Helping New Orleans archive


Last week we attended the AMIA conference at the InterContinental Hotel in New Orleans. AMIA is the Association of Moving Image Archivists, a non-profit international association dedicated to the preservation and use of moving image media. AMIA supports public and professional education and fosters cooperation and communication among the individuals and organizations concerned with the acquisition, preservation, description, exhibition, and use of moving image materials.

We were joined by DANSK Film Digitization, a company headquartered in New York who use our Steenbeck film archive digitization system.

As well as listening to some fascinating presentations, and demonstrating the Steenbeck to conference attendees, we also took part in an all-day workshop that focused on the role and importance of creating rich descriptive metadata to describe time-based content. It was aimed at helping local individuals and organizations improve their audiovisual archiving skills. Collecting institutions and community groups in the New Orleans area were invited to bring their challenges and their media objects for a day of collaborative problem solving and training, working with the AMIA community.

Only the first step
That’s a subject that’s very close to our hearts, of course. It’s vital that we preserve the hundreds of thousands of hours of film that have been captured over the past several decades – not just by the major movie studios and TV companies, but by anyone who has recorded anything that may have value in the future.

However: preserving those assets is only the first step. The second step, and perhaps the most important one, is to ensure we know what each of them contains. What does this footage show? Where and when was it shot? Who appears in it? What items of interest does it contain?

That’s where the use of metadata comes in. Metadata about an archive serves two important purposes. First: it tells us what the archive is about. Perhaps more importantly, it can tell us – in detail – what it contains. Why is that important?

Archive footage has real commercial value to a host of potential buyers. Take producers of documentaries, for example. You may recall, in my last blog post, I talked about Matthew White and how he created “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” and the challenges he faced – firstly in locating footage of the Beatles, and then in taking the 100 hours of material that he found and editing it down to a 90 minute program.

Significantly easier
That kind of undertaking would be made significantly easier if all the available sources included metadata – and that’s where our Smart Indexing comes in. Think of it as using ‘tags’ – where anything of interest in the footage has some kind of descriptive information that can be easily searched for and located. That information is them embedded within the digital version of the archive to make it easily searchable – and easily and quickly locatable.

Just imagine: an automated system that uses AI and machine learning that can recognize over 11,000 objects, scenes and events – and that can identify them and tag them far faster than a human being ever could. It even includes the ability to recognize the 100,000 faces that are held in our database – and users can, of course, add their own.

We’re looking forward to working with those local groups and organizations in New Orleans to show them just how easily we can help them add that kind of value to their archives.

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