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Memnon Archives for Major Players

Memnon assists broadcasters in preserving programs and maintaining heritage.

Memnon uses 32 Tascam readers for archiving purposes.
BRUSSELS — Broadcasters, both large and small, increasingly see the need to digitize their archives for the preservation of programs.

This demand has kept Belgian-based Memnon archiving services very busy. The company, which was founded in 2005, landed one of its first major contracts to archive Danish Radio’s audio inventory. Since then, the firm has worked with Radio Télévision Suisse, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Belgian Société de numérisation et de commercialisation des archives audiovisuelles (Sonuma).

Program preservation

Memnon has been working with Sonuma, which handles the administration of Belgian public broadcaster RTBF’s audiovisual archive, since 2009. That year Sonuma was launched as an independent business unit by RTBF (40%), the Walloon government (50%) and the Belgian French community (10%), with a funding of €20 million from the Walloon government and €4 million from the Belgian French community.

Today, Sonuma employs a staff of 18 people — the company has its headquarters in RTBF’s Média Rives building, located in Liège, which opened in May 2011.

Initially, Memnon digitized 23,000 hours of RTBF’s audio news footage from 1990 and 2002.

“All of the audio was stored on VHS tapes,” said Stéphane Bayot, operations manager, Sonuma. “The audio-track contained pure audio content, the video-track included broadcast date and time.”

All of the eight-hour VHS cassettes had to include two extra features. “The digital copy of each tape contains audio files, indexed by broadcast date and time,” Bayot said.

“We also have the original text files from the journalists and asked Memnon to implement automatic synchronization of the text file and audio feed — in doing so, a computer search engine can retrieve audio files based on the content. The text is displayed when the audio track is started.”

Next, Sonuma commissioned Memnon for the transfer of 14,000 hours of DAT tapes to the hard disk. The DAT tapes contain a variety of programs from RTBF channels La Première, Fréquence Wallonie (now Vivacité) and Radio 21.

Time constraint

“Our staff continuously draws up inventories of the thousands of carriers at RTBF — initially we imagined it would be 5,000 hours on DAT tape, and we ended up with 14,000 hours,” said Bayot. “Soon, we will tackle our 1/4-inch tape collection and the audiocassettes — after all, the RTBF radio archive spans more than 80 years.”

In addition to handling the RTBF audio archive, Memnon has digitized approximately 35,000 hours of video footage from Beta SP and DigiBeta media for the public broadcaster.

In January this year, Memnon received another major order for the digitization of news content from the leading public broadcaster in the U.K.

“It is the first time we are working for this particular broadcast client, and it is a breakthrough for us,” said Stephen Weil, U.K. area manager for Memnon. “Earlier archiving and digitization clients included the British Library and the Bournemouth University.”

For Memnon, the challenge of this new contract is the strict deadline — the company needs to digitize 13,000 hours of cassette tapes (containing news and programs) in less than three months.

“We have 40 Tascam cassette (122mkIII, 202mkIV and 322 series) players in a parallel configuration,” said Gregory Verdonck, Memnon commercial manager France, Benelux and Eastern Europe. “All of the audio tracks are digitized into 24-bit WAV files and then stored onto hard disks for our client.”

 –Marc Maes reports on the industry for Radio World from Antwerp, Belgium.