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Friday, January 13, 2012

Preserving your memories V - Magnetic Tape



Magnetic tape was and still is is a wonderfully versatile and fascinating medium. It wears well and will last decades if properly cared for and stored. Unfortunately all tape is not created equal and as a result some of the audio or video tape you have on your shelf might being dying a slow death and you don't even know about it.

Tape is essentially a very thin ribbon that has a magnetic oxide glued to it with what they call a binder. Over time and with mechanical wear this binding agent will dry, harden, start to deteriorate and flake off. The result is you start losing the oxide that has your sound print on it resulting in signal dropouts.  This decay can also start to contaminate playback heads, dirty and glaze rollers and guides and generally start causing more playback problems. In VHS and Beta machines it can actually start to leave visible piles of residue under the tape path.

Quality media will last longer but over the years a lot of cheap tape has been dumped on the marketplace. I have some broadcast reel to reel tapes that are over forty years old. They are still pliable and recordable. On the other hand I have customers bring in cheap VHS cassettes that were recorded ten years ago that are already exhibiting age and visible dropouts.

What is important is this. If you have memories on audio or video tape there is no time like the present to preserve them by dumping them to digital media files.

There are two really good reasons for doing this. 

First, the old stuff is analog. This means that every time you make a copy of it there is loss of quality. Making it into a digital file stops this degradation process. All things being equal (and depending on what software you use), there is no detectable loss in editing and manipulating digital files.

Second, while disc media does not deteriorate as fast as magnetic media, it will last much longer and is more robust. It is impervious to magnetic fields, is smaller and easier to store and it will outlast you if properly cared for. The thing that can damage it is strong light and of course, deep scratches. The one caveat here is quality. At my studio, I could buy media that is as much as fifty percent cheaper than what I pay. I don't. I buy the best media I can buy for mastering and duplicating because it is better quality and will last much, much longer. Saving a few pennies on any media is a false economy that you will end up paying for eventually.

So let's talk about audio tape preservation.

Reel to Reel Tape
Reel to reels generally transfer quite well but a lot depends on the recording speed. The lower consumer speeds generally are pretty muddy with very little in the way of high or low frequencies. The other problem is running time. With so many tape lengths and different speeds available it is hard to know how long your reels will run before actually running them. The time chart below shows the consumer tape speeds and will give you an idea of the variables. To make CD's from large slow playing reels necessitates breaking up the digital file to a length that will be accommodated by the maximum recordable time on a CD. (Approximately 70 minutes)

Approximate Running Time Per Track
* ips = Inches Per Second)
Length/Speed 1 7/8 ips* 3 3/4 ips 7 1/2 ips
300 feet 30 min. 15 min. 7.5 min.
600 feet 60 min. 30 min. 15 min.
900 feet 90 min. 45 min. 22 min.


Approximate Time recorded on both sides of tape
Speed/Length 150 ft. 300 ft. 600 ft. 900 ft. 1200 ft 1800 ft. 2400 ft. 3600 ft.
1 7/8 ips* 30 min. 1 hr. 2 hrs. 3 hrs. 4 hrs. 6 hrs. 8 hrs. 12 hrs.
3 3/4 ips 15 min. 30 min. 1 hr. 1.5 hrs. 2 hrs. 3 hrs. 4 hrs. 6 hrs.
7 1/2 ips 7.5 min. 15 min. 30 min. 45 min. 1 hr. 1.5 hrs. 2 hrs. 3 hrs.
Approximate Time recorded on both sides of tape
Number of CD's required
Speed/Length 150 ft. 300 ft. 600 ft. 900 ft. 1200 ft 1800 ft. 2400 ft. 3600 ft.
1 7/8 ips* 1 CD 1 CD 2 CD's 3 CD's 3 CD's 5 CD's 6 CD's 9 CD's
3 3/4 ips 1 CD 1 CD 1 CD 2 CD's 2 CD's 3 CD's 3 CD's 5 Cd's
7 1/2 ips 1 CD 1 CD 1 CD 1 CD 1 CD 2 CD's 2 CD's 3 CD's


The most economical way to do this is to capture the entire reel as one file and then subdivide it as an edit later. As in the case of preserving records you may need to process and EQ the files before burning them to CD's.

Audio Cassettes
Audio Cassettes are a little easier to process as there is a standard speed and tape lengths are generally noted on the cassette shell or label.
Here again, it is more economical to record a whole side and then use the editing software to break it down to individual tracks. This is pretty easy to do as most editing software gives you a visual representation of the recorded sounds as a waveform. You can spot the breaks by looking where the wave form drops on the timeline. You simply  highlight the track, then copy and  paste the selection to a new file.
Remember to save your work often.

8 Track Tapes
Same as above. They will be a little tricky in that you may have to search for the first track. In reality you can start anywhere and re-order the tracks later.
The big problem here is finding someone who has a working 8 track. I have one but to date nobody has ever bought one to me for transfer.

Other Formats
There are other what I call fringe formats available (such as micro cassettes). I have only talked about the most common formats that I see at my studio every day.

Here is a word to the wise. There's a substantial investment of time, money and learning for you to preserve your precious audio. What you have to decide is whether you have the time to learn and experiment in order to get the desired results.
If you have a ton of stuff and you are a real do it yourselfer, then research what equipment and software you need and buy it.  Lock yourself away with your computer and have fun.

If you only have a few reels, albums or cassettes don't bother. Find a professional and pay to have it done properly.

In future articles we will talk about video tape preservation.


Thanks for reading. Remember, if you have questions or comments please feel free to add them. Also keep in mind that KEMEdia Studios offer these transfers services should you require them.



You can receive notice of new blog instalments automatically. Please subscribe to the Blog by "Joining this site" and becoming a member.

Mike Reid can be heard approximately once a month on the Dave Fisher Show, weekends on CJAD 800 in Montreal. Mike and Dave talk about technology and new directions during these ten minute spots.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Preserving your memories IV - Vinyl Album or Single Transfers




So you have that irreplaceable album that never made the leap to digital in the marketplace. Or maybe you have a tape or reel to reel of Grandma singing at the piano. You can now preserve these in a digital format which will be easy to manipulate, edit and share.

Today we will talk about transferring vinyl records to digital media files.

This is one painstaking and time consuming process if you want to do it right.

First you need a USB turntable or an older turntable adapted to your input card on your computer.

Next you need some kind of capture software that has some capacity to EQ, filter and process the captured digital audio files.

You may have seen the turntables that are offered with credit card statements or online. They look like old radios or consoles. BUYER BEWARE. Mechanically they are not accurate which may add rumble and hum to your tracks and in most cases they offer ceramic cartridges which are highly abrasive and less efficient compared to a traditional stylus. Don't waste your money on these rigs. Search the net for other solutions or go to a studio that offers a transfer service. In my opinion, if you want to do this on your own you will have to invest $150 or more on a new USB turntable and stay away from ceramic cartridges.

Once your software is running you have to clean your disc. Use a static free cloth and slowly move it from the centre of the record to the outside while the turntable is turning. Next you play it while capturing/recording the tracks with your sound device. 

You have to capture in real time. Some software will allow you to index your tracks on the fly and others will capture entire sides where you have to go into the software later and divide the side into the individual songs. It doesn't stop there. 

Once you have your sound recorded you may need to add noise reduction, filter out rumble and de- click if the album is old and scuffed up. All of this processing can add up to a lot of time. Remember too that each thing you do to "improve" the audio sacrifices something else. There is a lot of experimentation here. Be prepared to spend more than a couple of hours per record.

Most USB turntables do not have the 78 speed. In this case you playback the disc at 45 rpm and then do a speed conversion with the software you have. The results are kind of cool. It's a neat workaround.

I once had a really neat disk to convert. It was from a soldier overseas during WW II who went into one of the old recording booths to record an engraved 1 minute disk to send home to his mother. It was ra very small disc accorded as a 78 so I had to convert it using a pitch/speed plug-in with my software. Then I processed it using a de-click plug-in and noise filter. The result was quite gratifying. A little WW II history leapt out of the speakers at me. Very cool!

Once you have all of your album tracks recorded, processed and split then you have to burn your CD master using whatever software you prefer. 
Remember, if you have good gear, have lots of patience and good recording media you will get a decent result. If you are in a hurry the results will not be as nice as you would hope.

In the next instalments we will talk about transferring magnetic media formats into a digital format.

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you have questions or comments please feel free to add them. Also keep in mind that KEMEdia Studios offer these transfers services should you require them.



You can receive notice of new blog instalments automatically. Please subscribe to the Blog by "Joining this site" and becoming a member.

Mike Reid can be heard approximately once a month on the Dave Fisher Show, weekends on CJAD 800 in Montreal. Mike and Dave talk about technology and new directions during these ten minute spots.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Preserving your memories III - A short history lesson on media - Vinyl Albums, Audio Cassettes, Reel-to-Reel Tape and yes, even 8 Track Tapes

In this third blog of my series on preserving your memories, I am going to talk about audio source media.

in the next couple of blogs I'll talk about about preserving your analog sound media.

First a little history.

Vinyl Records such as 78's or LP's
Records were a huge driving force for music and entertainment. As usual, there were many formats over the years. Each successive format got a little better and more versatile with some exceptions.

The first really commonplace record was the 78, so named because it had to be played back on turntables that could rotate at 78 revolutions per minute. 
Developed in the late 1890's, it was the only readily available format (other than cylinders) until the 50's when 33 1/3's and 45's were developed.
Fidelity wasn't great but it was reliable. They were also quite fragile because the material used was hard and somewhat brittle so as to improve wear characteristics. At the 78 speed recording companies could not put much on each side of the disc. A capacity of 3 to 5 minutes per side was possible depending on the record diameter. 
When 33 and a 1/3 LP's were developed, record companies were able to increase the amount of media recorded on a disc. They were also less fragile than the 78's as different types of vinyl were used for pressing.
By lowering the number of rpm's and making the disc somewhat larger in diameter, record  labels could put approximately 45 minutes of music over the two sides of an album. 
The 45 rpm, or single, was the engine of radio play from the 50's to the 70's. Artists would release their new songs on a 45 and then follow up with the  long play album as a 33.
These formats were fabulously reliable but prone to wear and tear. They had to be played back on a turntable with a stylus or needle. The needle would eventually wear the grooves of the record and the needle itself would wear out. This compromised audio clarity and reliability and contributed to a lot of background noise, hiss and clicks and pops on playback.

There are still many people who mourn the loss of the vinyl format. They pine for the "warmth" of the acoustic and analog recording and tend to ignore the artifacts that appear through constant playback.

Tape formats
Recording to tape started with reel-to-reel units. Professional recording decks had several speeds available to them. The rule was the faster you record the better the quality as there was less signal being recorded on more tape.

As a rule, professional recordings were made at a speed of no less than 7 1/2 inches per second and more often than not at 15 inches per second. In many cases 30 ips was used for higher fidelity. Consumer decks generally had lower speeds allowing for longer duration on spools of tape. As a rule consumer decks had 1 7/8 ips, 3 3/4 ips and 7 1/2 ips. 
Interestingly enough there was a speed slower than those that was used for extremely long duration purposes such as radio station log tapes. The speed was 15/16 inches per second. As a boy hanging around the stations where my Dad was a broadcaster I remember seeing these tapes moving super slow, recording the program output of the station.

The move to tape recording allowed for something that was not possible before. Editing now was now a part of the workflow. Using specialized recorders, razor blades, a splicing block and splicing tape, audio engineers could cut and paste to their hearts content giving the recording industry a whole lot more flexibility and versatility.
The problem with reel to reel recording for consumers was the high price of admission. Decks were expensive and had to be maintained constantly for optimal perfromance.

In 1963 the Phillips company introduced the audio cassette as a new standard for the consumer. It was a standard size tape, recorded at a standard speed and offered instant load and playback without ever having to touch the tape. It sold like crazy. For the first time ever you could play the music you wanted in your car. This drove te format to huge volumes of sale. The format was robust and reliable although car playback exposed tapes to very harsh conditions which could deteriorate the tape quickly. Wow and flutter would be exhibited on tapes which degraded audio fidelity as the ribbon would distort and change with the heat and cold extremes.

Later in the 60's a new format called 8 track was brought to market. This again was a tape cartridge that you inserted into a deck for playback. Playback decks generally had a button to select one of  four available "sides' of a tape, allowing some flexibility in access to the tracks you wanted to hear. it was also and "endless" format. An 8 track would play its contents forever if you let it. This was great for some applications like restaurants and stores. Drawbacks were that it was much bulkier than the audio cassette and suffered from some mechanical weaknesses. Sometimes it switched tracks in the middle of a song. Record labels would change album play orders around to accommodate the amount of time allowable on each track. Fidelity was almost the same as the audio cassette.

Signal to Noise Ratio

This is described as the amount of the desired recorded signal you want to hear vs. the level of background noise. The chart below illustrates the differences between the various medias that have been available. It should be noted that higher numbers are what is wanted for audio clarity.

78 - 35 db
33 1/3 - 40 db
45 - 40 db
8 Track  - 40 to 45 db
Audio Cassette - 45 db
Reel to Reel - 40 to 45 db
VHS mono or stereo - 45 db
VHS stereo HiFi - 90 db
Compact Disc - 95+
DVD - 95+

In the next instalments we will talk about what to expect if you want to transfer your precious sound files from any of the above formats into a digital format.

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you have questions or comments please feel free to add them. Also keep in mind that KEMEdia Studios offer these transfers services should you require them.



You can receive notice of new blog instalments automatically. Please subscribe to the Blog by "Joining this site" and becoming a member.

Mike Reid can be heard approximately once a month on the Dave Fisher Show, weekends on CJAD 800 in Montreal. Mike and Dave talk about technology and new directions during these ten minute spots.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A New Product Launch for KEMEdia in 2012. Our strike against "The YouTube Syndrome"

As 2012 dawns I reflect back on 30 years in the production business. My, how business has changed!

In terms of gear and equipment alone the changes and advances in quality have been stupefying. I think back to my first production. It was a wedding shot with an RCA single tube camera that really only gave colour in daylight. I shot all kinds of footage and had to edit it on a VHS tape at the EP speed. It was ugly but it was 1983 and video technology was expensive and relatively new. Now I have HD cameras with 3 image sensors, HD Multi camera live production equipment, 3 high end editing suites, DVD/CD duplication with printing and a video lab to transfer all kinds of old formats to new ones. In contrast to that first production what we offer now is as good as it gets. But we came up the hard way.

The internet has been hard on many traditional businesses while opening hundreds of new avenues for different business models. Record stores, printing businesses, photo stores, sound studios and video production houses, amongst others, have seen their business models get trashed completely or change dramatically with the convergence of all things to the internet.

In the last 5 years I have watched as my own studio has suffered from the "YouTube Syndrome". YouTube is ubiquitous with literally millions of people uploading all kinds of crap every day. While it is all fun, amusing and easy to consume, it has also served to water down production values considerably and therefore expectations as well. Companies I used to shoot and edit for now shoot and edit for themselves at a considerable compromise in quality and professionalism in the finished product. The attitude now seems to be "it's good enough. Put it on the net!"

 This thinking has really taken a swipe at my business and that of all of the other production companies I know. Business is hard because of the YouTube Syndrome. It is compounded by smart computers with smart software and the Do It Yourself mentality.

Don't get me wrong, it's all fun and exciting and neat to play with but I would say that 99% of the media being uploaded to the web each day has no semblance of production values or good storytelling.

Any kid with a hot Mac and some software can become a sound engineer or video producer. HD cameras can be had cheap. Consumer cameras give a nice image compared to older models but they are NOT THE SAME as professional cameras or gear. And the knowledge to properly use this gear is not prevalent.

If your band gets recorded in the garage of someone's house and the person recording you is cutting their teeth on the recording of your music, then you have virtually wasted any money you paid and your time. Sound recording is a science best left to those that have been blessed with a gift. I would hazard a guess that out of every 100 backyard sound engineers or video producers out there you would be lucky to get one who is actually any good. But I suppose everyone has to start somewhere.

In 1983 I was that kid playing at video producer. I learned my production values and standards the hard way, with cranky gear, low budgets and a thirst for progress. I started with a table top VCR and a crappy camera. Now, I have learned how to tell stories properly. I pursue quality at every turn and I have a very nice facility with a sound stage, sound room, green screen and some really, really neat gear.

It comes down to this. If you want something professionally done then you should hire a professional.

Professional production houses know how to build films. They know how to tell the story of a product or service. They know how to shoot with a storyboard and with editing in mind. They use lights, tripods and professional microphones that improve a video dramatically.
Doing it yourself may save you some money in the short run but in the long term a well constructed film will be your best business card moving forward. It will also have more lasting value because it is well crafted. With media, the do it yourself mentality is truly a false economy in business.

And so, here I am in January of 2012. I am launching a new video product that is internet based. It offers high quality, professionally acted, shot and edited pieces for anyone who has a website and who wants video or audio on their home page. (Which in truth, should be everybody!) And it does all of this at a price nobody can refuse.

In 1983 it would be me uploading stuff to YouTube if it existed. Today I am launching a really neat product, for a very cool price that offers high value to the buyer. It is my shot across the bow of mediocrity. Hopefully it will help push the pendulum back towards the professionals.

Thanks for reading my rant. If you want to see our new product you can go to:

www.30secondpitch.ca

Here is the Home Page film.



You can receive notice of new blog instalments automatically. Please subscribe to the Blog by "Joining this site" and becoming a member.

Mike Reid can be heard approximately once a month on the Dave Fisher Show, weekends on CJAD 800 in Montreal. Mike and Dave talk about technology and new directions during these ten minute spots.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Preserving Your Memories II - Preserving old Films


In the last blog I talked about preserving old photos and slides by converting them to digital formats that are easy to share. In this KEMEdia Moment I will talk about 8mm, Super 8, Super 8 Sound, 9.5 mm and 16 mm films, the various ways they can be processed and what to watch out for in a quality transfer.

You may remember Dad dragging out the projector and screen, fiddling with splices and reels and the old family home movie night. I certainly do because my Dad was all thumbs when it came to anything mechanical and so I was usually the one called to be the projectionist and splicer.

16 millimeter
The first home film format was 16mm and you pretty much had to be well off or well connected to be able to afford the camera, film stock and developing.  This format can be silent, meaning it normally has sprocket holes on both edges of the film or with an optical sound track on one side of the frame with sprocket perforations on the other. There are variations on 16mm stock but Standard 16 is by far the most common.
The earliest films KEMEdia ever transferred were from the late 1920's. They were in fantastic shape and came out extremely well. It was fascinating to see footage of my native Montreal almost a hundred years ago.

Standard 8 millimeter
Later, Standard 8mm film (also known as Regular 8 or Double 8) came around. This was a much more affordable home movie format than 16mm and soon became a great addition to family souvenirs. It was developed by Kodak in the 30's and was in reality 16mm film stock that had more sprocket perforations than normal. The film was exposed along half of its width and then the reel was flopped in the camera to expose the other half. During processing the film was split into two 8mm widths and spliced together for projection. It was an exceedingly clever idea that allowed 4 times the number of images than 16mm making it much more economical for the masses. The format exploded and soon everyone was shooting home movies. Normal shooting speed was 16 frames per second and a roll lasted approximately 3 minutes.

Super 8 millimeter
Super-8 film was released in 1965 and was quickly adopted as the new standard as it It featured a better quality image, and was much easier to use. It was now a cartridge-loading system which did not require re-loading your film stock halfway through exposure.  At one point Super-8 was available with a magnetic sound track at the edge of the film but as video cameras became more readily available it was doomed and was discontinued.
Oddly enough in this "video age", there has been a bit of a renaissance  of Super-8 film use. Because of advances in film stocks and digital technology, real film aficionados can shoot on low cost Super 8 equipment and then transfer the footage to a digital format for editing. Film is much more versatile than video and so those who want a different look and feel to their projects have found this an interesting alternative. I have seen wedding videographers advertise this as an option for their clients.
9.5 millimeter
Developed by Pathé this format uses a single, central sprocket hole between each frame. This is different than 8 mm film, where the holes are along one edge, or most other film formats, which have them on each side of the frame. This format was popular in Europe but was not used much in North America. In fact in all of my years of media production I have only seen one reel come through my doors.
Transferring Film to Video
The transfer of film to video is called telecine. There are many different ways to transfer film. Some are excellent others are poor.
At a bare minimum the projectors used have to be in some way or other, synchronized for video and the video camera that captures the image should have 3 image sensors for best results.
The important things to remember are frame rates and parallax.

Frame rates
Most film runs at 16 or 24 frames per second with 16 fps being the norm. Video works at 30 frames per second (29.97). If you do not compensate for the the frame rate difference your image will have a flicker to it. In simple terms every few frames of image will have the black bar of the frame projected in the image. In other words, each frame is not shot fully registered (full image frame). This happens very fast and your eyes interpret it as a shadow or flicker. It is most annoying to watch films with this especially when it is easily removed by having a synchronized projector. Synchronization can be achieved in three ways; a speed rheostat (good), a 5 blade gate (better) or a spot scanning system (best).
A scanning system allows you to scan a distinct frame of digital video for each frame of film, providing higher quality than a traditional telecine system can achieve. Without sounding too technical, best results are achieved by using software that uses a smoothing (interpolating algorithm) rather than a frame duplication algorithm to adjust for speed differences between the film and video frame rate. All you really need to know is that it works.

Wall Projection
This is where someone projects the film on a wall or screen and then sets the video camera up above or beside it to capture the image. There are a number of reasons why this results in poor quality and should be avoided at all costs. First. true good results can only be achieved by having the recording camera in a non-parallax position. That is to say at complete right angle to the projected image. Wall Projection won't allow for this because the video camera lens would have to be exactly where the projector lens is in order for it to be perfect. The end result is that it is exceedingly difficult to get corner to corner coverage and something in the image will be soft or out of focus. If the projector used can't compensate for frame rate differences then the results just frankly suck. This is the setup used by people who just want to make a quick buck.

Telecine Chain
This is the most popular setup. The projector projects the image into a box that has a mirror which refracts the image at a 90 degree angle. This allows the placement of the video camera at right angles to the projector which eliminates parallax and the aforementioned softness in the resulting image. If the operator has the right gear and pays great attention to the setup and execution, the results can be excellent. As this type of chain allows for a huge diversity of projector and camera combinations you should ask about their gear and to see some examples before going ahead.

Direct Transfer Telecine
This setup has a video camera mounted facing the projector lens. Usually the camera is built in to the projector. It is monitored by connecting the camera to an external monitor. results are good and much better if a 3 image sensor camera is used.

Scanning
As explained above, this is the current winner for high quality transfers as it compensates for all of the artifacts associated with film to video transfers. Newer HD units offer the best bang for your buck. While you can't improve on the original it is nice to be able to capture it in the best format possible. If this service is available it will be worth the extra cost.

Conclusion
Film transfers are a very time consuming and persnickety service for the provider to offer. All transfers happen in real time and have to be manipulated to the media of your choice. As a result, it can get expensive with rates ranging from 10 cents to 25 cents per foot. My advice is for you to strike up a relationship with your provider. Ask questions. Ask to see their set-up(s). Ask to see examples. How long have they been doing this? Do they do it in house or do they farm it out to a lab? Ask them to run a test reel for you. If you like what you see and the price is right then go for it. Films deteriorate with age. The sooner you have them transferred the better.

As always if we can help here at KEMEdia then contact us by email at info@keme.qc.ca and visit our website at:
www.keme.qc.ca

In coming KEMEdia Moments we will discuss preserving;

Vinyl Discs (45's. 33's, 78's) & Audio Tapes (Reel to Reel, Audio Cassettes, 8 Tracks etc.)

Tape media 
(Consumer & Prosumer formats VHS, S-VHS, Beta, Video 8, Hi8, Digital 8, Mini DV, DVCam)

Disc media CD & DVD (DVD 5, Dual Layer DVD 9, BluRay)

and Memory Cards and Drives

We will also talk about the care and storage of all media and how you can help preserve and prolong the life of older formats until they are placed in a digital form.



You can receive notice of new blog instalments automatically. Please subscribe to the Blog by "Joining this site" and becoming a member.

Mike Reid can be heard approximately once a month on the Dave Fisher Show, weekends on CJAD 800 in Montreal. Mike and Dave talk about technology and new directions during these ten minute spots.

Preserving Your Memories I - Preserving your precious memories in the digital age!

Since man has made inages many formats have come and gone.

Who would have thought that the 35 millimeter slide that was so ubiquitous for decades would not even be recognized by the youth of today. So too, the family photo albums are slowly going the way of the dodo bird as digital albums, digital frames and Cloud storage become all pervasive.

This leaves a huge problem for those who inherit or who wish to preserve the precious memories that almost every family has. Family members, relatives and genealogy amateurs and professionals mourn the loss of any type of family history or memorabilia, so it is important that we take steps to preserve them today and hopefully have them ready for any format that becomes available in the future.

Today the big bonus of preservation is that when you finally have everything processed you can share it all with family and friends more easily and cheaply than at any time in the past.

There have been many ways to preserve the old formats. In the next few KEMEdia Moments I will try to itemize and explain how different formats can be processed so as to keep them relevant in the digital age. In addition you will hopefully have them ready to jump to any new format of the future.

Keep in mind that quality will always be of the utmost importance in these articles. There are many solutions, not all of them good. At KEMEdia (www.keme.qc.ca) we specialize in many of these processes and I personally have almost 30 years of experience in the field. We have tried and discarded many formulas. In these blogs I will try to help you avoid many of the pitfalls associated with projects like this.

Let's start with the older formats. In this article we will talk about...

Photos and Slides
The most common and treasured memory device, photos have always had the advantage of being easy to make, reliable, long lasting, decent quality and easy to organize. Anyone who wants to preserve photos has to realize that there are a lot of different ways to do it.

You first have to decide what you eventually want to do with the finished files. Is it strictly for archiving? Do you want to share them with others using disc media or the cloud? Will you use them in multi media presentations? Will you want to re-print them using an on-line book printing service? Will you want to blow some up and print them in a larger format? Once you have answered these questions it will be a little easier to select a service or hardware/software solution in order to get started.

For my money you should always go for big files just in case you want to have the ability to do any of the above. A large file can be easily reduced for sharing but a small file will not stand up for blown up prints or HD media usage. Just be aware, capturing high quality may cost a lot and will take a lot of time and patience as well as the proper gear and software if you do it yourself.

Dots per Inch or DPI is the basic measurement for scanning. If you want to get more involved then colour depth (bit rates) and types of files (RGB or CMYK) will also come into play. These can generally be altered in your post production software and may or may not have destructive traits on your files.

There are scanning services available at some chain stores but beware. These generally offer low resolution files of 72 dpi and are only good for small reprints or smaller digital frames. Remember, you get what you pay for. If the provider can offer a higher DPI like 300 it will be worth the extra expense. It will cost more because these scans take longer to do, they make larger files and therefor need more storage on discs or hard drives.

You may have seen cheap transfer units offered for sale in your credit card statements or at electronic stores. Their limiting factor is the size that can be scanned and the included software, which may not be compliant enough to offer you higher DPI rates. A little research will help you here. See if you can try before you buy.

Professional houses may offer you files using larger scanners that are adapted for photos and/or slides. Here you may be able to write your own formula for the product you want. Just be aware that bigger and better takes longer and so it will cost more.

Slides are more difficult because scanners have to have specialized apparatus to do them. They generally will scan 4 or more at a time as one file which means time must be spent cropping and correcting individual images. The eventual finished files are often much smaller and less versatile. Whenever possible get the largest file you can on a multiple image scan.

At our studio we have come up with a different technique for slides using Digital SLR's. We get excellent results while spending much less time than we would by scanning. Since we have been doing slides this way we have found the files to be very compliant for colour correction, resizing and retouching. For a premium we can process and deliver them to you in the RAW format. These are big and highly manipulative files. All-in-all we feel this is the best process for slides or negatives. It ends up being much less costly than scanning. This scenario will also work for photos and other art assuming the proper flat art table and jigs are used.

You may be able to negotiate unaltered files and do the corrections yourself using your software of choice at home. This will save you a lot of money, especially if you have an interest in getting your hands dirty and spending some time to make them perfect.

So decide what your eventual use will be and then research the services in your area or online to see what is available to you.


As always if we can help here at KEMEdia then contact us by email at info@keme.qc.ca
and visit our website at:
www.keme.qc.ca


In the next few articles will talk about:

8mm, Super 8, Super 8 Sound, 9.5 mm and 16 mm film


Vinyl Discs (45's. 33's, 78's) &Audio Tapes (Reel to Reel, Audio Cassettes, 8 Tracks etc.)

Tape media 
(Consumer & Prosumer formats VHS, S-VHS, Beta, Video 8, Hi8, Digital 8, Mini DV, DVCam)

Disc media CD & DVD (DVD 5, Dual Layer DVD 9, BluRay)

and Memory Cards and Drives

We will also talk about the care and storage of all media and how you can help preserve and prolong the life of older formats until they are placed in a digital form.


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Mike Reid can be heard approximately once a month on the Dave Fisher Show, weekends on CJAD 800 in Montreal. Mike and Dave talk about technology and new directions during these ten minute spots.