Taking the mission of media preservation to a whole new level, the Film & Media Archive began 2009 with the installation of a new digital audiovisual workstation.
Designed and configured by St. Louis-based Integrated Systems Group, the new workstation enables the preservation of a wide range of legacy media formats including U-matic, Betacam SP, VHS and S-VHS videocassettes. It also makes possible the capture of audio from compact audio cassettes and ¼” open-reel audio tape. In one way or another, all of these formats played a role in the process of creating the documentaries housed in the archive.
The inherent instability of analog formats, in addition to the loss of signal strength due to aging, can wreak havoc as the computer tries to capture the contents of 25 year-old video tape. The process is smoothed as the signal from an analog videotape deck is passed through a device called a frame synchronizer which basically re-times the picture before sending it on the computer’s video card.
At the heart of the new workstation is an Apple Mac Pro equipped with two 2.8 GHz Quad Core Intel Xeon processors. The Final Cut Pro Studio suite of video editing tools makes it possible to capture uncompressed video and export projects in a wide range of formats including MPEG-4, MPEG-2 and H.264. Another suite of transcoding tools allows the creation of AVI, Windows Media and Flash video files.