Do you recommend any audio/video digitization vendors in my city/state/region?
There are several professional film and video digitization vendors that we trust, and we are happy to refer you to them. Feel free to reach out to them via the info on their website. If they can’t offer what you’re looking for, they will probably have additional ideas that will help you in your search.
- AV Geeks (Raleigh, North Carolina)
- BB Optics (New York, New York)
- Film Video Digital (Hanover, New Hampshire)
- George Blood Audio/Video/Film Preservation (Philadelphia, PA)
- MediaPreserve (Cranberry Township, PA)
- Media Transfer Service (Rochester, NY)
- Standby Program/Mercer Media (Glen Head, NY)
- Northeast Historic Film (Bucksport, Maine)
- Preserving The Past (Rochester, NY)
- Specs Bros. (Lodi, NJ)
- Video Transfer (Boston, MA)
- Crawford Audio Services (Atlanta, GA)
- Bay Area Video Coalition (San Francisco, CA)
- Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound (MIPoPS) (Seattle, WA) (MIPoPS is a non-profit organization that mostly serves libraries, archives and museums.)
- Sunset Media Preservation (San Francisco, CA)
- Frame Discreet (Toronto, ON)
The Association of Moving Image Archivists also maintains several lists of archival film and video suppliers, including digitization service providers located around the globe:
HOWEVER, you may not need or wish to pay someone else to digitize your videos. Check with your local public library – these days, many libraries host self-service digitization labs, as well as classes about do-it-yourself media preservation. Among the libraries in North America that offers such services are:
- Brooklyn Public Library (Info Commons)
- DC Public Library (Memory Lab)
- Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library
- Kalamazoo, Michigan Public Library (“The Hub”)
- Vancouver Public Library (Inspiration Lab)
There are likely others.
I found a vendor that transfers home videos to DVD. Is this acceptable?
Be careful about vendors who want to “transfer your home videos to DVD”. DVDs rely on adhesives and dyes that may break down over the course of years, making the discs unplayable. On the whole DVDs are less physically stable than videotapes! So always keep your tapes, and make sure your vendor can give you uncompressed video files instead of (or in addition to) DVDs.
Do you recommend that movies be saved in a particular file format?
The XFR Collective transfers video to 10 bit uncompressed Quicktime – a standard preservation-level format. Some of our peers are using MKV-wrapped FFV1, which is also a preservation-level format. Quicktime is proprietary but very widely adopted; the FFV1 is open but not yet as widely used (though it seems to be picking up a good deal of steam!), so each has its benefit and weakness, predicted-longevity-wise.
Preservation-level files are large, require a great deal of storage space, and aren’t meant to be used as viewing copies. We don’t create lower resolution viewing copies of the video we transfer ourselves. However, the Internet Archive (IA) automatically generates several access-level copies (including .h264 and .mp4 versions) of all the videos we upload to our IA page.
I want to do my own video-to-digital transfer(s). What sort of technology/setup do I need?
It is difficult to answer this question effectively in a succinct way. You should consult the resources listed below, and elsewhere on this website, for more info. But we offer the general guidelines, below, as a quick and dirty introduction.
This basic setup works for formats like MiniDV that produce a digital signal, you can capture it exactly as it is written on the tape:
If you want to transfer the tape yourself, and if the tape(s) you have are in good condition, you can do it with a deck that plays back the tape, or even with your camera (if you still have it, and if it’s in good condition). Using a DV (also known as “iLink”) cable connected to a FireWire or Thunderbolt port, you can capture the signal from the tape in FinalCut, Premiere, and other programs (I believe iMovie works, too, but we haven’t worked with that much).
Basic setup for for analog formats
For other analog formats, there are a more perils and pitfalls involved in using consumer equipment for preservation. For example, if you want to transfer a Hi8 tape, you could possibly use a Digital8 deck, some of which have internal time base correction for Hi8 and convert the analog signal to DV, but the results may not be quite what you would get from a preservation level transfer. We suggest that you contact the vendors and libraries we have recommended here in this FAQ. They may be able to advise you on the exact technology and setup you need to digitize your analog videos.
I want to make my videos publicly available/accessible. How do I do that?
You may wish to consider posting your videos, once they are digitized, on the Internet Archive (IA), so that other people can view them. We believe home movies are an important part of the historical record and always support folks who seek to make them available as widely as possible. Additionally, hard drives always eventually fail, and backing up additionally to IA (or elsewhere) will protect your files when that happens! L.O.C.K.S.S. – Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe.
Just be sure, when doing so, that you’re not violating anyone else’s copyright.
I am interested in becoming a XFR Collective member/volunteer! How can I go about doing this?
As you know, we are an entirely volunteer-run organization with a very small budget and limited organizational infrastructure. At the moment, we are working at our capacity and do not currently have the ability to absorb new people as full members. Also, for those of you who live outside of New York City: we also do not currently have capacity for long distance memberships, but we’re really grateful for your interest.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please fill out this form so that we know how to best contact you, what you would like to help with, and what your schedule looks like.
If you are interested in starting your own XFR-esque group, particularly outside of NYC, we are happy to share all of the information and spiritually support you in your efforts. Stay in touch, let’s build a network!
Do you recommend any step-by-step guides to help me get started on a personal video archiving and preservation project? I don’t know where to start.
- The Memory Lab, DC Public Library (check out both this page and the “FAQ” tab for cheaper equipment options)
- Vancouver Public Library’s Inspiration Lab
- Library of Congress guides to Personal Archiving
- RADD: Recovering Analog and Digital Data
- Minimum Viable Digitization Station document
- XFR Collective’s Workflows