Trivia Tuesday: Storing a person's life as a 1080p movie

I thought I would start up a little section here on Neowin, where every Tuesday I will post some sort of (hopefully) interesting piece of tech trivia or fact. Check back here every week and hopefully you will learn something new about the technology world

Here’s an interesting little piece of trivia that you can use to your friends in casual conversation… if you somehow manage to throw it in there. I was bored one afternoon and decided to work out just how much space would be needed to store a 1080p recoding of everything done in a person’s life.

The average life expectancy for a person these days for the United States is around 78, according to both the United Nations and the CIA World Factbook 2011. This means that on average you would live through 2,461,449,600 (2.5 billion) seconds, and that equates to 59,074,790,400 (59 billion) video frames if recorded at the movie-standard 24 frames per second.

One 1080p frame has a 1920 x 1080 resolution or 2,073,600 pixels in total; for interests sake that means 122,497,485,373,440,000 (122.4 quadrillion) pixels will be rendered through this entire life video. Assuming you encode each frame with 24-bit color (16.7 million colors), each pixel requires three bytes, meaning this entire life video requires 367,492,456,120,320,000 (367.5 quadrillion) bytes of space to store.

Yes, that means that this entire video requires 367.49 petabytes of space to store. The bitrate of this video is roughly 1,194 Mbit/s, or 149 MB/s (keeping in mind this is uncompressed 1080p video). But wait, I haven’t as yet added on the space for the audio you would be recording at the same time.

As we are using uncompressed 1080p video we may as well use lossless audio, so I’ll be using 8-channel Dolby TrueHD at 18 Mbit/s. This is 2,250,000 bytes per second over 2,461,449,600 seconds, which equates to an extra 5,538,261,600,000,000 (5.5 quadrillion) bytes of space, or 5.5 petabytes.

Add the audio to the video and you get a whopping 373 PB (petabytes) movie at 1,212 Mbit/s (151 MB/s). To store this video on 2 TB hard drives assuming each hard drive costs US$80 (pre-flood prices) you would need 186,500 hard drives totalling US$14.92 million.

And to put all of this in perspective, the space of this video exceeds the largest storage array ever built, which only houses a measly 120 petabytes. Luckily, if you compress this video to Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC data rates of around 16 Mbit/s (2 MB/s) it will only take up 5 petabytes of space.

Other interesting notes:

  • If you film this video with three different camera angles, the total required space would be 1,106 petabytes (1.1 exabytes)
  • The video of just the person sleeping will total 122 petabytes, assuming you sleep an average of 8 hours per day
  • As the recording uses up 544 GB per hour, the recording team would need to switch 2 TB hard drives every 3h 40m (for 78 years)
  • The human brain has been estimated to have just 2.5 petabytes of storage. This means that if your brain stored memories as short 1080p movies, you would only remember 0.6% of the things you see

At the end of the day, however, it’s all just fun and interesting trivia, as who would actually want their entire life recorded as a 1080p movie with 8-channel surround sound?

Read all the past Trivia Tuesdays

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