[ This article was first published in the January, 2006, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]
From time to time in this newsletter, we’ve had discussions about the life-span of CD and DVD media. At a trade show recently, I had a chance to talk to the engineers at MAM-A, one of the better CD/DVD media companies, about the life-span of burnable disks.
Here’s what I learned.
The life-span of a burnable CD or DVD is highly dependent upon the quality of the organic dye it uses. Not all organic dyes are the same. In fact, organic dyes will vary from one product line to another from the same manufacturer. (Want to know the technical name of the dye? Phthalocyanine. No, I can’t pronounce it.)
For example, MAM-A Gold label CD/DVD discs have been shown in the lab to last 6 times longer than silver label.
MAM-A estimates their Gold label CD-R’s have a life-span of 300 years and the silver CD-R’s of about 50 years. Other discs that they have tested look like they’ll fail in 2 years or less.
Due to differences in organic dyes between CDs and DVD’s, Gold label DVD’s have a lab-rated life-span of 100 years, if handled properly. MAM-A silver label CDs and DVD’s can start to degrade after 20-30 years.
Also, to improve disc longevity, store CDs and DVD’s in jewel cases, on edge, in a dark and temperature controlled space. For those of you old enough to remember, these are the same instructions we followed for storing vinyl records.
Here’s a link to NIST which discusses the best ways to archive CDs and DVD’s: http://www.itl.nist.gov/div895/carefordisc/
I’d been reading recently about a concept called “CD-ROT.” CD-ROT is caused when a bacteria attacks the aluminum backing of a replicated CD. Burned discs are generally not affected by CD-ROT.
Also, MAM-A recommends that to improve data integrity and compatibility, burn your disks more slowly. My recommendation is to burn CDs at 16x speed and DVD’s at 2x speed.
They felt that those numbers were a bit conservative. As their engineer, Joe Weisenbach, stated: “We see excellent results burning CDs at 16x, we have not seen significant improvements in burning DVD’s at speeds less than 8X.”
As a follow-up, I sent MAM-A an email asking about the correlation between “lab-testing” and “real-world” testing. They replied: “Who knows? We’ve only been making them for 12 years.”
Bill Moede, of Green Bay, Wisconsin (which I mention because it is near where I grew up), sends in the following update:
I have also had dropouts on older miniDV tapes, 4-5 years. For that reason, if we are retaining material long term, I master to DVCAM. I have DVCAM tapes that are nearing 8 years old with no problems.
I had also been making backup masters on SVHS, I have of some of these tapes that are still quite good after 12 years.
For a few years, I was backing up to digital 8mm just using a digital 8 camera with DV input, but I was seeing some dropout on those tapes after a few years also.
Currently, we are making backup emergency copies to Maxell Broadcast quality DVD’s. Yes, I know its compressed, but better that no video at all!
Also, I do not reuse miniDV tapes more that 2 years old.
Uli Plank also adds a comment:
[Larry wrote:] I understand your frustration — dropouts are not good. However, I am DEFINITELY not a fan of archiving on hard disk.
Uli continues: Very true! But in the case of very important footage, as long as it is short enough, I’d rather consider optical media. Tape is very sensitive to dust and magnetic fields, which are nearly everywhere. DVD-RAM is a very robust long-term medium and “only” depends on the availability of a reader (which may change it’s connectors, OS-support and such). And, well, even a tape needs a compatible player 😉
Larry replies: Thanks to both Bill and Uli.
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