Why upgrade?


Last month, I was at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum. It’s a fascinating place, not least because it’s one of the largest audiovisual archives in Europe, providing access to over 70% of the


Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Hilversum.

Dutch audio-visual heritage. It’s estimated that its collection extends to over 750,000 hours of television, radio, music and film content.


Sound and Vision is the institute for media culture; an inspiring, creative and accessible meeting place for private individuals and professionals.

Of course, it’s precisely the kind of place where you’d expect to find an analogueSteenbeck. In fact, they have 20 of them and I was interested to find out what they’re doing with their Steenbecks and understand their experience with it.

Our analogue Steenbecks have been around for over 60 years, and they form quite a sizeable proportion of the 27,000 Steenbecks installed around the world – including those in Hilversum. One of my missions is to get those analogue Steenbecks upgraded to the latest digital versions, which offer so much more versatility and functionality. I began that conversation with our friends in The Netherlands.

Why would they want to upgrade from analogue to digital? First: many of the installed Steenbecks date back a quarter of a century. It’s remarkable that they’re still going strong, with exemplary reliability. But: it’s an unfortunate fact of life that, when they do fail, they’re becoming much more expensive to repair, because many of the parts just aren’t available anymore.

Lower cost of ownership

So: the first thing that upgrading to the latest digital Steenbecks will bring is lower cost of ownership.

There are other reasons, though, that are perhaps even more important. First: a digital system makes content far more viewable than an analogue system. Second is the opportunity to digitize existing analogue archives. Why is that important?

First: digitizing preserves valuable assets – assets that will almost certainly degrade in their analogue form, to the point where they become of little use. Second: storing any content digitally will take up less space, and will be less expensive to store and transport than, for example, reels of film.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to upgrade, however, is the world of possibilities that digitization brings in terms of monetization – the ability to derive value and income from an asset. That comes about as a result of the Steenbeck’s ability create, for every asset,  an index that is far more detailed than was possible in the analogue world. And: the index is not only more detailed, but much more easily and quickly searchable. Someone needs footage of a street in Stockholm in the mid-1930s? You’ll know in minutes if you can help them.

I’m sure you’ll agree, those are some pretty persuasive motivations to make the move to digital. It’ll be interesting to find out what the people at Hilversum decide to do.


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