This past Tuesday the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) began their preliminary workshops as a precursor to the main annual conference event, which this year took place in historic Richmond, Virginia. I was only able to attend a couple of the workshops this year, but it was well worth the 7 hour train ride (got a lot of work done in transit) from Penn Station to Richmond’s Main Street station.
The A/V Tech Basics for Archivists event was led by Eric Wenocur of Lab Tech Systems. The four hour workshop broke down the types and purpose of what is now largely retro audio/video equipment. This instructional was intended for librarians, archivists, and other preservationists charged with conserving and/or preserving and duplicating their A/V elements.
As an editor, I was familiar with most of the equipment, or at the very least, I had seen it before. When I worked at a post house as an assistant editor, older decks existed for D-2 or D-3 tapes, but weren’t used. In fact I can only remember one instance were we fired one up. The deck actually worked too. When I began post work, decks for formats such as DigiBeta tapes were still in more regular use, however, even DigiBeta is considered an old format these days. Who needs a tape anymore, right?
Well those involved in preservation do and it’s formats like these that are deteriorating faster than film in many cases. This is why a/v equipment understanding is so important. Wenocur had sample equipment set up at the head of the class, as well as a handy camcorder to project close ups of the equipment onto the screen. It was a good overview of video equipment, but from my experience, the real test is practical application. What A/V Tech Basics for Archivists offered was a way to generally familiarize oneself with this equipment and it’s various purposes, be it monitors, patch bays, connector cables or vectorscopes, it can all be overwhelming if it’s new to you, but at least this offered a start.
In my opinion, some of the most valuable information offered was simple troubleshooting tips that might seem pretty obvious, and I can vouch for this, but often get overlooked.
- Know how things are SUPPOSED to work.
- Start with known good signals, paths and/or monitoring
- Change one thing and observe that change before moving on to another
- Swap things out, such as cable, equipment, software
- Cut the problem in half
- Go back to the manuals and hang out to them!
Another point that Wenocur brought up, which I think is one of the more urgent problems in need of solution is that this is old equipment and the number of technicians out there with expertise in servicing this gear is fast dwindling. Many are retired or have moved on to more contemporary skill sets and aren’t actively working on this stuff anymore. The danger of this equipment becoming useless because no one can fix it is very real. That’s why it’s detrimental that new generations learn about this equipment sooner than later, but in reality it’s not a growing career path to service retro equipment, just as the number of film projectionists are fading as DCPs take over cinemas.
Nevertheless, workshops like Wenocur’s offers some expertise sharing and I wish the workshop attendees luck when they get back to their collections and start digitizing analogue style.
Although I was bummed not to have been able to make it for the 2 part workshop, Small Gauge Projection and the Art of Projector Maintenance and Repair, since workshops overlapped, I went with Back to Basics… What You Need to Know When Starting an AV Preservation Project.
Back to Basics brought terrific presenters in Rachael Stoeltje of Indiana University Libraries, Lee Price of Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) and John Walko of Scene Savers. [Read more →]
Tags: A/V preservation · AMIA · AMIA conference 2013 · Association of Moving Image Archivists · CCAHA · Eric Wenocur · Film Preservation · Indiana University Libraries · John Walko · Lab Tech Systems · Lee Price · National Film Preservation Foundation · Rachael Stoeltje · Scene Savers · video preservation · Women's Film Preservation Fund