Five Reasons to Digitize Your A/V Library17 min read

by Oct 25, 2023Tech, Video

someone putting a VHS tape into a recorder

If you work in a medium to large size corporation, chances are you have a library of old audio and video assets collecting dust in a company library, closet, or basement. It’s likely these reels, cassettes, and discs were kept because they were important to the company at one time, and are still kept around for posterity, a sense of history, and even for future use. Unfortunately, many of these assets risk being lost to time due to media degradation, environmental factors, improper storage, and obsolescence. Here are five reasons why you should digitize your A/V library as soon as possible.

1. Your Assets Aren’t Getting Any Younger

See those ¾” U-matic tapes on the shelf? Some of those are approaching 50 years old. Those VHS and Betacam tapes from the ‘80s are over 40, and who knows how long the ¼” audio reels have been around. Depending on how well kept they were, your assets may be brittle, shedding the oxide layer, or absorbing moisture from the air.

In all of these cases, the ability to play the tape back and access the information contained on it is affected. Brittle tapes can break during playback. Oxide shed results in weaker picture quality and dropouts, and moisture can result in “sticky shed syndrome,” a condition that causes the tape to stick to itself and everything it comes in contact with, damaging the tape and quickly bringing playback to a halt. In addition, improperly stored tapes can become contaminated with mold, deformed by gravity or temperature changes, or lose playback efficiency due to dried or degraded lubrication. Perhaps the worst of all, no matter how well you’ve stored your tapes, the magnetic layer storing the picture and sound loses strength over time. For example, VHS tapes may lose 10-20% of their signal strength over a 25-year period. This results in weaker color, sound, and overall picture quality.

Fortunately, we have ways of working around many of these problems to deliver the best possible sound and picture quality to our customers. All of our digitized video is run through a time-base corrector to ensure a strong, stable picture. We regularly clean and maintain our decks to remove oxide buildup from both dry and sticky oxide shed. In addition, we employ mitigation techniques to restore tapes affected by sticky-shed syndrome, and are skilled in tape repair should a brittle tape break.

overhead shot of various audio visual tapes

2. The Machines Aren’t Becoming Obsolete, They Already Are

As stated above, some of the tapes we deal with are 50 years old, or more. This means many of the machines we use to play back the tapes are also approaching this age. New parts can be hard to come by, and sometimes repairing one machine means cannibalizing another, which means one less machine to do the work. Not only are the parts and machines disappearing, the technicians with the knowledge to repair them are aging out of the workforce. At some point in the very near future, it could be exceedingly difficult to find the equipment necessary to recover your well-preserved audio and video recordings. Digitizing your assets now removes the worry that you will be unable to find these services in the future.

3. Instant Access to Audio and Video Files

Digitizing your A/V assets gives your archival and creative teams instant access to the audio and video content they require. No more looking through storage shelves and keeping track of assets being checked in and out, and no more shuttling through tapes to find just the right content. Digitized video and audio can be uploaded to your DAM, stored on a company share drive, or even stored in the cloud, ready to access at a moment’s notice. Need a high-quality copy to edit? We can provide Apple ProRes files that work with any modern editing software. Would you like something you can quickly share with coworkers or upload to YouTube? Our carefully deinterlaced 60p H.264 or HEVC files can often be downloaded in seconds. Most of our corporate clients request both editing and viewing copies, and we know how to deliver both in the highest quality.

4. Save Space

While many of our clients choose to maintain their library even after digitizing, some look to repurpose the significant amount of room necessary to store their A/V assets. With the ability to store large amounts of data on today’s hard drives, a whole room full of media can fit on a single hard drive the size of a wallet (two drives if you back it up). This could open up space for a new office, company lunch room, or bowling alley (one can dream).

old media disks on a shelf

5. Preserving Your Legacy

Company videos are both a time capsule of where the company was at a given moment and a chronicle of how it got to where it is today. They are often a testament to the ambition and innovation of the company’s leaders and the diligence and skill of its employees. Often, these assets cost hundreds of man-hours and thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars to produce. If there is even a remote possibility they could be repurposed in the future, it is worth spending a little more now to preserve them, rather than risk losing them to history.

Why Not Work With The Audio/Visual Preservation Experts?

DVS has been a leader in audio/visual asset preservation for nearly 30 years. With over 90 years of combined experience among our seasoned staff, you can be certain that we have the knowledge to preserve your valuable footage and deliver the best possible results. We offer competitive rates, with significant discounts available based on scale of work. Need it done quickly? We can do that too! Our experienced storytellers can even repurpose your old assets into a contemporary and stylish company history video, blending new location and interview footage with carefully curated classic scenes. For more information on how DVS can help preserve your company history, contact us today!