Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Real World Experiences with Old World Tape Formats: Distribution of Archival Moving Images through Amazon's CreateSpace Disc-on-Demand

Presented by Janel Quirante, Stanford University, and Craig Asato, DC Video.

Asato and Quirante talked about the challenges of preserving moving images and a creative solution in providing access over the Internet.

Asato presented first, describing the work his company does with moving images. The company specializes in restoring and remastering archived media, including damage repair, cleanup, preservation and migrating obsolete recording formats to current formats.

Asato reminded the audience that tapes don't last forever, the machines and the parts to maintain them are disappearing and even the people who know how to run the machines are now hard to find. Asato showed us several images of damaged tapes. When water and fire resistant containers are not used, tapes can suffer water and mold damage. Tapes can get wrinkled and too sticky to unwind. The glue from the foam flange on tape containers can cause damage when the flange deteriorates and gets stuck to the tape. A technique called tape baking at 130 degrees helps to stabilize tapes against hydrolysis and removes stickiness. Metal tapes do not have to be baked. Asato noted that Hawaii has one of the harshest environments for tapes.

The process for transferring content from one tape to another media involves:
• proper machine setup
• signal alignment
• human monitoring of transfer
• and the transfer to analog or digital formats

Asato suggested that for storing tapes, they need a clean, stable environment with temperature and humidity control. The tapes should be stored upright and the collection monitored regularly. If a tape has mold it should not be played, as it will damage the player.

Janel Quirante described her work at the Hoover Institute with the Firing Line video collection. This television series was first produced by a New York television company and then by PBS. It ran from 1966 to 1999 and was hosted by William F. Buckley Jr., who focused each show on a different social issue and highlighted famous guests. The Hoover Institute has the entire collection and all the copyrights. This includes 1,505 titles and 3,043 accessioned videotapes in five different formats. The most common format they have is the three-quarter-inch Umatics. A third of the titles have been preserved; 992 are not yet preserved. The Institute chose to first preserve shows for which they had only one copy and shows which featured particularly famous guests or popular topics. It costs $500 per hour of footage to preserve the tapes. Problems with their tapes include glue, wrinkles and debris. The Institute depends on grants and some sales, but they break even.

The Institute now partners with Amazon to distribute the videos. Amazon's Disc on Demand has helped with creating a revenue to support their preservation efforts. Amazon does the digitizing, stores the master on their servers and creates the dvds. Currently, 107 titles are on sale at Amazon (others can be purchased through special order).

Amazon requires that the organization it works with has copyright for all the content, including DVD artwork. It also requires that the organization provide the metadata. Amazon has a metadata spreadsheet that was easy to use. Many of the metadata elements were what the Institute used.

Amazon accepts all kinds of formats and accepted the Hoover Institute's betacam digital video format since the Institute chose that format for preservation. The DVDs include the FBI copyright statement and information about the Hoover Institute and how the tape was preserved and archived. The DVD artwork was selected from their collection and used to create a design template. The descriptive text on the DVD cover changes within the context of the design.

Quirante had an administrative account so they could log in and run reports on the Amazon colletion. When they started marketing the DVDs interest was very high because, coincidentally, Buckley had died earlier that same year. They promoted the sales by loading samples on YouTube. They have sold 11,000 DVDs and earned $40,000 in royalties. The funds were used to preserve 47 additional titles. The hope is to continue with preserving the rest of the collection.

Amazon charged a fee of $25/hour for the digitizing service and gets a cut of the royalties. The more videos you digitize, the cheaper the cost. You can set your own list price. The Institute gets a proof copy. The Institute can choose to sell the DVDs elsewhere, decide which DVDs to keep on the Amazon site and change the price of the DVDs.

-- Sunny Pai

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