NFSA chooses DAMsmart to digitise collection

09 July, 2010 by IF

Press release Media Migration & Preservation

The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) has purchased 2 SAMMA Solo systems from media migration specialist DAMsmart to begin the digitisation of its extensive collection.


The NFSA collects, stores, preserves and provides public access to Australia’s audiovisual collection, ranging from 19th century material to well-known contemporary films like Strictly Ballroom, as well as sound recordings and artefacts. The vast collection includes 40,000 hours of original material, some of which is deteriorating and in need of digital preservation. The collection is also growing, yet some parts are already inaccessible due to recording and playing technologies that are now outdated.

The choice of SAMMA and DAMsmart followed extensive research and testing by the NFSA. Greg Moss, Manager of the Digital Media Preservation Project for the NFSA, says ‘We’re digitising these works to preserve their usable lives, not just to keep a record of them, so preserving their original quality is paramount. SAMMA Solo gives us fine control over the quality of the content before and during digitisation.’

With a wide variety of tape quality and formats in the collection including 2 inch video, NFSA’s own expertise is vital in the process. Fully automated digitisation isn’t an option but SAMMA Solo analyses every frame of video tape and flags quality issues, so operators can fine-tune the process as they go. ‘SAMMA Solo ensures a high quality outcome while increasing our productivity,’ Moss explains.

A key benefit of the new system is SAMMA’s use of ISO standard JPEG 2000 encoding which yields digital files in open formats. For the NFSA, this enables long term access and adjustment without the risk of proprietary restrictions and expense. For this reason, some of the world’s largest audiovisual archives, including the US Library of Congress, use SAMMA to digitise their audiovisual collections.

A key challenge for archivists is to preserve original unaltered content in the smallest, most manageable package. This is effectively addressed through JPEG 2000’s ‘mathematically lossless’ compression which reduces video files to one third of their original size, dramatically reducing transmission speeds and storage space. ‘We’ve been strong advocates of JPEG 2000 for some time,’ says Joe Kelly, DAMsmart’s Media Migration Manager. ‘With the premier archive in Australia choosing JPEG 2000, we’re confident that others will soon follow.’

The meticulous migration of NFSA’s video archives is likely to take many years, but digitisation will enhance the storage, monitoring and accessibility of this irreplaceable Australian audiovisual collection.