Time-lapse images saved for TV series

Having just finished filming in Tanzania for a forthcoming TV Series, our client contacted Data Recovery Specialists with their worst nightmare!  The portable external drive with all their time-lapse images had crashed, leaving no option but to recover the images.

The photos had been taken over the course of filming with a community of hunter-gatherers who live in the Tanzanian bush.  Whilst on location the team pictured the inhabitants going about their daily routines, singing, dancing and hunting.  The time-lapse images captured the Tanzanian landscape throughout the day and night. Overall they took 4752 jpg and associated files in over 16 gigabytes of data.  The information was all stored on a FreeCom portable hard drive and were stills to be used for time-lapse - meaning that if a group of images from a sequence are missing none of the sequence can be used. 

Nevertheless, Data Recovery Specialists Ltd were able to come to their rescue.  After completing an initial observation in the clean room, it was obvious that a shock to the working hard disk had caused the head to bounce against the disk, destroying the thin magnetic coating on the disk – a common problem with portable hard drives.   A ‘head crash’ occurs when the heads of a hard disk drive touch the rotating platter surface. The head normally rides on a thin film of moving air entrapped at the surface of the platter.

Since most modern drives spin at rates between 7,200 and 15,000 rpm, the damage caused to the magnetic coating can be extensive. At 7,200 rpm the edge of the platter is travelling at over 74 miles per hour (120 km/h), and as the crashed head drags over the platter surface they generally overheat due to friction, making the drive or at least parts of it unusable until the heads cool. Following a head crash, particles of material scraped free of the drive surface greatly increase the chances of further head crashes or damage to the platters.

Despite the bleak prognosis, the engineers from Data Recovery Specialists set about their magic.  Firstly the mechanical damage was overcome in the clean room using donor parts, before a clone of the data was taken.  Once a 100% image was taken by slowing the revolution speeds of the disk down to a fraction of their normal spin rates, advanced software was used to rebuild the data, from the raw code of the image.  In all, the process took a little over a week, but all the data was retrieved from the drive.