It’s searchable acim audio an uphill battle to keep up with audio technology. It wasn’t long ago we thought being able to walk around with a portable Discman was as good as it could get but it didn’t take companies long before digital files and music hit mainstream. With the rapid changes in technology, home users and even businesses are forced to make changes to their equipment and get old formats transferred over to the new technology in order to maintain archives and other recordings.
We often think of music when talking about transferring audio – taking those old LP’s or 8-tracks, even cassette tapes, and transferring them into digital format. There’s a professional world out there that relies on audio however, and audio restoration and transfer services are extremely important to them; some have history hanging by a magnetic thread.
Before digital recordings and even simple cassette tapes, the most common method for recording information was the reel to reel recorder. Portable models were made to take on interviews and into the field. It is these portable recorders that hung around important events; now stashed away on magnetic reels in museum archives.
Military campaigns with reporters in tow have been documented on old formats. Old western Indian languages from times long past rest quietly entombed on equipment that is now obsolete and in danger of decay. Presidential elections, rallies, political movements and speeches and important radio broadcasts are just a few pieces in our complex history that will one day need to be transferred and potentially restored so that others can enjoy and remember.
While there is historical and political importance to transferring audio, there’s professional and legal interest as well. Shows like CSI and Law and Order show us cases closed and settled in a matter of days but our legal system does not work that way. Some cases take months, even years, and there are cold case files being reopened from ages ago. In long running cases, audio transfer is sometimes needed where there are cassettes with dictation and recorded conversations, as well as with older media like reel to reel interrogation recordings.
Step back from the Hollywood-esque look at audio and you will see an academic world that is in dire need of audio transfer. Many universities have lectures, seminars, and conferences stored on old, aging media. Events where key speakers shared ground breaking information will have to be transferred over to new digital formats if the throngs of new students and academics are to benefit from them.
Restoring the Past
The problem with older formats is that they are just that – they’re old. With every day that passes, these older formats succumb to the environment around them. Components oxidize and begin to decay. Tape loses moisture and becomes brittle. Much older recordings on master LP’s or wax cylinders can break or crack if mishandled. Even the dust in the air can damage the audio.
Audio restoration is a part of audio transfer and while it’s not necessary in many cases it can help to clean up the hiss, hum, and crackle that often come from aging (or even new) analog recordings. The hissing, pops, crackles and other events that are unnatural can sometimes be downplayed or removed through digital remastering and restoration.
Of course that’s not to say that audio restoration can fix damaged audio. If an old recording is so garbled and damaged that it’s unintelligible, it’s not likely to be fixed (certainly not easily) with modern software. Unfortunately audio restoration in the real world doesn’t work quite like some of the things Hollywood has shown us.