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Creating a Tape Library for TV Station

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Creating a Tape Library for TV Station
on Nov 7, 2007 at 9:34:55 pm

Not sure if this is the right forum, but I'm starting from scratch creating a tape library. Any suggestions for organizing? Any electronic database systems anyone has found to work? I'm literally organizing the physical Beta SP tapes and DVCAM etc. on shelves and then creating an organized way everyone from the company can access them. I'm thinking chronological then alphabetical. I realize this may be a basic question for some, but I've never done this before. Right now it's kind of a mess. There are some old tape logs which ended a couple years ago so I'm picking it up from there.
Thanks so much!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Creating a Tape Library for TV Station
on Nov 8, 2007 at 4:18:07 pm

Welcome to hell; the temperature is always a climate-controlled 72 degrees with 15% humidity. :-) Got a poster like that in our tape library.

You can use whatever system you like as long as it's consistent and easy to maintain. Some folks use simple excel spreadsheets and databases.

Key data would include an overall master reference number or serial number. (Master number is often the 6-digit date plus a few user-specific alphanumeric characters that can ID the client or subject, like 110807BPOL would be something on Beta format regarding police from today's date).

Other items needed are format, date, title, locations, make/model of camera used, (lets you track down which camera is making problems and when it started going bad) running times, and keywords about the content and who worked on it. For when you get that David Mamet-type retrieval request: "remember that thing that one time with that guy? I need that tape".

If you can search for "all tapes between Feb and April shot by Bob", you have a better chance of quickly narrowing it down. It is also extremely handy to put the same master ID number for the tape on all the billing or accounting paperwork as soon as it is shot.

Remember too that the database and system have to be able to survive and be useable after you are gone and are no longer around to link this metadata using your recollections alone. The new person using the system will have no back-knowledge of any of it, so you have to keep it easy to use.

There's a custom solution that's very slick, Harpo and the BBC use it, called "Schedu-all". It is much more than a library system, it handles the needs of an entire production and post system. It's a series of a la carte modules you buy as you need, that tie every scheduling and archiving function together. For edit rooms, it schedules the clients, the editor and personnel schedules, storage assets, the engineering maintenance and upgrades, handles automatic billing, etc. For the tapes, it generates bar codes if you want to use a reader system. Then it keeps track of the title, where it is on the shelf, or who has it checked out and since when, what's on it, what editing room it's currently being used in, etc. Pricy, but hard to beat. You could start out with just the library module.

My own system classifies stuff by client, all client sections are alphabetized on the shelves, then tapes within the client sections are simply chronological. When you shoot something today, you just put it in the last open space onthe last shelf in the designated section for that client. In theory:-) If everybody honors the system and always puts things where they are supposed to go, (A HUGE "IF") all you ever need are the client name and the date to find the tape, and you can also enter those in a database with some short descriptions for fast keyword searches.

That's the real key: can your staff stay consistent with the system or will they slack off after a while. That way lies madness. My experience is that for any organization of more than three folks, you need a dedicated tape librarian, even if only part-time.

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