The Media Preservation Unit maintains four labs: a video lab to digitize a wide array of analog and digital videotape formats; an audio lab for phonograph records and a variety of audiotape formats; a satellite video and audio lab for circulating materials and overflow projects; and a 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 tab.
1/4-inch open reel (quarter track stereo, half track, and full track; 1-7/8, 3-3/4, 7-1/2, 15 IPS)
Microcassette (full and half speed)
Digital Audio Tape
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)
*All National Television System Committee (NTSC) unless otherwise noted
8mm (Standard 8, Super 8)
16mm (Double perf, optical soundtrack, Super16)
35mm (Optical sound)
We transfer audio and video content at preservation level standards, using widely adopted, well-documented, uncompressed file formats. Our film scanning is done at a high-end access level, to drive access by curators and researchers and enable decisions to be made for future photochemical preservation. These are our file specifications:
In all of our digitization work, we maintain technical metadata on each piece of equipment in the signal path, as well as devices used to monitor the transfer, in order to describe the environment of creation. Additionally, as our digitization work is performed and monitored in real time, we have the opportunity to review the material and frequently take notes on the content of tapes and films, which we pass along to the Archival Collections Management unit to aid in their description efforts. Because of the different digitization processes, there are some differences in our collection of technical metadata for different formats, which are described below:
Video - 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 - 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 - 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.