Audiovisual Digitization In The Age Of Broadcasting

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Audiovisual Digitization In The Age Of Broadcasting

Digitization in the age of broadcasting

Broadcasting is indeed proliferating with its multiple screen adaptation, home videos, streaming, OTT and instant content generation. Yet are the broadcasters preserving and monetizing the extensive and instant content warehouse? “Any physical artifact is just that, a physical artifact,” says Mike Mashon, Library of Congress. “These things can shrink, they can fade, they can crumble to dust in less than a lifetime.” The issues related to broadcast archives/content are wide ranging and include technical obsolescence, media degradation, carrier deterioration, physical and chemical decay and loss to fire and floods. An active digital preservation strategy adapts content to the requisites of flexibility, scalability and sustainability.

According to Unesco, “historically audiovisual resources have been recorded on fragile and unstable media, including glass plates, nitrate and acetate based film negatives and magnetic audio and videotape.” Digital Archiving enables keeping valued image assets preserved for posterity. An equally imperative aspect is renewing the archives for continued monetization across emerging distribution channels.

Technical obsolescence and media degradation

One key aspect of content loss and deterioration is technical obsolescence. Data and information is fragile in the present times as the technological evolution in ‘carriers and media’ is rapid and transformative. Once a new format is ushered in, the older formats struggle to survive. Hence, the indispensability of digital archiving and digitization. The very format that data/information is stored on, is not designed to last into infinity and can quickly degrade. This media can include magnetic tapes, floppy discs, optical discs and more. Obsolescence also affects the media that digital data is stored on. It is quite difficult now to find a computer with a 3 ½” floppy drive, much less one for 5 ¼” floppies. Digital materials, regardless of whether they are created initially in digital form or converted to digital form, are threatened by techno logy obsolescence and physical deterioration (Hedstrom and Montgomery 1998). According to the Library of Congress, “Digital preservation is the active management of digital content over time to ensure ongoing access.”  Organizations, including, museums and cultural heritage, broadcasters, libraries, production studios, governments sectors are increasingly transforming their analogue and digital born into digital surrogates of the rare, unique and valuable collections. The primary objective of these projects is invariably access, which in the long run translates into monetization. Preservation considerations tend to be primarily related to the preservation of the object being digitized, not to the digital surrogate. However, a logical consequence is the question of how long access to the digital surrogate can be maintained.

Lifecycle Media Preservation approach facilitates asset digitization, storage, distribution and monetization capabilities. Digital Asset Management is about preservation and conservation. Experts define preservation as interventionist, while conservation as sustenance. Digitization and digital migration are preservation tools. Both collectively make life cycle monetization of your content viable.

Monetizing content:

Monetization of digital files and library is a crucial aspect of the digitization value chain. From instant retrieval to asset management, digitization renders unusable content into accessible and usable files.  Early television was frequently programmed live because there was limited access to recording technology and content was not always deemed to hold cultural or historical value. Even when Kinescope made recording more viable, shows were recorded far and between. Television tapes were still being largely subjected to disposal, wiping and reusing. Many of the tapes and videos were often reused to record new shows and broadcasts or dumped to free storage space. In recent times, the value of archives has transformed in the content industry with “the rise of home viewing of videos and DVDs, Internet downloads, streaming video and audio, and the trend towards multi-casting” [TAPE].  The archives aren’t just warehoused, post broadcasting, but the recycle market enables the reuse of the audiovisual assets. Content generators are tapping digital libraries, “where the archive is seamlessly integrated in the production workflow”. [TAPE] Digitization enables broadcasters to capture, pluralize and promote content in ways that facilitate the application of archival assets to support business objectives.

Seamless navigation and content management:

Catalogue backlogs and insufficient documentation becomes a major stumbling block in preservation of content. The report, Tracking the reel world, by TAPE, it says “around 40% of respondents report cataloguing backlogs, and on average this concerns a third of their collections. With expansive digitization and digital libraries, “accurate and extensive metadata” is crucial to preservation. Lack of metadata tagging “on content, carrier, size”, hinders long term preservation and accessibility. With preservation moving to digital and cloud platforms, the lack of metadata, make digital libraries highly vulnerable. Modern Media Asset Management enables integration of the archives and digital content into the production workflow. Many broadcasters are yet to tap it . Digitization allows you to seamlessly navigate your audio-video collection. With digital library of the content converged with organizational workflows, it facilitates both accessibility and monetization. Once content is a part of a digital library, it improves interaction and digital access. The emergence of a digital library brings its own set of opportunities and challenges. Paul Conway in his book, Preservation in the age of Google, underlines that digitization enables us to capture the authenticity and integrity of deteriorating formats and media. Creating descriptive metadata on item level for digitized objects and their integration into digital collections removes barriers to access and enables discovery of those unique visual resources in the digital environment. Digitization is the best media asset management tool.

Flexible and customized digitization models:

Broadcasters having chock a bloc stores with legacy tapes and footage, must take that crucial step towards digital archiving. Digitization assures both preservation and monetization of your content and hence is an investment that can neither be ignored nor delayed. Whether it is legacy or contemporary, the content held in those analogue tapes or hard drives, is not going to be available unhindered. The scratches and blurs, the dark patches and missing frames haunt audiovisual content in every corner of the world. While there is no escaping either technical obsolescence or media degradation, there is a way to restore and preserve the content. The requisites of content sensitivity, privacy, security and copyright alongside the technical steps of tagging, cleaning, digital enhancement, ingestion, storage and quality control, makes digitization an intricate and challenging process. Outsourcing digitization ensures the handling of the complex workflows by the experts. There are three Digitization Models, suited to disparate organizational capacities. With flexible and customized digitization models, such as On-Site, Off-Site and Managed services, digitization is compatible with diverse organizational requirements and budgetary outlines. While the Off-Site model is best suited for short-term and brief projects, the On-site digitization model is the perfect option, with the management of the project remains in the hands of the organization, whiles the process and the technical workflow, lies with the experts. A managed service is compatible with heavy generation and ownership of content. A service contract that outsources operations, infrastructure, equipment and technical workflows, the model is a blend of the previous two options.

Preservation and digitization have become a crucial part of the broadcasting industry, ensuring long term usability, accessibility and monetization. And yet, audio visual preservation is not at the forefront of the broadcasting industry. Richard Wright, Research Engineer, BBC says, “there is nothing left of broadcasting unless it is recorded, collected and preserved, and of course accessed.” Broadcast content beside their intrinsic value, are the embodiment of indispensable historical and political value, and also account for historical and research source, 20th century onwards.