The importance of digitization amidst technological progress

If your family has made any home movies, chances are they’re stored on something archaic like VCR tapes. Capturing media has progressed at an incredible pace, completely phasing out older methods day by day. Part of my research assistantship under the Hurford Center’s artist-in-residence, Vicky Funari, is to help digitize various videos she’s accumulated throughout her years of work as a filmmaker.

Digitizing media is the process by which video and sound on tapes are converted into binary data to be stored and accessed on computers. Vicky aims to have her older work preserved in order to possibly use them in ongoing and future projects. However, different types of video storage formats, i.e. Hi8, DV, 1/4″ audio cassettes, each have their own digitization process. Currently, I’m working with DV tapes, which requires me to log and capture all the shots on the tape before running them through a video editor to start encoding them. The conversion of DV tapes is at a 1:1 ratio, meaning the duration of the media on the tape is equal to how long it will take to digitize. Most of the DV tapes have upwards of 62 minutes of film on them, making the total time to digitize one tape is around 2.5 to 3 hours. Furthermore, because modern software doesn’t have features built in the accommodate older video formats, older software like Final Cut Pro 7 must be used.

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DV tapes are controlled using a tape recorder whose output is passed through a monitor and onto the computer

I’ve been lucky enough to have done a bulk of my video recording on modern and user-friendly formats like SD cards, so my media is easily preserved wherever I go. My work with digitization has shown me the incredible lengths that the video medium format has come since its mainstream inception. As older video formats become more and more obsolete, the methods by which to digitize them are phased out as well. At that point, whatever is captured is potentially lost forever.

Capturing moments in time, whether it be part of professional work or as a hobby, photography or videography, carries with it a considerable expense and upkeep over a long period of time especially considering the rapid progress of technology. However, for people like Vicky, the importance of such past moments can be so significant that they warrant constant preservation regardless of the effort needed or the pace of progression.