I would never subject anything of any sound quality or rarity-value to this but others might
My approach is the complete opposite -- do it right and do it once.
I can't see why you need a hoover-vac approach. The vast majority of the stuff that will rot away
before it's transferred wasn't much value or good anyway. Just because some COULD record something
doesn't mean they SHOULD have. Stuff that is corporate assets (commercial recordings) should get
handled due to intrinsic economic value. Private recordings, to be honest, who cares about most of
them except the owner and if the owner doesn't care enough to save them before the rot then they
weren't of any last value anyway. It's all about collecting vs. accumulating.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Steven Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 5:53 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
> If tis is to be a thruput situation, either someone will have to sort out the polyester beforehand
> (more labor, dividing stuff up, admin, etc.) which will drive the cost up and slow the process
> down. If it won't hurt the tape, it's easier workflow to do it by baking all.
> If a robot can't be constructed to deal with splices, the slowdown is so great that I doubt it
> could be done in sufficient number to call it "mass."
> I do sound preservation for a living as do many on this list. Reality says (to me, anyhow) that
> most materials have a better shot at making it into the future through automation than selective
> neglect. Yes, important masters should be treated individually, but the bulk- radio programs,
> recitals, etc., can benefit from mass attention, properly done, however that gets defined. It's
> time to define it.
> Example: A list of categories should be compiled of recording types and an analysis made of their
> suitibility to automated, semi-automated (however that gets defined) or individual attention.
> Someone will have to go in and deal with paper leader between selections since it may not be able
> to be autospliced, given its different tensile properties as compared with tape. etc.
> The hum, speed and eq problems will have to be left to future processing of the target medium.
> Steve Smolian
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 3:53 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
>> Boy, if it were my company jewels (assets), I sure wouldn't trust a robot to fix splices. That's
>> a real skill that takes a skilled person. Remember that film is sproketed, so perhaps
>> splice-fix-automation is easier to design.
>> Also, why do you say "ALL" polyester tape needs baking? Where do you get that? Only certain types
>> of know sticky-shed tapes from certain eras need baking.
>> Instead of taking the typical engineer road and trying to invent some overblown gadget, companies
>> and institutions should realize the need to spend what it takes to get skilled labor to do the
>> job right. Skilled labor can do a better job working with relatively simple and non-costly
>> setups. The biggest threat to archiving is mass-inefficiency and duplicated labor because of
>> non-communication and fiefdom/stovepipe mentalities. Again, better to invest in the skilled
>> personnel to run these organizations correctly.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Steven Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 3:29 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
>>> If we're going to discuss this a possible solution, we need to look at the inevitable problems
>>> that will arise and figure out ways to deal with them beforehand.
>>> Splices have to be checked and remade, tape baked, etc., etc., etc. That's real reel time. If
>>> that is not done, there will be a lot of crashing and (non disc) burning.
>>> Have the film people come up with an automatic splicer (for pre digital film?) If so, perhaps
>>> that technology could be applied to tape, at least, acetate based. ALL polyester would have to
>>> be baked and quickly also run through the auto-resplicer, should one exist, befor the tape
>>> becomes sticky again.
>>> There will surely be a need for pressure pad machines, with tape candidates requiring their use
>>> having been selected by a human, since flatening curled tape naturally is time consuming.
>>> We may have to live with out-of-phase stereo in first level storage and correct it at playback.
>>> So let's look at this not as a problem but as a design issue.
>>> The sky will fall only if we let it.
>>> Steve Smolian
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Andes, Donald" <[log in to unmask]>
>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 2:59 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
>>> Since we're mostly in agreement, I'll try keep my responses short.
>>> See below...
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Karl Miller
>>> Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 8:21 AM
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
>>> "Andes, Donald" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> ***It's most likely that our Archeologist friends are better than we at
>>> developing cost effective plans to achieve their goal, which may be
>>> easier when justifying project costs against the collection of
>>> "priceless" artifacts. It is also very possible that we're comparing
>>> apples to oranges, as they most likely have very different funding
>>> **Over the years I have reviewed many grant applications for audio
>>> preservation projects. The content and methodology have ranged from well
>>> considered to the absurd. The question really that comes to my mind is
>>> the notion of cost effective. Grant funding is, by design, not
>>> predicated on notions of "cost effective." Also, very few proposals I
>>> have read, address questions of efficiency. It is my thinking that cost
>>> effective means that it can pay for itself. I believe that the
>>> copyrights in the US, and the very functionalism of libraries (free to
>>> the public) prevent libraries and archives from realizing substantive
>>> financial return for their efforts.
>>> **I guess I don't see that we are comparing apple and oranges, unless we
>>> choose to make such a differentiation. It seems to me that uncovering a
>>> fragment of a clay pot, is not unlike reclaiming a bit of audio. Once
>>> the "artifact" has been recovered, there is then the question of
>>> cataloging it and its preservation.
>>> The apples to oranges retort come from the fact that nothing you'll
>>> uncover by digging in the ground comes with copyright, performance, and
>>> estate issues. Also, most of what Archeoloigists are looking for have
>>> wider appeal, since it connect dots in the greater fabric of our
>>> existence. Uncovering a audio masterpiece may help us understand a
>>> composers intent, or help resolve a dispute over chord progressions or
>>> unresolved notes, but it's still a very niche area. Again scope comes
>>> into play here.
>>> ***2) The under appreciation/underpaying of Library and Archiving staff:
>>> The world today (more than ever) comes down to profitability. Since
>>> libraries don't make profits, it falls in line that there not going to
>>> be handling out high paying jobs working for a Library. High paying jobs
>>> can easily be had in the Finance, Legal, and Medical worlds. This has
>>> been true for years, but for librarians the cold hard facts haven't
>>> sunken in. Do I believe they should be paid more, of course I do. But do
>>> I think they ever will, not in my lifetime.
>>> **I agree. I would also suggest that the available salaries for
>>> libraries will continue to decline due to the decline in use statistics.
>>> I believe it will be increasingly difficult for those charged with
>>> making budget decisions to justify library budgets. However, one needs
>>> to keep in mind that libraries and archives exist as "public utilities"
>>> of a sort. They are funded as we fund our fire departments. They are
>>> seen as serving a common good. Yet, indeed, as the funding of public
>>> utilities is being more subject to funding predicated on use, (toll
>>> roads being but one example) libraries are very likely to experience
>>> even more substantive reductions in public funding.
>>> **My thinking is that libraries seem to be trying to compete in areas
>>> where they have already lost. Libraries are trying to counter the
>>> defection to google and yahoo, by becoming movie theaters and snack
>>> **On the other hand, I believe that libraries need to refocus their
>>> remaining resources more to the preservation of our intellectual
>>> history...being museums of a different sort.
>>> Not to play the pessimist, but I find Libararies will be following
>>> records stores to their demise, and I question what can be done, so late
>>> in the game to change the inevitable.
>>> Also, Police and Fire services can be seen as government protection
>>> against liabilities. Libraries do not offer this function to the
>>> government with it serves.
>>> ***The fact is that we have massive amounts of history from the 1900's
>>> in every field. Are we missing important stuff, sure we are. But the
>>> unfortunate fact is that not enough people care enough about what's
>>> missing. And more so, not enough profitability can be had from
>>> collecting what was lost, to make it a worthwhile endeavor.
>>> **Indeed, that is my question, what can we realistically hope to
>>> preserve. Also tied into that question is the criteria used to decide
>>> what we should preserve. Who has those skills? What sort of training is
>>> I believe we COULD preserve it all, however, we (the archival community)
>>> need to start putting more time into large scale cohesive planning and
>>> lobbying for funding to support it, instead of running around crying
>>> that the sky is falling.
>>> Just take a look at what Google books is doing. I'm not in 100%
>>> agreement with the plan or it's direction, but think of the scale. Think
>>> of what they set out to accomplish. Strange, how no one IN the community
>>> thinks on this level.
>>> ***Think of it: That lost treasure of sound, that we thought the world
>>> would never hear again. Suddenly found, in pristine condition....How
>>> many downloads, CD's excetera could you possibly sell? Unless it the
>>> Beatles or Elvis it's most likely a lot LESS than you would think.
>>> **Having my own record company and having issued historic performances,
>>> I have some practical experience. I can find no rationale for what sells
>>> and what does not.
>>> **I am often reminded of the interest in the music of Mahler. While
>>> there were a few of the faithful around when he died...consider the
>>> notion that since he was not given much credit as a composer when he
>>> died, nobody preserved his manuscripts. We now have a market for Mahler.
>>> It is difficult to second guess what product might find that "Tipping
>>> point" and what might not. Thankfully, Mahler's music has been
>>> preserved. How do you know there is a market for a product unless you
>>> have the product and make it available?
>>> Well that's what the business is all about. We do market research, sign
>>> artists, and take chances. We don't sign everyone we could, and we don't
>>> always sign artists that are profitable. Regardelss, it's highly
>>> unlikely that any "found" audio will reap large sums of money;
>>> especially in this market already inundated with catalog releases and
>>> slipping CD sales.
>>> ***3) Metadata concerns:
>>> Here's the white elephant in the room. Everyone wants to
>>> preserve/transfer/digitize, but guess what??? If you don't have a
>>> complete and correct metadata standard in place, you'll probably do more
>>> harm then good. Once things are transferred, the value of storing the
>>> original drops (to the non archivist) and people assume that they'll
>>> never need to go back to it. That is until, we try to understand what
>>> the heck the file is, since your metadata seems spotty, and possibly
>>> **Again, I agree completely. While great work is being done in Music
>>> Information Retrieval, as for the metadata, libraries are having a
>>> rough time these days. I consider the aborted attempts to revise the
>>> cataloging rules. I believe it is time for a complete overhaul of
>>> cataloging (metadata preparation, description, and cataloging
>>> methodology). It is my hope that some enterprising company will come up
>>> with some highly efficient, less labor intensive, system for the
>>> creation of metadata, one that is so inexpensive that libraries will be
>>> forced into making changes.
>>> **I believe it is irrational to expect libraries to do it on their own.
>>> To abandon MARC voluntarily seems not only unlikely, but
>>> irrational...there is too much money invested in the old methodology.
>>> Like Google books, I'm sure those outside the industry will figure this
>>> all out for us, whether the solution is fool proof or not. Regardless,
>>> it will just verify that our industry is lost and behind the times, and
>>> our dismal salaries are in line with what they should be.
>>> ****4) Formatting/Migration issues:
>>> Yikes. This was hiding being the white elephant called metadata. And
>>> again, unless you figure this out UP FRONT, why bother digitizing?
>>> **I agree in part. While there are many valid points to be made to
>>> reformat recordings on stable media, I am a firm believer in addressing
>>> the media which is chemically unstable.
>>> Obviously migrating to avoid permanemt loss is manditory, but digitizing
>>> analog reels in stable condition without connecting all the dots seems
>>> pointless to me, which is why I advocate against it.
>>> ****5) And finally to address your last statement:
>>> I think the archiving world has it's blinders on, and needs to pull
>>> back, rationalize a bit, and find it's place in the modern world of
>>> business, technology, culture, and government. It's not effort or caring
>>> that this industry lacks; it's scope, direction and rational.
>>> **Again, I agree.
>>> **I believe that the pressures from the private sector are forcing
>>> libraries and archives to reconsider their place in society. I would
>>> wager that many of us have plenty of good ideas as to how to
>>> significantly increase library productivity and perhaps even provide
>>> some cost recovery...and I am not taking about coffee bars...I wonder if
>>> there is anything that can be done from within the profession, or if we
>>> just need to sit back and wait for the changes to be forced from the
>>> private sector. I guess I just don't see libraries and archives taking
>>> the initiative to change...and sadly, I believe a great deal of our
>>> history stands to be lost in the process of waiting.
>>> **Sadly, I see libraries ignoring (I use the word ignore since such a
>>> small percentage of ARL member's budgets is devoted to preservation)
>>> what I see to be their greatest resource, their unique holdings.
>>> **Yet, for me, the question remains, is there some way to significantly
>>> realign priorities within libraries? It seems to me that the changes
>>> need to come from outside the preservation profession. The question is,
>>> what is the best marketing strategy and how do we go about mounting our
>>> advertizing campaign.
>>> Marketing and PR are taken to be in opposition to public use and
>>> non-profit, but the two can actually work had and hand quite nicely. The
>>> problem goes back to re-identifying what libraries and archives are,
>>> what they could be, and what they should be. When I was a kid, libraries
>>> didn't have any direct competition beyond the local bookstore. But now
>>> with Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble, Blockbuster and Virgin Megastores
>>> competing in BOTH the brick and motar AND online space it's no wonder
>>> the public isn't flocking to libraries. I myself haven't found the need
>>> to go in years.
>>> **I used to wonder if part of the problem had to do with the way society
>>> views the role of music. Our copyrights seem to deal with it as a
>>> consumable. Yet I then consider how we have such things as a "Museum of
>>> Broadcasting." We seem to place some value on consumables. But do we
>>> place more value on "I Love Lucy" than we do on Perry Como...or
>>> "Omnibus" versus some of the more esoteric bits of our musical heritage.
>>> It would seem the answer is yes. Then the question comes to my mind,
>>> will Lucy be as valued 100 years from now as say an Omnibus program
>>> featuring Frank Lloyd Wright. I wonder...then, should the library and
>>> archive world be more concerned with what is not economically viable and
>>> leave that which has a potential for "cost recovery," to the private
>>> We all have to remember that the populous doesn't even scratch the
>>> surface beyond commercially availible music and film releases. I enjoy
>>> genres of music that have never had commercial success in this country,
>>> and most likely never will. I have literally thousands of records that
>>> could vanish without anyone understanding their ramifications. But I
>>> understand, I'm in a niche, of a niche, of a niche. These recordings
>>> connect the dots for a few very low key genres but do not register on
>>> the radar of the public scope.
>>> Question: If we could look back in great detail on the times of any
>>> ancient civilization, what would be more relivant: the tastes, and
>>> likings of the masses (aka the Mozarts, Michalangelos, and
>>> Shakespeares), or the concerns and pickings of the trivial ubergeeks
>>> like ourselves (obsure no name, short lived, fringe artists)?
>>> **Should an organization like EMI, donate (the objects and the rights)
>>> whatever holdings it sees as having no revenue potential to the
>>> non-profit, public sector?
>>> EMI UK, does have a non-profit historic trust, and donates a wide
>>> variety of older reordings and technologies to it. I am currently trying
>>> to establish something here in the US along those lines, but cannot
>>> discuss it any more than that.
>>> - --------------------------------------------------------------------
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