The APEX team started its first day of work with a tour of Señal 3 La Victoria, a community television station located in one of Santiago’s poorest neighborhoods. The volunteer-operated station is a progressive alternative to mainstream Chilean media and produces programming on topics from community news to cooking. Our main goal for the day was to become acquainted with the station’s production process in preparation for an inventory of over 900 videotapes. The collection includes formats such as Video8, MiniDV, U-Matic, and VHS.
Through conversation with Polo, our main host at Señal 3, we learned that the collection includes three generations of tapes: camera originals, news compilations, and transmission masters. The production process at Señal 3 was developed to create programs with limited editing since they only had the equipment to transfer footage from tape to tape in a VCR. First, Señal 3 would shoot footage of an event or program. Then, the station would create a compilation tapes of all the pre-recorded content to be played on air on a given day. The compilation tape would be cued and played during the live program as introduced by an anchor. Finally, the entire transmission with both the news anchor and pre-recorded content would be recorded as it aired.
Our day at Señal 3 reaffirmed the importance of the collection interview when planning an inventory. Although we began the day by interviewing Polo, the production process was not immediately clear to us. Initially we thought that all the smaller videocassette formats were raw footage and all of the VHS edited masters. We did not realize that there was a distinction between the compilation tapes and the transmission masters. We had to try inventorying a few tapes to discover the right questions to ask. Understanding the production process is essential to identifying the most helpful metadata to describe a collection. As we considered fields for our inventory spreadsheet, we asked ourselves what information people might need in the future. For example, we concluded that tape capacity and content duration would be important for estimating the storage necessary for digitization. A main goal of the inventory is to make the collection more usable for Señal 3.
In addition to creating the spreadsheet, we also prepared for the inventory by organizing the MiniDV and Video8 by year, and the VHS by an existing numbering system. The inventory will be conducted not just by the APEX team but also by members of the community, who have been invited to a community archiving workshop.