Too Many Cards, Too Many Cameras, Too Many Adapters

I began my time at VMEDIA back in May of 2017 after spending just over 6 years working for Samsung as an in-store rep, and while also completing a degree in Film Production. Being that we live in the 21ˢᵗ Century, and a period in human history coined ‘The Digital Age’, it seems ridiculous to label myself ‘tech savvy’, aren’t we all? Still, I would say my love for tech extends beyond the regular selfie snapping iPhone user.

However, despite my background, I don’t think I could have prepared myself for just how much ‘tech’ was involved in the world of film. I am going to assume that if you are here reading this, you know your way around a camera, but perhaps you would be fooled into believing that camera’s simply use ‘memory cards’ to store information. Oh, if only it was that simple.

Knowledge is power

Now, I do enjoy a challenge, and taking on the VMEDIA side of VMI definitely presented a challenge for myself. Sure, Samsung had trained me well in the world of ROI’s, forecasts, and business acumen; and the digital age had prepared me for terms like SSD, SDXC, and firmware (I do love a good firmware upgrade). However, the biggest challenge I faced was learning all these new media formats, like RED Mini-Mag, ExpressP2 and SxS cards. A bigger challenge still, was learning what cameras these cards were compatible with, or what recording formats they could handle.

Everyone learns in their own way, I myself adapt my learning technique to the specific task at hand, I have no ‘one size fits all’ approach. In order for me to familiarise myself with all the memory cards VMEDIA has to offer, I could have taken the practical approach and played a game of ‘the triangle shape fits the triangle hole’, but somehow, blindly mashing memory cards into cameras seems a little uncouth. Instead, I chose the much more elegant, and far more arduous solution of constructing a database of media compatibility. This meant trawling through dozens of manuals and websites, contacting relevant manufacturers, and even looking to the older, and far more wiser members of VMI.

The Matrix is everywhere

Eventually I began to construct a basic Excel spreadsheet of popular camera and recorder manufacturers, along with compatible memory cards and SSDs stocked at VMEDIA. As the database grew, so too did my own knowledge. I undoubtedly spent way more time on this than necessary, but, as they say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”, I meticulously ensured that every part of this database was correct, up to date and full of as much information as possible. If someone wanted to know what memory card or SSD was compatible with (insert camera), you can be damn sure I knew the answer.

However, as I began to get deeper into the world of media and compatibility, nothing was as it seemed.

Tumbling down the Rabbit hole

Making a product truly “future proof” is impossible. Sure, while you may be able to swap out hardware to help keep you ahead of the curve, eventually technology moves on and products become obsolete. It is therefore understandable that so many forms of storage media exist. As I began to construct the database I found myself bogged down in the finite complexities of card speeds and recording format issues. As cameras have begun to record ever higher frame rates, higher bit rates, and higher resolutions, solutions are required to record these ever-increasing file sizes. Cards began to get larger in capacity and faster in read and write speeds to meet these demands. Soon there were different model variants of the same card type, and while camera companies tried to keep using the same format of card, for their later, higher spec camera models, the slower card models were no longer compatible. It was therefore imperative that I made sure my database included these recording requirements or limitations in each model or version of each card type, as sending off media to somewhere in Italy, only to discover that it cannot sustain 4K RAW recording, would be a nightmare for the client and production, and reflect very poorly on myself and VMEDIA.

Side Note: While I understand the need for companies to release ever faster and larger formats of storage media, I really cannot fathom why these said companies insist on proprietary media formats. I am not completely naive to believe that this could be some sort of cash grab, but perhaps there is a solid reason for requiring your own fully metallic, glossy memory card. What really takes the biscuit is the price they put on these special, must have, no other choice, fancy looking, glorified memory cards. I would assume that all the R and D costs wasted on making these, that are then clawed back through the end user, would be drastically reduced if they had just made the camera support the far more common CFast card, XQD or even just a standard SSD.

Under Construction

What started as a method to expand my own knowledge of all things storage related, had now evolved into a lexicon of memory card and SSD compatibility. I couldn’t keep this information to myself, Information wants to be free, and while I’m not really offering anything near as spectacular as Tesla patents for Electric Cars, this is a wealth of information that may end up helping some people. So, with a limited knowledge of HTML, I began construction of the ‘Memory Card Database’.

It took just over two months to curate, scrutinise and construct this website, and while it won’t win any awards for design, it is a personal achievement. Telling someone in an interview “I am a fast learner” is never an easy attribute to prove. But here, in all its HTML coded glory, lies hard evidence that I can take on new challenges and master them very quickly (I’m pretty sure I said this in my interview). I tried to include as many of the most popular cameras and recorders in use, and where possible, list all compatible media, approximate recording times, and even recording data rates.

The first generation on-line card database had to be hand-coded and the rapidity of media technology meant that within 18 months, this was hopelessly out of date.

However, the great news is that a brand new online relational database is being written for release early in the new year which will provide much better functionality and be much easier to keep up to date, so WATCH THIS SPACE!

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

As technology grows in the image capture industry, so too will the types of storage, the copious adapters, the proprietary formats, the model variants and the battle for media superiority. Rest assured, VMEDIA will be there, attempting to untangle the web of confusion, and guide the poor production runners left with the last minute task of finding a few extra cards at 4pm on a Friday, for the shoot on Sunday, to be delivered to a film crew shooting in a warehouse somewhere in East London. It’s a confusing world out there and maybe this little database will make someones first day in the film and TV industry a little less daunting. Hell, it may even make an experienced person a little less confused, and angered, by “all this techy stuff”. What ever it does, if all else fails, I’m always at the end of the phone doing media things.

Lewis Logan

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