If the marketing departments of the broadcast industry’s camera manufacturers are to be believed, tapeless production is the holy grail of television: it will save you money, make your production more efficient and (probably) make you taller, slimmer and better looking all at the same time.
The truth is, while going tapeless has a myriad of advantages, there are a whole host of things to consider when deciding on which file-based camera or format to use for your next television series. And reading the marketing blurb from the manufacturers will probably not provide you with the most objective starting point.
Based on the opinions of camera operators, production managers and producers, here are some of the major vendor neutral ‘real world’ benefits of tapeless cameras and tapeless working:
- Going tapeless virtually eliminates the need for DVD transfers
- Duplication costs are also redundant as footage can be backed up and stored in several different places at almost no cost
- Footage can be automatically (or remotely) logged at the same as it is captured
- Metadata can be added to files from just about any computer or mobile device
- It is possible to get (almost) instant access to each and every shot for viewing, logging and editing or fast distribution via the Internet
- Tapeless ingest is faster than real time
- Footage sales can be given a boost as archive shots are easy to identify, catalogue and find
- The camera ‘buffer’ on tapeless camcorders records 10 seconds before the record button is activated, so you should never miss a shot
- Rushes can be viewed from anywhere and on just about any device
- Money can be saved on courier costs and tape deck hire
- As a rule, tapeless cameras are cheaper to buy than tape-based ones
- Re-used correctly, tapeless media can work out cheaper than tape stock
- Digital media recordings are likely to be less jittery than tape-based ones
- It is easier/possible/practical to edit whilst still on-location
In short, tapeless production has the potential to: reduce the cost of acquisition materials; quicken the time it takes to make a show; aid the production team by giving them better control over the footage they’ve shot; and improve the ways in which footage can be re-used and exploited further down the line.
Tapeless is not for everyone. And the benefits are not automatic. Plus, there are also downsides to tapeless production (although that’s a topic for another time).
But, with the correct planning and the right tools, tapeless production can be your holy grail by making your production cheaper, faster and more efficient. It is unlikely to make you better looking though.