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PrestoCentre Editorial Team

Digitisation and Digital Preservation Challenges at the BBC

In this first in a series of PrestoCentre Webinars we look at a case study of a preservation project at the BBC Archive. Entitled “Digitisation and Digital Preservation Challenges at the BBC”. The presenters are Richard Wright (ex BBC R&D) and Tom Heritage who works in BBC R&D and has been involved with some of the technical aspects of the project. The target audience for this webinar are people currently involved or planning to undertake digital preservation. It is equally for service providers offering both a range of preservation software tools through to a complete end to end process.  

Richard Wright introduced the seminar and talked about the background to digitisation and the effects of format obsolescence on an audiovisual collection. Where typically over time the playback devices are no longer serviceable as a manufacture stops supporting the format and spare parts are not produced. Leading to the risk of losing content because it becomes unrecoverable from the format it is stored on.

Richard explained that the preservation project - which is the subject of this webinar - was initiated precisely because of the obsolescence of the Panasonic videotape format D3. Introduced into the BBC in the early 90’s it became the main production and archive tape format. When Panasonic decided to no longer support it the BBC was faced with the task of migrating the content from the thousands of D3 tapes onto a modern format.

Tom Heritage began his presentation with an overview of the scale of the BBC archive with over 4.5 million items on a multitude of formats and 20 petabytes of stored data. The preservation project initially started with D3 and then moved onto the Digital Betacam format. The ingest part of the transfer process was carried out using the BBC R&D’s open source software Ingex ( which has a production and archive version.

Tom described the complex workflow through a series of slides illustrating the process of pre transfer preparation, ingest, monitoring and quality control. As part of the transfer, master MXF files are generated and up to ten programmes are stored onto each data tape. A transcode takes place to produce lower copy proxy files for access by researchers. The master files undergo a QC viewing by trained operators to identify faults which cannot be captured in the reporting software before they can be placed into the archive.

During the webinar the audience were invited to post questions on aspects of the project or preservation generally. You can watch the webinar here. For future webinars take a look at the webinar Calendar.

[by: Andy O'Dwyer]