A framework to preserve country’s audio-visual history needed

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by BERNAMA

THE Ministry of Communications and Multimedia reckons the need for a national framework for the digitisation of film and audio-visual collections within the next five years to preserve the country’s history for future generations.

Its minister Gobind Singh Deo said the framework can be formed through a collaborative approach involving all stakeholders, such as the federal and state governments, national organisations, non-governmental and non-profit bodies, research or learning institutions and the private sector.

“The digitisation of magnetic tapes and other tape-based formats is of paramount importance particularly if these audio-visual recordings are of national value.

“I am told that there is a deadline for the digitisation, which is 2025. Tapes that are not digitised by then may be lost forever,” he said in his keynote address after the launch of Digital Transformation Centre of Excellence by DAMsmart Asia Sdn Bhd, TransMedia Dynamics and Silver Trak Digital in Petaling Jaya yesterday.

The centre, first in the region, will act as a hub that offers a full range of digital media services, including high-capacity digitisation and preservation services for any form of ageing audio and videotape, to government, media and entertainment clients throughout the region.

“I wish to congratulate the consortium for bringing world-class expertise and technology into Malaysia, and to thank them for having the confidence in making Kuala Lumpur the hub for their Asian media services as part of its global strategy and vision.

“I am pleased to note too that this collaboration is expected to create up to 200 technology jobs,” Gobind said.

“We have to work quickly and there is a lot to be done. There is an urgent need for us to look into how we can preserve the large number of contents we have under the National Film Development Corp Malaysia (FINAS), Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) and even Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM).

Gobind said his ministry and DAMsmart will work together before the idea on the national framework for the digitisation of film and audio-visual collections is brought forward to the government.

In terms of overcoming the common most barrier to film digitisation, which is large funding, the minister highlighted that he is in talks with Finas and RTM, and the matter would also be brought up to the government.

“There is definitely going to be cost involved but, of course, we have to look at it in terms of the need to preserve the contents and when the time comes, I will bring this up particularly to the finance minister to see how we can formulate a strategy all under the framework,” he added.

Meanwhile, DAMsmart Asia’s CEO Joseph Kelly highlighted that as all tape-based formats created in the 20th century are now obsolete, it creates a deadline, and a dilemma, for those entrusted with the care of these precious memories.

“There is now consensus among audio-visual archives internationally that we will not be able to support large-scale digitisation of magnetic media in the very near future.

Tapes that are not digitised by 2025 will in most cases be lost forever. Analogue video and audiotape, as well as early digital tape formats, will be effectively inaccessible due to the practical inability to maintain playback systems.

Magnetic tape technology has been used for audio from the mid 1940s and video from the mid 1950s.

He noted that since DAMsmart is the leading specialist archive digitisation and management service provider in Australia, the company decided to expand and open a new facility in a single South-East Asian location.

“With this new facility, our significant experience and expertise in these areas are now available to government agencies and private sector organisations in Malaysia as well as other countries throughout the region,” Kelly said.

He also emphasised that DAMsmart is ready to work with organisations like FINAS, Bernama and RTM, as well as the private sector.

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