Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Report: Preserving Moving Pictures and Sound

I received this press release and wanted to share it.  With more than 100 years of moving pictures, this is an important topic.

The DPC, Richard Wright and Charles Beagrie Ltd are delighted to announce the release of the latest DPC Technology Watch Report ‘Preserving Moving Pictures and Sound’, written by Richard Wright, formerly of the BBC.

‘Moving image and sound content is at great risk’, explained Richard Wright.  ‘Surveys have shown that 74 per cent of professional collections are small: 5,000 hours or less. Such collections have a huge challenge if their holdings are to be preserved. About 85 per cent of sound and moving image content is still analogue, and in 2005 almost 100 per cent was still on shelves rather than being in files on mass storage. Surveys have also shown that in universities there is a major problem of material that is scattered, unidentified, undocumented and not under any form of preservation plan. These collection surveys are from Europe and North America because there is no survey of the situation in the UK, in itself a cause for concern.’

‘This report is for anyone with responsibility for collections of sound or moving image content and an interest in preservation of that content.’ 

‘New content is born digital, analogue audio and video need digitization to survive and film requires digitization for access. Consequently, digital preservation will be relevant over time to all these areas. The report concentrates on digitization, encoding, file formats and wrappers, use of compression, obsolescence and what to do about the particular digital preservation problems of sound and moving images.’

The report discusses issues of moving digital content from carriers (such as CD and DVD, digital videotape, DAT and minidisc) into files. This digital to digital ‘ripping’ of content is an area of digital preservation unique to the audio-visual world, and has unsolved problems of control of errors in the ripping and transfer process. It goes on to consider digital preservation of the content within the files that result from digitization or ripping, and the files that are born digital. While much of this preservation has problems and solutions in common with other content, there is a specific problem of preserving the quality of the digitized signal that is again unique to audio-visual content. Managing quality through cycles of ‘lossy’ encoding, decoding and reformatting is one major digital preservation challenge for audio-visual as are issues of managing embedded metadata.

DPC members have already had a preview.  Pip Laurenson of Tate commented ‘This is  a terrific report. Thank you so much for commissioning it - it is the best thing I have read on the subject.’ 

The report has also been subject to extensive review prior before publication.  Oya Rieger and colleagues at Cornell University who reviewed the final draft welcomed the report: ‘It is a very thorough report. We realize that it was a challenging process to gather and organize all this information and present it in a succinct narrative. Another virtue of the report is that it incorporates both analog and digital media issues. The final section with conclusions and recommendation is very strong and provides an excellent summary.'  

Another reviewer explained why the preview for DPC-members was so timely: ‘We are currently working on a grant proposal focusing on new media art and having access to the preserving moving pictures and sound report was very useful. The report provides a thorough characterization of the current practices, shortcomings, and challenges. Having access to the report has saved us from spending expensive time on conducting a literature review. ‘

DPC Technology Watch Reports identify, delineate, monitor and address topics that have major bearing on ensuring our collected digital memory will be available tomorrow.  They provide an advanced introduction in order to support those charged with ensuring a robust digital memory and they are of general interest to a wide and international audience with interests in computing, information management, collections management and technology.  The reports are commissioned after consultation with members; they are written by experts; and they are thoroughly scrutinised by peers before being released.  The reports are informed, current, concise and balanced and they lower the barriers to participation in digital preservation. The reports are a distinctive and lasting contribution to the dissemination of good practice in digital preservation.

‘Preserving Moving Pictures and Sound’ is the second Technology Watch Report to be published by the DPC in association with Charles Beagrie Ltd. Neil Beagrie, Director of Consultancy at Charles Beagrie Ltd, was commissioned to act as principal investigator and managing editor of the series in 2011.  The managing editor has been further supported by an Editorial Board drawn from DPC members and peer reviewers who have commented on the text prior to release.  The Editorial Board comprises William Kilbride (Chair), Neil Beagrie (Series Editor), Janet Delve (University of Portsmouth), Sarah Higgins (Archives and records Association), Tim Keefe (Trinity College Dublin), Andrew McHugh (University of Glasgow) and Dave Thompson (Wellcome Library).

The report is online at: (PDF 915KB)

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