Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera gets firmware update with RAW video support

Blackmagic Design recently announced that its Pocket Cinema Camera now supports digital RAW video. Previously, the camera only supported the more compressed, lower quality ProRes422 format. The changes will allow for much greater dynamic range and expand the Pocket Cinema Camera's use cases.

When the Pocket Cinema Camera was unveiled several months ago, it impressed media professionals with its low price tag and high capabilities. It was priced at under $1000 and had 1080p capabilities, and as technology writer and executive Clinton Stark explained, it opened up new possibilities in areas such as filmmaking.

"By offering high-end cameras for not-so-high-end prices the Blackmagic Design has rewritten the rules for budget filmmaking," explained Stark. "Their two new cameras – the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera – are such hot stuff that you would be hard pressed to get any enthusiast to stop talking about the possibilities."

However, Blackmagic Design warned would-be buyers of the Pocket Cinema Camera that the device might ship without RAW support. Initially, it did work only with ProRes422, which is still high-quality but less desirable than RAW.

Fortunately, a firmware update has rectified this shortcoming. Engadget contributing editor Steve Dent stated that the Pocket Cinema Camera now supports RAW CinemaDNG video recording. With the new format, all frames are losslessly compressed like an archive file. Accordingly, videographers can capture 1080p video from the camera's Super 16mm sensor. With superior dynamic range, they will also benefit from improved flexibility when performing color correction.

The welcome change boosts the Pocket Cinema Camera's usefulness in many different contexts and makes it a direct competitor to traditional portable pocket size cameras such as the GoPro. Writing for Real Screen, Carl Mrozek asserted that the camera's small profile and strong capabilities made it a great fit for shooting video from "jibs, cranes, dollies and drones" and for working with special effects.

Natural disasters raise cloud storage solutions concerns

Businesses have a wide variety of storage options available to them today, including traditional HDDs​, solid state drives and cloud-based solutions. Often, company leaders will make the mistake of choosing a single method to handle their storage needs, ignoring the advantages offered by alternative. For instance, some organizations opt to exclusively use magnetic-based HDDs to contain every file and record they own, because of the large amount of storage space that can be obtained for a relatively low price. However, these businesses would miss out on the performance benefits offered by SSD drives such as the ability to quickly launch critical applications.

Similarly, some businesses have turned to cloud services as their sole means of data storage. The cloud holds a lot of potential in this arena, promising to eliminate hardware expenses and provide an extra layer of security in the event of an on-site operational emergency. Many companies have moved their critical data to the cloud, believing that these services offer 100 percent uptime and effectively remove any chance for data loss or disruption. However, businesses that choose to go this route with their  data storage needs are essentially placing all of their eggs in one basket. Cloud storage providers rely on the functionality of servers and data centers just as any other business might. When natural disasters strike these facilities, cloud clients could lose access to their vital records and documents.

Typhoon damage raises IT concerns
The typhoon Haiyan that recently befell the Philippines is just the latest example of a severe natural disaster that could have far-reaching and costly repercussions for cloud service providers. CRN noted that the Southeast Asian nation has a rapidly growing data center industry, providing computing, networking and storage needs to a large number of foreign organizations. The destructive force of the typhoon may have wreaked untold damage on facilities across the Philippines, preventing cloud customers from accessing their critical data. IT industry members have expressed concern regarding the long-term impact of this calamitous event and the potential for it to cause major service disruptions.

As noted by InformationWeek contributor Dino Londis, natural disasters are not only a cause for concern due to their destructive force but also because of the lack of warning they typically give before striking.

"If the National Weather Service issued a 'complete devastation' warning today, would your data be ready? You might get only a few hours' warning, and that's if you're lucky," Londis wrote.

Although reports on specific data center outages have yet to be heard in the aftermath of the typhoon, similarly large-scale disasters have devastated critical facilities. For example, Data Center Knowledge stated that Hurricane Sandy caused a great deal of flooding that disrupted data center operations across New York City.

Small-scale events raise fears
Even smaller incidents can have a disastrous effect on the functionality of an important data center, preventing cloud customers from retrieving data stored within the facility's servers. NewAge highlighted the recent example of an electrical fire that ravaged the lone data center providing service to local government agencies in Macomb County, Mich. With their digital capacities hobbled, officials were force to carry out their duties with manual filing processes and paper documents.

While cloud services have their fair share of strengths, they should never be relied on as the exclusive form of data storage. Third-party providers are just as likely to experience a disruptive event, which is why businesses should always have on-site backups in place whenever deploying cloud storage. Data archiving solutions provide a reliable fallback in the event that alternative storage devices are damaged or otherwise taken offline.

DIGISTOR REWIND offers a simple and effective method for small business owners to backup their critical documents and have them ready to restore in case of a disruptive incident. Because this service runs on high-performance Blu-ray media, companies can extend the reach of their archiving efforts as far as they please. Once a disc has reached capacity, another can be inserted to continue the archiving process. In addition, businesses can take advantage of this solution with relatively small investment costs. To achieve the benefits of DIGISTOR's high-performance archiving solution, companies need a reliable Blu-ray burner, Blu-ray recordable discs and the REWIND software. Once these have been required, business leaders can begin backing up their vital documents and files, keeping them close at hand in case of an emergency.

Implications of Comcast’s 300GB monthly broadband cap

Cable television and Internet service provider Comcast has been rolling out data caps for its broadband users. The move may be an attempt to prevent would-be “cord-cutters” from abandoning Comcast’s pay TV service in favor of HD streaming options such as Netflix. At the same time, it will make it much more difficult for users to backup and restore large quantities of data via cloud services without having to pay onerous overage fees.

Comcast caps broadband data at 300GB per month
According to GigaOM, the cap may be approximately 300GB per month. After users breach the limit, they must pay $10 for each additional 50GB, or 20 cents per GB. For context, most HD online video content requires 2GB of bandwidth per hour, and professional photo and video collections can easily total hundreds of gigabytes.

The move has attracted controversy, despite Comcast’s attempts to deflect attention. The rollout was staged to affect less competitive markets in the southern U.S. first, with trials beginning in Tennessee before spreading to nearby states.

Comcast’s initiative isn’t unprecedented. Many other providers having already experimented with caps that either feature overage fees or cut users off entirely. Either way, these caps put a premium on working with large digital asset collections online. The more data that users puts into a cloud service, the more they may end up paying to back-up, sync and restore it.

Despite past claims that caps were inevitable because of overtaxed networks, it appears that these limits have less to do with capacity issues than their operators’ business initiatives. The Federal Communications Commission has been silent as ISPs move forward with these data caps that are primarily revenue generators rather than technical necessities.

“The cable industry for years claimed that such caps and overages were necessary due to network congestion, but in January admitted the congestion justification was false,” stated DSL Reports. “Such usage caps are simply a way to protect TV revenues from Internet video while raising rates on already expensive broadband in uncompetitive markets.”

Bandwidth-intensive streaming video applications are certainly one of the most prominent casualty of broadband caps. However, Comcast’s limits would broadly impact online services. They would even affect video gaming, since consoles like the Xbox One require tremendous bandwidth to power their cloud-based services.

With the Internet services market facing an uncertain future in terms of pricing, professionals may need to rethink their backup and archiving strategies. Given the tremendous size of many users’ digital asset collections – especially if they include photos and videos – 300GB per month is not going to cut it for an online service, especially once they factor in the amount of bandwidth needed for restore operations.

DIGISTOR provides data archiving solutions for consumers and enterprises that allow users to safely store everything on high-capacity Blu-ray Discs. With DIGISTOR REWIND for PC and Mac, consumers can keep their digital assets safe in the long run yet readily accessible as needed.

Hard drive failure rates demonstrate importance of permanent archiving

Hard disk drives are still the default in many consumer PCs and some older Macs. Manufacturers utilize HDDs because of their high capacities and low costs, and these drives typically serve end users well for while.

However, HDDs are unstable compared to durable media such as Blu-ray Disc. The moving mechanical parts in HDDs and their low resilience to wear and tear mean that they can fail after only a few years, and sometimes sooner if there's a manufacturer error.

Backblaze releases comprehensive study about HDD failure rates
Online backup company Backblaze recently unveiled the results of the extensive testing that it performed on more than 25,000 spinning HDDs over the span of four years. Most of the tested drives were internal HDDs from consumer machines.

Backblaze's study revealed that HDDs essentially go through three phases of failure risk. During the first year of use, the greatest risk to the drive is manufacturer error. HDDs fail at a 5.1 percent rate over this time​ span. If it makes it past 12 months, the HDD's annual failure rate actually decreases to just over one percent, since the only relevant threats at that stage are the random failures that affect relatively few drives.

However, the HDD enters dangerous territory after four years of use, at which point the annual failure rate spikes to more than 11 percent. The mechanical movements of the HDD read/write heads eventually cause the drive to wear out. Backblaze estimated that 80 percent of HDDs make it to the four-year mark and that the median HDD lifespan is approximately six years.

Backing up HDD assets with data archiving solutions
While most HDDs may last a while, their proneness to failure and deterioration means that users must be careful to protect data along the way.

"Because there's a 5.1% chance that your drive will die in its first year, you should either back up your data regularly – or, if you're feeling dangerous, not keep any valuable data on that drive until it's worked out any kinks and survived to the 18-month mark," stated Sebastian Anthony in his commentary on the Backblaze experiment.

Making regular archives of HDD data is essential, and consumers can turn to DIGISTOR REWIND to keep everything secure over the long term. Using a Blu-ray burner, users can move files, photos and videos from their Mac or PC to a high-capacity recordable Blu-ray Disc for safekeeping. DIGISTOR's solutions ensure permanent archiving of all critical digital assets. 

Everpix shutdown illustrates risks of cloud storage, importance of physical archiving

For all of its scalability and flexibility, cloud storage continues to exhibit fundamental shortcomings that render it unsuitable for many backup and archiving workflows. The recently announced surprise shutdown of photo backup service Everpix demonstrates that even highly targeted cloud solutions often struggle to find sustainable business models. Many abruptly close up shop for good, leaving media professionals in a bind as they try to migrate digital assets on a short timetable.

The growing public awareness of cloud storage has actually made it more important than ever to maintain physical backups and archives. Consumers can rely on tools such as DIGISTOR REWIND to move all of their photos, videos and important files from their computers to durable Blu-ray Disc for long-term retention. These data archiving solutions make it easy to access assets without having to worry about a particular company experiencing service interruptions or going out of business.

The Everpix shutdown and the risks of relying on the cloud
Cloud service shutdowns have garnered much attention in the past few months, highlighted by the shuttering of enterprise storage provider Nirvanix. Although it operated at a smaller scale than Nirvanix and targeted a different market, Everpix is another cautionary tale about storing critical assets such as photos and videos in the cloud.

Writing for TechCrunch, Colleen Taylor reported that Everpix will cease all operations Dec. 15, 2013. The service collected photos from email, local storage and its mobile applications and arranged them for online backup and viewing.

Ultimately, it failed to generate enough revenue to cover its expenses, and a steep bill from Amazon Web Services – which had been hosting Everpix's infrastructure – precipitated its shutdown. Prior to the final closing, Everpix will become read-only and eventually provide users with a downloader to extract their collections.

Although far from perfect, Everpix was noted as a leader among online photo backup services. Cult of Mac's Charlie Sorrel noted that none of its competitors in the cloud had solutions that were as easy to use. However, rather than try to find a replacement for Everpix, its users – and anyone else contemplating cloud backup of photos – should think about physical storage alternatives that are not subject to unpredictable fluctuations in the business cycle. DIGISTOR's recordable Blu-ray media offer up to 100GB of storage per disc, making them ideal even for large media collections.

Archiving solutions provide answer to cloud-related problems
In an article for ReadWrite, Sergey Kandaurov highlighted the broader risks of depending too much on cloud storage. He argued that even Nirvanix's migration timetable, while short, was generous compared to other services. Likewise, Everpix's shutdown, although one month out, will require a lot of work from anyone who has heavily invested in the service.

"When companies shut down, all bets are off and insurance is pretty much meaningless," wrote Kandaurov. "So what can a company that is dependent on a provider do to protect themselves against this kind of disruption?"

Having a backup plan in the event of cloud troubles is a must for consumers and for businesses. For enterprises, DIGISTOR's Enterprise Archive provides a scalable, dependable way to archive data to disc for years, keeping it safe from outages or shutdowns yet readily accessible when needed.

Data archiving solutions provide answer to OS X Mavericks external drive issue

Apple recently released OS X Mavericks, the latest version of its long-running operating system for Macs. Mavericks has been marketed as a subtle yet substantial update that leaves intact most of the user interface elements from OS X, while adding several new bundled applications and improving system power management capabilities.

However, there was at least one under-the-hood change that users have found unwelcome. Mavericks has serious issues interacting with external hard disk drives, as well as peripherals that utilize the eSATA and Thunderbolt ports on Macs.

Users may want to take the occasion to reconsider their backup strategies. Storing data on HDDs is risky because magnetic storage is prone to mechanical failure and has a relatively short shelf life. The Mavericks incident merely brings this issue to light and provides the impetus for professionals to consider more stable media such as Blu-ray Disc.

DIGISTOR REWIND is an easy-to-use data archiving solution that can migrate data from a Mac to BD via a Blu-ray burner. Compatible with OS X 10.6 and later, including Mavericks (which is 10.9), REWIND ensures the integrity of vital assets over the long term.

Western Digital reveals issue with Mavericks and external HDDs
Reporting for InfoWorld, Woody Leonhard observed that the issue was first identified in October 2013 by users of Western Digital's WDD MyBook Studio II external hard drives. Since that time, similar problems have been observed with the FirmTek eSATA ExpressCard and the Promise Thunderbolt Pegasus R4.

The issue appears linked to faulty interaction between Mavericks and the software utilities that manage external storage, such as Western Digital's SmartWare, Raid Manager and Drive Manager applications. The Accelerate Your Mac Blog highlighted the trouble with eSATA, clarifying that Macs running Mavericks do not recognize any mounted hard drives after a card is inserted. The 17-inch MacBook Pro from mid-2010 appears to be have particular difficulty with eSATA on Mavericks.

PC​ Pro's Nicole Kobie provided extra insight into the seriousness and extent of the external hard drive issue with Mavericks. Western Digital appears to have simply been the first manufacturer to observe problems with its products, but users have observed data loss on other vendors' drives.

"I have just lost 10 TB of data," stated a support forum user, according to PC​ Pro. "All the contents of a 6 TB [Western Digital] and a 4 TB Seagate drives have been wiped out. Both HDs have been renamed 'MyBook.'"

How users can keep their data safe
Western Digital recommended that users either forego updating to Mavericks altogether or uninstall the company's software utilities until Apple releases a fix. Given the noticeable improvements from Mountain Lion to Mavericks, this may be an unappealing option for many professionals, plus it is difficult to know if and when this particular issue will be patched.

Rather than rely on HDDs, users can keep data safe for the long-term using DIGISTOR's Blu-Ray solutions. REWIND, paired with high-capacity recordable Blu-Ray media (up to 100 GB on a BD-R XL), enables the archiving of critical photos, files and applications to stable, durable discs. With a simple setup, all digital assets can be kept safe for life.

Consumer trends shake up industrial component demands

Within the industrial sector, it is essential that businesses have reliable access to the components that keep their critical machinery operational. In the past, companies could continue to use the same vendor for years, knowing that when the time came to replace an important part within their machinery, that item would be readily available. However, for many industrial operations, this is no longer the case as their once-trusted component providers begin to increase the turnover rate of new products to keep up with the rapid movement of the consumer electronics market. In this constantly changing industry, businesses require vendors that can offer a stable line of products that will remain compatible with existing hardware and systems for years to come.

DIGITMES contributors Ninelu Tu and Joseph Tsai reported that the average lifespan of current electronics products has reduced substantially in recent years. Popular devices such as smartphones, notebooks and tablets now offer a product life of only three months, down from six when consumer options were initially introduced. The market for these products – particularly smartphones – is notoriously competitive, with manufacturers trading blows and rolling out new iterations within a short time span.

Because consumer purchasing habits demand a constant overturn of products and technology, vendors have reportedly begun placing short-term orders with their suppliers to ensure they do not end up with a surplus of outdated materials. In years past, these same organizations would have likely signed longer contracts with suppliers that would have provided a constant flow of reliable materials to build their products.

Component availability concerns hit the industrial sector
This shift could have consequences beyond the consumer electronics market, potentially affecting the availability of components for industrial equipment. With suppliers turning over their wares more frequently, industrial organizations have to be more discerning when choosing their component providers so as not to get stuck with incompatible parts down the line. A key consideration in this regard should be the status of a supplier's bill of materials. As IndustryWeek contributor Tom Shoemaker noted, BOMs​ are essential to accurately tracking precisely which components are included in a particular piece of equipment. By purchasing from vendors with locked BOMs, industrial companies can ensure that their suppliers will continue to reliably provide the same critical, high-quality parts whenever needed.

Maintaining a consistent flow of supplies is particularly important for industrial operations as these businesses increasingly rely on embedded systems. These devices are incredibly complex and typically require a number of various sensitive components to operate in harmony in order for the larger unit to work properly. If a single part becomes unavailable, it could translate into costly industrial disruptions and inoperable machinery.

When choosing an industrial-grade solid state drive, for instance, businesses should be sure they purchase from a vendor with a locked BOM, so they can rest easy knowing that the product will continue to be compatible with critical systems. DIGISTOR SSD solutions offer the right combination of performance and reliability needed to keep industrial equipment running optimally for years to come. In addition, DIGISTOR's line of high-quality SSD drives are durable enough to handle the rigors of an industrial environment, capable of weathering extreme temperature variations and withstanding sharp vibrations. In these inhospitable environments, critical equipment needs to be able to provide years of service, and with its rugged durability and locked BOM, a DIGISTOR industrial-strength SSD will come through time and again.

Growth of HD video demonstrates need for reliable storage strategies

Individuals and enterprises are amassing a larger amount of high-definition video content than ever before. While consumers and professionals are shooting record amounts of footage from mobile devices and dedicated cameras, organizations in the surveillance sector are generating enormous troves of data as a result of a shift to new recording technologies.

In the context of video, storage is becoming a front and center issue for individuals and enterprises. As such, it is vital that both groups have access to the best tools for capture and storage. DIGISTOR Professional Video Series SSDs, available with up to 480 GB of capacity each, are essential for rapidly and quickly capturing uncompressed HD video. Additionally, with so much footage to comb through, data archiving solutions like DIGISTOR REWIND provide an excellent way to store it for the long term. 

Writing for VentureBeat, Frank Meehan of SparkLabs Global Ventures argued that eventually organizations such as automobile insurance companies, law firms and governments would regularly review HD video for information related to claims and cases. However, these institutions will hardly be alone in their need to access high-quality footage down the road. SSD drives and archive tools will be critical as consumers and businesses find new use cases for video.

A recent IHS report provided insight into how large the video data market is becoming. The surveillance business alone may generate more than 400 petabytes of data in 2013, a figure that could double by 2017.

"HD-compliant products are set to account for an increasing share of video surveillance camera shipments during the next four years," said IHS surveillance analyst Sam Grinter. "But because each HD camera produces far more data than each standard-definition camera, the quantity of data generated by the surveillance market is growing to massive proportions."

It will be important for enterprises with similar data volumes to devise scalable, secure storage strategies. Appliances such the DIGISTOR Enterprise Archive help businesses come to terms with mass quantities of archived video and cold data.