Using #Tableau to Visualize My Digital Photo and Video Storage Over Time

This post started with a simple picture from 7/11/1965 (48 years ago) that my sister posted to her Facebook page last week.  This picture is shown below.

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In this photo, I’m shown sitting on the bottom step of my childhood house at 4700 West Race Ave in Chicago, IL.


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I was 27 months old and I was looking backwards over my shoulder to see what was going on above me.  On the porch, my family member is shown with a video camera!.  Can you believe that?  A video camera was being used to film my sister’s wedding on that day.

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I really wish I could see that film, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to exist anymore.  This picture caused me to think about my own photography and video work during my recent years and I decided to investigate what has happened over time to my digital storage needs arising from photos and video. Of course, my old buddy Tableau was used to visualize the results and to help me plan for the future.

I’ve noticed a big increase in my digital storage demands over time for our digital photos and videos. So today I processed my files to see how much space is being required to hold this information.  Click here if you want to see how I captured and processed this data.

My wife and I started digital photography in 1998 with a 1.3 megapixel camera and continue today with a 26 megapixel Sony Alpha model 65 and 12 megapixel smartphones from Samsung.  My wife is a great photographer and we try to take as many pictures and short movies as we can to capture the lives of our children. The information shown in this post is only digital information that my wife and I are capturing.  The kids have begun capturing their own information but is not included here.

After 15 years of digital accumulation, we are now approaching 1 Terabyte of information that has been collected.  I now realize that I feel like a digital hoarder. This 1 TB does not include the dozens of pre-digital videos that we have stored on mini-DV tapes, Hi-8 tapes, and VHS tapes.  Once this information is captured in digital form, we will have probably twice the amount of information shown in the charts of the Tableau workbook. The scary thing is that the information is being collected at an exponentially increasing rate. In 2013, we are projected to accumulate about 300 GB of information.  To put this in perspective, it took us from 1998 to Sept 2010 (13 years) to collect the first 300 GB of information.  Now we are doing that in a year!

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One of the greatest Tableau attributes is its handling of date and time.  When you have time series data, you can do whatever you want so easily within Tableau. You can ask questions like: when to I take pictures during the day, during the week, during the month?  Tableau gives you the answers so quickly that it is astounding.

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Month of the Year

By doing these types of analyses, you can see how the events in your life are being captured.  For example, I coach an AAU basketball team and I film games (about 4 Gb per game) during Feb – May. The majority of camcorder footage occurs during that time because of that activity.  With about 50 games played during a season, that is 200 Gb of storage required per season.  This is one activity that is driving this continuously growing need for data storage and that is why our digital capture is greatest on weekends.

There are all types of analyses that can be done with this data.  I’m not going to show them all here, but if you are interested in exploring Tableau’s capabilities, you can Click here for the Tableau Public Worksheet of this data.

I ask myself why do I do all this? What is the purpose of capturing these images?  The answer to these questions takes me back to the beginning of this story.  I don’t remember being that little kid sitting on the steps during the day of my sister’s wedding.  At 27 months old, my memories are long gone (my earliest memories start at age 4). I didn’t understand the significance of that day.  All that I have is that picture to prove that I was there and a huge craving for that long-gone video that was being recorded.  I would love to see myself as a baby in some film from that time.  What was I like?  Does my son Jett behave like me?  How different from me is he?  How did I sound?  How did I move?  What did I eat?  What did I like to do? There are hundreds of questions I have about myself, most of which has been lost to time or trapped in my earliest memory banks.

Why do I do this?  Because I can.  That is why. I can do this for our kids. We have the technology, I have a system and the expertise to do it. I have and will continue to capture their lives for them and give this information to them when they are ready to receive it. One day I’ll hand them a 10 TB portable hard drive with their lifetime included on it. Can you imagine getting that? For me, nobody can give me my life in a small package.  There will come a day when my kids ask the questions I now ask about myself.  Instead of me just recalling some vague memory, I’ll load the movie or show them the pictures. I’ll show them how good they were in basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.  For them, they will recall the event much better than I can from my life. Does any of this matter?  I think so.  Here is a Facebook post from a friend of mine from June 2013.  Do you think that my digital storage my activities impacted him?

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