Video toolkit for archives: a combination of resources.

by Andrew Martin

Video archivists are required to be some of the most diverse users of tools and resources available today out of all video based professions and rich media archives.

The video archivist requires tools that are usually found within a traditional analogue broadcast or production facility; such as baseband composite, component and SDI VTR playback  technology, conformance technical monitoring like vectorscope and waveform monitors, Time based correctors, CRT monitors, and so on. As many analogue video tapes are now well and truly deteriorating it is mandatory to have cleaning, conservation and baking facilities at hand to deal with videotape that is ‘one pass only’.

In the digital realm video archivists require broadcast born toolsets, built with multi-channel, automation in mind. Quality control will assist in providing reports and compliance tests for the video archivist.  Broadcast transcoding engines are optimised for maximum CPU usage to encode complex video codecs required for preservation based formats, and will also offer the ability to create production and web based/browsing copies for distribution. Media Asset Management systems offer database functionality such as describe and search, and automated workflows to streamline file and metadata exchange between editing systems, high speed storage, web browsing, HSM systems and more.

Although hardware broadcast systems are available for most of these functions, systems for the video archivist can also be built on commodity ICT infrastructure. Specific requirements for the video archivist demand a system is designed for high i/o for large collections of media, streaming servers for public access, management of  offline harddrives/ or data tape, system level management , monitoring quality and performance of networks, file transfer, harddrive health, data integrity,  redundancy and backup.

Within all these broadcast, production and tools, video archivists require a standardised framework that can be accessed through the broader digital archiving community.
Drawing knowledge of handling complex ‘large data sets’, plugin tools such as data integrity checking, ‘fixity or checksum checking’ , metadata description and handling, format obsolescence, creation of unique identifies all contained within packages that exist independently from the overarching collection database, or MAM.

Benefits include interoperability between archives, unanimous handling and management of data, creation of a basis for the future management and planning for a digital archive.

While some of the above systems can be outsourced to service providers that are expert in a specific component, it is the responsibility of the video archivist to have a solid understanding of the management of a video collection from physical handling right though to ongoing digital video stewardship.