The Media Library of the European Parliament
Presentation of the Media Library of the European Parliament:
While the European Parliament assumed its present form in 1979, its roots stretch back to 1952. The archive it has amassed chronicles a significant part of European and world history. All audiovisual material produced in the EP is stored in the Media Library managed by the AV Unit, containing thousands of hours' worth of video footage, audio recordings and photos. Since 2002, the European Parliament has launched a huge plan to digitise its analogical audiovisual material, moving towards a 'tapeless' environment.
Beyond the daily tracks of its activities, the material preserved presents a snapshot of recent European history, from the founding fathers of Europe to the fall of the Eastern European countries' dictatorships, from the visits of the Heads of States and Governments from all over the world, to the testimonies of Nobel prize laureates, dissidents or representatives of the world of the arts or the media.
The Media Library of the European Parliament is the gateway to over 19 000 hours of footage illustrating nearly 60 years of European history. From coverage of Plenary Sessions and EbS productions to illustrative material and magazines, the Media Library offers a comprehensive overview of parliamentary activities. The collection includes:
· A film section covering events and activities in the European Parliament from the late 1950's
· Plenary Session debates from 1979 onwards
· Coverage of the European Elections from 1979 (clips, polling stations, election nights, etc)
· Coverage of parliamentary activities (committee and delegation meetings, press conferences, meetings and official visits of the EP president, etc)
· Illustrative material on various subjects being debated in the EP from the early 1980's onwards (including CAP, environment, energy, employment, EU borders, EU enlargement, transport, immigration, economy, etc)
· 'Magazines' produced or co-produced by the EP from the early 1990's.
The Media Library contains radio recordings covering more than half a century of European democracy. Since 1952, the plenary session debates have been recorded on vinyl, magnetic bands, DAT and, later, in digital format.
Photographers have been capturing the greatest events of EP history for over 50 years. The collection contains more than 70 000 pictures. Hundred of digital images are added on a daily basis from current photo reports as well as a selection of historical images from the EP Photo collection, including negatives and prints.
The Media Library is staffed with an expert and professional team of 6 people, dedicated to the indexation and the search. They receive more than 2 000 requests concerning videos each year from journalists, producers, the education sector, Members of the European Parliament and citizens. They add 1 200 hours of video material, with complete metadata, annually to the database and publish a selection of EP productions on the audiovisual website.
First Step - Transfer of the obsolete formats
In 2002, the European Parliament launched an ambitious plan of transfer of all its obsolete formats. The 35mm and 16mm films and the BVU tapes were transferred on Digital Beta cam tapes by two external companies (Fotocinema and Sonim) that won the individual calls for tenders. Specific cleaning treatments were planned to recover the material to the highest standards. The 1 Inch tapes (A, B and C) collections were transferred onto Digital Beta cam tapes by in-house staff. Old 1 Inch player/recorder machines were repaired and maintained to complete this operation taking over 2 years to complete.
Second Step - Digitisation process
In 2006, the European Parliament decided to dedicate a large part of its new building (JAN) in Brussels to audiovisual facilities. This new construction includes Radio and TV Studios, editing rooms, monitoring and recording rooms, the Photo Service and the Media Library project. These new facilities accommodate more than 3.000 accredited journalists each year. The development of the Media Library was with a view to the integration of all media (photo, audio and video) into one structure for collection, description, preservation and distribution. The Media Library project included new offices, storage rooms for physical assets, servers and digitisation equipment.
The Company Broadcasting Center Europe (RTL Group) won the call for tenders for the installation of the equipment and the digitisation process. At the time the project was initiated, some of the archives were already stored in digital format on a Sony data tape system. But most of the content however was still stored on Digital Beta cam videotapes and some on Beta cam SP videotapes. This lack of consistency created difficulties with access and retrieval. The challenge was to implement, in less than one year, a complete digitisation platform connected to the existing ingest platform of the European Parliament. To prevent any content loss, it also needed to digitise more than 12 000 hours of video content, maximising its quality while delivering optimised copies. This was accomplished through deployment of six Front Porch Digital SAMMAsolo systems, arrayed in a setup with legacy VTRs and interfaced to the European Parliament’s existing Sony FlexiCart system. The complete project was delivered in less than 12 months. Its fulfillment was divided in three distinct phases.
The first step of the project was the creation of the European Parliament digitisation platform on BCE premises in Luxembourg. This came as a fine tuning phase in order to create a seamless environment, optimise the workflow and ensure its successful integration in the building. Once the infrastructure was created, BCE was able to make the system pass a series of tests and make all the necessary corrections. During this phase, BCE also developed a software solution for the interface between the European Parliament’s existing FlexiCart and the SAMMAsolo Systems feeding the digital archive powered by Front Porch Digital DIVArchive solution. The platform can automatically digitise the contents and can store up to 18 000 hours of content, the archive can also easily be upgraded to 90 000 hours.
The moving of the platform to Brussels was the second phase. Much more than just moving the infrastructure from one address to another, the process entailed ensuring interconnectivity between the centralised digital archive, the working stations of the archivists and 16 external consoles for consultation purposes (Front Porch Digital Divadirector). As well as improving working methods, the entire archive management workflow has evolved. The next step of this project will be the connection of the production department with their centralised archiving system; from a technical point of view it would be the final step to finish with tapes, and on the content side, it would give the production team the opportunity to find archived contents more easily and integrate them into films, series and other features.
As soon as the digitisation platform was in working order, the third phase of the project began with the digitisation of the European Parliament's video content. But transforming this content to digital format was not completely automated as many archives had already been damaged over time. Various corrections were needed so the videos revived with a maximised quality for future use in productions, shows etc… A selection of the content sent to the digitisation process has been chosen by the archivists. The selected material made were a mix between the needs for preservation of the heritage and current production needs.
The European Parliament's digitisation platform and centralised digital library is the first step in its tapeless global switch. The result is a system accelerating the workflow of the entity and giving the archivists a complete and easy-to-use tool for their daily work. The European Parliament may now drop the tape and focus on the re‑use of its archives in new films.
Third step: sound and photo
In 2010 and 2011, addenda to the contract of BCE for the digitisation were concluded. The EP used this opportunity to continue the process of video conversion and start the digitisation of the audio collection. Concerning the vinyl collection, collaboration with the Council of Europe has been launched to share their experience with this format and their infrastructures.The audio collection contains the complete debates
of the European Parliament from the 1950's and is a vivid new overview
on the foundation of the European Construction.
In 2010, the Photo Service launched a vast program of systematic transfer of its negatives collection. The digitisation process includes the gathering of metadata burned into the IPTC files created by the operation. The file will be integrated into the Media Library system, recovering automatically the information. It is hoped that some 500 000 photos will be digitised in coming years.
Dissemination: The Audiovisual Website of the European Parliament
Launched in November 2010 and designed specifically to meet the demands of media professionals, the European Parliament Audiovisual Website gives easy access to the diverse media (audio, video and photo) produced by the European Parliament (http://audiovisual.europarl.europa.eu/). It also explains the extensive range of AV facilities, how to get accreditation, book facilities or order archive material from our Media Library. All the information to facilitate coverage of the activities of the European Parliament is compiled here in one website.
The site is also built around a powerful FTP server which allows the fast and smooth transferal of large files, in particular video material in broadcast quality. Only part of the Media Library's vast collection is on the website since it is mainly related to the activities of the 7th legislative term (2009-2014). However a selection of items on historical events is presented in a timeline section and the archivists are able to provide digitised archives in various formats to clients on request.
The next steps...
By the end of 2011 the European Parliament concluded the acquisition of a Digital Asset Management System (call for tenders won by Harris - System selected: Invenio). The software permit the integration of the various media in the same structure for preservation, indexation and retrieval. The system includes a tool to collect information for live events such as plenary sessions, hearings or committee meetings. The automatic recovery of data, such as the speaker's name or the subject of the debate, facilitates a better script description of the audiovisual asset.
A new era
By now more than 22.000 hours of videos and 6 000 hours of audio content have been digitised by the EP and are available. These images bring to life the last 50 years of European democracy. The European Parliament's conscious effort to preserve its history in images and sound allows it not only to rediscover its past, but also to face its future.