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The Associated Press (AP) is more than 160 years old and its AP Archive is home to one of the most extensive collections of news film and video footage in the world. It holds around 70,000 hours of film and video content covering a time period from the early 1960’s to the present day.
As part of AP’s transition to digital file-based operations, the most valuable legacy content in the AP Archive required conversion from film and video to digital file formats, opening this unique Archive to a new audience across a new set of platforms, and enabling the delivery of high resolution content through a range of IP and other distribution networks.
It was vital for AP to identify a partner they could trust with their priceless content. AP needed an organisation with the resources to handle the high volume of assets arriving from its various locations, and the ability to deliver the digitised content quickly, to meet the ever-growing demand from customers and to deliver the subsequent monetisation opportunities.
It was also important that the partner was adept at handling precious film materials, and had the expertise to clean and restore anything that was damaged. PFT has worked extensively with companies such as the British Movietone Library, British Film Institute, Imperial War Museum, BBC, IMG, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Eros International, and has a proven track record in this area.
Finally, the project had to be economically viable. PFT was able to leverage its global footprint and the skillsets of its international staff, and automate elements of the workflow, to provide a solution for AP that was not only technically innovative, but also financially viable.
Following a stringent tender process, Prime Focus Technologies (PFT), the leading digital content operations specialist, was selected to deliver AP’s vision. PFT is utilizing the unique skillsets of its global organization to digitize the film and tape archive, then catalogue, manage, transcode and deliver AP’s priceless content for a digital audience. In total, a staggering 3,800,000 new assets will be created from 32,000 hours of AP Archive material over an 18 month period.
Held on 16mm film, Betacam SP, Digital Betacam video and DVCam video, and with the assets stored across various locations in London and North America, the content was first transported to PFT’s secure facility in central London where the huge project is being overseen.
The film assets total 3,000 hours, with an average of 60 clips per hour. An HD mezzanine file is created for each clip, and delivered to AP with four separate transcode files. In total, 900,000 files are being created from film assets.
The video assets total 29,000 hours, with an average of 20 clips per hour. An SD mezzanine file is created for each clip, and delivered to AP with four separate transcode files. In total, 2,900,000 files are being created from video assets.
Revolutionary in many ways, the project is driven by CLEAR™, PFT’s award-winning content operations platform. A team of in-house developers were tasked with writing bespoke scripts to support the innovative workflows required which utilize PFT’s own cloud technology.
Digitizing the archive follows a bespoke and highly efficient workflow. The content is delivered to PFT throughout the 18 month project timeframe, and upon arrival, each piece of material is logged for tracking purposes. The film is assembled onto reels, synchronized with audio and physically checked before being ultrasonically or hand cleaned, then transferred in a dedicated Spirit Telecine suite where a best light grade is applied and a HD digital file is created. Video tapes are also checked and cleaned prior to the digitization process.
The new files are made available to the PFT teams in the UK and India via CLEAR™, and dedicated teams of cataloguers are automatically assigned files as they become available. The teams have extensive experience in this field, thanks to highly detailed meta-tagging work completed for the BCCI’s online cricket archive, amongst many other projects.
Once the cataloguing and versioning is complete, a high-res mezzanine file is created and four separate transcode files are produced and QC’d automatically. The completed files are then pushed to AP’s London headquarters in Camden Town for upload to AP’s video platform. Dedicated connectivity between PFT and AP allows instant access to the enormous volumes of content generated daily.
Throughout the project, daily and weekly progress reports are generated by the CLEAR™ AP Workflow Manager to notify AP of all encoded assets, the technical characteristics of the assets and any anomalies found such as inconsistencies within the metadata, as well as any serious video or audio faults. These reports are also used to measure actual performance against pre-agreed SLA’s.
PFT is delivering this ambitious project in an unprecedented timescale, creating over 3,800,000 new assets in just 18 months. Its global reach, infrastructure, international skillsets and pioneering use of cloud-based technology combined with smart automated and physical content operations made PFT the ideal partner for AP.
This project is part of a major investment in the film and video archives of the Associated Press. The digitised content will be hosted on a brand new web platform leveraging HTML5 for accessibility on a variety of devices. AP Archive customers will be able to purchase and download video content in a variety of formats including DV25 for standard definition and XDCam HD 4:2:2 for high definition content. The web platform will also contain a number of innovative features, streamlining users’ workflows and allowing them to access more content, faster and in higher quality.
Through working with PFT to digitize its archive, AP is making its valuable content available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, accessible by anyone, anywhere in the world. It will be easier for AP’s customers to view its content, and quicker and more cost-effective for them to receive it, opening this unique archive of the events and people who have shaped the modern era to a whole new audience, and preserving it for generations to come.