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How to preserve video in a 50 year time capsule

     
8:54 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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As part of my hometown's 100th Anniversary, I'm recording video messages from *lots* of folks in the city.

In addition to putting the videos online, I was asked if it would be possible to include a DVD in the time capsule that's being buried.

My answer was, "Of course! But, um, do you expect people will still be using DVD players in 50 years?" ;)

Of course, my first idea was to bury one of those cheap-o travel DVD players in the time capsule as well, but I don't even know if the electronics would survive for that long. Would a ziploc bag be enough? Maybe with a big handful of those silica gel packets?

How would you put videos in a time capsule?

9:21 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I don't know much about data archiving for the long term, but maybe tape - Super8 or something similar? They seem to be able to recover things from tape from 50 years ago even today.
9:29 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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silica gel packets

That was what I was going to suggest, but i'm not sure how long they would be effective for. They may end up causing a problem. Who knows what effect they would have in 50 years!

Its a bit of an unknown. DVD is an option, but would it last 50 years and still be playable. I think the big problem is going to be dramatic temperateure changes. Insulate as much as possible.

Another option might be memory card, But burry a card reader along with it. Maybee even a usb memory stick, although we come back to compatability issues, can't see usb being around in 50 years.

Hardware asside You will need to be very careful when it comes to choosing the encoding. I wouldent even be able to guess what formats will work in 50 years.

Mack.

9:44 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I would say to transfer it to film, but video is so volatile right now that in 50 years it may be as hard to find a 35mm film projector as it is to find a phonograph that plays 78s or Edison cylinders. Super8 might be even harder.

In terms of digital formats, what codec/container combo exists now that will be readable in 50 years?

I think your only real option is to match a disk to a player and hope for the best. You could try redundancy - an iPod, a DVD player, and backup copies on various media and the means to connect them.

Archival grade DVDs should hold up in theory (Robert Charlton has done a lot of research on that)

9:47 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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[focus.ti.com...]

"Results show that
current packaging material (mold compound and leadframe) is sufficiently robust to protect the
active integrated circuits for many decades and permit standard reflow solder assembly beyond
15 years. Standard packing materials (bags, desiccant, and humidity cards) are robust for a 32
month storage period that can be extended by repacking with fresh materials. Packing materials
designed for long term storage are effective for more than five years."

There are vendors of long term storage bags if you look for them.

Certainly you could also put a piece of paper with a link to where you stored the videos just in case. Assuming it is a town website, a url should be valid in 50 years if well managed. Including a list of the file names would be a good idea just in case the url or folder naming is changed.

10:04 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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And then put the long-term storage bag inside a dry bag filled with dessicant and put that inside an Ursack.
10:20 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Or you could try something like THIS [history.nasa.gov].
10:39 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Yeah lawman, I was thinking of that too but couldn't figure out how to encode the audio. A platinum disk with a series pictures that could be extracted and shown at 24 fps... but then they would have to get the sound track to match up.

BTW GRegg, look for a book called Clock of the Long Now - it's all about this sort of problem, but on much longer time scales.

10:52 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Digital long term storage done well relies on copying the old media to new media every so often.
That way you solve the problems while you still have redundancy in the input and still have a maintenance contract on the readers of the old media before they die.

Bar that: archive.org will likely scrape your website and keep it online.

But there's little romanticism involved in that.

To have a decent bet to bury something: aside of converted to analog (which can always be scanned), harddisk, miniDV, HDV, get a local TV station or so to transfer your content onto PRO broadcast quality media used for archival (and they'll want an exclusive contract for being allowed to play it back in 50 years I suspect).

If you write it out to recordable DVD or so: will never last 50 years in a bad environment IMHO (CD rot is real and fast, even on non-writable material).

Flash: ditto: it's not stable long term (there's an electric charge involved in storing it)

10:53 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What will you be using for the actual time capsule container?

You can greatly extend the lifespan of the packaging if the main "box" is air sealed. Components won't degrade so quickly.

Mack.

12:30 am on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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A magnetic hard disk is your best bet as the medium. SATA or firewire for the interface. MPEG2 as the file format. NTFS as the file format in one partition, and whatever else you fancy in other partitions. Also include on paper, instructions that identify all the choices and, ideally install it in a laptop. Use silica gel to keep it dry and seal in a vacuum bag.

All the components should survive (except batteries). Magnetic data may not survive perfectly but if three or more identical copies are stored, recovery should be possible.

Kaled.

7:32 pm on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What will you be using for the actual time capsule container?

They haven't settled on the exact time capsule yet. They are looking at an above-ground solution (placed inside of a granite mausoleum type monument with engraving to indicate the sealed date and the unseal date).

What I provide for the video will be separately sealed and protected since it will have different preservation requirements than the other items being included.

Archival grade DVDs

Didn't even know these existed. Ordered a 5-pack today. :D

Clock of the Long Now

I knew about the Clock project, but I didn't realize there was a book. I have a copy on the way. :)

I think your only real option is to match a disk to a player and hope for the best.

That's what I'm thinking too. Since the rate of storage technology changes over the last century seem to be accelerating rapidly, I just have no confidence that anyone will stand a chance of having a working circa 2010 PC with the right software/drivers/etc to pop in a hard drive or flash drive.

I may still include a hard drive with the videos on it as a backup (with paper instructions) but I think including a small portable DVD player with an archival-quality DVD is the best bet. That way, all they have to figure out is how to get electricity into the thing (and all those instructions are printed right on the power plug).

Maybe we'll have broadcast power by then, but I'm sure some places will still have "those old three prong outlets." ;)

Thanks everyone for your ideas!