[Videolib] Fwd: fyi: chron of higher ed: preserving multimedia
Gary Handman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mon, 25 Apr 2005 16:42:47 -0700
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>Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2005 15:27:47 -0700
>From: Barbara Gross Davis <email@example.com>
>Subject: fyi: chron of higher ed: preserving multimedia
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>library.berkeley.edu id j3PMRuO7242833
> From the issue dated April 29, 2005
>The Revolution Will Be Digitized
>Libraries create online archives to preserve and share film and video
>By SCOTT CARLSON
>Amid thousands of boxes of 16-millimeter film piled in a library basement
>here at the University of Virginia, one dated May 1967 is tempting to
>view. In big black type on a yellowing, brittle label it says:
>It might be a spectacle, but William G. Thomas III, who helped rescue this
>news footage from a local TV station, had gone hunting in the heap for
>moments of more significance to the state's history.
>Mr. Thomas, director of the Virginia Center for Digital History, and his
>assistants have found and digitized about 250 clips involving Virginia's
>civil-rights movement. Now anyone around the world can visit the
>university's Web site and see the visual record, both the triumphant and
>the ugly -- demonstrators singing "Freedom!" on courthouse steps, and
>Virginia politicians decrying integration.
>So far the films are simply listed by date on the Web site, with a short
>description of what each video contains. But Mr. Thomas also sees a day
>when students or scholars can search the entirety of an old film, using
>computers to recognize, say, speech or images. Those searches might work
>much as those that students do now for words within the text of a journal
>article or book.
>"We are really at the beginning stages of how we present, manage, and
>access video materials," he says.
>Moving images have been the dominant communication form of the past
>half-century. While libraries have long collected audiovisual materials,
>the rows of videotapes and film reels have been difficult to store,
>catalog, and access. Now, with new digital tools, librarians can better
>preserve their collections and send video materials out to classrooms and
>Digital archiving does present challenges. High-quality digitization is
>expensive, so libraries often have to raise money to take on even a small
>project. It can be a race against time, as the volume of film and video in
>libraries, studios, and private collections is huge and rapidly
>deteriorating. Videotapes have an expected life span of only a couple of
>decades, and the tapes deteriorate a little with each playing. And some
>older videotapes are in formats that can be viewed only on players that
>are no longer manufactured.
>What's more, the vast majority of film and video material is still under
>copyright, and copyright holders have been reluctant to allow the breadth
>of access that campus librarians want to offer.
>Despite the hurdles, college libraries are finding their pace and starting
>to digitize their film and video collections.
>The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, for example, acquired more than
>a million feet of film from a local television station's news division and
>plans to put the footage online. It will be organized by subject:
>African-Americans, Vietnam, breweries, and, of course, the Green Bay
>Packers, among many others. In the deal with the station, the university
>can allow the films to be distributed for private or educational use. Only
>users with commercial interests would have to pay the station.
>To save money, says Mary K. Huelsbeck, an archivist at the library, the
>university is creating a digital version that is not of archival quality
>but will let users quickly call up the materials. To do so, Milwaukee is
>using digitizing software intended for home use -- a bargain at only $120.
>"We're looking at this more as a means of access," she says.
>Virginia's video projects are much like Wisconsin's, with an emphasis on
>access and teaching. Judith Thomas, director of the media center at UVa,
>says video is following the same arc that still images followed online 10
>"Suddenly you could deliver images over the Web, and they became
>tremendously attractive as cultural documents outside of the traditional
>image-driven fields of art history or architectural history," she says.
>"Now we can do it with video, and we have all kinds of faculty more
>oriented toward visual material."
>One example, she says, is Mr. Thomas (the two are not related). Almost
>immediately after the TV-news films arrived at the library, he expressed
>interest in finding those related to civil rights and digitizing them
>The films he selected, identified only by vague labels on their boxes, now
>sit neatly in plastic bins in the library's digitization center, on the
>A staff member takes each one and loads it into what looks like an old
>film projector. The machine creates a digital image of the film and
>transfers that to a computer. Library staff members or historians note who
>is in each film and what subject matter is covered. Sometimes the staff
>members find printed notes folded and stuffed into the boxes, which can
>offer valuable clues to the contents. The information gleaned from the
>film and the labels go into a catalog and onto a description on Mr.
>Thomas's Web site.
>Digitizing just those 250 films, most of them only a couple of minutes
>long, cost at least $40,000 in equipment and staff time -- perhaps more,
>he estimates. And that is only a small portion of the video materials the
>library would like to digitize.
>To get a sense of what is left to do, one need only visit the library's
>basement. The news footage sits in big boxes, labeled by year, stacked
>five feet high and at least as long. There is a film from 1969 labeled
>"Richard Petty on switch to Ford," which probably contains information
>about early Nascar and one of its legendary drivers. Another film
>documents a civil-defense drill from 1959.
>Most of the pile is a cataloger's nightmare. Footage of airport repairs, a
>robbery, a Southern-music conference, and a meeting of Israeli officials
>are all packed together.
>Some of the reels sit out, lost from their labeled boxes, and labels on
>some boxes have flaked off, the glue having dried out long ago.
>Ms. Thomas says the library will have to find or raise money to digitize
>the rest of those. Some companies offer comprehensive preservation
>services, which include digitization, but they are expensive. Ms. Thomas
>recently got an estimate of $65,000 to clean and digitize 100 hours of
>interviews made for a documentary on Brown v. Board of Education.
>And because of shifting standards, once the material is in digital form,
>there is still no guarantee that it will last.
>A low-resolution online video that Ms. Thomas's office helped produce for
>a scholarly project five years ago is already outdated, and she wonders
>when she will have to update the digitized version of the film being
>worked on now. Dealing with film and video in the digital age, she says,
>can be like "hitting a moving target while standing on shifting sand."
>"There aren't clear standards in the industry on what format to use at any
>level of the production process, even in born-digital materials," she says.
>Librarians hope that the Library of Congress will help establish standards
>in film digitization. The library is constructing a multimillion-dollar
>facility in Culpeper, Va., for work on audio, video, and film preservation.
>Carl Fleischhauer, a digital archivist at the Library of Congress, says it
>is well on its way to archiving audio recordings digitally, and he expects
>film and video to follow, with standards set as the process continues.
>Massive storage capabilities, measured in petabytes (quadrillions of
>bytes) of data, will be set up at the Culpeper facility -- and they will
>be needed if digital archiving of video gets under way.
>Copyright may be a more difficult obstacle to overcome than technology.
>Vanderbilt University's library has been recording and archiving network
>news broadcasts for more than 30 years, amassing a collection of 40,000
>hours. Recently the university started digitizing that collection, in an
>attempt to preserve it.
>"The legal and business issues for our operation are probably more complex
>than the technical ones," says Marshall Breeding, library-technology
>officer at Vanderbilt. "That seems endemic for video content."
>The university would like to offer its digitized video footage to the
>general public through the Internet, but so far most of the news networks
>have not granted permission, he explains. (CNN allows Vanderbilt to stream
>its archives to colleges that subscribe to the collection.) The networks
>"fear a loss of control" of their video property, he says.
>"If Vanderbilt were to get sloppy and let [video] slip to free
>availability on the Internet, that would be very damaging to them," he
>says. "We want to show them that we are responsible, that we are going to
>stream it to only educational customers, and that we might be able to
>channel business to them" -- from, say, filmmakers who want to order clips
>directly from the networks.
>Even if a source grants a library permission to digitize and distribute a
>film, says Howard Besser, a professor of cinema studies at New York
>University, there might be other rights -- in multiple layers -- to
>consider, such as those covering the music, the actors, or archival
>footage within a film: "It's a hairy situation."
>For example, he notes, conflict over the rights to archival footage and
>music used in Eyes on the Prize, a 10-year-old, award-winning PBS
>documentary about the civil-rights movement, has kept the program from
>being rereleased on DVD. (Because of budget constraints, the filmmakers
>secured the rights for only a limited time.) Publicly showing the
>documentary -- let alone digitizing and streaming it -- is illegal.
>Some companies make obtaining rights to film and video easier by clearing
>all of the permissions needed and then selling the rights for digitization
>and streaming to libraries and other institutions. Last year James Madison
>University ordered documentaries and educational videos from Films for the
>Humanities & Sciences, in Princeton, N.J., with the intention of putting
>For a one-time fee of $80 to $130 per title, the university's librarians
>can offer students and instructors programs on topics as varied as
>abortion, cultural illiteracy, and privacy. Library staff members have to
>convert the videos to streaming files, then load the files onto a server.
>Nearly 300 videos are available on the university's site. Jeffrey C.
>Clark, director of media resources, says he plans to have 1,400 titles
>available by next year.
>"Now students have been asking about feature films, but I don't think
>that's on the long-term horizon," he says. "Students don't understand the
>licensing and technological barriers."
>Because video-distribution companies are just getting started in this
>business, he adds, they leave room in contracts for negotiation.
>Annenberg/CPB, a nonprofit group that produces educational videos and
>documentaries, is trying to set up servers at colleges around the country
>to deliver digitized versions of the group's television programs over the
>Internet. The colleges have to pay only for the equipment, not for any
>licensing. The videos are already available on the group's Web server,
>which is in Oregon, but delivery from that server can be inconsistent.
>Illinois State University's library is one of the latest to set up a
>server with help from Annenberg. "It's as if you slipped a DVD into your
>computer," says Cheryl Elzy, Illinois State's dean of libraries. She hopes
>that the programs will be used in classrooms.
>If and when librarians work out the technical and legal issues, a core
>task will remain: to catalog a century's worth of moving images. Without
>organization, any history of moving images will be a cacophonous mass.
>Librarians hope that new technology will help out. George L. Abbott, head
>of media services at Syracuse University, points to new software that can
>"listen" to the sound on digitized video clips, recognize key words, and
>load them into a database. A library catalog could incorporate that data,
>allowing users to search video along with other media.
>Google has already started experimenting in this arena. Google Video,
>available in beta form (http://video.google.com), stores the
>closed-captioning transcripts from network television shows. A search of
>"Simpson" and "Orange Bowl" brings up several shows that mention Ashlee
>Simpson's performance at the football stadium, where she was booed off the
>stage. Google does not store or link to the video itself, but it does show
>screen shots and snippets of transcripts.
>Some librarians and scholars hope that advances in facial-recognition
>software will someday allow people to automatically comb through hours of
>digital media to identify particular individuals.
>Even beyond personalities and politics, Mr. Thomas sees a wealth of
>information in Virginia's collection that digital technology can help make
>"There is a whole array of background information in these films that may
>not be apparent to us now but is potentially critically important -- about
>how the landscape appeared and about cultural information, like people's
>styles and how they presented themselves," he says. "We have not even
>begun to scratch the surface on how to handle this material."
> Section: Information Technology
> Volume 51, Issue 34, Page A30
>Copyright © 2005 by The Chronicle of Higher Education
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