What is digitisation? How MAVM is giving a second life to the PBS archives

Malta Audio Visual Memories (MAVM) is a project that will make available to the public over 24,000 hours of footage captured by the national broadcaster over the years, which include many rare and unseen glimpses at historical events, places, and people who left a mark on these islands. 

Until recently, this material could only be handled in a controlled environment and viewed using special equipment, but MAVM is working to give it a new lease on life online through the process of digitisation.

Digitisation works by taking audiovisual content on physical or analogue media—such as film reels, VHS, Betamax, and Hi-band/U-Matic formats—and converting it to a digital file which can be manipulated with software. Digitisation is an increasingly popular method of preserving archival material and making it easily accessible to the public.

Technicians initially clean the artefact thoroughly and place it in a machine which converts its content to a digital format. The output is transferred onto a central server, from which a team of video editors can view the raw, digitised footage and split it into smaller clips. These clips are then edited to remove imperfections such as scratches, as well as to adjust picture and sound quality. 

The edited clips are finally analysed by metadata personnel, who take note of the events, time period, and the names of the locations and people depicted.  Sometimes, details about clips are found recorded by hand inside the original casing of the artefact, and this information is also digitally logged.

MAVM invites the general public to participate in this project by submitting information if they recognise people or events in the clips shared on its social pages.