Digitisation on a grand scale: The National Film and Sound Archive
The National Film and Sound Archive recently announced that it has purchased a SAMMA digitisation system to use JPEG 2000 frame images, losslessly compressed with an MXF wrapper for the digitisation of more than 40,000 hours of video.
JPEG2000 is a standard open encoding format that has growing support within the audiovisual and archival communities. It enables LPCM encoding which is a universal standard for audio encoding. The JPEG2000 lossless compression is completely reversible with no loss to data quality and offers significant data storage savings compared to uncompressed linear encodings.
The Material eXchange Format (MXF) conforms to open, published standards. It works with a variety of compression strategies. It is driven by user needs and has a strong commercial base. It is widely adopted for content exchange and archival applications. A metadata wrapper describes the material contained within the MXF file.
JPEG2000, MXF and linear pulse code modulation (LPCM) audio are interoperable with a number of digital preservation and production tools available. 
Preserving oral history: Department of Services Technology and Administration
The Department of Services, Technology and Administration implemented a digitisation project to convert around 550 audio tapes to digital format.
In the lead up to Australia’s Bicentennial there was a willingness to invest in projects to capture the nation’s history. Some key managers in the Department’s predecessor agencies rightly identified the wealth of historical knowledge within their own organisations and established an oral history program to capture it.
The program was initially involved in capturing oral histories relating to the architectural and engineering history of the then Department of Public Works. It was soon expanded and became thematically based, dealing with such diverse themes as the Newcastle Earthquake, the Interior Design Unit, Flood Mitigation in the Hunter Valley, the building of schools and the stonework program to restore sandstone buildings. A professional historian was employed to conduct interviews and summarise themes on a separate audio tape. By 2003/4 between 300 and 400 tapes were in the collection, including 8 summary tapes.
The Department also took in oral history collections of some other organisations if they had some involvement with the work undertaken. For example, the collection contains Roads and Traffic Authority oral history interviews concerning the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (a Public Works project). It also contains copies of interviews organised by the Department of Housing in 2005/6 with residents of the historic houses in Millers Point (as the houses were being restored by the Department). The masters of the Millers Point tapes are held by the State Library of NSW.
Decision to digitise
A Departmental representative contacted State Records to organise the transfer of the audio tapes to the State archives. It was recommended that they first be copied into a stable long term digital format for ongoing preservation and access, as audio tapes and players are becoming obsolete. The format chosen was FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), selected for its lossless compression and open characteristics, suitable for archival value records.
The Department investigated the costs of digitisation with an external provider and compared this to cost of conducting an in-house digitisation project. The latter was deemed to be more cost effective considering the number of tapes so they purchased and installed the equipment and organised training and procedures.
At the end of the project State Records will receive the digital masters of the recordings and the masters of the analogue tapes along with copies of the documentation e.g. signed releases from interviewees. A backup copy will be retained by the Department for reference.
The project started in January 2010. The Records Project Team within Information Services planned the process carefully and established rigorous procedures, including testing, monitoring and quality control procedures. Documentation created by the team included: an Issues Register established to record any technical issues faced and how they would be resolved; a register to record metadata about the analogue tapes, the digitisation process and who was involved with digitisation; and, daily reports regarding cleaning and running of the tapes and equipment. Strict naming conventions and file locations were also established for the digital files.
At the time of writing, around 450 of the tapes have been copied on both sides, with about 100 left to digitise.
The team have reported that the project has been a very positive experience. They worked well together and carefully planned all stages of the project including the documentation required. Through regular project meetings they have efficiently identified and managed any problems arising. Significant cost savings have been made by managing the project internally rather than outsourcing.
There were a few issues with the technology. The initial integration of the equipment with the DSTA network caused concerns and network speed was another problem. However, these were soon overcome and few difficulties have been recorded since. A good relationship with IT has proven to be vital to the success of the project.
There have been some challenges associated with the FLAC format as it is not widely supported. For example, it does not work using some standard desktop applications. However, the software used for the project can easily convert the digital file in FLAC format to other formats which have wider compatibility for distribution, web publishing etc.
Material is now coming ‘out of the woodwork’ so while this particular project will end shortly, other digitisation work may continue in the Department.
 National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), Digital media preservation: Video [unpublished]. See also the Image and Data Manager article NFSA acts to preserve video, 13 July 2010, available at: http://idm.net.au/article/007951-nfsa-acts-preserve-video
Published January 2009