tape blog

The Magnetist – Audio Cassettes in Contemporary Culture

As lovers of magnetic tape and obsolete media, we keep our eyes open for people who remain attached to the formats most have forgot.

A recent film posted on Vimeo features the creative life of part time chef, noise musician and tape DJ Micke, also known as ‘The Magnetist’.

The..

Posted by debra in audio tape, 0 comments

C-120 Audio Cassette Transfer – the importance of high quality formats

In archiving, the simple truth is formats matter. If you want the best quality recording, that not only sounds good but has a strong chance of surviving over time, it needs to be recorded on an appropriate format.

Most of us, however, do not have specialised knowledge of recording technologies..

Posted by debra in audio tape, 0 comments

Greatbear Studio Visit – Archive for Mathematical Sciences and Philosophy

This week in the Greatbear Studio we are being visited by Michael Wright, Director of The Archive Trust for Research in Mathematical Sciences and Philosophy.

The Archive Trust for Research in Mathematical Sciences and Philosophy holds an extensive collection of audio and video recordings on..

Posted by debra in audio / video heritage, audio tape, video tape, 0 comments

How sustainable is digitisation?

Often when we think about the reasons to digitise magnetic tape collections we are considering the future. We digitise to make material accessible so it can be used again, or to preserve it so subsequent generations can benefit or learn from it. But how sustainable is digitisation and digital technology?..

Posted by debra in audio tape, video tape, 0 comments

Sony V62 EIAJ reel to reel video tape transfer for Barrie Hesketh

We have recently been sent a Sony V62 high density video tape by Barrie Hesketh. Barrie has had an active career in theatre and in 1966 he set up the Mull Little Theatre on the Isle of Mull off the West Coast of Scotland with his late wife Marianne Hesketh. Specialising in what Barrie calls the ‘imaginative..

Posted by debra in video tape, 2 comments

What is the future of analogue media?

In a recent blog article on the Presto Centre website, Richard Wright argues that ‘the audiovisual collections of the 20th century were analogue, and we are now at a critical time for considering the digital future of that analogue content.’ He goes on to say, emphatically:
‘All..

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Copying U-matic tape: digitise via dub connector or composite video?

Digitising legacy and obsolete video formats in essence is simple but the technical details make the process more complex. Experience and knowledge are therefore needed to make the most appropriate choices for the medium.

The U-matic video format usually had two types of video output, composite..

Posted by greatbear in digitisation expertise, video tape, 7 comments

Digital Preservation – Planning for the Long Term

There are plenty of reflections on the Great Bear tape blog about the fragility of digital data, and the need to think about digitisation as part of a wider process of data migration your information will need to make in its lifetime.

We have also explored how fast moving technological change..

Posted by debra in audio tape, video tape, 1 comment

‘Mysterious little reddish-brown ribbon’: BASF Magnetic Recording Tape

‘It seems we are living in an age in which practically every dream comes true. At no time in the past have so many scientific discoveries and inventions changed our way of life and the face of the world. Yes, we live in the age of science! Maybe we are forgetting to be awed, or are we so used..

Posted by debra in audio tape, 0 comments

Repairing obsolete media – remembering how to fix things

A recent news report on the BBC website about recycling and repairing ‘old’ technology resonates strongly with the work of Greatbear.

The story focused on the work of Restart Project, a charity organisation who are encouraging positive behavioural change by empowering people to..

Posted by debra in audio tape, video tape, 1 comment

D-1 digital video transfer – new additions and economies of size

A recent addition to the Greatear digitising studio is a BTS D-1 digital video cassette recorder.

As revolutionary as it was at the time, early digital audio and video tape recording is more threatened with obsolescence than earlier analogue formats.

Introduced in 1986, D-1 was the very..

Posted by debra in video tape, video technology, machines, equipment, 1 comment

Digitising Audio Tape – Process, Time & Cost

Last week we wrote about the person time involved in transferring magnetic tape to digital files, and we want to tell you more about the processes involved in digitisation work.

While in theory the work of migrating media from one format to another can be simple, even the humble domestic cassette..

Posted by debra in audio tape, 2 comments

From digital files back to analogue tape

The bread and butter work of Greatbear Analogue and Digital Media is to migrate analogue and digital magnetic tape to digital files, but recently we were asked by a customer to transfer a digital file to ¼ analogue tape.

The customer was concerned about the longevity of electronic digital..

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Real time transfers – digitising tape media

In theory the work we do at Greatbear is very simple: we migrate information from analogue or digital magnetic tape to electronic digital files.

Once transferred, digital files can be easily edited, tagged, accessed, shared or added to a database. Due to the ubiquitous nature of digital media..

Posted by debra in audio tape, video tape, 0 comments

Archiving for the digital long term: information management and migration

As an archival process digitisation offers the promise of a dream: improved accessibility, preservation and storage.

However the digital age is not without its archival headaches. News of the BBC’s plans to abandon their Digital Media Initiative (DMI), which aimed to make the BBC media..

Posted by debra in audio tape, video tape, 0 comments

Digitising Ampex U-matic KCS-20 Video Tapes

We are currently digitising a collection of U-matic Ampex KCS-20 video tapes for Keith Barnfather, the founder of Reeltime Pictures.

Reeltime Pictures are most well-known for their production of documentaries about the BBC series Doctor Who. They also made Doctor Who spin-off films, a kind..

Posted by debra in video tape, 2 comments

Digitise VHS Tape – Martin Smith’s Life Can Be Wonderful

In February 2013 we digitised a VHS tape from Martin Smith, the 1994 documentary Life Can Be Wonderful. The VHS tape was the only copy of the film Smith owned, and it is quite common for Great Bear to digitise projects where the film maker does not have the master copy. This is because original copies..

Posted by debra in video tape, 0 comments

Digitising & Restoring Personal Archives – 1/4 inch reel to reel audio tape

In today’s digital society most people have an archive. On personal computers, tablets and mobile devices we store, create and share vast amounts of information. We use archives to tell others about our lives, and the things that are important to us.

Gone are the days when archives were..

Posted by debra in audio tape, 16 comments
Audio cassette transfer and Martin Parr’s The Non Conformists

Audio cassette transfer and Martin Parr’s The Non Conformists

We were recently sent a collection of recorded interviews with residents of Hebden Bridge, a mill town in the Pennines. They were recorded on regular, domestic tapes of the mid-1970s, the kind that were sold in shops such as Woolworths or WHSmith.

As magnetic cassette tapes go, these cheaper..

Posted by debra in audio tape, 0 comments

8 track cartridges and museum tour

8 track cartridges were a very popular domestic audio format in the United States, although there were also sold in the UK and Europe. The growth of the 8 track was synonymous with its use in car industry, as it allowed people to listen to music on the move.

Although phased out in the early..

Posted by greatbear in audio tape, 0 comments

Delivery formats – to compress or not compress

After we have migrated your analogue or digital tape to a digital file, we offer a range of delivery formats.

For video, using the International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings, as our guide, we deliver FFV1 lossless files..

Posted by debra in audio tape, digitisation expertise, video tape, 0 comments
VHS / Hi8 video tapes digitised for The Great Hip Hop Hoax

VHS / Hi8 video tapes digitised for The Great Hip Hop Hoax

For a while now we’ve been working with film maker Jeanie Finlay on various projects, digitising archive video footage in varying tape formats and standards.

Her latest project, soon to be premiered in the US:
…is a film about truth, lies and the legacy of faking everything..

Posted by greatbear in video tape, 0 comments

digitising tape issues

The main work of Greatbear is to make analogue and digital tape-based media accessible for people living in a digital intensive environment. But once your tape-based media has been digitised, is that the end of the story? Do you never need to think about preservation again? What issues arise for information..

Posted by debra in audio tape, video tape, 0 comments

Collection of obsolete of audio and video tape machines for digitisation

Over a several years, Greatbear has been collecting and restoring old audio and video tape machines. By trawling through the online car boot sale that is ebay, or travelling round the country to visit real ones, the collection has built up over time and now constitutes over seventy working machines..

Posted by debra in video tape, 1 comment

Digitising U-matic tape: Diagnosing & Treatment

We have recently completed a job for Quarry Faces, the Mendip Hills Community Heritage Project which has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Quarry Faces gave us 20 U-matic video tapes that were commissioned for a corporate video in the 1980s.

The Quarry Faces project aims to tell the..

Posted by debra in video tape, 0 comments

The Grain of Video Tape

From U-matic to VHS, Betacam to Blu Ray, Standard Definition to High Definition, the formats we use to watch visual media are constantly evolving.

Yet have you ever paused to consider what is at stake in the changing way audio-visual media is presented to us? Is viewing High Definition film..

Posted by greatbear in video tape, 0 comments

Nakamichi 680 Discrete Head Cassette Deck and Music & Liberation

In 2012 Greatbear digitised a selection of audio and audio-visual tape for the Heritage Lottery Funded exhibition, Music & Liberation.

The first job was to migrate a short film by a feminist film making collective called Women in Moving Pictures who were based in Bristol in the early 1980s…

Posted by greatbear in audio tape, video tape, 0 comments

video machine room equipment racks / patchbay rewire

With the work we are involved with we have to use, keep working and store a large amount of old and usually large tape machines and other electronics. With a couple of machines it’s easy to store and easy to connect but as you grow and the variety and scope of machines develops it can soon become..

Posted by greatbear in video tape, 0 comments

video tape obsolescence – spares supplies disappearing

Greatbear protects tape-based analogue and digital media from the wave of obsolescence faced by these formats. The speed of technological change in the 20th and 21st centuries has been, and continues to be, breathtaking. Consider the amount of tapes and machines that have been made since the invention..

Posted by greatbear in video tape, 8 comments

VHS-C and full size VHS (NTSC and PAL)

‘We’re not sure what on here’ is a common phrase used by customers who send tape to the Greatbear. Spurred on by curiosity or creative necessity, they contact us to help them solve the mystery.

This is exactly what documentary film maker Jeanie Finlay did when she sent us..

Posted by debra in video tape, 0 comments

greatbear at work

A selection of images from the Greatbear engine room on a typical day at the office.

Repairing, cleaning, baking, testing, sorting and transferring are our daily bread. The work is done to the backdrop of miscellaneous audio and audio-visual recordings ranging from early 1990s house music to..

Posted by greatbear in audio tape, video tape, 0 comments
Digital Betacam tapes

Digital Betacam tapes

As well as analogue tape, at Greatbear we also migrate digital tape to digital files. Digital media has become synonymous with the everyday consumption of information in the 21st century. Yet it may come as a surprise for people to encounter digital tape when we are so comfortable with the seemingly..

Posted by greatbear in video tape, 1 comment

Digitising Betacam SP video tapes

We have recently been digitising Betacam SP (‘superior performance’) video recordings, a cassette based component analogue format that is used extensively in the broadcast world. Betacam SP offered fantastic video and audio quality from its introduction in 1986, and a very similar digital..

Posted by greatbear in video tape, 1 comment

Sony High Density V-60H video tape digitised for Comhaltas

We were recently contacted by Frank Whelan of the Comhaltas Regional Resource Centre who wanted us to digitise a recording of the Fleadh Cheoil traditional music festival in Buncranna, Co. Donegal in 1975.

Frank sent us an EIAJ ½ inch video that was recorded on a Sony High Density V-60H video..

Posted by greatbear in video tape, 1 comment

Richard Lewis’ Tapes

At Greatbear we work on a range of digitising projects from national collections to personal one-offs. Today we received a ¼ inch open reel polyester and acetate based tape from Carmarthen based teacher Richard Lewis. The tapes are a good example of the types of personal material we are entrusted..

Posted by greatbear in audio tape, 0 comments