I have worked on several projects involving digital video and audio based on field work, collected by ethnographers and oral historians. And while at times this material can be compelling, for the most part, these academics are not film makers. So often there is not a story to be told. It is the ritual or the musical performance or the language that needs to be described. And often the most straight forward way to do that is through annotation. But annotation is a time consuming process. Segmenting and annotating several hours of video can take several weeks.
And when the annotation is complete, how do you get this annotated video to your colleagues, your students, your department head? Most of the faculty that I have worked with are extremely interested in sharing their research with their students. But streaming video requires more infrastructure than the average academic either possesses or wants to have to deal with. And the skills necessary to make both the video and the annotations available online are also of little interest. So why not YouTube? From what I can see most online services have limited metadata and limited file size. Consequently, it is difficult to place the small segments you upload into the context of a larger research project.
And, especially if you have started with analog materials, while you are digitizing, you might as well make the best copy you can. Uncompressed seems to be the way to go and while the price of disk storage is low, an hour of uncompressed video is at least 100 gigs or more if it’s HD. And then add on top of this all the other issues with creating and maintaining the metadata for your archived materials.
So creating, using and storing digital video in an academic research environment is not as simple as it may seem. You need tools to do the segmentation and annotation. An infrastructure to support streaming digital video and displaying corresponding annotation. And large amounts of disk storage.
At various times I have thought that I had the answers to the problem of digital video in the academy. I am less sure of myself now. But I think there is a lot to discuss. And I keep thinking there is a solution out there.