Archive | March, 2009

New Digital Audiovisual Workstation

20 Mar

New Digitization Work Station

New Digitization Work Station

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.


Coming out… of the Archive

12 Mar

Anyone who has made a documentary, written a book, or even completed a paper for a class at school, knows that what ends up in the finished product does not represent all of your work. There are many great stories, arguments, and anecdotes that must be left out. In the case of Eyes on the Prize, a 14-part documentary of the history of the Civil rights movement, produced by Henry Hampton

Henry Hampton, President and Founder of Blackside Inc.

Henry Hampton, President and Founder of Blackside Inc.

and his company Blackside Inc., they had so much material they created a book Voices of Freedom just from the interview outtakes.

In fact, over the course of their 30-year history of making films, the company produced such a large amount of production material it filled 4 tractor-trailers. My first 12 months as the archivist at the Washington University’s Film & Media Archive was spent unpacking these boxes… it was Christmas for a year.

In those boxes were films, videos, photos, and papers that represented the interview outtakes, stock footage, scripts, research materials, producer notes, correspondence, and numerous other materials collected or created during the production process. In short, the collection is a wealth of information generated from the hard work and efforts by Blackside staff as they made their films and it offers insights into the decision film_stacks1making process.

As we organize and catalog these materials, we often come across incredible resources and felt that a blog would be a great forum for sharing these interesting treasures and tidbits. You will also find here some insights and projects of the Film & Media Archive staff and the occasional post from a guest contributor.

For a general search of the collections visit our catalog which in now online!

by David Rowntree