Retro: Digitisation infrastructure

Digitisation infrastructure turnkey solution for the European Parliament in Brussels

Following the public call for tender, the European Parliament selected BCE for the complete installation of its digitising infrastructure, its public access and for the digitisation of video content with quality check and corrections to ensure the best quality. In 2010, this project received the IBC2010 Innovation Award for Content Management.

The European Parliament, a directly elected institution of the European Union since 1979, is one of the world’s most powerful legislatures. Its audiovisual unit provides broadcasting on an internal cable television network, transmission to Europe by Satellite (EBS), the news exchange networks, and to selected television channels. It also supplies video streaming to the Web, publication on FTP servers and oversees a media archive kept for the legal and historical record and for the use of parliamentarians, journalists and scholars.

“BCE was very reliable and the archive renovation was flawless. Thanks to the tapeless infrastructure, the content is now preserved and secured and the archive access is also optimised.”
Frédéric Tadino | Audiovisual archivist | European Parliament.

CHALLENGE – Digitise and centralise the contents on a digital archive storage system

While the European Parliament assumed its present form in 1979, its roots stretch back to 1952. The archive it has amassed chronicles a significant part of European and world history. At the time the project was initiated, some of the archive was already stored in digital format on a Sony data tape system. Most of the content however is still stored on Digital Betacam and some on Betacam SP videotapes. This lack of consistency created difficulties with access and retrieval.

BCE’s challenge was to implement in less than one year a complete digitisation platform with a Front Porch Digital archive system directly connected to the existing ingest platform of the European Parliament. Because videotapes have a limited shelf-life, preservation of content was in jeopardy.To prevent any content loss, BCE also needed to digitise more than 12,000 hours of video content, maximizing its quality while delivering optimised copies.

“Even with tight schedules, BCE worked in a very effective way and met the deadlines for both infrastructure installation and content digitisation.”
Philippe Masson | Chief Engineer of the Audiovisual Unit | European Parliament.

“Using the digitisation platform created for the European Parliament, our dedicated team proceeded to the quality check of the video archives and made the complete error free content digitisation in less than 6 months.”
Christian Garit | Head of Broadcast Operations | BCE.

SOLUTION – Digital archive library connected to existing ingest infrastructure

The complete project was delivered in less than 12 months. Its fulfilment was divided in three distinct phases.

The first step of the project was the creation of the European Parliament digitisation platform in BCE premises. This came as a fine tuning phase in order to create a seamless environment, optimise the workflow and ensure its successful integration in the building. Once the infrastructure was created, BCE was able to make the system pass series of tests and make all the necessary corrections.

During this phase, BCE also developed a software solution for the interface between the European Parliament’s existing Flexicart and the new Front Porch Digital library. The platform can automatically digitise the contents and can store up to 18,000 hours of content, the archive can also easily be upgraded to 90,000 hours. The moving of the platform to Brussels was the second phase. More than just moving the infrastructure from one address to another, BCE had also to create the interconnections between the centralised digital archive, the working stations of the archivists and also 16 external consoles for consultation purpose. More than just improving their work it is the full archive management workflow that has evolved.

“The software interface between the Sony Flexicart and the Front Porch Digital’s SAMMA products is very effective and intuitive. We decided to resell this interface for future similar needs.”
Rino Petricola | SVP | Managing Director | Front Porch Digital International.

The next step of this project will be the connection of the production department to their centralised archiving system; from a technical point of view it would be the final step to finish with tapes and on the content part it would give the production team the opportunity to easily find archived contents and integrate them in films, series and other features.

As soon as the digitisation platform was ready to work, the third phase of the project started with the digitisation of video content of the European Parliament. As many archives were already altered by time, the transformation of content in digital format could not be completely automated. BCE had to make a lot of corrections so that the videos came back to life with a maximised quality for future use in productions, shows etc…

“BCE has been an excellent partner for digitisation. Both departments finished the work respecting the deadlines on a very high quality level” concludes Stéphane Rigaud, Head of the engineering department of the Audiovisual Unit, European Parliament.


“In order to install a seamless environment in the European Parliament building, our team created a test platform in BCE premises. The moved infrastructure was fully tested to ensure an immediate use for the local team.”
Gusty Feinen | Manager Special Projects | BCE.

The European Parliament digitisation platform and centralised digital library is the first step in its global tapeless switch. The result is a powerful system accelerating the workflow of the entity and giving the archivists a complete and easy to use tool for their daily work.

The European Parliament may now drop the tape and focus on the re-use of its archives in new films. Thanks to the metadata, the users of the platform have better search results, opening a world of content to the production department connected in a near future.

BCE’s long experience in video and audio archive digitisation provides a unique expertise in large scale projects.

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