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Frequently Asked Questions?
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More About Media Library Archive Conversion
Media storage prior to transfer, preparation
for transfer, and storage after transfer
Note: Information provided below covers basic consumer questions. It does not provide in-depth details on more stringent practices we would provide to our corporate clients with media archives.

First, some thoughts on the digital age....
Past generations of audiovisual media have had a unique, robust quality that helped enable its longevity. Decay of older media formats was slow. Damage to media most often meant repair or removal of the damaged portion, or just playing through to the undamaged portion. Since old media formats were tangible objects, they were not as easily lost or misplaced.

With the growing push to convert old analog media to digital formats and new media originated in digital format, more and more media now rests in the digital age. Digital media is easier to play, view and share. It is not prone to typical analog deterioration. With these convenient benefits we must be mindful to the fragility of digital media. As technology advances, hard drives get bigger and less expensive allowing for more data to be stored in the same place, more of it can be lost in the blink of an eye. Files can be easily be overwritten, changed, reformatted or erased with a simple error of a mouse-click or intrusion of a computer virus. Files are lost in cyberspace much easier than their "hardcopy" tangible predecessors. Digital disk media varies greatly in quality and reliability from manufacturer to manufacturer and can be easily scratched, cracked, improperly handled or mislabeled, rendering the entire disk (not just the damaged portion) unplayable. File corruption is much more common than the casual user would expect. Without care and vigilance, our digital media assets are at grave risk.

We are presented with the possibility of loosing more media history in the short period of our current generation, than has been lost with the slow decay of 100+ years of media history on more tangible, robust, formats of the past. Proper planning, conversion, backup, storage and migration are the keys to preserving new media in this digital age.

How do I store my media until I'm ready to transfer it?
First, inspect your media collection. Movie film, slide/transparency films and some older audiotapes can take on "Vinegar Syndrome", most often identified by a faint to strong, vinegar odor. Film, photos, slides, analog disk recordings, videotape and audiotape can all be contaminated by fungus (including mold and mildew). Videotape and audiotape can take on too much moisture which can break down the tape through hydrolysis ("sticky tape syndrome"). Another serious tape breakdown is flaking. If you find any of the above issues, call us immediately to have us examine your media. Some fungus types can be very hazardous to your health. We recommend

Remove any media stored in an attic, garage or floor below ground level. Store your media where temperature and humidity swings are the least. Media should be allowed to breathe. Do not store your media in zip-lock bags, Tupperware tubs, metal film tins or other air-tight containers. Keep magnetic media such as videotape, audiotape and magnetic stripped sound movie film away from electronic devices such as TV's, stereo equipment, power outlets or speakers. Videotape and audiotape should be stored upright, standing on end. Do not rewind video or audiotape after use, keep it in the "tails out" position. Film and photographic materials should be stored in a dark environment to keep them from fading. Always wash your hands first before handling slides or photos. Photographs should not come in contact with acid based paper or strong smelling clear plastic covers such as PVC, both found in many inexpensive photo albums. If you own audio disk recordings, store them upright with support on both ends so that they will not warp. Do not expose very old records to any liquid or cleaning solutions, they can be damaged when they come in contact with liquid. If you would like more information on proper storage conditions for a specific media, please contact us.

How do I organize my media prior to transfer?
Have as much detail possible noted on your media. Titles, dates, and subject matter of each piece help us to organize your media transfer. Put your media in the order you want to see it after transfer. If you write on the back of a photo, lightly use a graphite pencil. Photos and slides should all be numbered in the order you want them scanned. We very strongly urge you not to run movie film, videotapes or audiotapes to identify them. An old playback unit or playing media that is deteriorating can cause irreversible damage and render your media unable to be transferred. If you are unsure of the date or subject matter, it can be labeled after transfer.

What do I do with my old media after it is transferred?
We highly recommend keeping your old media for as long as possible. This is especially true if you might have future plans to use some of your media for a special purpose and you may require a different digital format to transfer to. We are happy to give you guidance on the proper storage conditions for your type of original media. For our consumer clients, if you absolutely insist on not storing your original media, at the very least, continue to store your old media until you have had the chance to review your new digital versions to insure that everything has been transferred to your satisfaction and ONLY discard your media if you have had proper backup media made and it is stored in a location that is different than the first set.

After my material is transferred, how do I store my digital media?
Store any digital optical media disks (CD, DVD and Blu-ray) vertically in the cases we provide. We highly recommend that you have us make a backup disk for each master disk produced as a simple scratch can render disk media unplayable. If you request backup disk media in envelopes, store them in proper archival cardboard or plastic media storage cases. Store backup media in a different location than the master, preferably in a different building. Store all digital disk media away from direct sunlight as UV rays can break down the recorded dye layers of digital media disks. Do not label your digital media disk with adhesive labels or permanent markers. Both cause problems down the road. If you have to, any additional labeling should be made with markers expressly made for safely labeling disk media. Take care in handling your disk media. Never touch the underside where the data is read from. Avoid cleaning disk media unless you know what you're doing and do not stress/flex the disk when removing it from the case.

If you are storing your media in digital file format on hard drive, make sure to back up these files to another drive or other storage media. Insure that the backup method (and any disk maintenance software) does not compress or alter the original files. If your redundant backup is another drive, it is best to power down the second drive and disconnect it from your network when not in use. Store the second drive off site. Rotate the drives every 6-8 months and insure that you power them up for at least a few minutes to re-lubricate the internal bearings in the drive. Insure that your network is safeguarded from computer viruses. A UPS will help protect you from some power issues that can damage your computer and backup drive, but it is not a safe-guard for a direct lightning strike or brown-out. These are the basics to proper drive backup. All of the details and methods are too numerous to outline here. Consult with us to review your best options based on your individual needs and budget. (Note - with solid state drives now a viable option for drive storage, they have not yet been adequately tested for long-term shelf storage for data. Until further research is done on the viability of long term data storage on SSD drives we do not recommend using these drives as data storage.

How long will my digital media last?
Since writable disk media has only been around since the mid 1990's, no-one knows for sure! Experts and manufacturers all have different opinions. Much will depend on how you label, store and handle your disk media. It's also important to insure that the disk media is manufactured by a reliable source. These days, a percieved reliable name may not really be so reliable. Even the well-known manufacturers can subcontract out disk production. Fake disks or rip-offs are commonly imported from China and distributed by large national chains without knowing the media is counterfeit. Without special programs made to find the true manufacturing source, even professional conversion companies quite often use disks that are inferior. In general, when using a disk that is produced by our company with proper storage and handling conditions as outlined above, CD-R disks have a conservative estimated lifespan of 6+ years and DVD-R media of 10+ years. Very conservative consumer clients will elect to have either a new redundant disk media backups made every five to six years and rotate the oldest backup out or store the same files on a different storage medium such as computer hard drive. Corporate client needs will be more stringent and vary widely. Each media library should be assessed and addressed on an individual, case by case basis.

Media Transfer Service LLC. Rochester, NY . Phone: 585-248-4908 . Email: mtsinfo@rochester.rr.com
preserving media, preserving audio, preserving film, preserving video tape, preserving photos, preserving slides, preserving audiovisual media, audiovisual media preservation