Moving Image Archiving and Preservation

Version 2- Spring 2006 - Thursdays 3:00-5:00 PM, Video Preservation Lab, Bobst LL2

Video Restoration H72.3403

Instructors: Mona Jimenez and Chris Lacinak, Vidipax; 212-998-2692 212-563-1999, x130

GOALS: This class will give students direct experience with the process of tape-to-tape re-formatting of video materials for preservation and access. Addressing in-house systems and work with vendors, the class will increase knowledge in areas of archival standards, decision-making, technical requirements, preparation and workflow, and overall project management. Students will have hands-on experience with video cleaning and re-formatting equipment in the Video Preservation Lab at the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library and through collaborations with vendors.

EXPECTATIONS: Each student will do six assignments. Attendance at all classes is expected; more than one unexcused absence will affect grading. Grades will be based on a combination of class preparedness/participation (40%) and assignments (60%).

Texts: Required text is How Video Works by Marcus Weise and Diana Weynard, available at Shakespeare's Books on Broadway. Additional readings will be provided as handouts or are available on the web. Some texts will be ones that you have read in previous classes - please review those prior to class as a refresher. For texts on video from the 1970s and 1980s the following books are recommended (they are out of print): Bensinger, Charles. The Video Guide. Santa Barbara, CA: Video-Info Publications. 1981. Media Bus, Inc. The Spaghetti City Video Manual. New York and Washington: Praeger Publications. 1973.


Assignment #1 Researching System Components (due 2/9): Each student will be assigned a component part of the Video Lab system. Prepare a written description that explains the purpose of the component, its basic functions, salient features, its capabilities, etc. You may also need to explain terms, such as different inputs/outputs. Your audience should be other archivists and part of your motivation should be to de-mystify the techolology. You may also find that you can make a recommendation as to whether it is an essential or non-essential item for a tape-to-tape remastering setup.

Assignment #2 Researching Tape Information (due 2/23): Using the tape numbers we provide, find out as much information as you can about the tape, answering questions such as: " What production environment was this tape meant for (broadcast, industrial, prosumer, consumer, etc.)? " When was the tape manufactured? What other information can be gained, such as shipping date? " Are there other tape characteristics that can be gained from the numbers (length, thickness, etc.)? " Are their any failures associated with this lot # or stock brand? " Is there anything else that can be gained from the information provided?

Assignment #3 SMPTE Annotated Bibliography (due March 2): Each student will do research into the publications of SMPTE to develop an annotated bibliography of articles on a particular video format, and an annotated list of standards for the hardware and related media. The bibliography will include a code to identify the articles that contain technical information appropriate and assumed useful to an archivist with a basic understanding of video.

Assignment #4 Interviews (due March 30): Students will work in pairs to interview a user or technician about one of three subjects: the operation and quirks of a video deck or decks, the use of a device in the preservation process (i.e., an audio equalizer or timebase corrector), or a part of the reformatting process (i.e. quality control). The goal is to increase your knowledge and to record information that will be useful to others. Record your interview and make a text transcription. Suggestions for subjects will be provided.

Assignment #5 Case Studies (due April 13): Prepare written answers to the question "is it conservation, preservation or restoration?" for a set of case studies of preservation projects.

Assignment #6 Video Preservation Guidelines and Tips (due April 27). Each person will be assigned a part of the preservation process to record a master list of guidelines and tips for that part of the process. Cull this information from discussions, readings, interviews, the bibliography exercise, and lab work throughout the semester. The information should be organized in a "how to" format appropriate to an archivist with some video knowledge.

 Student papers


Class 1: January 26, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

  • Introductions, syllabus review (20 min.)
  • Roles and contributions of players in the video preservation workflow; relationships with standard-setting bodies and initiatives. (100 min.)

  • Class 2: February 2, 3:00 - 6:00 pm

  • Review: Wheeler, Jim. "Video Preservation Handbook". Los Angeles: Association of Moving Image Archivists. 2002. Retrieved 1/19/05 at
  • Read: "TV Technology" on the web site The Pamela Nash Experience. Retrieved 1/25/06 at
  • Read: Martin, Jeff. "The Dawn of Tape: Transmission Device as Preservation Medium." The Movin
  • g Image. Spring 2005. p. 35-66.
  • Review: Bachman, Rebecca, et al. "Glossary" in Video Preservation Resources on the web site of the Bay Area Video Coalition. San Francisco: Bay Area Video Coalition. 2003. Retrieved 1/19/05 at <>.
  • Review: ScreenSound Australia. "Technical Glossary of Common Audiovisual Terms" in Preservation on the ScreenSound Australia web site. Canberra, Australia: ScreenSound Australia. 2000-2003. Retrieved 1/19/05 at .
  • Review: Spec Bros. "White Paper: Basic Inspection Techniques to Sample the Condition of Magnetic Tape" on the web site of Spec Bros. Lodi, NJ: Spec Bros. 2002. Retrieved 1/25/06 at
  • Vidipax. "Magnetic Tape Composition" in Magnetic Tape Preservation on the Vidipax website. n.d. Retrieved 1/19/05 at <>.
  • Vidipax. "Problems with Magnetic Tape" in Magnetic Tape Preservation on the Vidipax website. n.d. Retrieved 1/19/05 at <>.
  • Wheeler, Jim and Peter Brothers. "Video Preservation Fact Sheets." Los Angeles: Association of Moving Image Archivists. 2003. Retrieved 1/19/05 at . Review "Structure and Composition of Videotape", "Common Tape Problems", "Tape Cleaning and Equipment Maintenance", "Rejuvenating Unplayable Tapes", and "The Dos and Don'ts of Magnetic Tape Care: Minimum requirements".
  • Review of major historical developments in videotape technology (media and hardware); impact on media/hardware longevity and the creation of preservation/conservation protocols. Review basic component parts of video decks; guidelines for playback. (90 min.)
  • Review of the physical material of tape, theories and science of tape deterioration and playback problems. (45 min.)
  • Concept of an archival transfer. (30 min.)
  • Introduction of Assignments #1, #2 and #3. (15 min..)
  • Class 3: February 9, 3:00 - 6:00 pm

  • Assignment #1

  • Read: Read: Hocking, Sherry Miller. "Principles of Electronic Image Processing: Signals". Owego, NY: Experimental Television Center. n.d. Retrieved 1/16/05 at
  • Discussion of concept of signal flow and timing. (45 min.)
  • Overview of the Video lab in terms of components and their uses in the video remastering process. (45 min.)
  • Demonstration and discussion of typical workflow for video remastering from initial playback to the creation of a preservation master on Digital Betacam. (75 min.)
  • Introduction of Assignment #4 Interviews
  • Class 4: February 16, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

  • Assignment #2 Researching Tape Information
  • Measuring signal characteristics; test signals as tools for maintaining signal stability and integrity. Practice interpreting and aligning source tapes. (75 min.)
  • The function and placement of test signals (bars and tone) on destination tapes. (45 min.)
  • Class 5: February 23, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

  • Assignment #2 Researching Tape Information
  • Overview of the needs and opportunities for capturing metadata throughout the workflow. (30 min.)
  • Visual inspection of tapes to diagnose tape problems, and treatment methods, including use of an RTI machine. Capturing of the information gained. Criteria for choosing in-house treatment and remastering. (90 min.)
  • Class 6: March 2, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

  • Assignment #3 SMPTE Annotated Bibliography.
  • Review questions on setting priorities for preservation in the following article: Norris, Debbie Hess. "Videotape Collections: Establishing Priorities for Preservation" in Playback: A Preservation Primer for Video San Francisco: Bay Area Video Coalition. (Ed.) Sally Jo Fifer, et al. 1998. p.60 - 69. On reserve in Bobst.
  • Selection and prioritization based on in metadata acquired during inspection; developing an overall strategy for a set of tapes. Review of next steps - types of destination formats; pros and cons relative to the source. What are the relative costs of transfer? Continuation of evaluation and prep of source tapes, capturing of metadata and re-evaluation of priorities (90 min.)
  • Discussion of results of Assignment #3 (30 min.)
  • Class 7: March 9, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

  • The structure and function of work orders and statements of work. (60 min.)
  • Working with vendors, specifically completion of a work order and statement of work.(60 min.)


    Class 8: March 30, 3:00 - 6:00 pm

      Due this class:
  • Assignment #4 Interviews
    • Topics/activities:
  • Diagnosing playback problems - visit by Heather Weaver, Bay Area Video Coalition. Issues in completing the remastering process and capturing metadata about playback problems. (90 min)
  • Practice remastering and capturing metadata. (60 min.)
  • Discussion of Assignment #4 (45 min.)
  • Introduction of Assignment #5 Case Studies. (15 min.)

    Class 9: April 6, 3:00 - 6:00 pm

  • Introduction to quality control and group critique of remastered tapes. (90 min)
  • Practice with preparation, remastering, performing quality control and capturing metadata. (90 min)
  • Class 10: April 13, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

  • Discussion of Assignment #5 (60 min.)
  • Issues in design and costs for an in-house video lab. (60 min)
  • Class 11: April 20, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

  • Dealing with disasters; preparation and triage; working with vendors on disasters. Guest speaker? (75 min.)
  • Practice with deeper level of inspection and repair - segregating tapes, re-housing, splicing, and other triage actions. (45 min.)
  • Class 12: April 27, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

      Due this class:
  • Assignment #6 Video Preservation Guidelines and Tips
    • Topics/activities:
  • Discussion of Assignment #6 (90 min.)
  • Wrap-up discussion of learning from the semester. (30 min.)