Moving Image Archiving and Preservation

preservation audiovisual film motion picture training education masters degree digital copyright conservation

Version 1

Spring 2007
Mondays, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Video Preservation Lab
Bobst Library, LL2


Mona Jimenez
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.
Each student will do a minimum of four assignments, as outlined below. 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%).


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 2/12): 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

Annotated Format Bibliography (due 2/26): Using one of the following formats, develop an annotated bibliography of at least 15-20 entries that would be useful to an archivist who is managing video preservation projects: ¾" Umatic (regular or SP), VHS, S-VHS, Betamax, Hi8, Video8, Mini-DV, Betacam (regular or SP). Keep a running list on another sheet of the articles you researched but rejected with a short notation of why. You will need to evaluate the content as well as the depth of technical information appropriate to an archivist with a basic understanding of video. Your bibliography should address social, economic, technical or other concerns and answer questions such as:

  • What were/are the promises made about this format? Were there non-believers? Why?
  • Are there articles that talk about or test the format in terms of performance, or in terms of duplication or other use? Or articles that describe problems, solutions, or tips?
  • What articles are useful to the archivist in understanding the potential or limitations of the formats, the use of the format, its potential for obsolescence, risks to the format, or other concerns you feel are important?

Assignment #3

Interviews (due 3/26): Students will work in pairs to interview a user or technician about subjects such as: 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), methods of re-formatting, 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. You will audio record your interview and make a text transcription, and will use oral history guidelines and obtain permissions for web publishing.

Assignment #4

Guidelines for Metadata Capture (due 4/30). Each person will be assigned a part of the preservation process to record the type and format of metadata that should be captured at each stage in the preservation process. The information should be organized in a "how to" format appropriate to an archivist who will be managing preservation projects.

Helpful resources

Class 1: January 22, 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. (60 min.)
  • Principles of an archival transfer (30 min.)
  • Discussion of Assignment #1 (10 min.)

Class 2: January 29, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Due this class

  • Read: Martin, Jeff. "The Dawn of Tape: Transmission Device as Preservation Medium." The Moving Image. Spring 2005. p. 35-66.


  • Review of major historical developments in videotape technology (media and hardware), including the impact on media/hardware longevity and the creation of preservation/conservation protocols. How videotape is recorded, played back and transmitted including basic component parts of video decks and guidelines for playback. (110 min.)
  • Introduction of Assignment #2 (10 min.)

Class 3: February 5, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Due this class


  • Discussion of concept of signal flow in a remastering workflow. Types of media, signals, inputs, outputs and basic measurements using monitoring equipment. (70 min.)
  • What can go wrong — overview of failures in with video system, operations and media that will be explored throughout the class. (30 min.)
  • Overview of the needs and opportunities for capturing metadata throughout the workflow, and discussion of Assignment #4. (20 min.)

Class 4: February 12, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Due this class

  • Assignment #1 Researching System Components


  • Overview of the video lab in terms of components and their uses in the video remastering process. Demonstration and discussion of typical workflows for video remastering from initial playback to the creation of a preservation master on Digital Betacam, and access copies on various formats. Practice reading signal flow diagrams and interpreting signal characteristics with the use of monitoring equipment. (120 min.)

NO CLASS: February 19, HOLIDAY

Class 5: February 26, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Due this class

  • Assignment #2 Annotated Format Bibliography
  • Read the following:
    • 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


  • Visual inspection of tapes to diagnose tape problems, and treatment methods, including use of an RTI machine and playback. Continuation of what can go wrong with media and playback. Capturing of the information gained. Criteria for choosing in-house treatment and remastering vs. working with a vendor. (80 min.)
  • Review of the metadata captured through the visual inspection process (30 min.)
  • Discussion of Assignment #3 (10 min.)

Class 6: March 5, 2:00 – 5:00 PM, Three Hour Class — Starts 1 Hour Early

Due this class

  • 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.


  • Practice with visual inspection, cleaning and evaluation through playback. (60 min.)
  • 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 (60 min.)


Class 7: March 19, 2:00 - 5:00 pm, Three Hour Class — Starts 1 Hour Early


  • Practice with visual inspection, cleaning, remastering and capturing metadata. (120 min.)

Class 8: March 26, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Due this class

  • Assignment #3 Interviews


  • The structure and function of work orders and statements of work. Working with vendors, and practice with interpreting and negotiating preservation projects, with speaker Chris Lacinak. (75 min.)
  • Discussion of Assignment #3 (45 min.)

Class 9: April 2, 3:00 – 5:00 pm


  • Practice remastering and capturing metadata. Introduction to quality control and group critique of remastered tapes. (120 min)

Class 10: April 9, 3:00 – 5:00 pm


  • Speaker from or visit to a remastering facility (open reel formats). (120 min.)

NO CLASS: April 16 – Mona out of town

Class 11: April 23, 3:00 – 5:00 pm


  • Speaker from or visit to a remastering facility (workflow and automation). (120 min.)

Class 12: April 30, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Due this class

  • Assignment #4 Guidelines for Metadata Capture


  • Discussion of Assignment #4 (90 min.)
  • Wrap-up discussion of learning from the semester. (30 min.)