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Gecko wins the SONUMA acetate disc digitization project

SONUMA shows its confidence to Gecko awarding the digitization of 17,000 acetate disc sides. This collection includes unique recordings cut on acetate discs of 10, 12 and 16 inches, between 1934 and 1959. This project will begin in 2022 and will last for several years, allowing the contents of these 11,000 records to be made available to the general public.

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The innovative solutions, the quality of Gecko’s project management and the high standards of quality control have been once again recognized and praised by the SONUMA:

“To address all types of degradation, Gecko has developed unique cleaning and restoration solutions that are perfectly suited to all types of situations. As a result, it appears that the success rate of the digitization will be particularly high. With quality control being a key element of the process, Gecko’s proposals fully reassure the SONUMA of the quality of the work that will be provided.”

Gecko has over 15 years of experience and expertise in the preservation of acetate discs. To date, we have preserved more than 250,000 sides of 78 rpm discs for many national and international clients, including INA, BnF, RTS, VRT, meemoo (VIAA), the International Court of Justice (ICJ)…

For more information:

www.sonuma.be

VRT discs digitization using INA-Saphir

RTS disc digitization

Nuremberg Trial disc digitization for the International Court of Justice

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Gecko preserves VRT lacquer discs using Saphir optical system

Even when some recorded carriers seem to be lost forever, it is sometimes still possible to act! That’s why a unique project for the preservation of lacquer discs was jointly launched in early 2021 by INA (French National Audiovisual Institute), meemoo (Flemish Institute for Archives), VRT (Belgian Flemish Radio and Television) and Gecko. Today, 51 of the 52 sides have been saved from the test of time.

Adrien Bailly (Gecko) and Jean-Hugues Chenot (INA).

Adrien Bailly (Gecko) and Jean-Hugues Chenot (INA).

 

The project

Entitled SIRDUKE (Saphir Innovatively Rescues VRT Discs Using Knowledge and Equipment), this project follows the VRT disc digitization campaign that took place in Brussels between 2017 and 2020, for which Gecko made its technical resources and its recognized know-how of more than 15 years available for the digitization of severely damaged lacquer discs. The VRT still had other lacquer discs whose critical condition left little hope of being played back, without technology up to the challenge.

 

Disc scanning with Saphir.

Disc scanning with Saphir.

What is Saphir?

Saphir is a lacquer disc playback system developed since 2004 by Jean-Hugues Chenot and Jean-Étienne Noiré at INA. Composed of a hardware part (the scanner) and a software part, it allows to playback without contact the most fragile analog audio discs. After the development of numerous prototypes and improvements, the system has now reached sufficient maturity to go beyond the test phases and to consider daily production in complex projects.

The principle of Saphir is based on the fact that the groove’s sides of a laterally engraved disc behave like a mirror. The process uses a projection of a light beam onto a small area of the disc surface. As a result, the sides of the groove appear colored in the image. The color returned depends on the orientation of the groove side, and will therefore vary according to the audio signal.

 

This faded disc with loss of lacquer has been saved.

This discolored disc with loss of lacquer has been saved.

The digitization of a disc takes place in three phases:

Scanning

A glass protection disc is placed on the lacquer disc. The plate rotates slowly during the capture and the color variations of the reflected beam in the groove are photographed by a fixed camera.

Decoding

The software will generate a multitude of audio fragments from these photos. The numerous parameters to be set during this step will allow the software to follow the groove correctly and to obtain the best signal/noise ratio, and the least distortion possible.

Reconstruction

The audio fragments are placed in the right order and the software suggests a complete groove path on the entire side of the disc. The operator controls the parameters of the software and gives indications on the path to be followed with the help of graphic constraints.

 

L'interface du logiciel Saphir Play durant la phase de reconstruction.

The interface of the Saphir Play software during the reconstruction phase (upper and lower images).

The interface of the Saphir Play software during the reconstruction phase (upper and lower pictures).

 

Why use an optical playback process?

Optical reading offers real advantages when discs are in a very degraded state. Only Saphir optical reading system can extract information from the most difficult discs, despite the use of advanced traditional reading techniques implemented at Gecko.

 

The project’s success

This can be considered the first time the Saphir has been tested under real-world conditions with a relatively large number of discs from a third-party background. Gecko’s experience and expertise provided positive feedback to Jean-Hugues Chenot, thanks to the work of Adrien Bailly, Gecko sound engineer.

Gecko finally succeeded in processing almost all disc sides, with varying results depending on the state of the discs. However, traditional playback is still preferred in most cases, both for reasons of cost and audio quality. For the most difficult cases, such as the SIRDUKE project, Saphir is a solution that has saved records that would have been lost forever.

 

“The SIRDUKE project has been a success thanks to INA Saphir, a project that Gecko has been following since its creation. As specialists in the digitization of lacquer discs, and now that Saphir is mature, it has proven to be the missing link in our production chain. We thank meemoo, VRT and INA for making this project possible, and especially Jean-Hugues Chenot for his invaluable help.”
– Jean-Baptiste MEUNIER, Gecko CEO

 

Logos VRT, meemoo, INA et Gecko.

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Interviews of the RTS team in charge of the lacquer discs digitization project (FR-speaking version)

We are pleased to share with you the interviews of the RTS team that contributed to the organization of the famous RTS lacquer discs digitization project.

We hear Françoise Clément, FONSART’s General Secretary, who explains the general context, as well as Patricia Herold, Head of the FONSART digitization projects. We would like to share with you a few words that are of particular meaning to us:

“Fairly quickly, we found in with the service provider Gecko the capacity to propose not only in terms of volume to be processed but also in terms of specificity, (…) an adequate response to our needs (…)”.

 

You will also find in this report Rebecca Rochat, Francine Margot, Caroline Neeser, Shawnee Bardet, Olivier Wenger and Olivier Mertens.

The project in a few figures:

50,000 lacquer discs processed
– 2 specific funds: Radio Lausanne/Radio Genève
– 30 Paris-Lausanne trips
– 8 years of partnership

Many thanks to the whole RTS team!

The archives of the Nuremberg trial are now available for consultation on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Featuring among these archives is the integrality of the trial under the form of audio recordings on 1,942 lacquer discs (set A), digitized and restored by Gecko.

This audio recording for example (Track 1, at 4′), lets us hear the first words of the trial, spoken by Justice Lawrence :
https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn648141
These words are the milestones for the start of the trial of the highest-ranked members of the Nazi party after WWII, and the beginning of a new era for international law.

Gecko is proud to have taken part in this project which provided the preservation of recordings of outstanding historical importance.

The defendants in the dock at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of John W. Mosenthal

The defendants in the dock at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of John W. Mosenthal

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UNESCO chooses Gecko to finalize the preservation of its audio recordings

Within the framework of a project to safeguard the audio heritage recorded on magnetic tapes, Gecko was selected by UNESCO to finalize the preparation and carry out the mass digitization of difficult magnetic tapes.

The first stage of preparation requires the takeover of work partially carried out by another service provider. Gecko was able to process a large percentage of these magnetic tapes within a few weeks to allow the digitization work in their facilities. The UNESCO thus shows its confidence and confirms the technical quality of Gecko through this rework.

Gecko prepares UNESCO tapes

Our recognized expertise in the processing of complex media will also allow us to digitize the most difficult tapes in the near future. An adapted mass-digitization chain will be put in place in the coming weeks to guarantee the project’s completion within the given timeframe.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Gecko digitizes Lars Fredrikson’s sound works

The first retrospective of Lars Fredrikson is organized at the MAMAC of Nice.

Lars FredriksonLars Fredrikson is an artist born in 1926 in Stockholm and who died in 1997 in Vevouil, France.

« Painter, draftsman, sculptor and sound artist, Lars Fredrikson explores, in the 1970s, the relationship between the immaterial space of sculpture and sound. His research then approaches synaesthesia, wishing the viewer to become aware of his body. »

In 2019, the MAMAC is designing, in collaboration with the New National Museum of Monaco, the first major retrospective of Lars Fredrikson. The work of this pioneering artist, who died almost anonymously in 1997, has been enjoying a rediscovery and a re-reading in recent years. Large groups of works have recently entered the collections of the Pompidou Center, GAM Turin and other public and private international collections.

Gecko is happy to have completed the digitization of Lars Fredrikson’s sound works. A selection can now be heard at the MAMAC in Nice (France) for the first time since their creation. The digitization of mono, stereo, and quadraphonic audio creations in very high-definition (24-bit/192kHz) has shed light on the exceptional width of the sound spectrum created by his audio experiments, some of which date back nearly 50 years.

Lars Fredrikson Estate, under the direction of Gaël Fredrikson, son of the artist, presents this exhibition until March 22, 2020.

For more information (in French):

MAMAC – Journal of the exhibition (PDF)
Pompidou Center (France)

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GECKO at the FIAT/IFTA conference in Dubrovnik – See you there !

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The yearly FIAT/IFTA conference is an important gathering moment for anyone in the field of audiovisual archiving.

We are glad to announce that GECKO will be a sponsor and present an exhibition table at the FIAT/IFTA conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia from Oct. 23rd to Oct. 25th 2019.

We’ll be happy to see you there !
15th October, 2019

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Safeguarding the RTS broadcast lacquer disc: Challenges of a multifaceted project – At IASA annual conference, 3rd October 2019 (HILVERSUM, NL)

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The 80,000 lacquer disc audio recordings of RTS (Radio Télévision Suisse) are a unique collection spanning from the 1930’s until the 1950’s. The disc collection covers contents ranging from radio dramas to classical music, news reports, etc. The various types of lacquers used throughout the years make this collection an interesting case study, from a chemist and/or a curator point of view. The digitization of these broadcast archives is an 8-year long service provided by the French GECKO company.

Eric Monge, IT manager at GECKO, will present MADAMS, GECKO’s in-house workflow and database management system. Karen Beun, production manager, will focus on the technical workflow, and go into details about the metadata provided and the various disc playback techniques used throughout the project. Finally, our restoration manager will present the digital restoration aspect of the project.

Rebecca Rochat, preventive preservation expert, will present her digital guide with the results of her several-year long research on lacquer discs, which is expected to be an important landmark for all specialists of the topic. A chemist and microscopic approach to the deterioration of lacquer discs will be developed.

 

Link to IASA

 

23rd September, 2019 

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The Nuremberg Recordings – Listening to the XXth century– At IASA annual conference, 1st October 2019 (HILVERSUM, NL)

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The Nuremberg trial was certainly one of the key moments of the XXth century. Only a small percentage of the trial was filmed, but the entirety of its verbatim audio was recorded on two complete sets of lacquer discs, each containing around 4000 disc sides of 15 minutes.

The “A” set, recorded on the best type of Presto discs, has been preserved by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, and has now been moved to the National Archives of the Netherlands.

The French GECKO company has completed the digitization and digital restoration of this collection.
In this presentation, our project manager will discuss the various technical aspects of this outstanding project, revealing new documentary elements along the way.

link to IASA 

 

20th september, 2019

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Nuremberg Trial audio recordings : the digitization and restoration project is complete !

Gecko is proud to announce that we have finally completed the digitization and digital restoration of the Nuremberg Trial audio recordings.

Shortly after WW2, in 1945-46, the historical trial of the highest-ranked living Nazis was only partially filmed, but it was entirely recorded on 2,000 16-inch instantaneous discs, for a total duration of around 1,200 hours.

The recordings were then careful kept undisclosed at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for 70 years. In 2018, Gecko was chosen to have the honor and responsibility of safeguarding and restoring the audio content of the trial in high definition digital format.

An outstanding project which took us more than a year to complete in the highest degree of confidentiality.

These recordings of immense historical importance will soon be available to the public, for the first time.

The memory institutions involved in this project are : the International Court of Justice (The Hague, Netherlands), the USHMM (Washington D.C., USA), and the Mémorial de la Shoah (Paris, France).

 

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16th September 2019