Digital Media

U Wisconsin-La Crosse Digitizes Video Archive

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has launched a multi-year project to convert its video archive from videotape to searchable digital files.

The seeds of the project were sown in 2011, when the university opened Centennial Hall, its first major building to be controlled digitally. That event sparked an initiative to digitize all of the university's classrooms, including phasing out analog VHS video players and replacing them with digital media players. The university was particularly interested in online digital playback capabilities.

The university is digitally encoding, processing and meta-tagging more than 5,000 VHS videotapes. The digital files will then be imported into Sonic Foundry's Mediasite Enterprise Video Platform. According to Sonic Foundry, all of the digital video files will be indexed, making the entire video library searchable, and the videos "can be easily watched and managed with the click of a button."

"Videotapes have a shelf life of only 30 to 40 years," said Jim Jorstad, director of academic technologies at the university, in a prepared statement. "Each day the videotapes sit there the magnetic particles are flaking off the polyester base. Many of the videotapes from our shelves haven't been played in 10, 20 or 30 years.The tapes are essential for research."

The university's digital transfer project is expected to take up to 10 years to complete. According to Sonic Foundry, some of the video footage being transferred includes La Crosse history of the early 1900s, visits from United States presidents, footage from the 1986 Kennedy Symposium, PBS documentaries produced on campus and historic and vintage football films from the 1950s.

On Tuesday, October 21 from 11 a.m. to noon central time, Jorstad will discuss the university's digital transfer project in a free, live webinar hosted by Sonic Foundry. According to the company, "he will share some of the guiding principles and best practices already in place for transferring video files on campus and will share what he's learned so far, from practical and technical considerations when choosing a video platform to the interpretation of copyright law."

Further information about the webinar can be found on Sonic Foundry's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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