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From archival master to usable video... with Mark Gray, President and CEO of Archimedia Technology W ith about 4 million new video channels expected to hit the market in the next five years, it’s going to be more important than ever to make high-quality content readily available. Many media archives and libraries; studios; broadcasters; production and postproduction facilities; mastering, quality control, and digital cinema facilities have volumes of pristine master files in their vaults just waiting to be repurposed. The challenge will be making use of their archival masters efficiently. Industry veteran Mark Gray touches on some of the key points. Some might not grasp the complexity and enormity of archiving; can you share some insight into the process? Video files represent big data, and in most cases, a lot of time, money, creativity, and expertise go into creating them. These video files can be massive, which requires media organizations to make a significant investment in storing the original, pristine master files, copies of which might go to a postproduction house for manipulation, a studio for previewing, a broadcaster for transcoding, an engineer for test and measurement, an editor for repurposing, or any number of other destinations in the life of a video asset. In any case, archiving the original master files ensures they are preserved and available for later use. In order to ensure high-quality, artifact- free copies, the files are archived in uncompressed or other lossless mastering formats such as JPEG 2000 or DPX. 70 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 80 AUGUST 2013 When it comes to viewing and delivering archival master files, what are some of the challenges the industry faces? is faithful to the original or what it will look like on the screen. Master files are typically stored in archive formats that cannot be played on a standard player or screen, so those who need to work with the files must have expensive, proprietary players for different vendors and file types. In addition, they need professional HD-SDI monitors that can cost tens of thousands of dollars each. Many facilities cannot afford expensive systems — with DCP projectors, HD-SDI cards and monitors, and software from each of the manufacturers represented in their media collection — for everyone in a group, so many archivists and production teams have to work with lower-quality mezzanine and proxy copies of their masters. This scenario means that those facilities also need storage for those lower-quality files, plus the asset management tools to keep track of them with their masters — a system that can cost as much as or more than the storage of the master files themselves. There are several video file formats depending on which vendor’s hardware (e.g., a camera) or software (e.g. a nonlinear editor) created the video. In turn, those files can be bundled together with codecs, metadata, and other file-based elements to create a package, which is contained inside yet another format, a wrapper, for archiving or transporting. Wrappers — including the most common MXF, MOV, and AVI formats — hold files from a long list of video essences such as JPEG 2000; DPX (a wrapper/essence format in one); various MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 master profiles; and DCI or DCP for digital cinema, to name just a few. To complicate matters, the video file and wrapper formats aren’t interchangeable. These challenges are particularly difficult for archives, which often operate without IT support and under incredibly tight budgets that don’t allow for expensive, proprietary equipment and software from multiple manufacturers. The result? Many archivists are unable to view the master files in their care. When retrieving a requested file from the archive for delivery or digitizing a tape into a master file for storage, the archivist has no way of knowing whether the copy Why is the process of viewing and delivering master files so complex? On top of the seemingly endless combination of file and wrapper formats, there are nearly as many pieces of third-party equipment on which to play them. Users might need to stream the masters to a host of hardware, including HDMI