At 02:12 PM 2008-08-15, Tom Fine wrote:
>1. a pile of cassette tapes is pretty stable, if stored properly.
>Better to amass some expertise and funding than to rush headlong
>into a transfer project under a false idea that there's a timebomb
>ticking. Yes, cassettes are not "forever" stable, but no medium is
>and I would suggest that most large piles of cassettes are anywhere
>from 35 to 5 years old and not in immediate risk. Richard may say
>different but I've had few cassettes through here that had the tape
>falling apart in them. Sure, stuff stored improperly warps and has
>dropouts but we're not talking about oxide falling off like can
>happen with old cellulose and acetate reels. This is of course not
>the case with all cassettes and there are some problem types. But,
>in general, I'd say take your time getting funding in place to do
>the job right.
There is an issue with this concept that can come around to bite us.
If we say that the tapes are pretty stable, then funding for their
restoration will be put off. If we say it's a crisis, then people
will rush headlong into doing it without proper planning.
One of the first lessons I learned after joining ABC-TV's engineering
department in 1974 was "Proper Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance"
For most cassettes it is not a crisis that we have to do it
yesterday, but we'd better start doing it soon and correctly because
(a) the tapes are getting worse and (b) the availability of great
machines in great shape is decreasing. I have a long-term large
project in-house that is pathetic and I don't think I have more than
a half-dozen originals, all are poor copies, sometimes as many as
four copies. The project I allude to at the bottom had 100 cassettes
and these ranged from adequate to poor. The client was happy with
what she's heard so far.
In both projects, I am seeing cassettes that have problematic
playback including base film deformation, or so it seems. I think
playing these in five years will be more of a problem than now.
Many of these collections even contain C-120s. Talk about horror stories.
>2. as I've said numerous time, it is very much worth looking into
>outsourcing the A-D work. I've found that for institutional clients,
>there are usually a few folks on-hand who are very clear on what
>they want to do with the audio once it's in digital form. And, I've
>found these folks to be generally highly educated and smart and thus
>it's not a problem for someone on staff to be come expert at a
>sound-editing program. So the way we generally work to keep the
>client in maximum control and the total budget within a good sweet
>spot is they get either the raw transfer files or, if cleanup work
>is outsourced, the "final" high-rez and the raw high-rez. Then they
>handle the slicing and dicing, burning to portable media, crunching
>to online formats, entering their own metadata, etc. This keeps my
>studio time down to mainly transfer work and thus saves them a lot
>of money since they have facilities already in place to do the other
>work -- and the key work of final format and access files and
>metadata/database are handled in-house exactly to their preferred
>specifications. Just to be clear, I've done projects where all this
>work is outsourced, but the costs are much higher.
A completely agree with that. Where I've found the sweet spot for
costs/capabilities is often to do the raw transfers and clean them,
name the files to the client's specifications, and deliver the whole
thing on a hard drive while retaining copies on my servers until the
client has copied everything off and confirmed the MD5 hashes.
>3. what has become clearer to me over time is that something like a
>field recording of an oral history (ie a non-stellar recording)
>NEEDS to be transferred and handled in a very high-quality audio
>chain. Things like voice-clarity and dynamics control can be very
>much improved for the final product, making reference-listening much
>more productive and audibility much better. So apply a
>barebones/dirt-cheap chain to bad audio will make things worse,
>whereas applying a very good chain to very bad audio can help in
>many cases. I think this is one of Richard's main points.
>So, while I am very sympathetic to cash-starved archives and
>institutions, I think it's better to make strategic decisions about
>realistic funding levels and realistic expectations about what can
>be digitized within those limits. Then prioritize and maybe spread
>out the time-horizon to get it done right.
There are success stories on both sides. I've mentioned the Cal State
Fullerton massive conversion project where the oxide was falling off
the reel tapes due to compromised storage conditions and
purchasing-provided white-box tape. Here we set up stations with two
Studer A807s and several (2-3) Nakamichi Dragons and a couple of
high-end consumer 1/4-track machines.
Each station consisted of ONE playback device and two Sony CDR-W33 CD
writers and two gold audio CDs were written at once. It was a good
compromise. It was all done with volunteer labour and I trained the
trainer who was very good and driven to get this done no matter what
the obstacles were.
It is the rare archive that benefits from doing this in-house.
Fullerton had maybe 8000 recordings. It paid for them to do it. I
think it's far more cost-effective -- and you'll get a better product
-- if you come to people like Tom or me with your 1-1000 unit tape
collection. I just turned around 100 tapes in about three weeks (long
weeks) which included raw WAV, cleaned WAV, cleaned MP3. They will
burn their own CDs and place the MP3s on line maybe.
One thing to remember, those of us who do this regularly (and there
are several on this list and listed in my Formats and Resources
section of www.richardhess.com/notes/formats/ ) do this every day and
are aware of problems and sometimes quick fixes that may cause days
of delay for those who haven't seen the problem before.
I say that from experience as I've had several tapes this year that
have caused me days of delay when they did not behave as expected,
but I learned from them -- and published a few on my blog.
Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.