Building a Video Preservation Rack for In-House Digitization AV CLUB | Issue 1

 

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ISU’s Special Collections and University Archives Video Preservation Rack

Hello! My name is Rosie Rowe, and I’m the AV and Film Preservation Specialist for ISU Special Collections and University Archives. This is the first of – hopefully – a series of blog posts related to AV and film preservation from a University Archives perspective. I hope these will be helpful not only for other Universities’ special collections but also for anyone interested in AV and film preservation.

A Common Video Preservation Scenario: A researcher requests a copy of a show held in your special collections. It’s a university production from the 1970s, a unique recording on ¾” tape. This tape is an “at-risk” item, because the inherent vulnerabilities of magnetic based media. What do you do? Do you send it out to a vendor, or do you digitize the tape in-house? Where possible, it’s best to digitize at-risk items in-house. It’s faster, it’s more economical over the long-term, and you can maintain your own quality-control standards.

AV preservationists have spent un-countable hours of our lives discussing the best capture format for analog video preservation. But actually… how you send the signal from the deck to the computer’s capture card is the most important aspect of digitizing analog video. You can capture 10-bit 4:2:2 anything, but the quality of what you’re capturing is linked to the signal you’re sending. So with this fact in mind, this post will describe the necessary equipment and guide you through the basic setup required for digitizing your at-risk analog video in-house.

One of the biggest issues that defines magnetic media as “at-risk” is obsolescence. It’s quite difficult to find and maintain the device needed for analog video playback. Prepare to spend some time digging around online or contacting potential dealers to find a functioning playback device. A good place to start looking for old, obsolete AV equipment is the on-campus video production house. They might have old gear hanging around! Or a local television station may have gear to donate to your archives. Be creative. You need well-maintained, industry-grade equipment with as much related documentation as possible. Those dog-eared operational and service manuals are invaluable for maintaining the functionality of old gear.

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RG-59/U 75 Ohms Broadcast BNC Video Cable

Using correct cables and cabling may be the single most important aspect to setting up a video preservation rack. Know your source signal (composite, component, or Y/C ) and send it out using only the highest-grade shielded cable. Remember: Shielding reduces electrical noise and…its impact on signals and…lowers electromagnetic radiation. Shielding prevents cross-talk between cables… Shielding not only protects cable but… machinery and people as well. [1] http://www.wireandcabletips.com/importance-shielding-cabling/

PRO-TIPS: Cables, Cabling, and Termination
• ALWAYS use broadcast-quality RG59 BNC 75ohm cables for video
• ALWAYS prefer XLR (balanced audio) cables to RCA (unbalanced audio) cables
• ALWAYS terminate open loops with 75ohm terminators at end of signal loops*

*But be careful! Improper termination can affect the video signal. A double termination can cut the video signal in half, while a lack of termination will overload the video signal. This might be where you need professional help.

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BNC 75 Ohms Terminator

CONGRATULATIONS!! You have managed to acquire a professional-grade BVU U-matic deck that supports machine control input. Now you are able to control the deck from a computer via a RS-422 cable, not missing any information at the beginning of the tape. This is good. This is why the RS-422 cable is included on the equipment list.

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Deck Control RS-422 cable

Now what about the capture card and computer? I like the AJA KONA LHi capture card and AJA KONA KLHi-Box. Together, these will allow for seamless capture of composite, component, and Y/C (for analog signals) and SDI or HDMI (for digital signals). The KONA LHi works well with Premiere CS6, but it also has its own software that captures SD analog video as 10-bit 4:2:2 uncompressed v210. The Kona LHi is also able to capture closed captioning and timecode information. All of these are required metadata for video preservation. The preservation master could have up to five streams of data per file: a video stream, two audio streams, timecode, and closed captioning CEA-608. With newer computers, you’ll have to place the AJA Kona Li capture card in a thunderbolt expansion case and send the digital video signal from the expansion case to computer‘s thunderbolt in.

Now. It’s very important to place a Time Base Corrector between the deck and the capture card. You also need waveform and vector scope connected post-TBC, so you can monitor and adjust the video signal, using the scopes as your measurement tools. For example, if color bars are in front of the program, you can adjust the luma, chroma, black (set up), and hue (NTSC only) levels to get the best possible signal from the tape. Also, I recommend having all equipment ‘genlocked’ to the same reference to ensure picture stability. For SD composite video, it’s called blackburst – a composite signal of black with no picture data. With all pieces of equipment timed and in-sync, or locked to master sync, you increase the stability of your capture.

My preference for signal monitoring is viewing the signal directly off the deck, as well as post capture card. This helps pinpoint where any problems might occur in the signal. For example, if there is visible signal error on the monitor connected at the end of the chain (post capture), but the video looks good coming straight out of the deck, you can focus your troubleshooting on the cables, settings, and equipment either at or after the TBC point. It’s also important to have a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor in order to view the video signal as it was originally intended. AND it’s best to have a CRT with blue-only, underscan, and H-V delay features. ‘Blue only’ allows you to calibrate your reference monitor with color bars and monitor your VTR noise. ‘Underscan’ allows you to see every scan line in the video signal, and ‘H-V delay’ allows you to check vertical and horizontal sync. These features will help you get the best signal out of your deck and troubleshoot any signal errors.

This brings me to the last piece of gear to install in your AV Rack: a test pattern generator. A test generator helps you check proper signal flow by sending a test pattern, like color bars, through the signal path. You can also use the color bar test pattern to set display levels – like brightness – and contrast to ensure your monitor is properly calibrated.

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Video Preservation Rack

YOUR EQUIPMENT LIST
• Professional rack*
• Professional-grade decks for each format (U-maticSP, BetaSp, VHS, SVHS, Digibeta, etc.)
• RG59 BNC 75 Ohm cables
• 75 Ohm BNC terminations
• XLR cables
• RS-422 cable
• Time Base Corrector/Proc Amp
• Test generator
• Sync generator
• Patch bay
• AJA Kona capture card
• AJA Breakout box and cable
• Sonnet Echo Express SE I Thunderbolt 3 to full-height/half-length PCIe card
• Waveform and vector scope monitors
• CRT monitor**
• Computer***
• Calibrated computer monitors
* sturdy, does not wobble, and allows decks to be pulled out easily and safely
** preferably one that has underscan, blue-only, and H/V delay
*** preferably with a high-speed processor, minimum 16GB memory and 1TB storage

Well, I hope this was helpful for anyone wanting to build an AV preservation rack for their special collections. In the next issue of AV Club, I’ll be discussing best practice for embedding technical metadata into files for future digital preservation conservators. Cheers!


Rare Book Highlights: Railroad tourism to Iowa lakes

Nichols, C. S. Spirit Lake and the Okobojis. Steubenville: Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Ry., 1901.

Cover of the pamphlet, Spirit Lake and the Okobojis. Notice the Native American paddling a canoe through reeds in the green below the title.

During the summer, I love to spend time at a lake. Clear Lake in north central Iowa is a favorite of mine because it is the closest natural lake to where I live in Iowa. People have been leaving the heated cities behind to spend summers at lakes for a long time. Before the car made the Great American Roadtrip commonplace, the early tourism industry was greatly promoted by railways, as one of our recent acquisitions makes clear. The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway published a travel guide in 1901 for Spirit Lake and the Okobojis, a group of glacial lakes in northwestern Iowa that is sometimes referred to as “Iowa’s Great Lakes.”

Crandall’s Lodge, Spirit Lake, North Shore

This 31-page pamphlet gives plenty of information for the potential traveler who might be considering these Iowa lakes for their summer destination, including a description of Spirit Lake, information on where to stay, points of interest, and things to do. Here is its description of Crandall’s Lodge, “the most noted” resort on Spirit Lake: “There are none of the restraints of a fashionable summer restort at Crandall’s Lodge, but visitors here come to have a good time, unhampered by anything that will prevent the fullest enjoyment. …The beach facing the Lodge is the finest on Spirit Lake. It is quite wide, floored with clean white sands, dipping so gently into the water that bathers can go out a great distance before getting beyond their depth. This is the most popular pastime at this resort, and the merry shouts of children in play upon the sand or sporting in the water are heard from morn till night. …The rooms are large, well furnished and comfortable. The table is supplied with an abundance of well cooked and well served food. The cream, milk and butter come to the table fresh from a herd of thirty-six thoroughbread cows, and the supply is never in the least stinted. The vegetables are fresh from its own garden, which is the especial pride of Mr. Orlando Crandall, the founder of the Lodge. The rates here are most reasonable. Transients are charged $2.00 per day or $10.00 per week, with special rates to families.” The Lodge is a good 6 1/2 miles from the railway station, but the proprietor will meet visitors at the station for the scenic drive along the lake to the lodging. A family friendly swimming beach, large rooms, local foods, and reasonable rates…what more could even a modern tourist ask for?

The young “bathers” look a little different from today, don’t they?

Where did these visitors come from? The B.C.R. & N. railway “has a direct line from Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis to Spirit Lake. It maintains a double daily service between Chicago and St. Paul and Minneapolis….”

Map of the Spirit Lake/Okoboji area showing the railway and attractions.

Now, who’s ready to join me at the lake?


#TBT Forty-year-old Fashions

In the 1977 Bomb there are local advertisements scattered throughout the yearbook. Here’s a fun advertisement from what I believe is a clothing store.

Here’s a page from our 1977 Bomb advertising women’s clothes from a store called Bobby Rogers.

 

Drop by and peruse our yearbooks! We’re open 9-5 Monday -Friday. Or, you can view The Bomb online. All of our yearbooks have been digitized and are available online at the following link: http://digitalcollections.lib.iastate.edu/bombs.

 


History of the Library, Pt. 3

This is the third in a series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State.  Want to catch up? Read the first and second posts!

The library has been through many expansions through the 20th century to meet the demands of a growing student population. Iowa State had a new library in 1925, but as quickly as 1930 the collection was too large for the bookshelf space. In 1940, an off-site storage facility was built to handle some of the overflow that had been stored in the Memorial Union and the Engineering Exhibit Hall.

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Lois Johnson Smith checks a request for books, University photos, box 2046

While the collection already exceeded the size of the library, there were other pressures put on the library space starting in the mid-century. The university experienced a great period of growth after WWII due to the GI Bill and the Cold War, when the government was eager to fund the scientific research done at Iowa State.  This period of growth was exacerbated by the incoming Baby Boom students.  All of these factors put great pressure on the amount of study space in the library.

To address these issues, the first expansion opened in 1961. The new addition had 5 floors and added 52,000 square feet. One big innovation for this addition was open stacks, allowing students to browse the shelves and pick out books themselves. A glass rotunda was built for the new entrance on the south side of the building complete with staffed circulation desk to make sure materials did not make their way out of the library without being checked out.

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Students check out materials by the new South entrance, 1961, University photographs, box 147

Even brand new, the expanded library could only accommodate 75% of the 520,000 volume collection and did not contain the amount of study space recommended for the size of the student population. Tellingly, even as they were building the addition, it was referred to as the “First Addition”, which brings us, inevitably, to the Second Addition.

This addition was started in 1967 and completed in 1969. This expansion more than doubled the space for storing books and for users to work.*

In the 1969/70 school year, the library offered 7 courses. There were 4 undergraduate courses, each designed for students in different areas of study: home economics, sciences and humanities, engineering, and agriculture. Additionally, there were 3 courses, each aimed at different groups of graduate students.

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Library staff, 1960, University photos, box 2043

Be sure to follow the blog to see the library further expand and get a name!

*Post written with the help of “A Short History of the Iowa State University Library 1858-2007” by Kevin D. Hill.


Did you know…? #Friday Facts

Did you know that a student group called the “Six Foot Club” once existed at Iowa State University with a requirement that members be at least six feet tall? The group counted ISU President Albert Boynton Storms (pictured below) as a member.

Portrait of Albert Boynton Storms (University Photographs RS 2/6).

Drop by the Reading Room to discover other interesting facts about Iowa State University. We’re open Monday-Friday from 9-5.


Back to the 1960s – The Story of Don Smith

Several months ago I reached into the archives and pulled out an address from 1967 by President W. Robert Parks that emphasized the importance of practicing tolerance on the university campus. Across the country, the late-1960s was a period of significant generational change and Iowa State was not immune to these events. Interestingly, the address by Parks was prompted by an unlikely event–the ISU student government election of 1967. 

News article announing Smiths and Lifkas intentions to run for GSB office

Don Smith and Mary Lou Lifka announce they are entering the Government of the Student Body election. This article appeared in the April 20, 1967, issue of the Iowa State Daily. (W. Robert Parks papers, RS 2/11, box 35, folder 8)

Donald R. Smith, often described in the papers as a member of the New Left (and often called far worse things by editorial letter writers), was elected president of the student body alongside running mate Mary Lou Lifka. Their platform included the elimination of university oversight into the private lives of students and the formation of a student federation to oppose high rents in Ames. Smith strayed from the image of the typical college student that was normally elected student body president at Iowa State: he was bearded with long shaggy hair, he rarely wore socks let alone a suit and a tie, and he didn’t much care for rules. In fact it was the elimination of rules that he was most passionate about, including eliminating student curfews, loosening campus drinking policies, and essentially getting rid of any campus policies that affected students when they were outside the classroom. He supported ending the war in Vietnam, legalization of marijuana, and access to contraceptives.

Smith stated one of his goals was to bring the University “kicking and screaming into the 20th century.” It seems he felt his main opposition would come from the administration, as they were largely the rule-enforcing body. In large part the administration remained silent, even though Smith’s election made headlines from New York to San Francisco. President Parks remained remarkably quiet on the issue considering he was receiving numerous letters from irate citizens and legislators who worried Iowa State was becoming the “Berkeley of the Midwest.”

Newspaper photo of Don Smith hung in effigy on the steps of Beardshear Hall in 1967

This image of Don Smith hung in effigy on the steps of Beardshear Hall appeared in the April 8, 1967 issue of the Iowa State Daily (W. Robert Parks papers, RS 2/11, box 35, folder 8)

Perhaps what Smith didn’t realize was the level of resistance he would receive from his fellow students. Just weeks into his presidency the Iowa State Daily published an article claiming that Smith had attended a party in which marijuana was consumed. When Smith admitted that he had indeed smoked pot on numerous occasions, calls for his impeachment started to build momentum. Smith resigned before the student senate was to vote on his impeachment and withdrew from Iowa State shortly thereafter. His tenure lasted all of 40 days. 

Don Smith’s resignation letter, April 1967. (Government of the Student Body records, RS 22/1/3, box 2, folder 24)

Don Smith did return to Iowa State the following year to finish his mechanical engineering degree. However, just his formal request to re-enroll at Iowa State caused more headlines. Smith obtained graduate degrees from the University of Iowa and eventually moved to California where he became a very successful wind energy consultant and engineer. Donald R. Smith passed away in 2010, but he was welcomed back to the Iowa State campus on several occasions before his death to talk about his experience during those tumultuous years.

For his part, President Parks tried to let the students work out who they were going to have represent them. After Smith resigned, President Parks did assert that the University would continue to maintain rules governing student conduct outside of the classroom, but emphasized that administration was willing to listen and work with students to update student conduct rules.

If you would like to dive into the life of Donald R. Smith a little more there are several collections worth looking into. Materials from the papers of former President Parks and the records of the Government of the Student Body are cited above. The archives also holds files on former students and alumni (collection RS 21/7/1), largely composed of news clippings. The file on Don Smith contains a significant number of articles during his college years, but also after his graduation and up until his death. Clearly, Don Smith left an impression on the people of central Iowa.  

 

 


Spotlight on the Presidents’ Papers – James H. Hilton Papers

James H. Hilton (University Photographs, box 59).

James Hilton was the president of Iowa State from 1953-1965. He is also the only ISU president who was also ISU alum. I have used his papers in several primary source instruction classes and workshops. During Hilton’s tenure as president, the university grew immensely. As a result, his papers contain interesting materials that I like to include in in my instruction sessions. His collection, spanning from 1938-1982, contains:

biographical information, addresses and speeches, Board of Regents’ materials, correspondence, minutes, and printed materials.  The records document the programmatic relationship of Iowa State with the other Regents’ Universities, student activities such as military participation, and agricultural research and other projects undertaken by the various Colleges within the University.  Also included is information regarding Iowa State’s participation in national academic organizations, such as the Association of Land-Grant Colleges (James H. Hilton Papers, RS 2/10).

Below is a postcard written to James Hilton after the students rioted after Homecoming in 1953.

The documents below are in a folder titled “Civil Defense” and include information on surviving a nuclear attack. There are other materials in the Hilton Papers that document how the Cold War affected Iowa State University.

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If you are interested in conducting research, drop by and see us. We’re in room 403 Parks and open Monday-Friday from 9-5.


Rare Book Highlights: Marginalia in Hasselquist’s Voyages and Travels in the Levant

Map of the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by the Greek islands, Anatolia, Cyrpus, the Near East, and Northern Africa.

Map of Hasselquist’s Travels to the Levant from the year 1749 to 1752.

Hasselquist, Fredrik. Voyages and Travels in the Levant; in the Years 1749, 50, 51, 52. London: Printed for L. Davis and C. Reymers, 1766. Call number: QH43 H27iE

The former owner of this book left no record of his (or her?) identity; there is no bookplate or owner signature to tell us who the arm chair traveler was. But he left traces of his musings in the marginal notes and underlinings scattered through the book.

The book describes the Levant, a historical geographic term referring to the Eastern Mediterranean countries, and Hasselquist began his travels in Smyrna, an ancient Turkish city now called İzmir, and continued through Egypt and the modern-day countries of Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria, and Cyprus. Hasselquist was an 18th century Swedish naturalist and student of Carl Linnaeus, the botanist who developed the modern scientific system of naming organisms by genus and species called binomial nomenclature. Linnaeus gave a lecture in which he lamented that the natural history of the Holy Land was little known, prompting Hasselquist, at the age of 27, to undertake the voyage for scientific study. He traveled for four years, collecting natural history specimens and taking notes on the natural history and the customs of the countries’ inhabitants, but he died in Smyra on his way home. His notes and collections reached Sweden, where Linneas published his notes in 1757 under the title Iter Palæstinum, Eller Resa til Heliga Landet, Förrättad Ifrån år 1749 til 1752. The book was translated into English in 1766.

The owner of our copy seems to have been most interested in the areas of Turkey and Egypt, given the concentration of marginalia in those sections of the book.

Here are some markings of note:

Two pages of printed text. Includes pointing hands drawn in ink in margins and a handwritten note that is not entirely legible.

Marginalia: pointing hands called “manicules” and marginal note, “Similar to the dance [?] amongst the Spaniards V. Barett’s Travels”. [click for larger image]

Our reader used manicules, or hands with pointing fingers, to point out passages comparing the roads in Smyrna unfavorably to the roads in Sweden, and describing the country estate of the Dutch Consul Hochpied containing a variety of exotic birds. On the facing page, he highlights a passage describing a traditional dance and notes its similarities to a Spanish dance described in another travel book.

Note reads, “n.b. women’s howl compared to frogs croak.” [click for larger image]

In the chapter describing Alexandria, Hasselquist describes a group of women giving invitations to a feast, who walked along making loud noises described as “shrill” and “quavering,” meant, as he was told, to signify the women’s joy. In a gloss on the text, the reader has written, “Women’s howl compared to frog’s croak.”

Notes read, “a good observation of an Arabian” and “n.b. – hospitality of the Arabs” [click for larger image]

Referring to a description of the moderate eating habits of some local men, the reader has noted, “* a good observation of an Arabian.” Later he notes a passage describing the “hospitality of the Arabs.”

Who was our mysterious book owner? Clearly, it was someone avidly interested in the customs of cultures foreign to his own. This was no passive reader, but one who wished to return to specific passages of interest. Living at the tail end of the Age of Exploration, there would have been many books to feed his interest in exotic locales. Can you imagine how fascinating it would be to discover other books from this reader’s library, to find out which regions and countries were of particular interest? This book provides just a glimpse.



A Welcome to Shaina Destine, Our Residency Librarian

Shaina is our new Residency Librarian.  She will be rotating through various departments in the Library learning about their roles and responsibilities as well as working on selected projects for those departments.

Shaina hails from the South Bronx in New York City.  She has a Sports, Entertainment & Event Management degree from Johnson & Wales University in North Miami.  She spent the next ten years in medical administration as well as in development, donor relations and fundraising.  While researching graduate programs, her path crossed with a group of dynamic archivists in the Washington, DC area.  It changed everything for her.  She became really interested in how libraries and archives can supplement grassroots movements and in highlighting previously silenced voices in history.  Ultimately, Shaina was awarded the Spectrum Scholarship by the American Library Association and entered the University of Maryland’s School of Information.

While working on her MLIS (Master’s of Library & Information Science), Shaina worked as the Graduate Coordinator for LGBTQ Student Involvement & Advocacy in the Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy Office at the University of Maryland (UMD).  This opportunity gave her a chance to create space for a marginalized community on the UMD campus as well as assist them in advocating for themselves through finding resources for them and interpreting the information received from the administration on their behalf.  Her ability to work with student populations was greatly developed in those two years.  In her time in the DC-area, she has interned at the National Archives – where she worked on subject guides about the women of the Black Panthers organization and digitized Bayard Rustin’s archives – and volunteered at the Library of Congress.

Shaina loves reading (Octavia Butler is her favorite author), walking (she’s a native New Yorker), travelling and eating (she is enjoying the Iowa bacon).  She is new to the area and is collecting tips on what to expect, where to go, and what to see.  Please stop by and say hello.