvable” so your camera masters are your archive media. But they can also be used to easily shuffle finished programs around. A key reason Blu-ray will quickly be adopted by the mid-level market is because the previous HD solutions were far more costly.
Consider, professional HD systems. The Sony HDW-F500 HDCAM deck goes for $40,000 used. The Panasonic AJ-HD130DC DVCPROHD deck originally listed for $27,000. Even the new Sony PDW-F70 XDCAM HD optical deck starts at $16,000. Even one-day rentals of these decks are pretty pricey and quite a hassle to try and dump numerous shows in just a few hours. What about a HDV deck for $3,200. Sounds like a bargain! However, despite many notable shows using DV and HDV for production, networks don’t seem to be too keen on accepting HDV tapes as “program masters” just yet.
But what about Blu-ray disks? It’s about $40 for a blank dual layer Blu-ray disk. Laying out to a “deck” seems to be an unnecessary step because the video is edited on a computer. In many cases, it’ll play back from a server. Why not just use a computer “drive” to export the finished program as a data file? Then you can use a Blu-ray burner, like this $400 Philips model to lay out your finished program.
I believe that, by the end of 2008, Blu-ray disks are going to be playable in a lot more places than Digital Betacam. Every serious computer is going to come with, or retrofit a blue drive now that the war is over. Are they gearing up huge factories in the third world to crank out hundreds of thousands of new DigiBeta machines in cargo containers for Walmart? No. They are not. This certainly looks like the future right now.
The 27 GB disks are space aplenty for 30-second spots and maybe for 30-minute, 720P talk shows where you can use a bit more compression. For the most part, we’ll be feeding limited shelf life programming to broadcast stations that currently have a huge variation across the board in what they can handle.
Stations that were polled indicated that, over the past couple years, they were dropping all their analog tape formats and accepting SD programming submissions on regular DVD as a matter of course now. That was easy for them to decide: spend tens of thousands on a BetaSP rig no longer being made new, or a 90-dollar DVD player? The jump from that to Blu to meet the rising need for HD content is really a small upgrade because the operational process will remain a file-based transfer & conversion of data to the station’s servers.
When you come to realize that exporting to DVCPRO HD, XDCAM, HDV or H.264 are all just a different way of compressing the bits, and that those bits don’t actually care what media they’re carried on, then the need to play out to an expensive tape deck – in real time – will pass and those Blu-ray disks will become our new media of choice.