Digitize once, digitize well


Lessons for your projects on media conversion and 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 decide what is best for you but make sure you make the 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, its best to convert to the highest quality possible for the media format given. Film and related type of formats have almost life like 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 HD (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 the 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 back ups. 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 backup onto archival quality hard drives that you can set aside and not use. Remember that data can erode overtime so at some point you have to decide 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 there 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 is hard to see whether they have done the right job as its 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 maybe 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 any longer. 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 the 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 HD (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 wont go bankrupt?
8) Do they have reviews?
9) Is there someone that can answer all your questions and give you the right advice?
10) Do they return your old material so you can compare and make sure they did the right job?