The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Film/Video
- The gauntlet has been thrown, who wore it best comes to life at the Archives of American Art. [via Archives of American Art blog]
- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to say the least. The discovery of an interview of P. L. Travers, author of a series of novels featuring Mary Poppins. [via Library of Congress blog]
- Who knew what would come of some little seeds? The story of the Guinea Bean plant, its 50 foot journey to the top of the Arts and Industries Building, and 5 foot long gourds. [via Smithsonian Gardens blog]
- Just a little off . . . A news assistant discovered that The New York Times issue numbers had been off by 500 since 1898. [via The Atlantic]
- My how far we've come, 50 years ago the Library of Congress installed their first computer in the newly established Data Processing Office. [via Library of Congress blog]
- Animation rare book style, check out this fore-edge painted book from the Special Collections and Archives at the University of Iowa. [via Special Collections and Archives, University of Iowa tumblr]
- Engage with staff at the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of American History next Wednesday for Ask a Curator Day where museums around the world invite you to engage directly with curators and other staff.
- To kick off American Archives month, AOTUS (Archivists of the United States) David S. Ferriero, asks you to join him on Google+ for an Ask the Archivist Hangout where he'll be answering your questions on Tuesday, September 24, from 2–2:30 pm, ET. [via AOTUS, NARA]
- Your vote counts! The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum invites you to vote for winner of the 2013 People's Design Award. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- Coming up next weekend in Washington, D.C. is the Library of Congress' National Festival of the Book. [via LOC Blog]
- This weekend Bibilotech, the first all-digital public library in the United States will open in Texas. [via InfoDocket]
- Handwriting samples, birthdays, and grants - The mysterious authorship of a travelog in the Archives is solved! [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- In the theaters recently was the movie Lee Daniel's The Butler - A historical drama that follows the experience of an African American butler in the White House during eight presidential terms from 1952 to 1986. Eugene Allen, the subject of that movie, was interviewed in the 1990s by Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage curator Dr. Marjorie Hunt. [via Courtney Bellizzi, SIA]
Preservation of born-digital video is one of the more challenging types when it comes to digital files. As we noted in August, the Archives worked with Smithsonian Channel programs on DVD this summer. This project helped us develop workflows we are now adopting with some born-digital video.
Video on authored DVD is complicated. If you have ever viewed the files on a computer, usually you will see an AUDIO_TS folder and a VIDEO_TS folder. The VIDEO_TS folder contains VOB, IFO, and BUP files and the AUDIO_TS folder is empty. The VOB (video object) files contain the video and audio streams, subtitles, and menus; VOB is the wrapper or container. IFOs are information files or directions that the DVD player uses and the BUP files are backups of the IFO files. The video codec itself is MPEG-2 with either linear PCM, AC-3 or DTS audio within the VOB wrapper. The Archives also has received other video containers and codecs on DVDs and external drives that include MOV, AVI, MPG, and SWF formats. Workflows are to be developed for those separately.
We have seen a wide range of playback quality with these DVDs. The videos are lossy, meaning there has been compression to get smaller file sizes, resulting in some loss of data from the original production file.
The Archives’ policy is to transfer all digital files to our server and create a copy as soon as possible after receiving them. We do this because specific media, software, and hardware can become obsolete quickly, and it also allows us to determine current preservation requirements. Just copying VOB, IFO, and BUP files directly off the authored DVD breaks the menu functionality that one sees when a DVD is launched from a player or computer. Our solution has been to create a complete disk image or ISO of the DVD. This ISO file can be mounted to a computer for viewing with appropriate player software as if it was an actual DVD with the user menus in place. This serves as our preservation master.
An access copy, which should easily play back in multiple viewers on a computer while retaining menus, was desired as well. This was the tricky part, as results were mixed when testing various software programs. Either the video menu was missing or artifacts (distortion or waves in the picture) were introduced into the video. Timecodes (running time of the video) also were corrupted.
Working with the Smithsonian's Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) team in the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), we started testing ffmpeg, which is a popular and free command-line tool for converting, streaming, and recording video and audio. We successfully have been able to create one VOB by stitching all the VOB files together and then using ffmpeg to transform that VOB file into a playable MPEG-2 with an MPEG wrapper that is supported within the enterprise DAMS used internally at the Smithsonian. Ffmpeg also retains original timecode of the authored DVD from the concatenated VOB files, in addition to any original subtitles on the disc.
While the access MPEG-2 file lacks the menu’s functionality, there is a brief screen of the menu at the beginning of playback. When asked why it is important to capture the menu the answer is the information that is displayed. In the example of the baby anteater video screenshots here, its menu provides dates and times when it was filmed (at least according to the settings of the recording device), which is not always apparent from the DVD file directories.
This workflow, though, is not the final solution. Some videos on authored DVDs that were created with a Mac have not been successfully transformed to date and more research is needed. Digital preservation always will be a moving target. As tools and software change and mature, there also is the need that procedures do the same through regular evaluation to make sure the right approaches continue to be taken with digital assets.
- Digital Video Preservation: Continuing the Conversation, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Digital Video Preservation: Further Challenges for Preserving Digital Video and Beyond, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Born Digital Video Preservation: A Final Report, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Refining Conversion Contract Specifications: Determining Suitable Digital Video Formats for Medium-term Storage, Federal Agencies Digitzation Guidelines Initiative
When I first applied for an internship at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, I admittedly did not know much about it. For my internship, I was asked to make a video that would explain to the general public what the Archives was, as well as what resources it could offer them. On my first day here I was told that the Archives held the records and history of the Smithsonian Institution. I thought this sounded straightforward enough, but as I began to work on the video I realized there was more to it than that. With each new interview, with each day of shooting B-roll footage, or simply being around the office I heard new stories and learned new things about the Archives. I learned that there was everything here from correspondence, books, and architecture plans to photographs, negatives, and film reels. The subjects of these items range from science and history to art and literature. They cover a large span and scope of American History and give unique insight into it. There really is something to interest everyone here.
What I also discovered is that this information is available to the public. While I grew up in the Washington, DC area and have always enjoyed going to the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo, I never knew that the Archives were also there as a public resource. Visitors can request specific information from the reference archivists, explore the collections online through the Archives’ website, or get helpful advice on preservation through the forums. These resources are valuable for everyone from researchers, to archivists, or anyone simply interested in the history of just about any subject.
I quickly realized that covering the broad scope of the Archives would be difficult to do in one video. I felt that any one area of the Smithsonian could easily fill its own video, and I had to consolidate all of these into one. I decided to try to touch on every area or subject that was in the Archives, rather than trying to cover any one in depth. I felt that this would give people an idea of what was at the Archives and allow them explore more about whatever area interested them most on their own. In the end there was too much information, footage, and too many good interviews to fit into just one video. So we split the video in two: one to explain what the Archives is and one to tell people about the resources it can provide. I hope these videos will help people discover the Archives and all that it has to offer, as I have over the course of this summer.
- For your use: a new guide to archiving digital video. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- An interesting intersection between artists, museums, and digital records: The XFR STN at the New Museum will be used to preserve audiovisual materials from the New Museum’s archive as well as be open for use by any artist to preserve their moving image or born-digital materials whose formats have become obsolete. [via Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, SIA]
- Just a little stale: Folks at the National Museum of American History open up a can of fortune cookies from the 1930s for the first time. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- The Smithsonian's Transcription Center is continuing to evolve and engage with users in order to make collections more accessible. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog, SI]
- The Smithsonian American Art Museum recently acquired 100 photographs by legendary photographer Irving Penn. [via The Torch, SI]
- Free for use: The Getty has just made available 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum's collection free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose. [via InfoDocket]
- Out of this world: NASA's efforts to digitize lunar film are hightlighted in this video. [via PetaPixel]