(updated 3 July 2010)

Design and Coding of the Digital Himalaya website

In 2000, the Digital Himalaya website was first coded in simple HTML using an early version of Dreamweaver, with compressed QuickTime .mov files embedded in the webpages. In 2004, while at Cornell University, the site was minimally redesigned and completely recoded in PHP with a MySQL database for specific collections. In the summer of 2009, our website was entirely overhauled in line with the University of Cambridge house style and designed to be compliant with important open standards such as XHTML.

Slide and Negative Scanning

For digitising positive slides, both mounted and unmounted, we used the now discontinued Minolta Dimâge Scan Dual II (USB) and the Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED (Firewire).

Video Tape

Analogue video tape comes in a range of forms and sizes of which VHS, VHS-C, Video 8 and Hi 8 are some of the most common. A number of products on the market are designed for digitising analogue video tape (home movies recorded on Hi 8 Camcorders or feature films recorded onto VHS directly from television). We would advise against these devices since they provide a costly (and often clumsy) way of resolving a simple problem. Most higher-end digital camcorders have an inbuilt DV-In socket as well as the standard DV-Out. DV-In enabled camcorders, such as the SONY DCR TRV 900 and its replacement, the SONY DCR TRV 950, can also digitise older analogue video tape. The older player or camera should then be connected to the DV-In digital camcorder using a high quality S-Video cable for visual information and a pair of audio plugs (white and red). The result is a digitised copy of the original, which can then be captured by a computer using a FireWire connection and edited as with any other digital video material. The only risk here is that this spooling back and forth wears down the heads of the camera. If you have the resources to do so, invest in a SONY video walkman.

8mm and 16mm film

The high costs associated with the digitisation of 8mm and 16mm film in 2000, such as investing in a telecine machine, resulted in the Digital Himalaya team exploring cheaper avenues of film digitisation. Building on the experience of Cambridge staff and technicians, and through the expert advice of the Manager of the Cambridge University Moving Image Studio CUMIS, we acquired and re-assembled a SONY Color Film Chain Adaptor, a device containing a sequence of mirrors which facilitates digitisation of 8mm and 16mm film. The film was projected through the Film Chain Adaptor, recorded with a 3-chip SONY digital camcorder onto 3-hour DVCam tapes using a DVCam recording deck. The image below illustrates the system.

While the Film Chain Adaptor was an acceptable way of digitising film through projection, professional telecine projection remains prefferable if cost is no obstacle.

Video and Audio Compression Online

In order to watch moving images over the web, streaming or otherwise, the movie file will need to be compressed. Data compression for videos is a complex topic and we refer interested users to a page devoted to the topic of file compression and delivery which is maintained by our partners in Virginia, the Tibetan and Himalayan Library (THL). At Digital Himalaya, we have opted for QuickTime as our preferred delivery medium and multimedia architecture, and have chosen to encode most of the video clips in MPEG 4.