NFSA audio services technicians can repair, rejuvenate, clean and copy a wide range of audio material and equipment — starting from the first Australian sound recordings made on wax cylinders in the 1890s.
More than 160,000 individual audio items (known as carriers) are held in the NFSA’s collection — varying from cylinders and lacquer discs to digital audiotapes and compact discs.
Sound recordings range from early cylinders and Lacquer disc to digital audio tapes, compact discs and 'born online’ content. Our audio services work involves:
- cleaning, repackaging, repairing and reconstructing damaged sound recordings
- restoring and rejuvenating sound recordings using special archival treatments
- reproducing sound recordings
- copying content 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, making content retrieval difficult. Discs and cylinders suffer damage when played, resulting in scratches and other audible defects. They also break down over time: magnetic tapes can become sticky from binder breakdown, misshapen, shrunken or brittle from deterioration of the plastic tape base. Problems with CDs are now only beginning to be understood.
Producing a restored sound recording begins with the skillful repair of damage to the original sound recording (known as a carrier). Technical experts make an assessment of the damage, then carefully carry out repairs, often with the aid of a binocular microscope (pictured) to ensure precise matching of broken pieces.
Some materials, such as magnetic tape, suffer chemical deterioration. This can be partially reversed by heating in a low humidity environment, rejuvenating the tape and transferring the content to more stable formats.
Vacuum, abrasive, ultrasonic or solvent cleaning are used to clean the carriers. Different methods are needed for different carriers. For example light solvents, ideal for cleaning vinyl discs, may destroy lacquers, while water-based solutions damage gelatine discs.
Audio Services staff have technical expertise in all areas of sound reproduction, from turntable and stylus geometry, through to sampling rates and sub-codes. This ensures efficient and expert 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 analog (pictured) 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. New copies are then produced for ready access on compact discs, cassettes or video audiotracks, and preservation copies are placed in the collection for long-term safety.
Copying or duplication is an essential part of media archiving. When fragile material is copied, we obtain a new preservation copy to ensure the survival of the original. In addition, making duplicate or access copies of collection material allows public access without endangering the preserved copies. Preservation copies are now made on polyester-based materials for archival permanence.
The NFSA’s digital audio workstations are the latest in archiving and mastering technology. All studios are equipped with Cube-Tech Dual-Pentium 'AudioCube’ computers, using the most powerful software to remove clicks, crackle, hiss, buzz and a multitude of audible defects from disc, tape, film soundtracks and digital recordings.
The NFSA’s Film Sound section has two studios devoted to the reproduction and restoration of Optical and Magnetic formats from 16mm to 35mm. Damaged, shrunken and/or deteriorated material is replayed on 'Sondor’ and 'Perfectone’ reproducers incorporating modified heads, and restored using the latest European digital audio workstations.
The Mastering studios use a variety of tools including Sonic Solutions 'Sonic Studio’ and Cube-Techs 'AudioCube’ workstations, Steinberg 'Wavelab’ and 'Nuendo’ software to ensure the highest standards of mastering for video, DVD, CD and film.
Audio Services also assists people and organisations with specialist archival needs, provides technical expertise and advice and maintains contemporary and obsolete equipment to support its audio work.
Further information on how to care for your audio and a technical glossary of common audiovisual terms can be obtained from this website or contact us for further information.