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Fast-Forwarding Tape Conversion

The new 80,000 sq.-ft. facility that Crawford Media Services is finishing up in Atlanta marks an important technological milestone for the company, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The company hopes that the new digs will help rectify a festering problem in the television business that has been around certainly as long as Crawford itself—the massive libraries of slowly deteriorating video tapes sitting on programmers’ shelves around the country.

“You have many companies and stations that have thousands of hours of tapes dating back 20, 30 years that will be lost if they are not migrated to digital, because magnetic tape doesn’t have a long shelf life,” says Steve Davis, Crawford senior VP.

Content providers such as Hollywood studios and sports leagues see a clear business model for converting all this archival content, which can then be used on a variety of digital platforms, Blu-rays, DVDs and on-demand offerings. For example, WWE is completing a massive conversion process of more than 26,000 hours of archival wrestling footage.

Other programmers, including many local TV stations, have struggled to find a cost-effective way to convert their video libraries, a problem Crawford hopes its new facility will help solve.

To handle the process, the facility offers highcapacity fiber connectivity to move content in and out of the building, a high-capacity internal network, massive storage space, a data center and proprietary technology for managing the conversion of old tapes to digital formats.

“We are trying to remove the obstacles to migrating and storing tapes with an asset management system that we offer as a hosted service,” Davis says. That means stations and content companies don’t have to purchase an expensive system or make major capital investments in storage.

Meanwhile, the infrastructure for digital asset management is also playing an increasingly important role in Crawford’s post-production business, which has state-of-the-art editing suites in the company’s new seven-story building.

On its post-production work for the CW’s The Vampire Diaries and AMC’s The Walking Dead, Crawford’s staff works overnight on dailies, correcting for color and converting them to the correct file format. Then the company uses its fiber links to send the files “so people in L.A. and around the country can look at them the next morning,” says Davis. “It provide services that would be hard for a stand-alone post house to offer.”

Crawford’s storage and archiving capability also means “we can offer [programmers] archiving and remote access to their content,” which can be easily lost if simply stored on hard drives, Davis adds.

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