RUcore, Digital Video, and the China Boom
Oct 18th, 2012 by Isaiah Beard

Recently, members of the Rutgers University Libraries at both integrated Information Systems and the Scholarly Communication Center began an auspicious collaboration with the Asia Society in New York City, in our first project to digitally preserve, to standards, their digital video archive for The China Boom Project.  It is the first time that RUcore has ingested a fully born-digital video archive, using the original source content and project files, and creating presentation video from those source files.

The China Boom Project’s goal is to seek an answer to the question, “Why did China Boom?” The site comprises taped interviews with individuals and experts with insights into China’s rapid economic expansion in recent decades. It offers to site visitors packaged video content from these interviews arranged by subject matter and relevant time periods in China’s history, in a very effective and attractive format that is described as a “mosaic explanation.

But while the China Boom site itself provides snippets and prepackaged commentary, an ancillary goal of the project has been to partner with educational institutions to make the full-length content available to researchers, and to have the video archived and preserved.  This is where Rutgers University Libraries, and RUcore, come into the picture.

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Indiana University Moves Forward with its Media Preservation Initiative
Jan 23rd, 2012 by Isaiah Beard

1/2 inch, consumer, open reel video format used in the 1960s-70s. This format suffers from Sticky Shed Syndrome, making playback difficult. Working machines for this long-obsolete format are scarce. Source: IUB Media Preservation Initiative, used with permission. Note: IUB has asked me to stress that the above photo is not representative of all media collections at the university.

The Media Preservation Site at Indiana University – Bloomington (IUB) makes its message loud and clear the moment you first set your eyes on it: “Our History is At Risk.”

Home to at least 3 million media objects, including sound and moving image recordings, photos, documents, and artifacts, IUB has come to grips with the issue at hand: a great deal of their heritage is locked within obsolete electronic and analog playback formats for sound and moving images.  As an old format becomes obsolete, it gets harder by the day to find working equipment to play back these objects.  And that assumes that the objects can be played back, not having succumbed to age, wear and physical decay. Lacquer from old aluminum audio discs can delaminate, making them unplayable. Video tapes from the 1960s, 70s and 80s can suffer from a condition where the binding agent that holds the recording material to the plastic base sheds, allowing audio and video recordings to literally flake into nothingness. Film, too, has its own serious decay problems.

With its vast collection, faculty and staff at IUB knew the situation could become serious if nothing was done.  Their first step was to take stock of the situation, and consult outside experts (myself included) to get input how how best to address the problem.

Their efforts began nearly 18 months ago when a group of IUB faculty and staff, concerned about the potential fate of important special collections on campus, approached their Office of the Vice Provost for Research about the critical issues of media, and to impress upon them that time was of the essence to address these issues.

“Even though [IU Bloomington’s] needs are now documented, and it is far better equipped than most universities in the country to meet them, there is no guarantee that IU can adequately preserve its collections in the near future.”

The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States, Council on Library and Information Resources for The Library of Congress, Washington 

The culmination of their efforts to date have been documented on the IUB Media Preservation Website, where they document their comprehensive effort to preserve IUB’s vast audio, video, and film holdings.  Some important documents from their study and efforts including IUB’s Director of Media Preservation Services Mike Casey‘s  Media Preservation Survey (PDF), outlining the collection holders, preservation stakeholders, the risks involved, and potential preservation strategies.  A follow-on public report (12MB PDF) also lays out the situation and what steps are being taken to save their special collections and historic content.  Continued engagement, updates, and discussion on decisions made and procedures undertaken are regularly made available on their Media Preservation Blog.

The IUB Media Preservation Blog

IUB has many years of work ahead of it, not only to transfer older content into more modern digital formats, but also to continue to maintain those archives, preserve new content, and keep pace with new technologies and formats to ensure that their collections are accessible.  It’s encouraging to see them in action, and their efforts stand as a potential framework for other organizations in a similar bind to model their initiatives after.

Japan’s Crises, and its ramifications on digital preservation
Mar 23rd, 2011 by Isaiah Beard

A Sony HVR-Z1U camera. This device is a digital video workhorse at the SCC, and relies heavily on digital video tape... something which could be rather hard to come by in the near future.

My heart, thoughts, and a donation goes to those affected by the Earthquake, Tsunami, and now radiological crisis that Japan must grapple with.  It’s not exaggeration to say this turn of events is truly unprecedented.  Sitting thousands of miles away, and only observing the events through websites and television screens, I’m aware that I cannot possibly grasp the ordeal that survivors now face.

With that preface, it’s difficult to even think at this point of how the disaster will inconvenience those of us far removed.  However, there will be a rather significant impact for quite some time, given our technological dependencies in a digital world, the number of electronic components and supplies that are produced in Japan, and how we use those components to capture our current history and cultural heritage.

Our first hints of trouble began with an advisory issued to consumers of magnetic tape media. Sony, a major manufacturer of various varieties of tape media as well as semiconductors, optical discs such as DVD and Blu-ray, and electronic components, has been hit hard.  Sony was forced to shut down a number of factories in the region while recovery efforts continue. The earthquake has forced a halt to production in various manufacturing facilities in Japan, including those of magnetic media manufacturers, and suppliers are now warning of an impending shortage and possible price spikes:

“Our industry has already been affected by a halt in media manufacturing operations – professional media supply shortages are evident, namely HDCam SR,” explained a post on the Comtel Pro Media web site. “Worldwide stock shortages present a realistic threat to our industry and the immediate needs of the television and motion picture production.”

Of particular note is a shutdown of the Sony Corporation Sendai Technology Center, currently the only facility in the world producing HDCAM-SR tapes.

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New Anticircumvention Rulemaking: Major Shifts in the DMCA thanks to Library of Congress
Jul 26th, 2010 by Isaiah Beard

Some major policy shifts came out of the Library of Congress today that fundamentally changes how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is applied and enforced.  This decision making is part of a three-year cycle in which the Librarian of Congress and the Register of Copyrights hear from the public and review policies regarding enforcement of the DMCA.  According to the Librarian of Congress’ statement:

Section 1201(a)(1) of the copyright law requires that every three years I am to determine whether there are any classes of works that will be subject to exemptions from the statute’s prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work.  I make that determination at the conclusion of a rulemaking proceeding conducted by the Register of Copyrights, who makes a recommendation to me.  Based on that proceeding and the Register’s recommendation, I am to determine whether the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works is causing or is likely to cause adverse effects on the ability of users of any particular classes of copyrighted works to make noninfringing uses of those works.

For this cycle, some rather significant rulings were made that are decidedly consumer-friendly and archivist-friendly.  In particular, the Register touched on:

  • Decryption of DVDs for fair use. Commercial and other video DVDs that are protected by the Content Scramble System (CSS) may now be lawfully decrypted, and the copy protection circumvented, for Fair Use purposes.  This includes extraction of short pieces for comment or criticism, educational uses in college and university settings, documentary filmmaking, and noncommercial videos.
  • Video games and computer programs. Recognizing that preservation of old, obsolete software packages like applications and video games can require some circumvention of anti-pirating schemes, it now appears that the LoC is giving some leeway here.  It is now legal to crack DRM on legally-obtained  games and software “when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing for, investigating, or correcting security flaws or vulnerabilities.”  It is also legal now to bypass protection measures where security dongles are required if the security measures “prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete.”
  • eBooks. With some formats heavily protected by DRM measures, potential eBook buyers are often frustrated by an inability to transfer their legally-purchased content across platforms, and the blind are often thwarted in their attempts to use software that will allow this content to be read to them.  Today’s decision partially relieves this angst.  In cases where no other alternative exists, the LoC has deemed it legal to bypass Digital Rights management for eBooks for the purpose of enabling text-to-speech.
  • Mobile Devices and Wireless Phones. This part of today’s decision deals specifically with a smartphone user’s right to load “unauthorized” or modified operating systems on their mobile devices, in particular, the practice of jailbreaking on Apple iPhones.  The LoC has ruled that this activity does fall under Fair Use.

This decision has been over a year in the making, and the next review cycle is less than two years away, at which point these decision may be revisited, or possibly even more DMCA exemptions will be laid out.

The official announcement and accompanying documentation can be found on the US Copyright Office Website here.

YouTube as a de facto cultural archive for past videos
Nov 30th, 2009 by Isaiah Beard

YouTube is definitely the wild-west for video content, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find a lot of vintage video content.  Quite a few of it is uploaded by people whose rights to publish the stuff is questionable, but while it’s there and before it gets taken down, it’s pretty fascinating to come across old commercials, television station idents, and little vignettes that exemplify past culture.

Here’s a good example:  a 1971 Woolworth TV ad, promoting a sale on LP albums and even some 8-tracks:

An ad from a defunt store depicting a obsolete formats.  Fascinating.

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