Earlier this year at a meeting in Geneva, Jeroen Depraetere, who is in charge of the archive project, gave a briefing to members of the Eurovision.tv team, to explain the work that has been done so far, and what is still to be done.
Preserving the past and the future
He started by informing us " the whole idea of the Eurovision Song Contest digital archive is to preserve and collect all footage that is around in Europe at the broadcasters of the past editions, and for the future editions. In order to set this up, we have collaborated with DR (Danmarks Radio), and they have been working on it for around 18 months, in order to set it up technically. It's not a website, it's an archive, we had a tough time setting it up, as it's not easy digitisation, as there is no general format, so we are going along with the flow, and discovering new things and problems, but I am happy to tell you that we are near to completion on the technical platform, and that we will start getting in as much content as possible from the different broadcasters.
What it is based on is very simple, we want to make it possible for the people who go onto the archive to find exactly what they need. What they look for most of the time is songs, or some interval acts, so we decided from the start, to work with segments of the Finals and Semi-Finals; the songs, the postcards, the interval acts, so that you can navigate to what you are looking for, and should be very easy to use. We have now come up with our first demo version.
We are taking all the knowledge that has been built up into our meta data core, to make one core on which all the clips will be based. All the files that come from the broadcasters will be stored, and we will make an EBU standardised format, in order to make sure that it will exist for the years to come. We are encoding other formats to make sure it will be easy to stream and to download, so that it can be immediately used and edited from a broadcaster's point of view. The website will not be available to the public, but for the use of by broadcasters. However it may be used to spice up the content of Eurovision.tv."
The missing years
"It may be possible to get more footage and data in from the fans, to share experiences, maybe there are still some more things to discover, and maybe we will find the holy grails, the lost editions of the contest (1956 and 1964) through the help of the public.
We already have some things uploaded, for example the 1958 contest. You can request either the entire show, or a clip, and you can click on that and it will download it to your basket, and then you get an email with all the links to download the clips. It should be very easy, but may take time as it will depend on such things as internet speed, and will be in an MP4 quality broadcast format.
We have to annotate, and time all the clips. You will be able to search by date, on broadcasters, on song, or artist or whatever you are searching for. You will also be able to access the different commentaries, (where available), as well as a clean feed. In the more recent contests that means from all the participating broadcasters, as well as the passive broadcasters.
The next stage is to ask all the members for their digitised content. When the files are downloaded the broadcasters will be guided on copyright regulation, because it will be the end user who is responsible for the usage they download. This is the easiest way for broadcasters to find the clips they desire as quick as possible, so that they can promote the song contest even better."
Currently the EBU doesn't clean up the sound or the picture quality on the earlier contests. They are asking the members to come to the EBU with what they have digitised. This itself can prove to be problematic as they all have different criteria and ways of coding the material.
However some of the more popular songs, if they have not already been digitised, then these maybe cleaned up for use in any anniversary productions.There is also possibility to colourise, to a high standard, some clips from the early contests but that is at the moment just being imagined.
One thing is for sure, the entire history of the contest will be preserved for future generations to enjoy!