More than 160,000 individual audio items (or carriers) are held in the NFSA collection — varying from cylinders and lacquer discs to digital audiotapes and compact discs.
The work of Audio Services technicians at the NFSA includes:
- cleaning, repackaging, repairing and reconstructing damaged sound recording collection items
- restoring and rejuvenating sound recordings in the collection using special archival treatments
- reproducing sound recordings
- copying collection items using analogue or digital noise reduction systems that restore and enhance the sound to its original quality
- training in audio archiving and providing technical and specialist advice.
Repair and reconstruction
Sound recordings can deteriorate, which makes it difficult for us to retrieve their content. Discs and cylinders also suffer damage when played, resulting in scratches and other audible defects. They break down over time: magnetic tapes can become sticky from binder breakdown, and misshapen, shrunken or brittle from deterioration of the plastic tape base.
Restoring a sound recording begins with the skilful repair of damage to the original carrier. Our experts assess the damage and then carefully carry out repairs, often with the aid of a binocular microscope (pictured right) to ensure the precise matching of broken pieces.
Some materials, such as magnetic tape, suffer chemical deterioration. We can partially reverse this by heating in a low humidity environment, rejuvenating the tape and transferring the content to more stable formats.
We may use vacuum, abrasive, ultrasonic or solvent cleaning to clean the carriers, with different methods suited to different carriers. For example light solvents, ideal for cleaning vinyl discs, may destroy lacquers; water-based solutions damage gelatine discs.
Audio Services staff are technical experts in all areas of sound reproduction, from turntable and stylus geometry, through to magnetic media and film sound. Our expertise ensures efficient reproduction of all recordings, from a straightforward copy of a 78 RPM disc to a major reconstruction of a damaged lacquer disc, or reproduction of poorly recorded or damaged tape material.
Using analogue or digital processing and noise reduction systems, we can restore and enhance the quality of sound to its original level, regardless of the original format.
We produce or restore new digital files for ready access on many platforms, placing preservation copies in the collection media asset management system for long-term storage.
Preservation is an essential part of media archiving; when we transfer fragile material, we create a new preservation digital file to ensure the survival of the original. In addition, we create duplicate and access copies for the collection which allows public access and different media sizes for delivery to clients.
Our digital audio workstations are equipped with the latest in archiving and restoration tools including Cube-Tec, Isotope, Waves and other restoration tools. This software can remove clicks, crackle, hiss, buzz and a multitude of audible defects from disc, tape, film soundtracks and digital recordings.
We also utilise an audio restoration server called a Cedar Cambridge. Using the Cedar we can process effect 'chains' for restoration of audio files using a batch process function, without the need for manual interaction.
Film and sound
Our Film Sound section has two studios devoted to the reproduction and restoration of Optical and Magnetic formats from 16mm to 35mm.
We can replay damaged, shrunken and/or deteriorated material on Sondor and COSP (Chace Optical Sound Processor) reproducers incorporating modified heads, and restore it using the latest digital audio workstations.
Our mastering studios use a variety of tools including Wavelab, Pro Tools, Waves, Izotope and Cube-Tech software to ensure the highest standards of mastering for video, DVD, CD and film.
We use the Cedar Cambridge device to process effect chains for restoration of audio files using a batch process function, and for mastering and conformation to EBU loudness specifications.
Audio Services also assists people and organisations with specialist archival needs, provides technical expertise and advice and maintains contemporary and obsolete equipment to support our audio work.
Contact us for further information.