Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Death of The Video Tape - WARNING

When I made the video above on 'The Brittle Book' in problem 2007 I had no idea that the same problem would occur with video tape for overnight it seems VHS and min DV video tapes have been consigned to the waste paper basket.

This may not seem important but most of us have personal memories stored on these tapes and if we do not take immediate steps to archive these in some way next year they will be lost forever.

I only realized the importance of recorded memories the first time I had one of my productions filmed. Usually on the last performance I would concentrate hard so that I could remember it in my mind because I knew that this was the last time I should see it but when I had a video tape as a constant reminder this horrible feeling was gone. I no longer dreaded the last night.

Now I could always show people why the performance was memorable and not just a figment of my imagination. I know my  Schoenberg's Erwartung of 1978 was exceptional and you don't have to take my word for it as I can show you the video.

Four years ago my 1959 performance of Peter Morley's brilliant UK TV production of Britten's 'Turn of the Screw' which was supposed to have been destroyed in an act of artistic vandalism, suddenly came to light in the archives of the National Film Institute, and I was able to watch the performance I gave as 'Flora' when I was just 16. It was just as a I remembered it and the production is still one of the best if not 'the best' of this opera and I have the DVD to prove it! Sometimes one word is not good enough one needs the evidence of your eyes.

Again to see myself as I was in 1961when I was just becoming a woman was so wonderful. There is a moment when a young woman is at her most enchanting, the 'Gigi' moment and I have mine on tape and exquisitely lit  into the bargain and because of the importance of the production there for all time. Peter Morley and Benjamin Britten gave me my passport to posterity and I am so grateful in retrospect.

This is OK for today but if I don't take action now and transfer my videos onto something that is useable tomorrow they will be just memories again. Ordinary memories are important. They show the way life was lived. The Anzac Day Parades, the wedding parties, the children' shows recorded on tape will be lost too. Social History is in for a blow.

I am lucky. My video editing skills and the fact I recognized this problem means that my videos will last for a few more years but for the general public this is just not going to happen. I know the importance of family videos. I am a widow and yet I can look at the few videos I have of my husband and it is as if he is still alive. The same for my parents and my daughter. I can look back and remember her as an infant. Yesterday I found the first video I took of her when she was four, It is only interesting for me and my family but it is there and my daughter's child can enjoy seeing her mother at the age of four.

Archiving Video is a huge problem. Google has taken care of the published books but nobody is doing video. Tape is a wonderful storage medium. Mini DV tape will last many years, unlike VHS that easily gets moldy but you have to have something to play it on and tape decks have disappeared off the shelves. Only a few video production houses have decks that are capable of playing these tapes back and as decks fail to be manufactured replacement will be impossible.

Transferring to DVD is a short term answer but DVD decks are going out of fashion. The only way is to digitize and store on a hard drive if you can but hard drives have only a four year life! Also to get your footage on to a DVD it has to be heavily compressed which takes hours and the resulting DVD although viewable is not suitable for re editing as too much quality is lost.

Why haven't the manufactures thought about this? Short term profit perhaps? There are going to be a lot of disgruntled disappointed angry customers when the world wakes up to the fact that they can no longer see their precious memories.

Don't ask me what to do or what the answer is in general. I am going to digitize my major memories and store on Full Quicktime DVD on hard drive as well as tape. I have bought a professional tape deck which should see me out but for the ordinary punter I have no idea.

One way would be to put everything you want to keep digitized and put onto a iDVD using iMovie or Compressor to a Full Quality DVD. This is only makeshift as iDVD's do not play on all DVD players but it would be a start. No one knows how long a DVD is going to last. Hopefully ten years?

Or take a few very special tapes and have them professionally digitized to a hard drive using Full Quality Quicktime Movie (.dv)  as this is the industry default. All video's are Quicktime compatible. Do this while your camera is still working.

For short clips archive clips you can upload to YouTube as I did with my Royal Ballet 'Bluebird'. Only short clips as you could break a copyright but short clips for archives are allowable. It is in the interests of the artists too otherwise their work will be forgotten. The 'Love of my Life' by John Pritchett is the only thing left of this well know West End composer of Intimate Reviews in the 1950's.

Tell your friends and family if visual memories are important to you for it is nearly 'too late'.

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