The great state of California is the most populous in the United States and one of the largest, with a rich and complex history dating back before the country's founding. For several decades, a relatively obscure series of television shows created by a TV personality and Tennessee transplant named Huell Howser explored some of the most fascinating little-known nooks and crannies of the Golden State.
Digital Revolution digitized and preserved the entire Huell Howser PBS TV show collection for Chapman University. Created out of KCET-TV in Los Angeles, the shows were produced to run on PBS TV stations throughout California.
The collection contains over 1,100 programs including his first series from 1987, Video Log. It also includes subsequent series California’s Gold, California’s Missions, Visiting with Huell Howser, Road Trip with Huell Howser, California’s Golden Parks, California’s Green, California’s Water and his final series Downtown.
His most well known show California’s Gold was produced for 18 seasons. Mr. Howser passed away over three years ago, but the content he created is a timeless reminder of California's wildly diverse history, culture and personality. From exploring Spanish missions to tracing California's water from the Colorado River to the Hoover Dam, Huell Howser was a warm and friendly guide through his adopted state's idiosyncrasies and is remembered fondly by a generation of Californians. His shows still air regularly in syndication across the state.
“The video tape formats were all digital betacam and betacamSP. They are evaporated metal based tapes that hold up better over time than oxide based tapes like ¾” Umatic, 1” or plain old betacam. So the digital files look great,” said Digital Revolution CEO Paul Grippaldi.
Digital Revolution’s directive from Chapman University was not only to digitize the tapes into 10-bit uncompressed files, but also to extract the closed captions that were recorded into the programs. Then MP4’s were created for Word Press Web Player and married with the captions. The end result was Chapman University uploading the entire Huell Howser collection onto the University’s website. The viewer now has the option to watch the shows with captions, making them ADA compliant.
Seventeen of the shows were never closed captioned, so Digital Revolution captioned those shows and digitized them for the collection. In the end there was over eighty terabytes of data created. Digital Revolution not only put the files onto hard drives and back up hard drives, but also made LTO data tapes for long term archiving.
Chapman University has a wonderful Huell Howser museum at their Leatherby Libraries. It’s like taking a walk through California history. Now everyone can enjoy his TV shows for decades to come.