Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Extract Timestamp Information Inside DV Streams

I'm working on a huge project to archive hundreds of hours (accumulated over 30+ years) of personal videotape from many sources.

Our Digital8 camcorder embeds time and data metadata in the digital stream recorded on tape, which the camera can display. But I'm expecting never to play one of these tapes again (either because the tapes or VTRs will eventually fail), so the only thing I'm migrating forward from here on is digital files.

But how to read the embedded timestamp data within the "DV streams" I'm archiving to hard disk?

After much research and experimentation with various offerings, I've settled on the free "DV Analyzer" from AudioVisual Preservation Solutions.

This utility can process a video file or directory full of video files, and generates a text-based or XML report of errors it finds in the digital file. It also reports the timestamp information for every shot. It's not the friendliest of solutions, but it will serve my purposes well enough.

I'll batch-process my video files with DV Analyzer overnight (it takes several minutes to analyze a 60-minute file), and use the resulting reports while I'm hand-logging the contents of the video files. I'm only interested in noting the times for any given new "event" on the tape, so it's not typically a huge number of events of which to determine the date. Up to now that's been a "manual" process. I've been determining dates of the footage by either listening for myself saying the current time and date (which I've been doing for 30 years), or by looking for my briefly superimposing a visible time and date over the video (which I've also done for many years, where the camera provided this feature).