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AJA Data Recovery Case Study: Recovering Missing Video Footage

Audio and video codecs

AJA’s Ki Pro video recorder looks familiar to anybody who remembers the halcyon days when we recorded audio and video on magnetic tape. But instead of storing data on tape, the Ki Pro opts for the much more modern hard disk drive. These hard drives come in storage modules with thick, robust casings. It’s a powerful tool for media professionals. But of course, just like anything else that stores data, it’s also susceptible to data loss. And when that happens, professional videographers turn to Gillware for their AJA data recovery needs.

Our client in this data recovery case had been using their AJA Ki Pro deck while recording a charity fundraising event. Their camera captured the footage—an hour’s worth—which passed through the deck and into the deck’s storage module. Everything worked just as it was meant to. But then, while the deck sat idle… some of the data mysteriously disappeared from the storage module.

Three guesses as to what went missing (and the first two don’t count).

The entire hour’s worth of charity fundraiser footage was nowhere to be found. Most important among the missing footage: a speech by the charity’s CEO. It was gone—or so it seemed. But Gillware was on the case.

Our AJA data recovery experts took the hard drive out of this AJA Ki Pro storage module to recover its data.

Our AJA data recovery experts took the hard drive out of this AJA Ki Pro storage module to recover its data.


AJA Data Recovery Case Study: Recovering Missing Video Footage
Device Model: AJA Ki Pro KI-STOR250-R0 hard disk storage module
Drive Model: Hitachi HTS721010A9E630
Drive Capacity: 1 TB
Operating/File System: Mac HFS+
Data Loss Situation: The device recorded about an hour of footage. Afterward, the AJA Ki Pro deck registered about 89% remaining capacity. Then, while the Ki Pro deck was sitting idle, the capacity changed to 90%. The recently recorded footage was missing.
Type of Data Recovered: Missing video footage of a charity fundraising event
Binary Read: 100%
Gillware Data Recovery Case Rating: 4


AJA Data Recovery Process

Fortunately for our client, our engineers are no strangers to data mysteriously vanishing from hard disk drives. We see it every day. In many cases where data suddenly goes missing, the hard drive itself is physically healthy. However, something has gone wrong, logically, that breaks up the neat little trail of breadcrumbs that leads you to some (or all) of your data.

At our data recovery lab, our engineers have plenty of tools to find these forgotten files once they’ve been deleted, or the drive has been reformatted, or a little logical hiccup has caused data to perform an entirely unwelcome disappearing act. And, more importantly, they understand the way hard drives store data well enough to properly use these tools. We can uncover old file records for deleted files, out-of-date filesystem geometry for reformatted hard drives, or scan for file headers to find files that have been “exiled” from the hard drive’s logical kingdom.

But when we need to recover deleted (or just plain missing) data from AJA storage modules, things work a little differently.

Audio and video codecs

There are enough different types of audio and video container files and codecs out there to make your head spin. (image source)

How AJA Ki Pro Video Recovery Differs from Average Logical Data Recovery Cases

Our data recovery specialists receive AJA Ki Pro storage modules from clients just like the one in this AJA data recovery case study every so often. Most of them have the same problems our client here did. The video they’d taken had gone missing.

Our logical data recovery engineers have an additional hurdle to go through in these types of cases, compared to other logical data loss situations. When you create a video, everything you record starts out as stream data. When you finish and finalize the recording, you pack up all of that stream data into a container file. The container file is the MP4 or WMV, MOV, MKV, AVI, etc. file we associate with videos.
In many AJA data recovery cases, this container file has vanished. The container file itself was never made when the user stopped recording. Or the container file was lost in a logical hiccup. However it happened, the container file has ceased to exist.

Basically, what this means is that there’s no file for our engineers to recover. But there is still data to be dredged up—the raw stream data itself, which we can find by modifying our usual data recovery tools.

How do we find this stream data?

It’s a simple answer—but it belies all of the hard work it takes to reach it. Our data recovery platform HOMBRE contains within its database file headers for thousands of common file types, including the headers for every major type of video file. The same techniques we use to scan for valid file headers can be repurposed to scan for stream data instead.

We can search for the signatures of various video codecs (MPEG-4, H.264, AVC, etc). But here’s the catch: We have to build the list of codec signatures ourselves.

AJA Ki Pro Video Recovery Results

This AJA data recovery case was a task for Cody, one of our logical data recovery experts. Cody sifted through every single sector on the hard drive, using his modified tools to dredge up any signs of stream data on the drive. Finding the stream data, putting it together, and wrapping it up into a new container file took a lot of hard work on Cody’s part.

The end result of Cody’s efforts: fifteen minutes of healthy video footage, free of audiovisual glitches or distortions. In other words, one-quarter of the total footage. However, the fifteen minutes recovered contained nearly the entirety of the CEO’s speech—a highlight of the charity event and well worth the effort of data recovery in and of itself. Cody’s work paid off. Our AJA video recovery efforts were successful.

Will Ascenzo
Will Ascenzo
Will is the lead blogger, copywriter, and copy editor for Gillware Data Recovery and Forensics, and a staunch advocate against the abuse of innocent semicolons.
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