Dr. Johnathan Storlie’s Blog

IT Blog

Giants of the Earth is excited by the power that computer technology brings for storing, editing, and sharing older community videos. While ancestry.com and geni.com provide a great framework for uploading your ancestral images, they currently do not have the storage space to upload all your high definition videos to.

Giants is seriously considering providing a digitization station for Giants of the Earth members at our Heritage Center. This might be one or two stations with a VHS VCR, and one in which people can attach their own video cameras in VCR mode, whether they be digital 8, hi8, or something else.  Because demand is likely to be high for these stations, we may need to develop at first a policy in which those videos most related to the community have digitization preference. These include videos which have community events, interviews with senior citizens, trips to Norwegian family farms, important speeches and sermons, etc. In addition, pre-1995 videos that are community related are of particular importance. These are degrading quickly as the years pass and must be digitized to prevent them from degrading to the point of not being watchable.

We are currently deliberating how we might store the digitized data, and while we will certainly return the original tapes, whether or not we can initially afford to make a double density DVD copy of every video that gets brought in. Currently, Windows Movie Maker allows for very high resolution digitization, resulting in the use of 13 megabytes per hour of video. At that rate, one family that brings in 19 hours of videos could quickly fill up 1/2 TB of space (using RAID storage). Currently, the price of a terabyte of space if we went with an external hard drive is a little over $100. Thus, if we figured that we had about 40 families and that we would need to have additional space for edited projects for public Spring Grove movies that would be displayed at the Spring Grove Cinema, one could imagine that within two years we could fill up a server with expandable and hot swappable drives sufficient eventually to hold 40 TB of community videos. Alternative ideas would be to buy online storage space, but the limiting agent there is uploading, downloading, and editing, since even with a high speed connections, 13 GB per hour equals 3.6 MB/s–something that would use up much of the bandwidth for the center. Further, editing online would be limited to crawl rates unless we compressed and degraded the quality of the videos, which would be undesirable if we ever wanted to view them in higher definition.

In contrast to slow online storage, having a media uploading and editing station within the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center building would be lightning fast.  If we had an external hard drive or server with eSata connection we would get 200MB/s interaction with the media and not use up any Internet bandwidth at all. We could make videos available over the Internet to families, but this would probably require a passwords for everyone, so we would have to look into IT software which would do the work for us while maintaining people’s privacy. A starting 7.5 TB server currently runs about $2200. I have included a link below to one that could possibly suit our needs and be hot swappable so that we could expand later as we needed more drives with minimal additional expenses or changes. If families wanted to buy their own swappable drives that they could take home with them for private storage, that might help defer the cost and provide people with a sense that they had more control over what they decided to share. Again, the fastest type of connection is eSATA, so getting hardware with this connection speeds things up a lot. Personally, I would imagine that many people’s videos would contain scenes of public importance interspersed with private videos that they might not want to share. Thus, the best way for us to collect these videos would be for residents to bring in pre-made digitized media on an external hard drive that contained only those clips (at the best resolution possible) that they wanted to share with our public. Alternatively, with a server, they might be able to edit their videos at home and upload them to the server space. This might require investment in the services of an IT professional or perhaps user friendly software that does the work for us.


Finally, feel free to comment on the risks associated with different types of storage during unforeseen disasters. For example, although RAID technology helps allay fears of drive failure cauusing a loss of data, do we need to back up everything additionally online in case there is a fire? Or do we need to physically remove a backup drive/drives from the building every night? What about lightning strikes to the building we are in or other power surges? What kind of surge protectors will we need? Also include more remote concerns and affix links to help people understand new potential threats such as electromagnetic pulse weapons, computer viruses, spam, etc.

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