The Future Is Here

I recently recovered from the Archive Association of Ontario‘s annual conference where I was outed as a one time blogger while speaking on digitization planning and resources. Unfortunately you’ll have noticed a gap between posts that can’t be explained away by vacation, illness, or an extended bender. Life simply got in the way.

The message of the conference was that it is now critical to begin digitization, particularly audiovisual material. The crux of my message is that every archive must develop it’s own plan based on its own needs and resources. There is no perfect answer. Do the best with what you have. Planning will help you maximize your results.

Even if you obtain resources, you’ll need to know what to do with them. Here are some reliable sources of information and tools for AV digitization planning. They, and many more valuable ones will also be posted on the AAO website when it finishes it’s upgrade.

Audiovisual Archiving: Philosophy and Principles” lays out foundations for AV archiving that will help you make decisions on digitization later.

PRESTO sums up the Preservation Factory approach that is allows archives to digitize effectively with time and budget constraints. PRESTOCentre is the continuing Knowledge Centre for the organization.

Training for Audiovisual Preservation in Europe (TAPE) has easy to read papers on technical considerations and guides for costing.

AV Preserve is a private company but they give advice freely and share much of it on their website. Their Primer On Codecs and other papers explain file types, wrappers, and the effects of compression in simple terms.

This Library of Congress site, lists technical standards and provides metadata standards. Whenever looking at standards pick those that are applicable and achievable. There are too many to follow them all.

Recommended Practices are sometimes more practical and easier to understand than standards and RPs of the European Broadcasting Union are particularly useful. Look at their standard for preservation of television film for example.

Other well developed sources include

Image Permanence Institute
National Film & Sound Australia
Texas Commission on the Arts “Videotape Identification & Assessment Guide

Digitization is complex and involves a lot of daunting math. As a devoted fan of Apple products I use several iPhone calculators specific to digital files.

Front Porch Digital Media Calc for LTO data tape calculations (no longer available in the Apple store)

Technicolor and Kodak Cinema Tools for film running times and digital storage.

Harris Clipcalc and AJA Datacalc for calculating file sizes based on running times and file types.

For those not yet on the mobile bandwagon Scenesavers is another private digitization company which freely provides information and assistance to archives and their website has similarly useful calculators.

And finally, you need to have fun. Find out just how hard it is to capture data and manage its storage with the app Media Mania.

Published in: on June 4, 2013 at 8:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

History Podcasts

My god, when I got an iPod I could count the number of interesting podcasts on one hand.  Now I look to see what’s new and there seem to be hundreds of history related ones.

I shouldn’t be writing with this many gin and sodas in my body but there are seldom less than this so now is as good a time as any.  One of the best I’ve seen so far is actually a cut down version of a wonderful TV series on TVOntario “Allen Gregg In Conversation”.  Now I wasn’t aware of this series on television seeing as all my viewing decisions are based on the little headlines in the onscreen programming guide and who would have thought “Allen Gregg In Conversation” would hold the interest of a man who’s really flipping channels trying to find reruns of “Dr. Who” and “Caprica”.

Still, in an  itunes search of “history” it popped up so I checked it out.  Surprise, surprise, here are half hour interviews with fascinating authors of culture and history in Canada.  Wayson Choy, award winning historical novelist (knew him before he was award winning, guess I should have kept up THAT friendship) on his biographical book “Not Yet: A Memoir Of Living And Almost Dying“.  You’ll notice these interviews are often fascinating oral histories in true TVO form.  Also author and historian Margaret MacMillan (no relation to me but now wishing there was) on her book about Stephen Leacock (I really have to read his work, I expect I can relate to living in a crazy backward small town), John Ralston Saul on how the book series “Extraordinary Canadians” came about.  There’s broadcaster and former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson (the CBC seems to be a training ground for GGs and Senators, can’t wait to see which post I get) on her biography of Norman Bethune.

Coming back to Ms. MacMillan, you’ll be interested in her discussion on the uses and abuses of history.  Particularly how known or accepted history changes over time.  Or how history is called up to justify current actions.  Check them all out via TVO or iTunes.

Now I regret the sparsity of this blog.  Between errands, work, and a family that thinks nothing of sending me out at 10:00 at night to buy milk, I don’t get much time.  The aforementioned gin also makes posting a risky task lest I reveal things that are best left buried in my own psyche (like the fact that I drink enough gin to reveal things that are best left buried).  I got a push to start writing again from seeing my friend and fellow archivist’s blog “An Arctic Life” today. If you think the life of an archivist is unusual, try doing it in the dark at 40 below and still find beauty in the world.  Wonderful work Marita.

Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why I love Librarians

They’re a creative and sexy bunch.

The Association of Moving Image Archivists Short Film Competition is also looking for submissions that “highlight the importance of preserving our moving image heritage.”  What better way to use that camera in the back of the closet.

Maybe I can get my daughter to videotape me in action while I carefully revise spreadsheets of statistical circulation data, write inspiring reports on the viability of automated ingest projects, and dance to the tune of the “Beachcombers” theme song.

Maybe I’m not so sexy after all…

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 7:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Engines Of Our Ingenuity

Finally another chance to write.  Many exciting things happening at work.  Unfortunately they all require me to stare at a computer for 8 hours a day.  By the time I get home, make dinner, wash the dishes and watch an hour of sci-fi (I’m not as selfless and harried as I like to say I am) I don’t much feel like going back on the computer.  Not to mention between my son and his video-games, my daughter and her social network, and my wife’s terrifying love of something called “Mafiawars”, it’s pretty late when the computer is free.  Being the major breadwinner is not the powerful position it once was.

However, since the satellite dish is currently controlled by the women, and the boy is out partying, I have a window of opportunity to spread the word about one of my favourite podcasts.  “Engines Of Our Ingenuity” is a brilliant short radio program produced through KUHF and the University of Huston and broadcast through NPR and iTunes.  John Lienhard’s voice takes me through the history of some fascinating engineering and science subjects (yeah exactly, who would have thought engineering subjects could be fascinating history).  Archivist should particularly note “Lost Beauties“, “A Late Night Movie“, and “Who’s In Charge” (Librarians as Gods).  There are no uninteresting episodes.  Try “Camels In Canada” (no better explanation for the Sasquatch). Exploring the ever-changing history of what we thought we knew with old photos and recordings.

Lose yourself in history and remember what we knew.

Published in: on May 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Is Digital Archiving?

It all boils down to migration.

Published in: on April 8, 2010 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

The Best You Can Do

Several weeks ago after the unfortunate fire at CTV Ottawa The Toronto Star ran a story on the efforts of some people to preserve the CTV archives and others by uploading any tapes they had to Youtube.  Now it is generally accepted that Youtube is not an archive.  Corporate goals being what they are it is almost certain that at some point both my link to The Star and the video below will disappear (check back in a year and see).  The uploads are sure to be poor and fragmented, not what the professional archivist seeks.  Still it is a good way to bring canadian television to the viewer.

Soon after comes an article from the New York Times on Carl Malmud’s crowd-digitization scheme “fedflix”.  The crowd is not digitizing material, it’s already digitized by LoC, but they are re-recording the offline DVDs to Youtube, making them accessible.

Before I say “Bah” though I remind myself that preservation is worthless without access.  In fact my own credo is “an inaccessible item doesn’t exist”.  The two are inextricably linked as Ray Edmondson says in “Audiovisual Archiving: Philosophy and Principles” and digitization can aid preservation and access and blur the lines between them.  I go back to the Toronto Star article and realize that if there are no masters left (or they are inaccessible) the material uploaded by citizens to Youtube is the defacto master and the Youtube upload is the defacto preservation and access copy rolled into one.  It may not be the professional ideal but it may very well be the best available means which is certainly always the goal of the professional.  In fact copyright laws and funding being what they are, there are many archives that can’t do even that much for their collections.  Even the uncertainty and quality of youtube beats the uncertainty of a VHS tape sitting in the basement behind the furnace.

While the two projects have similar processes, they have separate goals, one preservation, the other to access.  In the end though, the twain have met.  Before we look down on the small archive transferring their moving images to DVD, remember it may be the best they can do.  Our effort and thoughts should be focussed on creating a world where they can do more.

Published in: on April 3, 2010 at 7:41 am  Leave a Comment  

April Fool’s

Yes even Archivists have a sense of humor and there is plenty of fodder over at the Museum Of Hoaxes and the CBC Archives

Kind of makes you question the authenticity of those primary sources.  You never know when the writer himself was having a bit of fun.

Published in: on April 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mor on News Reporting

Pun intended.  Here’s another take on standardized news.  This one courtesy of The Onion.  Warning, the language is not what you hear on standard TV.

Published in: on March 24, 2010 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  


Long before the BBC found 100 Objects that changed the world James Burke was teaching us (especially me) that history was not only interesting but that it was one long continuum.  Invention was not so much inspiration as it was adaptation of previous technology.  Events many thousands of years ago brought us to where we are today in a prime example of how the butterfly’s wings bring us a technological hurricane.

Certainly it shows how a 16th century doctor brought us at least one moving image archivist in the 21st century.  And while you’re here see how Napoleon brought us to the Knowledge Web and has just influenced your next archive project.

Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

News Template

Every news report you’ve seen in the last 40 years is right here.

Published in: on March 20, 2010 at 8:08 pm  Comments (2)