by Johannes Gfeller, Agathe Jarczyk, and Joanna Phillips. Scheidegger and Spiess, dist. by University of Chicago Press, June 2013. 269 p. + DVD ill. ISBN 9783858813817 (cl.), $130.00.
Reviewed November 2014
Kristin MacDonough, Digitization Specialist, Video Data Bank, School of the Art Institute in Chicago, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Compendium of Image Errors in Analogue Video is the first reference book solely dedicated to the identification of errors encountered in time-based media. It is the second volume in the KUNSTmaterial series from the Swiss Institute for Art Research, a series dedicated to technical research in art conservation. The authors, Johannes Gfeller (State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart), Agathe Jarczyk (Studio for Video Conservation in Bern, Switzerland), and Joanna Phillips (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York)—draw on their collective expertise in time-based media conservation and restoration as well as upon the independent research each has conducted on electronic media preservation. The content is provided in both German and English.
As with all forms of archival materials, magnetic tape is subject to deterioration and damage. In addition, it is also in danger of technical obsolescence, where the equipment necessary for playback is no longer manufactured and becomes impossible to find or repair. The best means of saving this content is through migration to a digital format, a challenging task which video preservationists and conservators have taken up. It is crucial in the preservation process to determine what errors are inherent to the medium and which are artifacts of transfer.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof system for digitization, nor has the terminology for the identification and diagnosis of these errors been standardized. The Compendium is the first publication to approach the latter in a systematic way, by identifying twenty-eight common image errors (alphabetically by their German name), listing recognizable symptoms, and explain possible causes. Also provided are various synonyms by which these artifacts are known—useful, given that these are often identified by colloquial terms unique to a region, institution, or even individual technician. Each entry includes various proposed solutions to these errors when relevant, which will likely be of the greatest interest to the reader.
While the verbal descriptions of the errors are more than adequate, the fact remains that they are best discovered during playback of the content. To address this, the authors have thoughtfully included real-life examples of these artifacts in video footage on an accompanying DVD. In a nice touch, the entries in the book are illustrated with still images directly from the disc, giving the reader multiple opportunities for comparison. The publication utilizes all parts of the book by providing diagrams and descriptions of the most common analog and digital video formats in the front and back of the cover respectively.
The book also includes other valuable resources: a section on the "Basic Principles of Video Technology," which includes an overview of television and transmission history and technical background on the recording and storage of video and audio signals; a "Guide to Viewing and Cataloging Videocassettes," with an example of a videotape cataloging sheet, noting all information which may be relevant to the assessor; and a glossary of video terminology.
The Compendium of Image Errors in Analogue Video is most appropriate for media conservators and preservationists in the process of cataloging, assessing, or digitizing their video holdings. However, thanks to the thorough research conducted for the publication, the Compendium is a useful reference for all managers of magnetic media, from novice to expert. Furthermore, it is also an excellent resource for librarians, archivists, curators, and students interested in the technical background of analog media.