The Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) has been a cornerstone in documenting the rich and varied history of Gibraltar. From industrial advancements and political milestones to capturing the essence of everyday life, GBC’s tape library is a treasure trove of cultural heritage. However, with the aging of video tapes and the risk of losing invaluable content, GBC faced the challenge of preserving its historical archive.
GBC’s library comprised various tape formats, some dating back to the late 1970s. The tapes suffered from deterioration and ‘sticky shed syndrome’, a common issue in magnetic tapes where the binder that holds the magnetic particles to the plastic carrier deteriorates. Moreover, the tapes were poorly documented and stored in less-than-ideal conditions, leading to further degradation. The task of digitising these tapes was monumental, not only because of their physical state but also due to the sheer volume and the intricacies involved in the digital conversion process.
CJP was selected by GBC for this critical task. The project, divided into three phases, involved the meticulous process of digitising GBC’s entire tape library. The first phase entailed cataloguing the tapes, assessing their condition, and preparing them for digitisation. This included ‘baking’ the tapes – a process necessary to temporarily stabilise them for playback.
In the second phase, CJP employed state-of-the-art technology to transcribe the content into uncompressed 10-bit format, followed by transcoding into IMX 10 for archival purposes. This process was conducted in real-time, ensuring the highest quality of digital conversion.
Impact and Results
The digitisation project has been a resounding success. GBC, now in the second phase of the project, has already seen the benefits of this endeavour. The 2019 Island Games coverage by GBC was enhanced significantly with the inclusion of several newly digitized historic clips, providing viewers with a unique and enriched viewing experience.
CJP’s expertise in handling and converting aging and delicate media has led to the recovery of approximately 90-95% of the material, with only a minor percentage of the tapes being irrecoverable. This achievement not only preserves a vital part of Gibraltar’s history but also opens new avenues for GBC in terms of content utilisation and archival research.
As the project moves into its final phase, the focus will shift to the complete integration of the digitised content into GBC’s service system and the comprehensive indexing of the archive. This final step will ensure that GBC’s historical content is not only preserved but also easily accessible for future generations, researchers, and broadcasters.
CJP’s work with GBC stands as a testament to the importance of preserving historical media and the role of technology in safeguarding cultural heritage.