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Media Preservation

A guide to the Media Preservation program at NYU Libraries; resources on the long-term care of film, video, and audio materials.

Audiovisual Formats Handled

The Media Preservation Unit maintains four labs:

  • Video lab to digitize a wide array of analog and digital videotape formats
  • Audio lab for phonograph records and a variety of audiotape formats
  • Satellite video and audio lab for circulating materials and overflow projects
  • Film lab to inspect, repair, rehouse, and scan films

The formats that we have equipped our labs to digitize are informed by the holdings of NYU Special Collections, and are listed below.  Additional details about each lab and its equipment can be found in the Our Digitization Labs page.

Audio Formats

  • Phonodisc
  • 1/4-inch open reel (quarter track stereo, half track, and full track; 1-7/8, 3-3/4, 7-1/2, 15 IPS)
  • Audiocassette 
  • Microcassette (full and half speed)
  • Digital Audio Tape 

Video Formats

All are National Television System Committee (NTSC) unless otherwise noted.

  • 3/4" U-Matic (Low-Band, High-Band, SP)
  • VHS (VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C)
  • Betacam (Betacam, BetacamSP, BetacamSX, MPEG IMX, Digital Betacam)
  • Video8 (Video8, Hi8, Digital8)
  • DV (MiniDV, DVCAM, HDV; NTSC & PAL)
  • HDCAM 
  • LaserDisc

Film Formats

  • 8mm (Standard 8, Super 8)
  • 16mm (Double perf, optical soundtrack, Super16)
  • 35mm (Optical sound)

Digitization Specifications

We transfer audio and video content at preservation level standards, using widely adopted, well-documented, uncompressed file formats.

Our film scanning is conducted to support access by curators and researchers and enable decisions to be made for future photochemical preservation.

These are our video file specifications:

Master file

  • Wrapper: QuickTime (.mov)
  • Video Stream: Uncompressed, 10-bit 4:2:2 YUV
  • Resolution: 486 x 720
  • Display aspect Ratio: 4:3
  • Frame Rate: 29.97fps 
  • Pixel size: Rec. 601
  • Audio Stream: 48Khz/24-bit PCM

Mezzanine file 

  • Wrapper: QuickTime (.mov) 
  • Video Stream: DVCPro50
  • Resolution: 480 x 720
  • Display aspect ratio: 4:3 
  • Frame rate: 29.97fps 
  • Pixel size: Rec. 601
  • Audio stream: 48Khz/24-bit PCM

Service file

  • Wrapper: MPEG-4 (.mp4)
  • Stream bitrate: 3.5 Mbps – 4 Mbps 
  • Codec: avc1 
  • Resolution: 486 x 720
  • Frame rate: 29.97 fps 
  • Display aspect ratio: 4:3 
  • Color space: YUV 
  • Scan type: progressive 
  • Bit depth: 8 bits  
  • Audio: AAC, 157 Kbps – 160 Kbps stream bitrate, 2 Channels, 
  • 48 kHz sampling rate

Metadata

In our digitization work, technical metadata is maintained on each piece of equipment in the signal path, including those devices used to monitor the transfer. 

Technical metadata is maintained for different formats and described below:

Video Metadata

At present, we maintain “Environment of Creation” (EOC) documentation for all video files in the form of a spreadsheet specifying each piece of hardware and software used in the process. This was a homegrown solution that our unit developed to keep this critical information in a form standardized across all of our digitization work, but we are in conversation with other institutions on a more standard way of documenting “process history” metadata.

Audio Metadata

BWF standards—Technical metadata describing the environment of creation including all analog and digital machines used in the preservation process is recorded in the BEXT Coding History following EBU Technical Recommendation R98-1999.

Film Metadata

We retain the XML-formatted scanner project files (file extension .cdir), which do not conform to a known standardized schema, but do retain all image decisions and adjustments made in the course of a scan, and allow us to revisit a film using the same settings later.