Preserving decade old media with ente

October 11, 2023
Abstract painting of a camcorder uploading its media to the cloud

Do you remember those old camcorders our parents used back in the day? Even though I'm still pretty young, I was born during the time when my family would record life's precious moments on them. The casing of those camcorders read "full HD," which, although it may seem somewhat outdated compared to today's standards, was quite advanced back then. Nowadays, we all just click the big white button on our smartphones, which run our photos through dozens of AI pipelines. Or, when we want to capture the highest resolution, we take out the DSLR. It's almost like we've forgotten about the loads of SD cards we used to buy filled with gigabytes of old footage, like Christmas present openings, birthdays, and funny toddler moments. Well, I remembered, and I decided to revitalize them by storing them in the cloud.

These SD cards haven't been touched in probably over five years. So, I understood it was crucial that I took great care of them and made sure I could preserve their data. This raises the question, "where do I put all this?" Most people might suggest, "dump it into [insert big tech company] Photos!", but this comes with many abstracted problems.

First, most big tech photo apps, like Google Photos, aren't all that private due to the lack of end-to-end encryption. These video files are deeply personal and sensitive to me. For the sake of my family's privacy, I want us to be the only ones who can access them. While big tech certainly has account security down to an art (the endless "is this you?" prompts that have become memes 😆), what if their servers are compromised or an creepy employee snoops around? Oh wait, that's already happened at Google.

Second, what about quality? These video files aren't exactly 4K HDR 10-bit Dolby Vision, as we're used to seeing on high-end flagship smartphones, but that's exactly what makes it essential that I preserve every bit. If they're compressed, details could become even fuzzier, which would be devastating to these one-of-a-kind copies of memories I'd like to play down the line. Google Photos compresses uploads, as reported by The Verge, and as author Jacob Kastrenakes wrote, "Video compression is just bad." It turns out, "everything becomes smudgy, details just vanish, and some colors even lose their pop." I need a solution that allows me to back up these videos in their original quality without losing a single bit.

Third, when it comes to preserving these precious memories, longevity is a crucial consideration. It's not just about safeguarding the footage for the present, but also for the years to come. We've seen big tech companies shut down products and services, even those with millions of users, leaving countless memories and data stranded in digital limbo in the best case, and just gone in the worst. As time goes by, technology evolves, and the platforms we once relied on may become obsolete. I need a reliable, future-proof solution for my videos that I can count on being accessible in the next five, and hopefully, ten years.

Hmm... I wonder what service fits these requirements. Oh yeah, I work at a photos company. Let's use Ente. Ente uses state-of-the-art modern end-to-end encryption technology to secure my precious data, uploads content in full-quality, and replicates it to multiple geographically distributed locations, including a fallout shelter. This sounds perfect.

I got started by opening up my Mac, searching through my house for the right dongle (which felt like it took too long), and plugging in the SD cards. Lo and behold, Finder opens up with these files, some of which are over 11 years old. I felt a wave of nostalgia simply looking through the file timestamps. Something was different, though; these files ended in ".MOD." My first thought was, "what the heck is MOD?" It turns out, it's a super outdated MPEG-2 file format that's so old that Quicktime Player doesn't even know what it is.

To my surprise, Ente still played it just fine 😎. Thanks to our ffmpeg video streaming backend in our apps, they're able to efficiently transcode these old files into formats our devices can play. After dragging and dropping the DCIM folders into the desktop app, I organized all of these newfound files into an album and was able to scroll through the timeline of footage on all my devices. Thanks to ente's superb sharing abilities, I gave access to my father, who actually recorded all of these videos so long ago.

We're both able to go back and reminisce on these old time capsules, and as we continue to make more and more memories, we'll be keeping them securely in Ente.