Audiovisual-Collections


Progress continues on the optical media project here in the Preservation Department. All discs in the University Lecture Series collection have been ripped and are now in the process of being permanently stored. If permissions allow, certain lectures will also be uploaded to the Special Collections’ YouTube channel.
Technically speaking, most of the time so far has been spent navigating the Ripstation, a combination hardware/software system designed to rip large number of optical discs. The collection includes more than 1000 discs, primarily formatted as CD-DA, DVD Video, or data discs. Each of these formats requires a slightly different approach to preservation, typically in the form of what software is used.

The Ripstation at ISU Special Collections.

The Ripstation at ISU Special Collections.

The majority of the discs recorded before 2010 were formatted as Compact Disc-Digital Audio (CD-DA). Because this is also the format most commercial CDs use, Ripstation’s proprietary software (also called Ripstation) was best-suited, as it is optimized for this sort of collection. Discs were ripped into two different formats for both preservation and access purposes. For preservation, the BWF 96khz/24bit format was selected for its lossless, uncompressed quality and its ability to embed desired metadata within the wrapper’s header, thus greatly reducing the chance of intellectual separation between content and metadata. For access, the .MP3 format was selected, because it is widely accepted and supported as an accessible audio format. In addition, of the available output formats, .MP3 can be most easily transcoded into an .MP4 file to upload to Special Collections’ YouTube access channel, with little risk for losing any data.

This transcoding for the access copies is handled by Adobe Media Encoder, as is uploading directly into the Lecture Series playlist. To match the access copies from the magnetic media, part of the Lecture Series collection that has already been uploaded, the desired output is an .MP4 with audio wrapped inside with a logo (YouTube only accepts video files). After upload, we apply closed captions to all files for accessibility.

An overview of the settings used in Media Encoder.

An overview of the settings used in Media Encoder.

For the DVD-Video carriers in the collection, the desired output (perhaps somewhat obviously) differs from the CD-DA carriers. After some experimentation with variants on a data validation workflow, our conclusion was that the optimal output for Special Collections’ purposes was an .ISO disc image, which can be mounted easily as an access copy for researchers.

As the project progressed, some discs we encountered were neither CD-DA nor DVD, but simply data discs onto which .MP3 or other media files had been “dragged and dropped.” These were ripped with the DataGrabber software, and their original file format was maintained.

A selection of the optical discs held in the Lecture Series Collection.

A selection of the optical discs held in the Lecture Series Collection.

What metadata Ripstation uses and where it draws them from varies by the software used, which itself varies by the format of optical disc being ripped. Ripstation’s primary software is the program of the same name, which is intended for CD-DA-formatted discs, typically commercial ones. For automatic metadata population, an internet connection is required, so Ripstation can scour private and open-source databases for the artist, album, track titles, and other relevant metadata per disc. Acquiring metadata this way would not be helpful to the project because of the singular and noncommercial nature of the content. Due to this constraint, as well as networking limitations, this particular Ripstation was left offline.

So from where could the software draw its metadata? Ripstation has accounted for this possibility in the design of the User Data feature. Typically, the names of ripped files could be an assigned structure of metadata that would look something like %D_%A_%Y . Each letter corresponds to an established metadata category, so files named according to this structure will look like “[AlbumName]_[AlbumArtistName]_[AlbumDate]”. This system also allows for user-input metadata, in the form of a .TXT file in the program folder. The User Data system, which allows up to 10 user-defined metadata categories (%0 – %9) and can be used with all Ripstation software, is what we used for this project.

Each disc file was named according to its AV number and container number, according to the information available in the masterlist. For later discs with no container number available, that value was substituted with the date of recording. Batches were named with the reference number of the collection, the container number of the first disc, the container number of the last disc, and (if CD-DA or DVD) the disc type.

Now that all 1000 discs have been ripped, the next phase is twofold: 1. Documenting the project (of which this blog post is a part) and 2. For the lectures without permissions restrictions, encoding and uploading to the Special Collection’s YouTube Channel. This process has already begun, with over 5000 minutes of audio made publicly available so far.

[originally posted July, 2017]

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A Common Video Preservation Scenario: A researcher requests a copy of a show held in your special collections. It’s a university production from the 1970s, a unique recording on ¾” tape. This tape is an “at-risk” item, because the inherent vulnerabilities of magnetic based media. What do you do? Do you send it out to a vendor, or do you digitize the tape in-house? Where possible, it’s best to digitize at-risk items in-house. It’s faster, it’s more economical over the long-term, and you can maintain your own quality-control standards.

AV preservationists have spent un-countable hours of our lives discussing the best capture format for analog video preservation. But actually… how you send the signal from the deck to the computer’s capture card is the most important aspect of digitizing analog video. You can capture 10-bit 4:2:2 anything, but the quality of what you’re capturing is linked to the signal you’re sending. So with this fact in mind, this post will describe the necessary equipment and guide you through the basic setup required for digitizing your at-risk analog video in-house.

One of the biggest issues that defines magnetic media as “at-risk” is obsolescence. It’s quite difficult to find and maintain the device needed for analog video playback. Prepare to spend some time digging around online or contacting potential dealers to find a functioning playback device. A good place to start looking for old, obsolete AV equipment is the on-campus video production house. They might have old gear hanging around! Or a local television station may have gear to donate to your archives. Be creative. You need well-maintained, industry-grade equipment with as much related documentation as possible. Those dog-eared operational and service manuals are invaluable for maintaining the functionality of old gear.

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RG-59/U 75 Ohms Broadcast BNC Video Cable

Using correct cables and cabling may be the single most important aspect to setting up a video preservation rack. Know your source signal (composite, component, or Y/C ) and send it out using only the highest-grade shielded cable. Remember: Shielding reduces electrical noise and…its impact on signals and…lowers electromagnetic radiation. Shielding prevents cross-talk between cables… Shielding not only protects cable but… machinery and people as well. [1] http://www.wireandcabletips.com/importance-shielding-cabling/

PRO-TIPS: Cables, Cabling, and Termination
• ALWAYS use broadcast-quality RG59 BNC 75ohm cables for video
• ALWAYS prefer XLR (balanced audio) cables to RCA (unbalanced audio) cables
• ALWAYS terminate open loops with 75ohm terminators at end of signal loops*

*But be careful! Improper termination can affect the video signal. A double termination can cut the video signal in half, while a lack of termination will overload the video signal. This might be where you need professional help.

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75ohm Terminator

CONGRATULATIONS!! You have managed to acquire a professional-grade BVU U-matic deck that supports machine control input. Now you are able to control the deck from a computer via a RS-422 cable, not missing any information at the beginning of the tape. This is good. This is why the RS-422 cable is included on the equipment list.

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RS-422 cable for Remote Control

Now what about the capture card and computer? I like the AJA KONA LHi capture card and AJA KONA KLHi-Box. Together, these will allow for seamless capture of composite, component, and Y/C (for analog signals) and SDI or HDMI (for digital signals). The KONA LHi works well with Premiere CS6, but it also has its own software that captures SD analog video as 10-bit 4:2:2 uncompressed v210. The Kona LHi is also able to capture closed captioning and timecode information. All of these are required metadata for video preservation. The preservation master could have up to five streams of data per file: a video stream, two audio streams, timecode, and closed captioning CEA-608. With newer computers, you’ll have to place the AJA Kona Li capture card in a thunderbolt expansion case and send the digital video signal from the expansion case to computer‘s thunderbolt in.

Now. It’s very important to place a Time Base Corrector between the deck and the capture card. You also need waveform and vector scope connected post-TBC, so you can monitor and adjust the video signal, using the scopes as your measurement tools. For example, if color bars are in front of the program, you can adjust the luma, chroma, black (set up), and hue (NTSC only) levels to get the best possible signal from the tape. Also, I recommend having all equipment ‘genlocked’ to the same reference to ensure picture stability. For SD composite video, it’s called blackburst – a composite signal of black with no picture data. With all pieces of equipment timed and in-sync, or locked to master sync, you increase the stability of your capture.

My preference for signal monitoring is viewing the signal directly off the deck, as well as post capture card. This helps pinpoint where any problems might occur in the signal. For example, if there is visible signal error on the monitor connected at the end of the chain (post capture), but the video looks good coming straight out of the deck, you can focus your troubleshooting on the cables, settings, and equipment either at or after the TBC point. It’s also important to have a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor in order to view the video signal as it was originally intended. AND it’s best to have a CRT with blue-only, underscan, and H-V delay features. ‘Blue only’ allows you to calibrate your reference monitor with color bars and monitor your VTR noise. ‘Underscan’ allows you to see every scan line in the video signal, and ‘H-V delay’ allows you to check vertical and horizontal sync. These features will help you get the best signal out of your deck and troubleshoot any signal errors.

This brings me to the last piece of gear to install in your AV Rack: a test pattern generator. A test generator helps you check proper signal flow by sending a test pattern, like color bars, through the signal path. You can also use the color bar test pattern to set display levels – like brightness – and contrast to ensure your monitor is properly calibrated.

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Video Preservation Rack

YOUR EQUIPMENT LIST
• Professional rack*
• Professional-grade decks for each format (U-maticSP, BetaSp, VHS, SVHS, Digibeta, etc.)
• RG59 BNC 75 Ohm cables
• 75 Ohm BNC terminations
• XLR cables
• RS-422 cable
• Time Base Corrector/Proc Amp
• Test generator
• Sync generator
•  ADC Patch bay
• AJA Kona capture card
• AJA Breakout box and cable
• Sonnet Echo Express SE I Thunderbolt 3 to full-height/half-length PCIe card
• Waveform and vector scope monitors
• CRT monitor**
• Computer***
• Calibrated computer monitors
* sturdy, does not wobble, and allows decks to be pulled out easily and safely
** preferably one that has underscan, blue-only, and H/V delay
*** preferably with a high-speed processor, minimum 16GB memory and 1TB storage

Well, I hope this was helpful for anyone wanting to build an AV preservation rack for their special collections. In the next issue of AV Club, I’ll be discussing best practice for embedding technical metadata into files for future digital preservation conservators. Cheers!

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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ with ‘burnt-in’ opening title

When you’re going to digitally preserve a film (or a film series or an entire film collection), the important first step is to gather information on your film. Is your film 16mm, 35mm, 8mm, or 9.5mm, etc.? Is it color or black-and-white? Do you have the original negative, or only a print? Is the magnetic soundtrack available? If you only have an optical soundtrack, is it a negative or the positive? The list goes on – and the information can get pretty granular – but to keep this post simple, I’ll focus on the basics for a single film with an exciting title: The Champion.

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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ A-Roll (16mm Reversal)

The Champion was filmed in 1971 by Jim Doran, a student in the Department of Speech and Telecommunicative Arts at ISU. It features wrestling prodigy Dan Gable, whose wrestling career at ISU produced an impressive 117-1 record. He was also a two-time national champion and a gold medalist in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. So clearly, The Champion is a significant record for preservation in ISU Special Collections and University Archives.

We found for the picture elements, trims, an edited work print, A-B Rolls, and combined prints. With all the different versions held, how do we pick the best one for preservation?

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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ B-Roll(16MM reversal)

With 16mm reversal film, filmmakers developed the A-B roll negative cutting system. After finalizing the final cut using a workprint they would then cut the master materials into two individual rolls, the ‘A’ roll and the ‘B’ roll. The A-B roll alternates between shots and opaque leader, completely in-sync. This pattern was called ‘checker boarding’. You can (and should) verify that all elements are in-sync by running each film through a gang synchronizer to ensure that the same number of frames are on each element. When you have A-B (and possibly C-D) rolls of 16mm film in your collection, treat them as your master negatives.

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1/4″ final mix sound track under a magnetic viewer with 60 hertz pilot tone

With the soundtrack, you might see optical tracks titled ‘A wind’ and ‘B wind’, a 16mm magtrack (the magnetic track), or a ¼” final mix master magtrack.  I chose to digitize the ¼” final mix master magtrack. There are a variety of reasons to choose the magtrack over the optical track whenever possible, but the most important reason is fidelity. Optical tracks are vulnerable to scratches, dust, and dirt that sound like pops and clicks when they’re transferred. Optical tracks have also been mixed with the Academy Curve in mind, so they contain attenuation of 18 decibels at 8Khz. Not to mention the poor signal to noise ratio, as a result, they don’t have the highest possible sound quality. The ¼” final mix, if it’s available, will be your highest quality soundtrack. The only issue you have to be aware of is sync(pilot tone). Keeping your sound perfectly in-sync with the picture is more difficult than you might think! (But that’s another post.)

So…the end result of scanning the A-B roll and digitizing the 1/4 “final mix soundtrack for The Champion is here. Compare that to our older, SD telecine version here. Hope this brief introduction to A-B roll film preservation was helpful. Cheers.

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It has been a wonderful year in the ISU Library Conservation Lab. We’re grateful for the coworkers, interns, and students who helped make this a productive year, and are looking forward to another fresh start in 2015 (after a well-deserved break, of course).  We wish you all a very happy holiday season!

As I reach the end of my internship, I would like to share a brief description of some of the projects I have worked on during the last three months as well as some personal observations.  Two of the film projects I addressed were the re-housing of the Alexander Lippisch Films Collection and the condition assessment of the general Film Collection located in the film vaults. For my first task involving the Lippisch Films, the goal and workflow were quite straightforward. The majority of the 306 films (in most cases roughly 100 ft.) were stored in their original metal cans or cardboard boxes. They were also in their original reels, which was often a Tenite reel that had decomposed, covering the film with a white powder. Finally, they were stored in groups of approximately 20 objects per box inside large, archival boxes.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

My work with this collection consisted in transferring all films from their original plastic or metal reels into 3-inch plastic cores. This is the best way to keep film, because it avoids the potentially damaging pressure that a reel might produce, and it also prevents the extreme curling that is caused by 2-inch cores. In addition, protective head and tail leaders were added to all films and then stored in adequate 16mm archival plastic cans.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

Even though I didn’t have the time to thoroughly inspect, clean and repair all films, I was able to provide them with minimal stabilization and remove as much non-archival tape as I could. The tape had damaged the adjacent areas, producing stains, silver mirroring and other chemical reactions.

Film had been secured with non archival tape

Film had been secured with non archival tape.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Finally, a selection of films was prepared for digitization. The digitization projects currently being carried out at Special Collections have access purposes only. This means that the image quality of the files produced is good enough for research and access but does not meet the standards of long-term digital preservation.

Another issue I addressed was testing the decomposition level of the acetate films. Since its inception, motion picture film has been manufactured with three different plastic bases. The first utilized base was cellulose nitrate, discontinued around 1951 due to its extremely high flammability. Nitrate was eventually replaced by cellulose acetate which is still being used today. The third, polyester, also continues to be used, particularly for theatrical release prints. Unfortunately, acetate has proven to be chemically unstable and is prone to chemical decay, especially when it is not stored in the appropriate conditions of temperature and relative humidity (40 Fº and 30-50% RH). This type of decomposition is known as vinegar syndrome, in reference to the strong odor produced by acidic gases liberated by the decaying films.
The Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology developed an important tool, A-D Strips, which helps determine the extent of chemical decay in acetate-based collections. This is achieved through the use of indicator papers that measure the pH in films. During my internship, I tested the collection with the help of students and Special Collections staff. The results and the data collected will allow us to understand how the chemical condition of the collection evolved and decide what are the most urgent actions to be carried out within a thorough preservation plan.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

Severely decayed film.

Severely decayed film.

In summation, I would like to share some thoughts about my experience as a film preservationist who learned some paper conservation techniques, and worked for three months in a paper-based environment. Most of the differences that I perceived derive most likely from the fact that audiovisual objects are machine-dependent, as opposed to books or paper documents. This means that in order to “read” a movie or sound record a machine is needed (i.e. projector, deck, computer, etc.). This main difference with paper is reflected in the conservation treatments that the materials need in order to be preserved. With books and paper, we work on the object to make it readable and agreeable for immediate contact with our eyes. With films, we work on preparing the object to be read or processed by a machine. Anyone who works in the field of conservation understands the importance of preserving our cultural heritage in its varying facets, from the intimate value of a family photograph to those works that are considered national patrimony, or even world heritage. I am pleased to have collaborated with Iowa State University in saving valuable audiovisual documents that are part of its identity as an institution and a community.

As Melissa mentioned in a previous blog, I am the 2014 Audiovisual Preservation Lennox Intern. My area of expertise is not books or paper, but I still deal with objects from the past that are part of our cultural heritage and that we must conserve, preserve, and when necessary (and possible) restore. Even when paper conservators and film preservationists do not communicate with one another, their work has more in common than most of them probably suspect.

Breaking down those barriers is one of my goals during my internship at the ISU Library. I hope to bring more thoughts and anecdotes about my work in a future post, but today I would like to tell you about my experience at the AMIA Conference 2014, held in Savannah, GA, on October 7th-11th.

The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) has been working for several decades representing over 750 audiovisual archivists from all over the world. Since 1991, AMIA has formally been an individual-based professional association, unique in the field, providing representation and camaraderie not only to institutional archivists, but also to students and recent graduates.

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The Lucas Theater, in Savannah, GA, hosted the Archival Screening Night.

Every year we gather in a beautiful city (Savannah, GA this year) to share experiences, exchange different opinions, raise questions, and learn from one another’s work. The AMIA conference is a great place for new film archivists to learn and network. It is also a great opportunity for conservators, archivists, and librarians that have film collections in their care to learn the basics, ask questions, and make contacts that might come in handy when dealing with special materials.

There are traditional topics that are always candidates for panels and discussions, such as acetate and nitrate deterioration, best practices, the unknown future of digital collections, and the transition from film to digital, among others. This year, the conference presented three curated streams of programming that analyzed matters that are of most interest in the present days.

The first one was “Open Source Digital Preservation and Access” which covered the basics of open source software for audiovisual collections management and highlighted some relevant current projects.

The second program (my favorite) was “Film in Transition,” which discussed the implications that the evolution of the industry — from film to digital — has for film archives and everyone who still needs to work with film stock. Basically, the question was: will archives will be able to continue to preserve films with so many labs closing and such a limited production of film stock?

Last but not least, the third stream was entitled “Global Exchange,” and brought voices from all over the world to share solutions and exchange ideas. This year I was very happy to see a panel discussing the activities in the South American archives, and particularly the staff from Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Film Museum), the most important film archive from Argentina, my home country.

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I met with Paula Felix-Didier and Andres Levinson from Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires.

To conclude, there were two special moments that were my favorite. The archival screening night at the marvelous Lucas Theater, in which archives were invited to share a 6-minute clip from the treasures of their collections. I would very much like to see something from the ISU Film Collection next year! Last, the obsolete film formats panel, where they presented the smallest film gauge ever used, 3mm, the cutest medium ever!

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The smallest film gauge ever invented – 3 mm.

For more information about the event, visit the conference website.

For more information on film preservation, visit the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Today is the first day of the 2014 Lennox Foundation Internship for Preservation Education, Outreach, and Training.  Our Lennox Interns often come during the summer months, but this year a Fall semester internship worked best for everyone. We have two Lennox interns this year, each specializing in a different aspect of preservation.

2014 Lennox Interns Nicole Monjeau (left) and Gloria Diez (right).

2014 Lennox Interns Nicole Monjeau (left) and Gloria Diez (right).

Nicole Monjeau is our Lennox Intern for Preservation of Photographic Materials. Nicole is from Minnesota, and just graduated with an MA in Paper Conservation from the Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London. Nicole also has a BFA in Photography from the College of Visual Arts, St. Paul, MN, and within the context of her paper conservation training,  focused as much as she could on photographic materials.  She also recently attended a Professional Conservators in Practice short course in photograph conservation with Susie Clark at West Dean College in Chichester, England.  Nicole will be working on photographic collections from our University Archives, including some lantern slides and glass plate negatives which could use some TLC.

Gloria Diez is our Lennox Intern for Preservation of Audiovisual Materials.  Gloria is from Argentina, and just graduated from the certificate program at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at George Eastman House. She also has a BA in Art History and Theory with specialization in Cinema Studies from the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Her goal after completing her training in the U.S. is to return to South America and work toward preserving and making accessible Latin America’s audiovisual heritage. During her internship at ISU Library, she will assess our audiovisual collections in Special Collections and University Archives and devise a detailed preservation plan for them.  In addition, Gloria will be training with me and technician Mindy Moeller in the conservation lab, where Gloria will learn basic paper and book repair techniques which may prove useful in her future work in a film archives.

We are delighted to welcome Gloria and Nicole to the ISU University Library. Be sure to check the blog for updates from the interns themselves about their projects in the coming months!