NFSA has used digital technology to preserve its stills, documents and recorded sound items for more than a decade. This technology has provided many storage, collection management, restoration and access benefits. However, until this week, the NFSA has preserved video tape by creating a backup copy on a modern video tape format, such as Digital Betacam. This has provided many preservation outcomes for a collection that is increasingly vulnerable to format obsolescence, but content cannot be transferred this way without suffering generational loss. File based digital preservation offers the only solution for this.
Over the past few years the NFSA has invested a significant effort investigating the formats, standards, equipment and workflows associated with digital video preservation. Recently digital video encoding equipment and infrastructure has been installed and new workflows have been designed using the NFSA’s new Media Asset Management system — Mediaflex.
On 16 May this year NFSA launched its digital video preservation service with the encoding of an episode from the much loved Australian series — A Country Practice. Although this has been a great start, there is a considerable job ahead of us. The NFSA holds more than 68,000 video tapes that await preservation. Even with the efficiencies that digital technology offers, we anticipate that it could take more than 30 years to digitise the entire video collection.
The NFSA’s 2 inch, 1 inch and 3/4 inch video tapes are the most at-risk formats in the NFSA’s collection. Around 80% of the NFSA’s video tape collection is Australian broadcast television and includes episodes of iconic series, television news and current affairs and documentaries from the first 50 years of Australian television.
The NFSA will continue a risk management approach to the preservation of the video tape collection. Selections of titles to be preserved will be based on importance of program, the age of the tapes and perceived access demand from clients and NFSA projects (such as the 100th anniversary of Canberra in 2013). Titles that have already been identified include: Nightmoves, Eyewitness News Election Specials 1980 & 1983, Willesee at Seven 1981, The Movie Show, The Sullivans, Neighbours and The Comedy Company.