DVDs for archiving. The Kodak and Verbatim fight out.

Kodak media are said to be the media with the best longevity of all disc media in the market. Claims of 100 years are normal for Kodak, and since you can’t really test it as an individual user except by exposing these media to direct sun light and by abusing them in every conceivable way, it’s very hard to check if the claims are true. Perhaps more to the point is if a Kodak disc — which is a good deal more expensive than a Verbatim “Archive Media” — behaves better than the latter.

Apple seems to believe CD and DVD authoring will cease to be mainstream very soon. However, both on consumer and enterprise level, DVD (or Blu-Ray) authoring won’t go away that quickly. Even if movies and TV shows can be distributed in fine quality over networks like the Internet, the physical medium will just coexist as one of the channels that a consumer can use to access video or movie content — at least, in Europe, where things move slower than in other parts of the world.

The evolution of content carriers for visual content will go the same road as the CD and even the LP. The market will shrink to a niche proportion, but it will never go away entirely. My reference to LPs makes that point even painfully clear: a lot of people dislike CDs enough to have us see a small revival of music vinyl, especially in classical music. What this implies for recordable DVD and Blu-Ray media is that the market won’t collapse yet. In fact, I believe we will be seeing growth as soon as the recession starts to wane in this market, simply because most people like to own a tangible copy of their favourite movies, music, etc.

In that perspective, I wanted to test Kodak’s Professional DMD (Digital Mastering Disc) and compare them to Verbatim’s equivalent discs, its Archival Grade DVD’s. The Kodak DMD claims 100 years archival quality, while Verbatim claims nothing except that it’s archival quality. The Kodak DMDs are 16x speed compatible, the Verbatims are certified to work with 8x speed.

Kodak has archival sleeves that are specially designed to protect high quality discs. Verbatim doesn’t sell anything special with regards to storage; it just advises to store the DVDs like any other disc: upright, preferably in a dark room, not too hot, not too damp; I’m sure you know the drill. Kodak should use better jewelboxes; its DMD jewelbox packaging is of deplorable quality. I ordered five packs online and all of these had one or more broken jewelboxes, with some even having broken parts inside that could very well scratch the disc’s surface!

The Verbatim Archival Grade discs packaging (mine was a spindle) doesn’t carry a specific usage label while the Kodak DMD jewelboxes carry the label “Music, Video, Medical, Data”. The Verbatim Archival Grade discs have a printable surface, while the Kodak DMDs have not. The Kodak DMDs are “gold” media (dark dye), while the Verbatim Archival Grade look to be dark dye based as well. Both have an identically coloured recording surface.

Performance

The Verbatim Archival Grade discs performed flawless when recorded at 16x speed, and even at 20x speed in a Pioneer DVR-216 using Toast Titanium 10 Pro. The performance with Toast never got to the maximum set speed rating, but the burner did achieve a highest burst rate of 14x when the disc was reported as having been filled halfway.

The first Kodak DMD failed at 16x. I tried a second one at 8x and this one worked flawlessly. Then I tried again at 16x with a third, and this time I got lucky. The disc burned fine. Why the first one failed is unclear to me, but I can’t rule out a faulty disc. Perhaps it got damaged by its cracked jewelbox after all. The content on both discs was then subjected to some rough handling. What I did was I first exposed both sides of each disc to an UV lamp for two days, then I etched the recording and the label surface with the can opener of my Swiss pocket knife — that’s about the most villain and sharp object I could find.

After each of these tests, I cleaned the disc to make sure there wouldn’t be plastic particles loosening inside my burner, and subsequently tried to mount the discs on the Mac OS X Desktop. Both discs performed fine, even after several rounds of the abuse.

The conclusion of these tests is of course useless to someone who wants to know if the longevity claim on Kodak’s DMD discs is true. My answer to that is that I do know that national library associations of different countries have come to the conclusion that most optical media will stand the test of time for approximately 30 years, after which it is safest to copy the digital content onto newer media.

The true question is whether you will find a DVD reader or Blu-Ray reader with DVD reading capabilities in 30 years’ time. I doubt that very much, although I must admit that I also thought the Magneto-Optical (MO) disc was going to have disappeared by now, and it is still used by corporations and organizations for archiving today.

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