Digitising Sir Chay Blyth’s video archive

We’ve been digitising a large part of round-the-world yachtsman Sir Chay Blyth’s video collection in an effort to create a complete digital video archive of his seafaring adventures.

Image of Apple Mac OSX Video Capture and Post-Production at SimplyDV

Capturing Chay Blyth’s video master tapes using SimplyDV’s Apple Mac-based system.

Sir Chay Blyth is perhaps best known for being the first man to row the Atlantic single-handed when still a member of the British Parachute Regiment in 1972. By 1974, he was setting out to sail around the world single-handed – which culminated in massive worldwide publicity. The name of Chay Blyth is one that is familiar to members of the sailing fraternity the world over, so it was with great pleasure that SimplyDV was invited to digitise Sir Chay’s large collection of professional-standard video recordings as part of an effort not only to make the material more easily accessible but also to create some much-needed space at home. Boxes full of bulky analogue videotape recordings take up a lot more space than a couple of hard disk drives, after all.

The BT Global Challenge (among other things)

The BT Global Challenge 2000/2001 was a 23,000-mile global sailing challenge conceived and organised by Sir Chay Blyth, through his company The Challenge Business, and involving 16 identical sailing vessels which were crewed by volunteers (each of whom had raised £25,000 in sponsorship) and a professional skipper. Each of these vessels would have a primary sponsor and a number of secondary sponsors.

Image showing yacht navigating the stormy seas of the south Atlantic on the BT Global Challenge round-the-world yacht race, 2001

Navigating the stormy seas of the south Atlantic on the BT Global Challenge round-the-world yacht race, 2001

In addition to possessing source material and edited programme material for earlier sailing challenges, such as the British Steel Challenge, the collection contains many hours of impressive original footage like aerial shots of the boats under full sail and on-board shots shot by crew members themselves under frightening southern ocean conditions. The range of material is as diverse as it is impressive, and we’re delighted to be playing a role in its long-term preservation.

Creating a broadcast-quality digital video archive on disk

The initial brief from Chay’s friend and colleague Adrian Pearson, who is acting as the video production consultant on the project, was to create a full set of digital video files from which they will be able to select and edit new video sequences that can be used in a variety of ways. Chay gives talks and lectures about his sailing exploits all over the world and there’s an ongoing need to include appropriate and engaging video presentation material. Additionally, he needs some newly-created sequences that can be used in support of fund-raising campaigns for future ventures.

During mid-August 2013 we set about capturing the first of the videotapes to full, uncompressed 10-bit YUV 4:2:2 Quicktime video files using one of two broadcast-format Sony Betacam-SP videotape playback VTR machines, a G2 MSTC (Multi Standard Timebase Corrector) and Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro analogue-to-digital video conversion hardware. The mixed stereo audio tracks were fed to a Soundtrack EPM-8 mixer desk, sweetened and levels balanced (either to twin-track mono or split stereo as approproate to the source material) before being captured to Quicktime files using Blackmagic’s Media Express video capture application on an Apple Mac running OSX. The 10Gbps Thunderbolt-connected Blackmagic Intensity supplies both analogue as well as digital video and audio monitoring during capture and playback, thus enabling us to keep an eye and ear on the pre-capture and post-capture signals.

Having performed the main capture of each videotape or recorded segment, sequences were written out to the client’s own USB 2.0 hard disk drive in addition to our own backup drive system.

Increasing demand for digital video archiving using uncompressed file formats

Over the last 18 months or so, SimplyDV has seen a marked increase in demand from professional video production houses, independent producer/directors and film/video libraries who realise that if their precious videotape collections aren’t digitally preserved now, it might just be too late. That’s why we’re ready to discuss your needs right now. If you have specific needs then please don’t hesitate to contact Colin using the Contact Page.

For more info on Sir Chay Blyth see Wikipedia.

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