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Old November 22nd, 2004, 03:43 AM   #1
New Boot
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Exeter, SW England
Posts: 16
Digital archiving

I am currently doing some work for a museum. They have a considerable archive of visual material on 16mm film, and a variety of video formats, mostly VHS. There are no copies, and for that reason it is currently unavailable for access by researchers or the public.

Cost is a big issue. Having said that, I am thinking that transferring it all to DVD, using best current practice, is a good solution. One or maybe two sets kept in "perfect" conditions in alternative locations, plus additional copies for handling/use.

As soon as an alternative storage medium becomes available, then transfer everything to that, either from the extant original material, or from the digital copies.

It strikes me that issues are:

1) Permanence of the medium. I have heard a lot of anecdotal evidence about recordable media that don't work because of misuse or poor storage. How about stuff kept under optimum conditions? Can we sort fact from anecdote on this issue?
Irrespective of what we say about its limitations, DVD is a great format for digital storage, convenient, and the technology is affordable. We can only do our best with what we have, within a given budget.

2) Quality. If I digitise the VHS, my experience is that it gets better! Probably the timebase correction. A lot of old film is of rather poor quality anyway, so without any major enhancement, there actually isn't a lot of detail to lose.

3) Accessibility. Anyone have any experience of cataloguing and making available such material? Where can I find more info on this?

Well, there it is. Comments anyone?

Nigel Cheffers-Heard
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Old November 22nd, 2004, 04:13 AM   #2
RED Code Chef
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Holland
Posts: 12,514
I don't have any experience with this at all, but I know a bit about
DVD recording/archiving.

I would not trust recordable DVD media to store my archives,
the media/recorder/reader compatability is just not that great.

Are you going to give these burned copies out to the public? If
so it will be handled badly for sure.

Why not contact some DVD replication facilities (probably smaller
ones will work better in this case) and ask if they can help you
in this matter to get some pressed DVD's? (mainly if you want to
get the discs out to the public).

If you are going to go with DVD archiving I would at least burn
multiple copies on different media brands and perhaps even
different standards (ie, -R and +R). Or keep backups of your
original capture footage on harddisks? Harddisks are pretty
cheap and you can store a pretty decent amount of RAW DV
(if you capture to that) on it (ie, 13 GB for an hour of DV) and
just put them inside a vault or something (I would go with
external harddisks with both firewire and USB2 connectors and
an SATA harddisk inside so it should be pretty compatible to read
in the near future).

In my opinion capturing VHS to digital might indeed clean up the
footage a bit, but it might need higher quality gear and special
post processing to make it much better (which is costly both in
money and time).

Good luck with your project!

Rob Lohman,
DV Info Wrangler & RED Code Chef

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