BetterLight, BetterMetadata

On my way back home from work last Thursday, I stopped by the BetterLight headquarters in San Carlos to chat with Mike Collette about his scanning backs and how they could capture more technical metadata. According to Mike (the heart, soul and owner of the company), BetterLight now is pretty much the only camera manufacturer left in the scanning-back business in the US – most other cameras on the market now are area arrays, most of them powered by the same Kodak chip. BetterLight has always enjoyed a good reputation and a fair market-share in the cultural heritage community, and I’ve always had high hopes that they’d be the first camera manufacturer to support NISO Z39.87 Technical Metadata for Digital Still Images in a big way.

Looks like my hopes might come true – Mike told me he is committed to automatically capturing any data element specified in NISO Z39.87 which the cameraback “knows” about and consequently can write out. He has heard from many of BetterLight’s library, archive and museum customers about how desirable this feature would be, and he’s clearly listening. Some of his customers might have gotten their arguments from RLG’s Automatic Exposure initiative, which has been raising awareness of the need to automate technical metadata capture both within our community and among manufacturers – the metadata elements we are concerned with will be crucial for the long-term viability of digital images. While we were brainstorming, we looked at metadata harvesting tools such as JHOVE and the National Library of New Zealand Metadata Harvester, as well as Adobe’s Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP). We’re not entirely sure yet what the best mechanism would be for storing the metadata so it could get conveniently extracted by any of the aforementioned applications, but I’m sure the technology will fall into place as we keep talking to one another. I’ll keep you posted!