Equipment Matters

We are often asked the question, "what do you do with the collections?"... 

The Three P's

First and foremost, SWFTA 'preserves'.

In the age of increasing technological obsolescence SWFTA’s remit as the largest regional repository for film and tape is digitising the collections. The archive preserves the physical asset of reel and tape and uses the highest quality digital surrogate or digital interim asset for creating, producing and distributing content.

Parallel to preservation, SWFTA 'programmes'.

As a public-facing archive SWFTA selects content for exhibiting, displaying and streaming on platforms such as the BFIplayer and SWFTATube or on social media. Projects include digitised packages for the Film Audience Network, an association of independent screen theatres, community screens and arthouses, content for exhibitions of art, music or shows and DVD sales but this will soon become purchased downloadable or streamed content eg Video-On-Demand (VOD) Watch for Free (BFIplayer) or Download-to-Own (DTO) and future in-app purchase. 

Finally, but by no means least, SWFTA 'provides'.  

SWFTA operates a research and request service for professionals, historians, artists and members of the public with over 250,000 records on the database. The team offers an obsolete technology digital transfer service which is dedicated to converting old media video and audio formats into digital interim files enabling people to watch, listen and share content. SWFTA holds and maintains obsolete equipment in order to 'do the job’ and revels in its role of restoring moving image which may not have been viewed for a long time. SWFTA holds significant film collections on 8mm, 9.5mm, 16mm and 35mm and with Steenbeeks, a Telecine, Scanner and cleans, splices, preserves and digitises film for all uses. SWFTA will be turning its attention to its tape collections whose shelf-life is limited.

SWFTA would not be able to achieve all this without the equipment to 'do the job'. 

The SWFTA Telecine

The archive contains many thousands of feet of film; the Westward and TSW collections are on 16mm with combined or separate magnetic sound from 1961 to 1986 when video became the format for news. Film to video transfer is accomplished using an analogue Rank Cintel MKIII Telecine from 1983, formerly in use at BBC Bristol and maintained by BBC engineer, Jon Wellingham.


Rank Cintel were a British company, synonymous with Telecine equipment all over the world and had links back to John Logie Baird’s company, Television Ltd, and strong ties with the BBC. They produced equipment from the 1940s through to 2012 when they were bought by Blackmagic Design.

The output of the Telecine is digitised in real time using Blackmagic Design software on an Apple Mac or Grass Valley EDIUS software on a PC. Editing, grading and fine-tuning the sound reproduces a transcoded digital file which is used, backed up and stored in the latest digital format. SWFTA is moving to 2K scanning and will offer its newest digital format in High Definition (HD) while still offering Standard Definition (SD). In addition, SWFTA generates photos and GIFs from its digitised content.


Films held in the archive have their sound recorded on a separate magnetic film or SEPMAG. To play this back, the Telecine is connected to an MWA MB51 magnetic film player/recorder.

MWA are a company well known for their audio equipment for the film industry, although they originally started life in 1927 making radio components. The MB51 was launched in 1980 and is still in production today, with around 2500 units sold worldwide.

The MB51 can play and record 8mm and 16mm magnetic film and receives a synchronised signal from the Telecine to ensure that the pictures and sound remain synchronised during playback and shuttling.

Best Practice

Digitisation workflows and metadata standards conform to recommended best practices for archives according to British Film Institute (BFI) and International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) standards. Unaltered master copies of each item of media and its metadata are stored on multiple redundant storage arrays with cloud storage on the horizon. Specialist staff work with analogue and digital media and review and update work streams following consultation with industry professionals at the BFI, the Film Archive UK (FAUK), production and broadcast companies. SWFTA constantly looks to improved digitisation for the benefit of clients, audiences and depositors.

Core Collection
Other Collections
The Equipment
Your Films & Video