Dijifi has been in the business of helping families, institutions and artists preserve and distribute media stored in old formats (photo, video, audio, dvd, film) for 11 years. During this time, we have seen the evolution of digital and how digital conversion has revolutionized media storage, preservation, enhancement and sharing. I hope this article will help you to figure out how to best preserve your memories and share them for future generations in the new digital world.
Video, Audio, Film and Photo of the Past
Old media was stored on paper, film or tape and could not be shared or copied easily. It was static and local. It was difficult to move and expensive to store. There were thousands of formats from 8mm, super 8mm, 35mm, vhs, beta, u matic helical, reel to reel, cassette, four track, eight track, prints, slides, negatives, minidv, hdv, betamax, LP and on and on… Many video tape standards and even film standards varied by nationality and country of origin and so different players could not play all the different types. There were even high definition and low definition and of varying qualities each generating different quality of images and sounds. This is all gone in the new digital era as major differences are only based on operating standards and codec differences which can easily be bridged if you are technically savvy.
Early Digital Revolution
The capturing and storage of video, audio, film and photo evolved slowly where initial efforts to capture in digital were on tape or evolved overtime to minidiscs, DVDs, CDs and Blu ray. Depending on the type of media, it was not unusual to either capture in low quality digital in standard definition such as mp3 in audio and or 480p mpeg 2 video. These options were also very static, local but less difficult to share and less difficult to duplicate. However, the evolution of digital and mobile technology has transformed digital significantly especially as a result of mobile phones, cheap data storage options, higher quality and smaller lenses and the evolution of cloud computing allowing you to store media in central repositories. This evolution means what was done in the past has to be redone for digitization purposes.
Computing Technology, Internet and Storage
As media formats and standards evolved overtime, the cost of digital has been falling significantly. As this occurred the quality of and options for digital capture has increased significantly. This has given our clients lots of options for capture and storage. This has also allowed us to capture old media to higher quality standards. However, while the result of the digital revolutions has been lower cost storage and internet, there has been a significant increase in the size of digital files as we have evolved from 480p (TV quality) to 720p (DVD / SD quality) to 1080p (Blu ray) and now 2k and 4k. The size of digital files as we have been able to capture in higher and higher quality video, audio and photo has meant even larger need for storage and bandwidth. At this point, as DVD has become old technology and is being phased out, there are many options for current clients versus in the past. Clients who converted in the past are now converting again as digital evolution means newer formats.
Impact of Digital Revolution on Media Preservation
There have been multiple impacts of the digital revolution on old media preservation. The lessons from Dijifi for you are outlined below to help you in understanding the impact. More important that anything, the amount of video, photo and audio content in today’s digital world is enormous and challenging. When you add your past content such as old video tapes, audio tapes, prints and slides and records and documents to that, it is even more challenging as the volume of digital data is becoming overwhelming. Organizing this material is critical and finding the right tools to do this is even more important. The size of the files are also getting larger and larger. The needs for more data storage and larger bandwidth is also increasing.
Blurring of Lines Between Digital and Media
There is a blurring of the lines between technology and media as most things are just becoming digital and you need to be able to utilize software and new technologies to be able to enjoy, preserve and share your media safely and securely. There is no more separation between the music on a cassette or LP, the LP player and the song itself. The medium is the technology and the message itself. This brings a great deal of challenges to the older generation and makes the newer generation less sensitive to history and the past as it all seems just part of the larger messaging and media onslaught that is taking over. You need to be tech savvy to be media savvy as a result.
Lessons for Your in Your Projects for Media Conversion & Preservation
Lesson 1 – the DVD is Dead
Many places still save and store to DVD or CD i.e. discs. Use of discs for playing media is a dying technology. Avoid using it unless you intend to keep a DVD player with you until your family transfers the DVD to a newer digital format.
Lesson 2 – know the CODEC you want
DVD’s uses mpeg 2 and CD’s use mp3. These are still used but poorer quality codecs. There are other options that you can discuss with your service provider and decided what is best for you but make sure you make right decision depending on the media you are preserving.
Lesson 3 – Best to Convert to Highest Quality
The way technology is evolving and getting cheaper, and as our monitors become more and more higher quality, it’s best to convert to the highest quality possible for the media format given. Film and related type of formats have almost lifelike capture quality depending on the skills of the person who first captured it. You can convert 8mm super 8mm slides and negatives and related type of film to high definition and store it for future generations to view on high quality monitors. They will appreciate it. Make sure your service provider gives you options.
Lesson 4 – Technical Skills & Restoration
The people handling the media need to be technically strong to not just transfer old media to digital but also to ensure it is done at highest quality possible in order to allow for restoration. When you digitize, a digital copy can be restored to higher quality if the capture is digitized properly and in high quality. This is especially true for photo such as prints, slides, negatives, film and similar media. You can convert high quality film based material to digital and thereafter edit it for color and specs or brightness and sharpness so the pictures are digitized to higher quality image. Many service providers can help you improve the digital image except in certain media format cases such as old video tapes. However, even in that case, the quality of the digitization process is critical to ensuring that there is enough data to use the content in a restoration effort. Sometimes, it’s just not possible but your service provider can help you with that process.
Lesson 5 – Storage & Preservation
Your service provider should give you lots of options for storage and also allow you to store in multiple ways. If you are doing your own media conversion or looking at service providers, make sure you have multiple copies and backups. You should be able to store the data on portable hard drives as well as desktop hard drives. Make sure that you transfer and make a back up on to archival quality hard drives that you can set aside and not use. Remember that data can erode over time so at some point you have to decided whether it makes sense to also store the content on a cloud solution.
Lesson 6 – Using the Right Equipment & Not Old Technology to Convert to Digital
In the past, lots of digitization equipment was produced to help people convert to DVD quality. This equipment was very poor but many digitization and digital conversion firms still use very poor conversion equipment and you won’t know till you see the material. If a service provider is converting or telling you to convert to DVD or CD, you should be worried as they may still be using old technology. Remember except as a data backup tool, DVD and CD as a media playing tool is dead…
Lesson 7 – Sharing & Privacy
The downside of new digital world is loss of privacy and exposure to theft. The more our world becomes global and interconnected, the higher the risk your personal material will become exposed to wrongdoing. This is the same with your digitized media. Security starts at home and with you. Remember that facebook, instagram, google, yelp and all of those applications are not customized for your needs but developed to serve the needs of the company. When you give them your personal information including photos or videos, it becomes their property to share and use in order to advertise to you and also to sell your data to others. This is the case with many companies. They make money by using your content and private information and not paying you for it. With us, our storage and sharing solution is your platform and not ours. You are in charge and can decide how to store and how to share.
Lesson 8 – Cost to Digitize
The cost to digitize can vary depending on the quality of the conversion process and the volume of the work you are giving to the company. The cheap places are doing jobs quickly and hoping that given the quantities, you do not notice the bad items. With digitization, it’s hard to see whether they have done the right job as it’s hard to compare what would have been better. Generally if the digitization place has a quality review process, has the right technicians and the right equipment, it may be more expensive to digitize but at least you know you are getting the right job done. Also consider the savings from downsizing and eliminate the storage costs for old media so you reduce clutter and can save some space. If you are comfortable with the quality of the conversion and do the highest quality conversion possible, you don’t really need to keep the old media such as old photos around anylonger. Remember that it is possible to reprint high quality photos later as well so no need to keep the old prints around.
Lesson 9 – Knowledge of Technology
Media conversion and preservation is now heavily dependent on technology to store, manage, tag (to organize) and share. The ability to use technology and manage technology is critical especially when it comes to storage and organization. You need to learn what are the best tools and platforms for you before you start any project.
Lesson 10 – Best Place to Digitize
How can you decide where is the best place to digitize and what is the cost? Should you digitize or convert your own material to digital yourself? This all depends on the type of media, the complexity of the digitization process and the volume of work. Old film is hard to digitize, you need special equipment and software. VHS is easier but still requires some purchase of equipment and time. Sometimes the equipment to play the old media is not available or sometimes too difficult to integrate into conversion systems. For outsourcing to digitization firms, you can make decision on the best place based on following factors: 1) can they handle multiple formats and types (film, audio, video, prints, photos. slides etc), 2) can they store in any codec format, 3) can they do high definition, 4) can they restore and repair, 5) will they give you estimates and take time to do the job right, 6) is the work done using the right people (qualified technicians), 7) is the company financially healthy and won’t go bankrupt, 8) do they have reviews and 9) is there someone that can answer all your questions and give you the right advice and 10) do they return your old material so you can compare and make sure they did the right job??
Dijifi – Who We Are
Dijifi has been helping clients in the US for the last 12 years in technology, preservation and restoration. We have worked with many museums, institutions, government agencies, religious institutions, artists, New York City families, families across the country, universities and companies to help them with audio, video, photo, film, slide and print preservation and digitization. We have handled many needs of varying types and sizes and have been doing it right here in Brooklyn, New York. Unlike others we do not outsource to counties outside of the US and abide by the highest standards imposed upon us by New York City regulations. We have strict privacy policies and rules to make sure that your content is not also used for other purposes without your knowledge and hence, we do not use our clients material in our marketing and unlike others do not sell your material to content users.