The Magnetic Media Crisis
The world’s audiovisual heritage is in a moment of crisis. Magnetic media is a time sensitive format, with a predicted life expectancy of between 20 and 30 years. The reality of less-than-ideal environmental conditions mean that the actual lifespan of our magnetic media is much less than that. In a 2018 white paper, the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives announced that “the time… has nearly passed to preserve the millions of videotapes produced from the 1970s to the early 2000s and held in archives around the world.”
Unlike other mediums, such as paper or photographs, magnetic media cannot be stored indefinitely, even in perfect archival conditions. According to the Library of Congress, “optical discs and magnetic tape are made of materials that may have inherent chemical instabilities.” Over time, the data stored on magnetic tape degrades to the point of being effectively destroyed. To compound this problem, very few organizations have retained the equipment necessary for viewing tapes that are more than 20 years old (including U-matic, Betacam, or 1-inch Type C formats). Finally, the technicians who know how to maintain obsolete equipment are also becoming few and far between.
This magnetic media crisis is leaving institutions with thousands of important videotapes languishing in their collections, often inaccessible to the public, and at serious risk of being lost forever. MIPoPS offers services that help heritage institutions digitize videotape and provides tools and advice to help preserve and make video recordings available to researchers and the public.
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- AV Compass – Free online resource from the Bay Area Video Coalition. Help with identification, assessment, inventorying, and preservation planning of AV materials.
- Video Preservation: The Basics – Experimental Television Center
Identification and Assessment
- Videotape Identification and Assessment Guide – Texas Commission on the Arts, 2004
- Preservation Self Assessment Program’s Format ID Guide – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Video Format Identification Guide – Sarah Stauderman & Paul Messier, Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education
Care and Storage
- Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling: A Guide for Libraries and Archives – Dr. John W.C. Van Bogart, National Media Laboratory
- Care, Handling, and Storage of Audio Visual Materials – Library of Congress
- PBCore – A cataloging standard for the description of audiovisual content.
- American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) Cataloging Guidelines
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard – Society of American Archivists
- Open Source list of Workflows for AV Preservation Projects – Association of Moving Image Archivists
Set up and Equipment
- Minimum Viable Workstation Documentation – Ashley Blewer
- Minimum Viable Workstation Recipes – Ashley Blewer
- The Cable Bible: A Guide to Cables and Connectors Used for Audiovisual Tech – Association of Moving Image Archivists
- How Codecs Work (Video)- B&H Photo Video
- White Paper: Encoding and Wrapper Decisions and Implementation for Video Preservation Master Files – Mike Casey, Indiana University Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative
- Choosing a Digital Format for Video Archiving Masters – PACKED vzw: Centre of Expertise in Digital Heritage
- FFv1 Codec: Sustainability of Digital Formats, Planning for Library of Congress Collections – Library of Congress
- AV Artifact Atlas – Bay Area Video Coalition
- VRECORD – Open-source software for capturing a video signal and turning it into a digital file.
- VIDEOAIP – Creates Archival Information Packages that adhere to the bagit standard with an mp4 access file, technical metadata and checksums.
- MediaInfo – Displays the most relevant technical and tag data for video and audio files.
- MediaConch – An extensible, open source software project consisting of an implementation checker, policy checker, reporter, and fixer that targets preservation-level audiovisual files (specifically Matroska, Linear Pulse Code Modulation (LPCM) and FF Video Codec 1 (FFV1)) for use in memory institutions.
Creating Access Files and Editing Video
- Handbrake – A tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs.
- Ffmpeg – A complete, cross-platform solution to record, convert and stream audio and video.
- Ffimprovisor – An excellent guide to using ffmpeg.
- MKVToolNix – A set of tools to create, alter and inspect Matroska files under Linux, other Unices and Windows.
- Internet Archive – Anyone with a free account can upload media to the Internet Archive. They work with thousands of partners globally to save copies of their work into special collections.
- Working with Internet Archive through the Command Line – Internet Archive