Universal Fire Coverup

The Importance of Digitizing and Archiving Old Video & Audio Tape

Universal Studios Fire Damage Coverup

I read an interesting story the other day in The New York Times Called The Day The Music Burned It was all about the Fire that happened in a storage unit on the lot at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

Back in 2008 The warehouse that burned to the ground held a tape vault with hundreds if not thousands of tapes of old TV shows, as well as the master recordings of some of the most well-known musicians and bands in the history of recorded entertainment.
Most of The TV shows were replaceable as they usually have backup copies that are stored in another location that just need to be re-dubbed.

In the case of analogue recordings the new tapes will have a “Generation of Loss” which will make them look and sound not quite as good as the original. Since the onset of the digital age, this is no longer a problem as digital recordings use a computer model of 1’s and 0’s which mean no analogue hiss therefore it is possible to dub from dubs for generations with no signal loss.

Here at QC Central we did Quality Control reports for a whole series that had to re-dubbed from tapes stored in Atlanta. The production company wanted to know that the new tapes were still suitable for air, so they called on us to do the QC Reports.

The bigger problem on that day of the Universal warehouse burned was the loss of the Master recordings of musicians such as Buddy Holly, John Coltrane, Neil Diamond, Elton John, and so many more. These Master recordings are often the multi-track tapes from the original studio sessions. These are the tapes they use any time an album is re-mastered, as when new technology makes it possible to make the original sound even better, or whenever they want to make a new copy with the highest audio fidelity. Once the masters are gone, the only way to re-create the music is to dub it from some often very old source that will not have the sonic integrity of the original masters. Many of these masters shockingly did not even have tape backups, and are now gone forever.

The importance of digitizing and archiving old tape and film is critical. All video and audio tape decays over time. If you have ever watched on old VHS tape you can see that the picture quality is not nearly what it once was; once music or video is converted to a digital file the degrading of quality ends, the oproduct can now be stored indefinitely with no loss to video or audio quality. Often time tape vaults are filled with boxes of old tapes that have been mislabeled, (or never labeled at all) or recorded over, and what is actually on the tapes has been lost to time, this underscores the importance of archiving of old materials.

Here at QC Central we can digitize any type of video or audio tape. We can also Archive, re-arrange, and re-label. We have worked on old TV shows in the past transferring obsolete tape formats to digital files that will last forever. If you would like information about this or any service we offer please contact us anytime.