Capture Now! (in QCTools)

Published On: October 8, 2015 |

If you’ve digitized magnetic videotape, perhaps you’ve experienced the following situation:

You just purchased an expensive new computer with all the bells and whistles, including professional capture software. You soon discover that your out-of-the-box capture software doesn’t, however, meet preservation standards. As a result, you fall back on old standbys, only to discover that old software doesn’t play nicely with new hardware. Now you don’t know where to turn.

Here’s another ,not uncommon scenario:

You’re at your computer, watching your content play in real-time as you capture a videotape through a particular software. In your peripheral vision, you notice something flit across the frame. Was that a video error? You’re not sure. There’s no way for you to check, however, while the video is playing/being captured. All you can do is take note of the timecode where you thought you noticed the error, and go back to that moment later, with fingers crossed that you’ll locate the spot with the potential error.

If you’ve digitized media you’ve experienced both of these situations, and have likely lost a fair amount of precious time re-doing work and/or navigating through the depths of technical support forums.

Magnetic media has an expiration date. If there’s one thing we can’t afford to lose in the field of audiovisual preservation, it is time.  

What if there was a preservation standard software that was not only supported by modern computers, but would also allow archivists the ability to perform quality control and check for video errors concurrently, as they captured tape?

This is precisely the rationale behind the integration of capture functionality into BAVC Media’s QCTools [INSERT LINK]. With support from the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund, the primary goal of this project is to position QCTools as a free, open source video capture tool designed for archivists and preservationists.

As a tape capture tool, QCTools will feature a set of real-time analysis options that were previously digital preservationists of magnetic media. BAVC Media envisions QCTools supporting an end to worst case scenarios in preservation capture.

In the spirit of knowledge-sharing and collaboration that exists amongst the AV preservation community, the development team behind QCTools looked to preservationists and archivists to take their needs into consideration in order to design a tool specifically for them. From cavorting with a group of testers and  participating in Hack Day at the 2014 Association of Moving Image Archivists conference in Savannah, Georgia, the BAVC Media Preservation team accrued further insight into how a capture-savvy QC Tools might work:

  • Through prototyping, the capture tool created in QCTools treats the tape as a stream of data that it evaluates in real time.
  • The operator must set a duration, either by setting “in” or “out” times or by stating the tape’s capacity, then QCTools creates graphs representing video quality levels as the content is digitized.
  • If an operator sees something happen during the digitization, s/he will now be able to review it during the capture itself, rather than waiting until the capture has concluded.

Put more simply, the capture tool allows for quality control analysis in real time, as video is being captured.

In addition, the QCTools development team is experimenting with the implementation of filter support like waveform and vectorscope views. These features are not ususally available in software-based capture environments, and even in the rare instances when these two views are available, they can’t be used in real-time, while capturing is taking place. QCTools capture is also supportive of concurrent capture in which one operator may be running many decks.

The result will benefit the field by saving archivists’ time, and by bringing to light the importance of useful diagnostic and quality control capabilities, both after the analog media has been digitized, and during the digitization process.

Finally, it’s important to remember that capture functionality in QCTools is a prototype and presently in Beta release. Right now we don’t suggest using it for your everyday preservation work, but we hope that with your support we can continue to refine a much needed tool for our field. Look for a final prototype release in mid-March!

Please get involved by visiting the BAVC Media QCTools GitHub, where you can leave crucial feedback and contribute to the next iteration of QCTools!

This blog post also appears on the BAVC Media Preservation Tumblr