6 things to consider when planning to digitise your videotape, film or audio tape archive.

Sticky notes planing video digitisation

Digitising your videotape, audio tape or film collection can seem like a daunting prospect, especially if the collection is large. However, if you want to access and preserve your content, you have to get moving, because time is running out to digitise your media without fear of damage or loss.

To help you get your digitisation project started, we have compiled a list of key points you should consider:

1. Understand the Why – Knowing what goals you have for your project is a key driver for a successful outcome – monetisation, preservation, sharing, research, broadcast . . . the list goes on. And these goals should not be “either/or” decisions. You should be able to achieve multiple outcomes from your project through the delivery of multiple codecs.

2. Stakeholder Engagement – Quite often, there is more than one stakeholder involved in a digitisation project. Getting everyone on-board early makes for an easier journey. Outsourcing the digitisation is the heavy lift, but that is not the end of the line. Ownership questions all need to be addressed early on, such as: Who will quality check the collection on return? How will it be managed going forward? Where will it be stored? Who will use it? Who is responsible for the archive?

3. Understand Your Collection – The more you know about your collection, the easier it is to engage a partner. Knowing everything about your collection is near impossible, especially if you have tens of thousands of tapes. However, the more familiar you are with what you have, the more precise the initial project scoping can be. There are so many variables that will impact pricing, time lines and required capabilities. Consider digitising 2” videotape; a fully manual process that requires a VTR that is nearly 40 years old. The implications of digitising this format versus a contemporary digital betacam tape are significantly different. Understanding the makeup of your collection, with significantly assist in the planning and costing of the digitisation project.

4. Cost Benefit Analysis – When you are looking at the digitisation investment, make sure you compare it with the costs of inaction. AV Preserve provides a great tool to help you to assess the cost of inaction. There are a range of indirect costs that are often overlooked, such as the cost of access and storage of physical media. You are more than likely going to save your organisation money by digitising in fewer years than you think.

5. Consider Staging Your Project – Digitisation of videotape, film and audio tape is often looked at as an all or nothing process. If you choose the right partner, you can establish a longer-term digitisation roadmap that enables you to digitise your collection in stages, based on criteria such as value, media type and age.

6. Don’t Wait for Perfect – Videotape, film and audio tape digitisation projects are often delayed due to related decisions surrounding such issues as MAMs or storage, or waiting for the perfect file format. These things are often an illusion on the horizon, always just out of reach. To help future proof your content, seek out standards based outcomes such as XML or open standards codecs. This will make integrating your digital collection with future technology significantly more manageable. And importantly, enable you to act before it is too late.

Now, it’s time to get your project to digitise your videotape, film or audio tape archive underway today so you can share and secure the valuable content in the future.