I’m in the process of refining the skills section. I’m hoping to have sculpting finished today although I’m having to render out lots of new images and dig out others from the archives.

One thing that is really starting to aggravate is just how much is missing from the archive. Several months ago, I came back off holiday to find a new server installed at Ark. Apparently there had been some kind of catastrophic failure that had taken out several RAID drives. But what also became apparent over the next few months was that what backups there were were hopelessly out of date, incomplete or corrupt. Whole chunks of our work simply doesn’t exist. Thankfully I’d brought bits of it home so I have at least some examples but for every post I make I find that an image I want or a model I want to render is missing. A good quarter of the Adidas job is gone. Half of Mon Cheri. Motorstorm is piecemeal and Bionic Commando has disappeared into the ether just to name a few. Very sad and very frustrating.

And it also brings up the question of how to archive. The number one best way (best being least likely to fail over time) is DVD. Particularly if you go with a brand known for their good dyes. For example don’t use the likes of TDK and Verbatim because they use different suppliers depending upon price so you never know quite what you’re getting (Update: Verbatim are seling discs with AZO dyes which can be as good as Taiyo Yuden). Taiyo Yuden (who also bought out JVC Advanced Media) however produce what is considered the best archiving DVD’s, guaranteed for 70 years. But a DVD is only 4.7Gb (only use single layer discs for archiving). That’s not very practical when your project is say 50Gb.

So the next option is BluRay but if you consider that the grooves on BluRay are microscopic and much finer than DVD’s and you can see how even the tiniest invisible scratch caused by for example, storing it in a sleeve or carrying case, or a warp by storing it in the larger regular DVD type cases will render megabytes or more of data unreadable. Their tolerances and technical necessities of the readers/burners makes them very susceptible to inaccuracies, imbalances and ware and tear that while being barely noticeable when watching a film will destroy your valuable data.

Solid State isn’t yet a viable option but soon will be and it’ll be interesting to see how that progresses.

So we’re left with hard-drives (I’m ignoring tape as I’ve no experience and everything I’ve read puts me off it … I also remember the horrors of tape players chewing up tapes). Now you’d think that if you store a hard-drive safely in a good environment that it should last for a good while given that its not being used. But you’d be surprised to find that the oil can actually dry out rendering your drive useless. I don’t know how likely that is but I’ve been the victim of drives that simple grind after several years storage in optimal conditions. Luckily they weren’t used for archiving but it made me wary. On the plus side the price per Gb is pretty good and its a viable option to buy multiple drives for multiple backups stored at different sites. Or simply buy a new drive every few years and copy every thing to that, keeping the previous backup else where.

So to sum that up I’d suggest Taiyo Yuden DVD’s for smaller projects and hardrives for bigger (I’m favouring Western Digital External drives at the moment. I’ve had half a dozen Seagates fail on me but I’ve still got functioning WD IDE drives that have worked flawlessly for 10 years). But both need to be kept in optimal conditions. Even, moderate temperature, consistent low humidity, DVD’s in a Jewel case (not a slip or DVD case).

I’ll just make a note about external hardrive interfaces. NAS drives use ethernet, many others use USB and even firewire. I’ve no idea where these interfaces are going in the future (although we’re already on USB 3) so it might be something to take into consideration. Ethernet’s been around for quite some time but just how backwards compatible will its successor or USB 4 be?