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Jennifer Vaughn ▪ Internship Goals

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Jennifer Vaughn ▪

Internship Goals

1. I will learn how to operate vintage audio equipment and make digital transfers using software to capture audio signals, create derivatives and edit files.  I will become intimately familiar with various legacy formats, and understand their particular characteristics and idiosyncracies and preservation issues.  I will learn to splice, repair, bake, and leader magnetic tapes.

2.  I will shadow and assist the head engineer and assistant in the video department.  I will edit and trim at least 50 digital files of raw transfers, and keep detailed notes for each video of run times and other details of video quality (including sound, tape problems, and production elements).

3. I will shadow the film preservation expert at the MediaPreserve in order to understand her workflows and transfer processes.  I will become familiar with aspects of 16 mm and 8 mm films through observation and asking questions.  

4. I will learn about the creation of metadata used in describing and preserving digital files created in the transfer process, and how to create and maintain metadata files and reports for clients.  I will be creating technical metadata during the ingest process for film, video and audio formats.  

5.  I will learn how to transcode files (create access and user derivatives), and learn about the quality control workflows that the MediaPreserve has developed.  

6.  I will also gain a greater understanding about the customer service and RFI processes that the MediaPreserve regularly undertakes in the maintenance of relationships with clients.  

Figure 5.Often 1/8” tape becomes separated from its original leader, and the cassettes have to be cracked open and later re-shelled in order to repair the very thin 1/8” tape. Moving these small reels hastily or carelessly can result in hundreds of feet of unlooped tape falling into one’s lap.


The MediaPreserve, located in Cranberry Township PA, creates high-quality digital archival masters and user-playback files from audio, video, and film formats.

Over the course of my summer internship, I gained hands-on experience with preparing and digitizing legacy media formats. I worked primarily with the MediaPreserve's audio, video and film engineers, but also touched upon all aspects of working in a preservation facility, including creating metadata, assisting with day-to-day project management, and working with the IT staff to prepare deliverables.

This poster will focus on my experience working with vintage playback equipment and magnetic tape in the audio department of the MediaPreserve, which was my favorite part of the internship experience.

Figure 3. This is a ¼” splicing block, used in conjunction with special tape and blades to edit or repair tape. I became proficient in preparing both open reel and cassette tapes for digitization. Preparation included identifying problematic or fragile items, winding the tapes to achieve a good “pack,” adding archival leader tape, repairing and splicing broken tape, cleaning and baking tapes, discerning track layout and tape speed, and determining tape formula and type.

Internship Outcomes

I assisted in the digital transfer of over 200 audio recordings.  

I conducted extensive quality control on over 100 files of video transfers, and became familiar with both video and digital quality issues.

I participated in the creation of metadata at many points during the ingest process, including custom reports for clients.

I aided the preservation staff in responding to an RFP for a large digitization project.

I greatly increased my practical knowledge and experience with legacy formats and standards-based digitization practices.

Figure 1. The MediaPreserve has amassed a huge collection of antique audio, video and film equipment. This stack of Nakamichi cassette decks enables engineers to ingest multiple audio cassettes simultaneously, greatly reducing the lengthy process of real-time digitization of large cultural heritage collections. The equipment requires continual maintenance, calibration, and monitoring.

Figure 4. Studer A820 open reel decks. These are custom-fitted with ¼” heads. These playback at 3.75, 7.5, 15, and 30 inches per second. Some recordings I came across were recorded at 1 7/8 or even 15/16 ips in order to fit a lot of material on one reel, and had to be transferred on special decks. If the content was spoken word only, the engineers would occasionally run the tapes back at 2 X speed. Test tone reels are visible in the mid-ground of this photo: they are used to calibrate decks.

Figure 2. I learned how to adjust azimuth on ¼” open reel and cassette decks. The sound quality is noticeably dulled or dampened if the angle of the tape heads does not match the angle used during the recording of the original artifact. However, if a collection is homogenous and the same machine was used for all recordings, it is not necessary to adjust azimuth for every tape run.