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In Shirobako, the studio has to deliver the tapes to broadcasters physically. I'm not surprised that this is a process, but I am surprised that there's nothing more modern in place.

Early on, we learn that Musani Animation has an FTP server to store their files - So why don't they just send the file over the internet?

enter image description here

I've heard some arguments that physical deliver is still faster, but I'm not sure I buy that - Japan's internet speeds are quite good and the file sizes shouldn't be overly huge as it should be the compiled product rather than files with image layers, audio tracks, cg models, etc all seperate.

Are anime really still submitted by tape? If so - why?

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    The other argument I've heard in favor of tape is reliability - there's a million-and-one ways that a fully-digital file-transfer system can break down (lots of "moving" parts); transferring the finished product by physical means is a good bit more reliable. It's a plausible-sounding argument to me, though I don't know whether it's actually correct. – senshin Jun 26 '15 at 23:25
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No, tapes are no longer used. The tape appearing in Shirobako is just a joke in reference to old times. DVD-R are used nowadays, and maybe sometime in the future, blu-ray will replace them. It seems like the trend of using DVD-R began at least in 2007. On a side note, shirobako are not necessarily white either in reality.

As to possible reasons regarding why they have to give it physically:

  1. They are late so they don't have the time to send it by post.
  2. The FTP server was down in the anime so they had no other choice.
  3. Mark of respect and seriousness for the broadcasters.
  4. No problem of "timestamp" proof (if the broadcasters refused to accept the shirobako because of lateness) since a person goes directly to give it.
  5. Reduced risk of leaking the episode if it was given by another mean.

Sources:

  • moto-neta.com/anime/shirobako/
  • detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1185176891
  • img.animeanime.jp/imgs/thumb_h/44928.jpg
  • the anime Shirobako itself
  • Lots of other pages on Google when searching for "白箱"
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    This answer seems to confuse the "white boxes" that are given to staff, and the media that is sent to broadcasters to show on the air. I don't think a DVD-R would be considered acceptable to send to a broadcaster, even for an SD show. It obviously wouldn't work for a modern HD show. As I said in another comment the tape in the picture looks like it's a professional HDCAM digital videocassette. While I'm not sure how much use this format gets today, if they're no longer in common use it would been only a few years ago (not 2007) that Japanese broadcasters transitioned to something else. – Ross Ridge Apr 29 '16 at 23:28
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So I went back to research following Ross Ridge's comment, and my answer is now:

Yes, they are still used (but a bit less since 2011-2012).


Basically, as networks and high-speed bandwidths are becoming more competitive, the transfer solution over internet is now the state-of-the-art regarding sending data to broadcasters. Dedicated solutions started appearing around 2011, and are being adopted progressively.

However, professional tapes are still the most popular means (as of 2016) to use as a master tape to give physically to broadcasters.

Effectively, animation software, such as RETAS STUDIO, takes care of network needs for in-house file circulation, then a professional tape recorder is used for the last steps of the post-production to "compile" everything, as you said.

As for possible reasons regarding why they have to give it physically in the anime:

  • They are late so they don't have the time to send it by post.
  • The FTP server was down in the anime so they had no other choice.
  • Mark of respect and seriousness for the broadcasters.
  • Reduced risk of leaking the episode if it was given by another means.

More details on the tape formats

Historically, anime studios mostly used D2-VTR tapes in the 90s-00s (SD quality), then progressively transitioned to newer formats.

Nowadays, the preference from the broadcasters' side basically dictates the expected format. Notably, the standard in the industry is HDCAM (1440x1080), whereas NHK is pretty much the only broadcaster to prefer having the master sent to them as a more recent and better HDCAM-SR tape.

a HDCAM-SR tape

Most anime studios, on the other hand, already upgraded to HDCAM-SR, which boasts compatibility with HDCAM, and so they can also be used to be sent to broadcasters regardless of whether the broadcasters use HDCAM or HDCAM-SR. However, a minority of studios cannot afford paying for a HDCAM-SR recorder, so they may prefer outsourcing the encoding to external companies such as IMAGICA or Sony PCL.


Regarding overseas broadcasters

The preferred solution is for the studio to edit out the black screen parts normally left for TV commercials, then capture the output content directly into HD data to be put onto a simple HDD with USB 3.0.

This is mainly due to HDCAM-SR being very costly, to the point of making it not worthwhile financially if it were to be used as a medium to send overseas. In addition, the great earthquake in Japan in 2011 destroyed the Sony factory where HDCAM-SR tapes were being manufactured, causing a shortage of tapes around the world. This event shaped the cost of the tapes, and so the process of how to send anime overseas at the time.

Nowadays, when there are requirements of simulcast, like for Crunchyroll or Funimation, the direct transfer solution is preferred, with software such as Aspera being the standard in the industry for fast file transfer (a normal anime episode may be around 37GB to send, whereas a special episode can easily go over 100GB).


More about shirobako

My previous answer revolved essentially around shirobako. I had some confusion (I give my thanks to Ross Ridge for pointing it out), so I will give a few more details about it to correct myself, but nevertheless leave the contents of my previous answer here.

As told in the anime, "shirobako" is historically a tape inside a white box. This medium is given to the studio staff so they can do a final check for errors before the master tape (the HDCAM-SR I previously talked about) is sent to the broadcaster. However, the term shirobako is also sometimes used to talk about the master tape.

This actually comes from the fact that shirobako are generally HDCAM-SR tapes, which usually come in white-ish grey boxes (like the picture above), the same as the tapes used to send to the broadcaster!

However, a trend of using DVD-R for shirobako seem to have started somewhere around 2007, and so the "white box" characteristic was no longer relevant.

A shirobako nowadays

On a final side note: boxes for HDCAM are typically black-ish grey, so the tape in the screenshot from the question is most likely a HDCAM tape.


Sources:

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Justim Sevakis, who is a cohost of the ANNcast, day job is DVD authoring; from listening to him (they even did a show where Justin was a guest and not host) it is all digital. I would be really curious to see if anyone has ever made a non-digital medium (tape) that can hold 1080p video. I have friends who work in US TV stations and everything is stored on a server and I don't see why the Japanese would do it differently. You also have to remember that if you are producing TV for 1080p you need to shoot at a higher resolution. This is the problem with 4K video. In order to produce professional content you need to shoot at 8K the problem is getting a monitor that can view this resolution.

  • The question was about whether the show would be submitted on tape. The question wasn't about whether it would be digital or not. – Ross Ridge Jul 15 '15 at 1:34
  • @RossRidge Yes I said tape put the video on tape then rip it to hard drives so that people can use it. According to Sam Pinansky, who ran Anime Sols (RIP), everything his team worked on was on Hard drives. His team never dealt with tape. Anime sols was specify translating old Anime from the 70' and 80's. – woodchuck Jul 15 '15 at 1:40
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    You said nothing about tape. The practices of a company that's neither Japanese nor a TV station aren't particularly relevant. – Ross Ridge Jul 15 '15 at 1:51
  • I apologize that you were not able to infer non digital medium as tape. Unless you are using tape drives for data backup, the data it stores is usually analog. Another reason for this not working out would be that there is no standardization for tape drives and you are stuck with one vendor. – woodchuck Jul 15 '15 at 1:55
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    Your answer has little to no relevancy to the question posed by the OP about Japanese anime broadcasts. Please consider editing your question to reflect the question posed. If you insist on using American broadcast standards as part of your answer, at least try to explain how it related to Japanese broadcast standards. – кяαzєя Jul 15 '15 at 2:56

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