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[AV Media Matters] Let's just... and DVD Compatibility

Dear All,  Thankyou for your contributions on these two topics, which, with
the permission of our moderator, I am commenting on together, because (in my
view) there is something even more fundamental that you all seem to have
     Here at the British Library National Sound Archive we are already
running trials of a hard-disk storage project such as Jim began this
discussion with. Unfortunately, what *everyone* fails to realise is that all
the problems lie in the *analogue* domain, not the digital domain. Whether
we are talking about the readability of a blob of dye, or a magnetic bit, or
a photographic grain, these are all *analogue* phenomena which need analogue
measurements before we can understand them. Planned migration from one
digital device to another whenever the bit-error rate approaches a certain
(and subjectively-defined) threshold, is the only long-term storage solution
without losses; so we are only doing serious digitisation for analogue media
which are self-destructing rapidly.
     At a lower level, we have already found that the *craftsmanship* issues
of analogue sound and video reproduction dominate. The formats which have
already been discussed in this debate, audiocassettes and videotapes, have
"hidden traps" which seem to me (on the other side of the pond) hidden in
America. The complaints about James Bond movies, for example, may well arise
because European videos are recorded to a completely different analogue
standard than American videos. I am frankly flabbergasted that no-one seems
even to have considered this phenomenon in coming to an explanation, which
would be the very first consideration to a European analogue engineer. (Note
however that I do not claim this is the *sole* explanation, only the *first*
thing you should have tried).
    As we begin to prepare audio for storage on the British Library
file-server, I have become horribly aware that the skills of an analogue
audio (or video) engineer are not appreciated. The conversion to digital is
considered "a sausage-factory process", as we say in England. What is needed
*before anything else* are attempts to *train* newcomers and existing staff
into the skills of analogue engineers, *then* implement them for
self-destructing media, *then* media for which hardware is less likely to be
available, and then *finally* more-routine media for which International
Standards may be applied. After that, future digitisation operators will be
choosing between comparatively few options, which can be implemented using a
"recipe-book" approach.
Peter Copeland, Technical Manager, British Library National Sound Archive.

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