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Musings of a librarian, former archivist, musician, bibliophile, and tech-obsessed.

Entries in Audio (54)


Long Overdue Helpful Resources

Over the past month, I've received a few emails asking me about resources for various audiovisual digitization standards and workflows. Below is my response to the latest email, based on the research I have been performing to draft the UMD Libraries standards and guidelines over the past four months.

There are developing national standards for archiving audio and moving image media. A lot of the work in this area is being done at the Library of Congress, and I urge you to check out the standards that FADGI is developing:

You may also want to check out the huge project that the Indiana University Bloomington is undertaking on their campus: This is a follow-up to their involvement in the Sound Directions project, which does address a lot of difficulties that institutions (primarily large academic libraries) encounter in their audio archives (though it is applicable to other institutions on a much smaller scale:

The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives has also addressed audio digitization and archiving from a technical level in addressed audio digitization and archiving from a technical level in IASA-TC 04:

The Audio Engineering Society (AES) and The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers have also put forward standards, though these are usually highly technical and difficult to translate into a non-production environment.

If you need a less technical site to understand formats, I highly recommend NDIIPP's Sustainability of Digital Formats site: The Technical Committees of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections and the Association of Moving Image Archivists have also put forward some helpful compilations of resources.

These resources primarily cover digitization and digital file standards, though Sound Directions and the newest publication from IUB, Meeting the Challenge of Media Preservation, do touch on metadata. FADGI has some drafts of metadata standards, and is supposed to be putting forward standards this year.

NARA is working on in-depth technical metadata standards for moving image media: The Library of Congress has had theirs for a while:

One thing to keep in mind is how video and audio metadata has been developed. PBCore was developed around Dublin Core metadata and is compatible with that schema. AMD and VMD from LC were designed around MODS and METS. The schema that you decide on should complement the metadata schema you already have in place, to prevent unnecessary metadata confusion and mapping.

Digital audio standards have been established between AES, ARSC, and IASA, and are now being improved upon, so we are fortunate in that.

As for capturing born-digital moving image materials, there is less publicly accessible documentation, but FADGI does have some resources. A new document was recently released concerning what is an archival format of video formats: Again, this is a draft, and most institutions may not be able to support the MXF/J2K format as well as .avi or .mov, but the document does give an idea as to the specifications and guidelines one should follow when creating, converting, or digitizing moving image. From my experience with records creators, establishing creation standards is essential so you don't have the favorite format and standard of whatever engineer you have on staff at the time, which is why what is in archives always varies greatly.

Lastly, I recommend checking out the Advanced Media Workflow Association for ideas about workflows: Their documents are especially helpful:

I am modeling our efforts on IUB's project, using many of the LC (NDIIPP and FADGI) standards. I would suggest starting there.


A Few Personal Thoughts on Copyright

Many concerns have surfaced among librarians and archivists concerning creating and maintaining digital collections. Before pursuing digitization, these custodians must first assure that the collections they are sharing with a growing global community are either in the public domain or owned by their institution. Digitizing by these guidelines protects institutions from costly lawsuits from creators or copyright owners, and saves valuable resources if projects have to be taken offline due to copyright infringements.

Proving ownership of copyright is especially difficult in sound recordings. Archivists and librarians are burdened by proving works-for-hire, copyright chain of custody (in which the heirs can assume ownership), copyright of unpublished works, and dealing with potentially orphaned published materials in their collections. According to current copyright law, archivists and librarians cannot preserve materials until they show signs of deterioration; sound recordings are frequently too deteriorated to preserve and digitize by this point. Without assuring that collections can be made freely accessible after digitization, many granting agencies will not fund digitization projects, placing a further burden on cultural institutions.

Nationally, the US Copyright Act of 1976 protects the copyright of materials, including that of sound recordings. Allowances for libraries and archives include fair use and the reproductions by libraries and archives, Sections 107 and 108, accordingly, though exemptions in both of these sections exist for sound recordings. All post-1976 recordings are protected for at least 95 years. Currently, recordings made before this point will begin to fall into the public domain in 2067. With the exception of recordings created by the Federal government, there are currently no sound recordings in the public domain in the United States.

The United States possessed some of the most strict copyright law in the international community until recently. In September 2011, the European Union extended sound recording copyright 20 additional years, from a 50- to a 70-year term. This law was changed in part due to recording companies and a few select artists, though many scholars and economists disagreed with the decision. This extension was only slightly less damaging than the extension proposed in 2006 that would have made the limit 95 years. Australia, another leader in the library and archival sphere, has a 70-year protection limit on sound recordings, though audio broadcasts are only protected for 50 years.

In many academic institutions, we hold materials from other countries. When I did an internship at the Bulgarian and Macedonian National Education and Cultural Center while I was at the University of Pittsburgh, I had to look up the copyright restrictions on their recordings, which were so precious because many of them were smuggled out of the region due to civil wars, and may be the only extant or one of the few existing copies. One of the major difficulties of creating digital collections that can be accessed globally is that some materials may be under copyright in their country of origin but not in other countries. Librarians, archivists, and other cultural custodians across the globe should continue to petition for copyright term limits that protect the material, allow for preventative preservation, and protect the interests of artists.


Audio Problems Finally Solved

I started my work day by taking apart the Otari with the hex screwdriver, and then, for over an hour, tried to find the internal switch to go from 15ips to 7.5ips. After I decrypted the manual (on page 5-5, "big P.C.B. Ass'y"="big printed circuit board assembly"), and found the corresponding location referred to in the most basic diagram the manual refers to, I was able to start to digitize the reels. However, unlike most small reel players, you do not depress the external button, you just flip the internal switch. That gave me a pretty interesting recording before I realized it was playing at 1/4 speed. I'm creating internal documentation for anyone else that might have to digitize anything if I'm out for some reason because I don't want to give anyone the headache I've had the last two days!

Screenshot of the diagram and photos of the internal switch:


Audio Anxieties

The last two days I have worked on the beginning of a large audio request for a researcher. These requests are part of a larger project in which I have collaborated with the Music Librarian, and will culminate in a lecture on November 17. While it was fun to digitize the first 7" reel, but because it was recorded at 3 3/4 ips and extra tape was added, the recording is over 2.5 hours per side! In between other requests and a grant-writing webinar yesterday, this is why it took two days to completely digitize this one reel. The biggest problem created by a tape this length is that it creates unusually large files (the raw project file is 4.2 GB, per side!). I am going to have to listen to both sides tomorrow and divide the files into manageable chunks, closer to 2 GB, which seems to be the limit for my software program.

Some of the other reels the researcher requested are 10.5" reels. I have only used our Otari once before, and fortunately, the previous reel was recorded at 15 ips. Today's reel was recorded at 7.5 ips. For those of you who haven't had to change the configuration for ips before, it is apparently easy but hard to access on these larger machines. After finally locating a user manual online, and then downloading a .rar expander for Mac (which was harder to find than the correct Otari manual), I finally realized that not only do I have to push the button on the front, I have to take off the back and right side panel and flip a switch. Unfortunately, the archives does not own a hex screwdriver set to remove the side panel. I am going home, bringing in some proper tools, and will hopefully finish setting up the player tomorrow!

The final thing that really got under my skin today, is that I had to level the player head and the archives has no level. I finally got out my Android and used my Bubble Level app.

As a final note, the guy who runs Analog Rules! has many more reel manuals than just the Otari MX5050-BII. I highly recommend his site!


Celebrating World Day for Audiovisual Heritage 2011!

I'm celebrating World Day for Audiovisual Heritage by going through the audiovisual stacks and doing a quick sniff-test survey. While we keep our stacks at a comfortable temperature for the media, some of the material was in unstable conditions before coming to the archives and needs to be monitored. Because I don't have the time to perform in-depth preservation surveys on our collections (except when processing), I've found that the sniff test does a pretty good job at detecting problems in the majority of our collections. Just recently, I discovered that some of our School of Music reels were on bad stock and were degrading. In the past year, I discovered some film from one collection that smelled fine last year is now starting to degrade. The films come from the same collection of films from which I isolated and froze 50 reels this summer.

Archivists need to be more aware of audiovisual materials in their collections, and doing quick preservation surveys are a great way to be proactive about issues. While this survey only addresses one of the many issues surrounding audiovisual media, it's definitely a start. I recommend using World Day for Audiovisual Heritage as a reminder to survey collections!