What do we do?

The importance of digital audiovisual material

The archives of public broadcasters, commercial and regional television stations, and cultural heritage institutions contain countless hours of film, video and audio material. Much of this audiovisual material is at risk of loss because the carriers are damaged or the specific playback equipment is no longer readily available. To prevent this, VIAA sets up digitisation projects in which we work closely with our partners. A high-quality approach with economies of scale is central here.

Digitisation in a nutshell

The digitisation process and preservation of audiovisual material is often complex. In the video below, we explain briefly how VIAA works.

What do we digitise?

Since 2013, VIAA has set up various digitisation projects. Each project focuses on a specific type of carrier, such as VHS, audio cassettes, and wax cylinders. The order in which we work is determined by the risks that a type of carrier is exposed to. On top of that, we also take the planning and priorities of our partners into account.

The audiovisual carriers face different risks, but each type of carrier also has its own biggest threat, such as:

  • The acetate tapes in various types of audio and video cassettes can become sticky due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. In order to make them playable again, they first need to be heated (tape baking).
  • Grooved sound carriers such as wax cylinders, acetate records and shellac records are often very breakable or can peel or flake. Digitising them after this is unaffordable on a large scale and often technically impossible.
  • For many carrier types, such as some types of open reel video, it is extremely difficult to find playback devices in working order. 

What can be found on a carrier depends on the technical capabilities of the carrier, among other things. Shellac records only contain professional recordings, as the production process makes home recordings almost impossible. Audio cassettes, on the other hand, were specifically developed for private use. Each content partner has its own focus in terms of content. For instance, the Letterenhuis mainly deals with audiovisual material from author archives, whilst the regional television station Ring TV focuses on news footage from the areas around Brussels.

The future

VIAA is planning similar digitisation projects for vinyl, DVD, CD, HDCAM and various DV formats in the near future. We will also digitise a range of diverse carrier types, of which only a small number have been inventoried. In the area of films, we will focus on film carriers that are at risk. There are also a number of projects that require a more specific approach, such as 8 mm films or the film collections on the List of Flemish Masterpieces.

Would your organisation like to digitise its audiovisual archive? Discover what VIAA can do for you.

If you have any questions about digitisation or one of our digitisation projects, please don't hesitate to contact Brecht. He will provide further assistance.

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