March 02, 2004

Heavy Films

I took the brave jump recently and stored all my DVDs in a caselogic case. For pure personal convenience, you understand.

232 was the final count. As I did this, I took the opportunity to weigh the cases (in their garbage bags, 60 per bag), with the notion of figuring out how much a film weighs. The less it weighs, the more convenient as a travelling companion!

This gave me a total mass of 78 grams per film, including standard cases. That's just the 20cm high case, not the battleship containers they come in, all well disposed of, mere minutes after purchase.

Toying around with these numbers, that gave me a collection mass of 18 killograms (about 40 of those imperial pounds). But, by throwing out the packaging and sticking to sleeve books, this came down to 3.2kg, or, on a per DVD basis, a mass of 13.7g.

That's better than a 80% compression, mass-wise. Which got me thinking, what's the mass of a DVD on a hard drive? Uncompressed, you can get about 40 films on a 240G drive. The bathroom scales wouldn't budge with the drives I had to hand, so I stacked up 10 of them, and averaged back to about 400g (just under a pound), giving a per-film mass of about 10 grams.

But, if we add a compression ratio, we can get that right down! Say, 5 to 1 compression, which exists, so I'm told, and I can get the whole collection onto one single disk drive. Which leads to a DVD mass of about 1.7g per.

Putting an entire collection on a single drive makes a lot of sense. One can imagine the day when one wonders why PCs weren't the primary interface to movies. Selection of movie, display of the information, quick flick through the scenes, all this stuff makes much more consumer sense when considered magnetically, not with optics.

Which means that the PC takeover will happen, given time, and the patient efforts of programmers around the world.

(Veteren FCers will recognise the DRM link to FC here.) One of the things that I thought would give the film industry a breathing space to work out a DRM architecture was the brute data size of films. That coupled with the lack of fat pipes for consumers meant that copying DVDs was a marginal activity.

No longer. It may well be that Hollywood, as it is structured, is already caught in the trap that the music industry got itself stuck in (MP3s, ages ago). Which makes the news from tinsel town even more amusing: on the one hand we have the Passion's innovative channels, and $20 DVDs of interviews !!!

On the other, the FBI claims that DRM is priority number 3 for them. Who's thinking over there, and who's just changing the colour of the pretty lights? Hollywood can't even claim that their way is more convenient - retail DVDs are just too heavy to compete against the net.

collection size number
of DVDs
in original
in sleeved
caselogic book
in disk drives comments...
Total collection 232 18. kg 3.2 kg (400g) All of them...
single big drive worth of DVDs 40 3.1 kg 548 g 400g 240Gb - would need 5 drives
single drive, compressed 240 18.6 kg 3.2 kg 400g 240Gb @ 5:1 compression
per single DVD 1 77.6g 13.7g 1.7g mass per film

Posted by iang at March 2, 2004 01:41 PM | TrackBack

This was an article posted to a private group (AWOFTAM) in 2003:

This was a short conversation I had with John Caswell about the problem of content management of video information. The first point addressed is the issue of metadata.


Take a look at this life changing document - it's a software system which automatically generates metadata from multimedia content:

Salient point - look for the Tony Blair picture

Using tbe Bazaar Effect
----------------------- was started by cd rippers to store track titles etc - these were then picked up by programs and used to automatically id3 tag them ( - hence solving the metadata issue. Then some smart guys realised there was a business there - and so was born.

I wonder if the same thing could happen for video content? Especially for older content - nostalgiavision. Maybe you could give the content away - providing the users generate the metadata for you? How do you make cash - easy - personalised silos which can stream content to 3G phones - you can store/configure all your favourites and stream them at your leisure - like a virtual multimedia TiVo for 3G phones.

Mp3's are still popular - but the thing that most people are downloading is avi files (avi is a generic wrapper format) - mostly porn - but also a deal of music videos. The only trouble is bandwidth - it takes tooo long to download - now if this isn't the ideal usage of broadband...

Personal Silos

A lot of linux geeks have personal silos already - with many gigs of mp3's and now video. They use mp3 streaming software which integrates with apache - classic LAMP architecture (Linux/Apache/mySQL/Perl).

This needs to be commercialised IMHO.

Golden Oldies

Led zeppelin have just released a 5 vid dvd set, genesis tribute bands trail the land - what's going on? well - there's a lot of 30/40/50 somethings who want to retain/recapture their youth - and especially the music. The old formats
did not stand the test of time.

Streaming video/audio content to 3G is the killer app. But it can't be paid for by the byte - what you like is more valuable than what you buy - go figure...


Posted by: Graeme Burnett at March 2, 2004 06:22 PM