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Guidelines: Motion Picture Film Scanning Projects
Audio-Visual Working Group

Archivists in memory institutions generally see the digitization of motion picture film as an emergent discipline and a still-evolving set of practices. This emergent state results from three main factors. The first pertains to the materials to be digitized. The array of types of motion picture materials is too broad and varied to permit of easy generalization. The second factor pertains to possible output formats, with some archives turning to video while others turn to formats like SMPTE's Digital Moving-Picture Exchange (DPX). The third factor is that the state of technology and relevant standards are still very actively under development. It is worth saying that digitization itself is the subject of vigorous debate among film-preservation specialists: some practitioners insist that photochemical, film-to-film reproduction is the only acceptable method for preservation reformatting, while others press forward with digital technologies.

The FADGI Audio-Visual Working Group began an exploration of motion picture film scanning in 2014, and the initial document, listed below, was completed in 2015. This document combines an introductory essay, a set of tables that describe a range of film "inputs" and digital "outputs," and concludes with a model statement of work for outsourced conversion of film to video. The report was produced by a FADGI subgroup led by staff from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), with active participation from the Library of Congress including the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, the American Folklife Center and the Office of Strategic Initiatives. Many other agencies also participated, including the Smithsonian Institution and the National Air and Space Administration.

Current version

Digitizing Motion Picture Film: Exploration of the Issues and Sample SOW. (PDF) April 18, 2016

Earlier draft version

Digitizing Motion Picture Film: Exploration of the Issues and Sample SOW. (PDF) September 8, 2015

Comments are always welcome.

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Working Groups

Still Image Working Group
This group is involved in a cooperative effort to develop common digitization guidelines for still image materials.

Audio-Visual Working Group
The goal for this working group is to identify, establish, and disseminate information about standards and practices for the digital reformatting of audio-visual materials by federal agencies.

Last Updated: 12/2/2014