The beginnings of the optical disc library

My optical disc library got its start from a gal named Gertie.

I had a 16mm short cine’ film scanned and when it came time to do something with it, the hi- res scans were gone. Up to that point I had kept my material on HDD. But from constantly transferring to bigger and better drives, off-site drives and backups to the backups; on one transfer, Gertie didn’t seem to make it. And that master collection, that was missing Gertie, eventually got backed up to all the rest of the collection of drives.

I usually keep prior HDD backups, but eventually I must erase them from lack of space. When I’m working on a project, I routinely make optical disc backups of the work in progress at various stages of completion. Discs allow you freeze a digital point in time permanently. These ‘work in progress’ discs just get stored in bulk.

Bulk retired ‘work in progress’ optical media…most are Azo DVD’s

Now, if you got deep pockets, I guess you can just buy more and more HDD drives and LTO tapes / drives and never erase anything. But if you do erase the old and move the new forward, eventually something may get lost in the translation, as was in the case of Gertie. Even so, HDD and tape is not archival. The only thing that IS archival with digital is the optical disc or laser engraved quartz. The optical disc is to the digital photographer as the film negative or chrome is to the film photographer.

Now, all was not lost with Gertie…

At the time I was getting Gertie scanned I knew next to nothing about video or film scanning. I had to pay to get DVD’s made from scans and even pay for getting my name put on a film. Up to that point I was just an old film photographer from the 1970’s with little modern day digital video skills.

So, even though the hi-res digital scans were missing, the DVD that I ordered remained and that physical DVD allowed for some recovery from an otherwise wasted $150.

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Gertie, the Grapefruit Girl

From that experience, I decided to stop trying to keep everything on HDD…and the optical disc library was born. It was just getting too crazy, especially with the massive Audio Archive, VHS Archive and Small Gauge Film Archive. I still keep a lot of the archival material on HDD, but in lower res. The hi-res stuff gets put on optical disc.

Luckily for me, most of my films are short subject and it is doable to put the scans and their derivations on Blu-ray disc / M-Disc. I don’t deal with feature films. I make a minimum of 2 discs of everything finalized. And one of the discs is on M-Disc DVD or BD-R M-Disc.

Sadly M-Disc has skyrocketed in price with the recent surge in inflation. Verbatim used to make reasonably priced branded M-Disc DVD, but it seems they lost the license to make them, or it may have been another reason, but they stopped making M-Disc DVD. I contacted an optical disc maker in Taiwan to inquire about M-Disc. They said they can’t make them as they don’t have a license. Once Verbatim stopped making M-Disc, the Millenniata Corp. jacked up the price by about 50% on the M-Disc DVD and all the rest of the other BD-R M-Discs got price hikes.

Cooking up an M-Disc

Before settling on DVD / BD-R brands I did extensive stress tests on a large sampling of them. Some get destroyed within 3 weeks of sun, some last a year in the sun with no problems.

Sun stress test of optical media.

…so optical media is not all the same…

Same disc – top disc shows disc bronzing and disc rot from age and pollution.

Azo DVD will last usually 15 to 20 years in the right storage conditions and maybe longer. Put the Azo disc in the sun and it is a goner in short order. Gold MAM-A do better than Azo with atmospheric pollution and bronzing resistance, but they are not much better than Azo discs for light permanence. Maybe 3% – 5% better.

Blu-ray discs vary greatly with archival qualities….

Use dividers for your optical disc library! Might seem like a no-brainer, but it took me a while to start using them. I also use color coded sleeves for distinguishing discs.


Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Small Gauge Film Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Advertising Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. VHS Video Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Audio Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Social Documentary Photography

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