Recordings, whether audio, visual, or both, are there to help remind us of what came before, but preserving those that exist only in analog form for futurity generations to relish, or learn from, can exist an incredible technical challenge.
The Montreux Jazz Festival has 50 years of unique performances in its archives — a treasure chest of musical history that could be considered priceless. With everything on tape, the collection only has a finite lifespan, before deterioration sets in and irreparable harm is done.
Back in 2008, a team of engineers, archivists, and researchers from Montreux Sounds, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet decided to digitally preserve the recordings, restore them, and requite people a risk to relive those amazing musical experiences in an immersive way. Audemars Piguet vice chairman of the board Olivier Audemars described the late founder of the Jazz Festival Claude Nobs as a, “faithful friend,” adding the projection and its necessary attention to item was originally inspired past him.
It has taken eight years for the 6,000 hours of music loaded on the original chief tapes, and more 11,000 hours of video recordings, to be digitally preserved. Alain Dufaux, Operations and Evolution Manager at the EPFL Metamedia Heart, told Digital Trends, “Everything was digitized in uncompressed formats to preserve the quality.”
Merely the offset
Tests were carried out on tapes beforehand to ensure the best configuration and format was chosen, just even then, the decision on how to handle each recording was difficult. Dufaux connected, “The challenge is to tune playback optimally and select the proper analog-to-digital converter parameters. There are many challenges. Is it better to utilize a strong filter, which removes possible artifacts but slightly blurs the image, or a low-cal filter which maintains the sharpness just leaves artifacts?”
It’s the work to recreate the festival experience in a new way that’s really special.
What’due south really interesting is the EPFL’s digital archiving work on the Jazz Festival archives is only the start, and more is to come when technology allows. By using a low-cal filter on the recordings, the team is preparing for future technological advancements in artifact removal, where sharpness won’t be compromised. The team has taken a similar approach to preserving the audio. It hasn’t performed any remastering work during digitization, for instance. “This volition happen in the future, and and so we will create a 2d version of the archives. Remastering methods change with time, but the reference archive should not be altered.”
Treating the archive textile with such respect doesn’t mean ignoring the festival today. Extraordinary efforts are in place to ensure the modern performances don’t have to be saved in quite the same way past future generations. Since 2014, the Montreux Jazz Festival is archived live, where a high-definition recording is transferred immediately later to the EPFL’s lab over a 10Gbit/s optical link, then transcoded overnight, annotated and chaptered the morn afterwards, and metadata added to the database.
All this attempt would be wasted if no-one could enjoy the result. An iPad app has been released that lets people find performances, for instance. However, it’south the work to recreate the festival experience in a new way that’s really special. Since 2012, the digital recordings have been shown in private booths, but in September, the Montreux Heritage Lab V2 opens to the public inside the Montreux Jazz Buffet, promising an unparalleled, digital festival feel.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
The custom designed booth, sonically tuned by EPFL’due south experts, seats 20 people who can enjoy some of the 44,000 tracks stored in the annal. Information technology’s no surprise the piece of work carried out has attracted plenty of attention, and the archive is the first audiovisual library to earn the honor of being named a UNESCO Retentivity of the World.
What’s next? Re-digitization would show very expensive, and instead, now the archive has been persevered, attention volition turn to improving the digital files over time “EPFL is interested in developing new technologies for super-resolution and video defect detection and correction,” Dufaux said.
The piece of work put into preserving the Jazz Festival’due south recordings is a fascinating use of digital archiving applied science, both current and well-nigh-time to come, that ensures an irreplaceable musical collection volition live on in a fashion that an analog tape recording simply never could.
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