Digitisation project 6: rare carriers
Audiovisual carriers come in all shapes and sizes. Not every carrier is equally popular or user-friendly, not to mention the variety in price tags. In the end, this has led to a great diversity in the volumes that got preserved for each kind of carrier. However, the lower volumes do not change anything about its fascinating content. We will digitise 22 distinct, rare carrier types in a digitisation project that will start by the end of 2017.
All together, these types make up for 3800 carriers stored at 56 different content partners. A procurement process ran from June until September 2017, during which we chose one digitisation partner for each of these carriers, Picturae. They also digitised Betamax and audio-CD-R in our second digitisation project and VHS cassettes. The operation was completed before the end of 2018.
This digitisation project covers the following carriers:
Analogue audio carriers
8-Track, microcassette, minicassette, steno-cassette, ½ inch open reel audio, 1 inch open reel audio, 2 inch open reel audio, Grundig EN
The steno, mini- and microcassettes, and the Grundig EN3 are the typical carriers for audio recordings with voice recorders. These devices were popular from the seventies until the nineties, but have all but vanished since the rise of the smartphone. The cassettes usually contain interviews, speeches or even spoken audio messages that could easily be sent by mail.
The ‘open reel audio tapes’ are tape recordings on open reels. In our first digitisation project, we have already digitised about 100,000 tapes of ¼ inch width. For this project, we will focus on less frequent widths: half an inch, one inch and two inches. These types of carriers were almost exclusively used in professional studios. Therefore, we mainly expect to find music recordings
The 8-track is a special case: it belongs to the little family of audio formats which has a tape forming one continuous loop. That way you never need to rewind it. This carrier was also mainly used in professional contexts, such as radio stations.
Digital audio carriers
Digital audio carriers are a typical product of the eighties and nineties. Digital Audio Tape (DAT) was meant to be the smaller, better version of the audiocassette, but it never appealed to the general public. Radio stations and recording studios continued to use the DAT frequently until 2005, when Sony also ceased production.
In the mid-1990s, the MiniDisc was introduced as the successor of the CD, which would make it possible to store music in digital quality at home. However, the audio-CD-R, and even more important; the MP3 player, emerged even before the MiniDisc could reach the general public.
Analogue video carriers
Video 8, Hi8, Video2000, MII, 1/4 inch open reel video
The analogue video carriers that are being digitised in this project, are generally amateur formats. Various open reel video formats were included in the earlier digitisation project 2, but additional tapes of ¼ inch have emerged since. In the late 1960s these tapes, all by AKAI, were the earliest video formats for garden-variety use. The Video2000, which looks like a plump audiocassette, was also a video format for amateurs. These cassettes date from the early eighties and competed with VCR, VHS and Betamax.
On the other hand, the Video8 and Hi8 are symbols of the nineties: the camcorders and handycams from back then represented the breakthrough of the home video. For this project, the MII-cassettes are an exception amidst the analogue video formats because only professional cameramen used them. From 1986 to 1995 the MII-cassette was Panasonic’s never really successful answer to Sony’s Betacam SP.
Digital video carriers
CD-video, video-CD, Laserdisc, Digital 8, D1, D2, D3
The Digital 8 cassettes are the digital successors to the Video 8 and the Hi8. Just like his predecessors, the tape of the Digital 8 is 8mm wide, a fun reference to the 8mm amateur film. The signal was digitally coded for the first time, which resulted in a better recording, but unfortunately did not provide a better long-term conservation.
Three digital video carriers included in this project, play videos from an optical disc using a laser beam. The oldest one is the LaserDisc: a golden disc the size of a vinyl record that only caught on in Asia and was only put out of business by the rise of the DVD. The CD-video was much smaller, but also failed to appeal to the general public, just like the video-CD: a disc the size of a normal CD containing the earliest form of the well-known MPEG-video signal.
D1, D2 and D3 are professional cassette formats that have proven moderately popular from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s. These are the earliest professional cassettes that saved the video signal digitally, but in the end they could not compete with Sony’s Digital Betacam, of which we are digitising almost 45.000 in our third digitisation project. There are almost no devices left to play the D-cassettes.