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CBC Digital Archives

Video Archives: VTR Library

Size: 354 m2
Temperature: 21°C
Relative Humidity: 45%
Holdings: 104,000 tapes (73,000 digital cassettes - mostly digital Betacam, some Beta SX; 6,000 two-inch video/audio reels; 25,000 one-inch video reels)

The VTR Library is the CBC's primary video archive. It is the place where most of the old two-inch and one-inch videotapes are stored until the contents can be copied onto digital Beta format. Once those transfers are made, this is also the place where all those new "master" copies are held for safekeeping.

With the exception of news and sports footage, the VTR Library also houses shoot tapes, edit tapes, closed caption tapes and other original programming material. The general policy is this: there's at least one copy made of every finished program that CBC has a hand in producing and the place to store those tapes is here.

The vault has its own temperature and humidity controls. Video tape stores best between 10°C and 21°C. Here the temperature's set at the warm end of that scale. At this level, tape will be well-preserved - but it also can be removed and immediately run through video equipment without fear of damage because it's too dry or too cold. Such flexibility is necessary to meet the sometimes conflicting goals of preserving tape and making it available "on demand' for use by CBC programmers.

Tape borrowing is closely monitored and only certain staff can authorize a loan. VTR archives staff relies on the tapes' unique bar code and ID number to track them as they come and go. The code is printed on stickers attached to both the tape itself and the box it's stored in. Any time someone borrows a tape, the code is scanned into the database. The tape is scanned again when it is returned - all in all, very similar to the way you might rent the latest new release video or DVD from your local video store.

There are some tapes that never leave the library. These are so-called "air tapes" - masters of shows that are stored in a special inner cage vault that only selected senior staff can open. When film or tapes are copied, at least two new masters are produced. One is designated an untouchable "air tape." The second copy is known as a "protection dub." It is this version that can be borrowed from the archive.

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