Evolving Standards: Updating our moving image digital specifications
April 8th, 2013 by Isaiah Beard

A 35mm film projector.

A 35mm film projector in operation.

As part of preservation-level digital standards, myself and colleagues have worked since 2004 to develop a best practice specification for digitizing moving images.  Our initial standard document was developed for the NJVid Portal, and was very basic in its specification.

Since then, some minor tweaks have periodically been added to the document.  But recently, some major developments have occurred with our campus infrastructure that have resulted in our need to consider slightly more substantial changes to our spec:

  • RUcore is in the process of implementing Wowza as it’s new streaming server platform, and it is already in operation for the libraries reservation streaming media service.  In conversations with the reserves and media teams handling video for those efforts, there has been some real-world testing of video quality improvements for MP4 streaming, and tweaks have been suggested for improving the quality of our streamed videos.
  • RUwireless Wifi campus connections have been upgraded to support higher bitrates (up to 3Mbps per connection).  Previously they were capped at 1Mbps.  This means that we can now push video and other content at nearly triple the data rate we were accustomed to over campus Wifi, given proper conditions.

In light of this, coupled with user demand for improvements in video streaming quality, and in preparation for Wowza streaming support on RUcore, we’re proposing changes to the digitization specs for moving images. A draft for comments is available.  Changes are noted in the document red, but to summarize:

1. MPEG-4 streaming bitrates have been increased to a minimum of 860kbps, recommendation of 2.1Mbps for high quality.
2. HD resolution is now supported at a minimum of 720p resolution.

Language has also been added to address digitization of motion picture film, and calls for a minimum of DCI 4K resolution, with support for MXF wrappers and Motion JPEG2000 where appropriate. Motion Picture Film scanning is still a moving target however, and mention is made that film digitization projects should start with a Digital Curation consult.


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