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How to Digitize Your Home Videos (MiniDV & VHS)

October 16, 2014 Projects Comments Off

Watch A/V archivist superstars Yvonne Ng (WITNESS), Rebecca Fraimrow (XFR STN), and Tasha the Dog as they discuss the basics of digitizing popular analog video formats in your own home. The video covers the different types hardware and software needed for both Mac and Windows operating systems. Shot and edited by archivist Jasmyn Castro, this video premiered at Home Video Day in March of 2014 as a no-budget how-to for your no-budget know-how.


The Storage Unit Archive: Organizing Third World Newsreel’s 40-year-old Collection

April 23, 2013 Blog, Projects Comments Off

Saturday, April 6, Activist Archivists members and friend (thanks Joe!) came together with Third World Newsreel’s J.T. Takagi, Herman Lew, and MIAP intern Dan Finn for the first phase of our assessment project: shelf building!

Our task was simple enough: remove all boxes from storage unit, build two shelves, put all boxes back in storage unit. We anticipated an all day event. With seven of us, we managed to knock it out in five hours with some afternoon to spare.

From Left to Right: Herman, Marie, Kelly, JT, Dan, Joe

From Left to Right: Lindy, Marie, Kelly, Dan, Joe

A majority of our pre-planning for this day’s work involved searching for shelves. When considering shelving for our purposes, we all had to let go of the notion of “archival shelving.” Here are examples of what generally qualifies. Ideal points to consider:

  • 16-gauge steel open shelving

  • 18” deep (standard archive boxes won’t hang over)

  • 36” wide

  • lowest shelf 6” off the ground

  • Wood (particle board, plywood), paint and shellacs give off acidic gases

  • Wood sealed with inert polymer finish can be passable with magnetic media

revitalum mind plus

Aside from shelves made from a material that will not rapidly deteriorate and infect the items you are storing, you want to be able to fully maximize shelf space, meaning they should allow for a significant amount of weight. Be it books, manuscripts, film or video; in bulk you’re looking at hundreds of pounds.

Based on the measurements we took in the storage space, archival shelving would have cost nearly $1000. Considering that the shelves we need are for a temporary storage unit, it was easier to acquiesce the ideal. We chose Shelflinks Custom Storage System shelves. The price fell under $500, and included the shelving links, lumber and delivery. These shelves satisfied our most important need for sturdy storage of heavy boxes, and can be sealed in the near future. They would not and should not be implemented in an archive, but they are fantastic in allowing for easy size customization, simple transport, and assembly not requiring top notch carpentry skills.

Ideally, film would be stored in separate cans, and video in proper cases directly on to shelves:

Film in archival cans on archival shelves.

Video in cases on archival shelves

This allows for air circulation to keep microenvironments (i.e. mold!) from developing, and allows easy access to material. Ideals are pretty, but in the real world archiving situation we are dealing with, our main concern was the safety of people going in to the storage space (heavy boxes can fall) and the need to keep excessive weight off of material whenever possible (heavy boxes crush or warp fragile formats). Currently material is stored in medium to large cardboard moving boxes, also not ideal due to degradation issues, but not apocalyptic.

Other important work materials to consider: work gloves (for wood handling and dusty boxes), optional face masks (no one bothered), a broom, power drills, a table saw (used on the floor), flat bed carts (available at storage facility), a wet/dry vacuum, and doughnuts.

Herman and Joe take no prisoners

We managed to get the oldest, most fragile boxes onto the shelves, but were a little disappointed at how many boxes remained off of the shelves. This overestimation can be avoided if you know in advance the size of all of the boxes you are dealing with. Regardless, working in the unit is safer, and our next phase in which we will perform an inventory and replace worn out boxes will be easier. Just by moving boxes in and out of the space, we got a clearer sense of the type of content we are likely to be dealing with, and even how to group the content by subject, which makes grant writing easier.

Cue 80s montage

We also learned that it is best to check for outlets in the area, as well as if those outlets have power before assuming you will be able to use a table saw. Acrobatics and a long extension cord may remedy this, but also keep in mind that you may not be allowed to use said discovered outlets.

Totally legal and safe improvisation...

Though if you’re lucky, storage space employees won’t discover your activities until you are almost finished. Return their lack of hostility with a nice once over with a shop-vac in the space you used. And share the leftover doughnuts.


Update: A MayDay Livestream from ActArc, 2pm (and 8:30pm!)

May 1, 2012 Projects No Comments

Kelly has set up a free version of the Livestream channel here, and embedded below. If all goes well, we’ll start rolling at about 2pm from Washington Square. The footage taken today will serve as a guinea pig for research into an activist archival plan for preserving livestreamed video.

11:15am: It was discovered a bit late that Livestream does not have a phone application for Android, so we are switching over to uStream:

bioveliss tabs

3:21pm:  Caught about 28 minutes of footage before the strain on the phone’ battery was evident. It took awhile for the NYU student rally to start up, but about 10 minutes in there are some great speeches, particularly from NYU Students for Justice in Palestine. Apparently, even though my phone is upright throughout most of this, the playback video is not.

Hopefully we’ll be able to stream some more tonight.

6:09pm: Back livestreaming the after-march party on Wall Street at 8:30pm.

10:59:  My Android would only stream upright if the phone was in a horizontal position. Livestream seems to shut off by itself after a certain point…at least on my phone.  I walked around downtown for an hour or so, but the cops successfully scattered the crowd with some brilliant re-directing of traffic and streets. Wall Street itself was jammed packed with cops on horses, all just staring at Broadway, waiting. A good group managed to assemble in courtyard near Battery Park.   It was too dark at that point to effectively stream, better to shut off the video and stream the audio.

Live broadcasting by Ustream


Report on Technical Metadata In Popular Video Sharing Sites

January 22, 2012 Projects Comments Off

ActArc’s Rufus de Rham explores the embedded technical metadata from born digital content from different sources (iPhone 4S, Motorola Droid 2, and Canon t2i) and how it changes as it is exported to three of the largest video sharing sites (YouTube, Vimeo, and Internet Archive) and then scraped or downloaded on all three sites.

Expected publication date: January 2012.

View the public Google spreadsheet of the results HERE (note there are four different tabs, one for each device and the last a color key).


Best Practices for Creators/Collectors

January 22, 2012 Projects Comments Off

Best Practices for Creators/Collectors
Two one-step guides for processing OWS digital material with the greatest possible chance of being discovered and saved. Emphasis is placed on ethical considerations, utilizing Creative Commons licensing, and includes recommendations where to upload/download.

Expected Launch: February 2012


7 Tips to Ensure Your Video Is Usable in the Long Term

December 3, 2011 Projects, Resources No Comments

In collaboration with Witness, Activist Archivists have compiled a set of tips for video activists can take to ensure their work will be discoverable over time.

Tips for Making Your Videos Discoverable and Usable in the Long Term

 1. Collect details while filming. Turn on date, time, and location capturing features on your camera, or film a piece of paper with this information written on it. Record noteworthy pieces of information like street signs, clocks, badge numbers, or state them verbally on camera. Record names and consents on camera or in a separate document, if safe to do so.

2. Keep your original raw footage, unaltered. If your video might have legal evidentiary value, keep your original raw footage, even after it has been uploaded. Organize your offloaded material (e.g. by date and/or creator), but do not delete or alter the original filenames or directory structure. Make a backup on a separate medium. Keep this material secure.

3. Make your video discoverable. If safe to do so, upload copies of your video or share as a torrent. The key is to make your video findable by others. Make your titles descriptive (e.g. name of event, date, location). Tag your video with OWS, OccupyWallStreet, and other keywords — search for videos like yours to see what tags others are already using.

 4. Contextualize it. Your uploaded video is more useful if people know what it’s about. Use description fields to describe what happened before, during and after the event depicted. Include names, dates, and specific locations. Add a URL for a relevant website leading to further information.

5. Make it verifiable. Enhance the verifiability of your video. Tag and describe your video (points 3 & 4 above) so that it can be easily compared with other documentation of the same event. Consider upload sites that allow you to upload/share untranscoded files (e.g. torrents, Internet Archive), or that allow you to be contacted (e.g.Vimeo).

6. Allow others to collect and archive. Share your uploaded videos using a Creative Commons license. Archives around the world are scraping videos from upload sites for safekeeping, but usually only ones they can legally collect. Consider depositing your original raw footage with a trustworthy archive. If your video has evidentiary value, a trusted archive can help maintain a reliable chain of custody.

7. Or archive it yourself. There are many benefits to working with an established archive, but if you want to do it yourself: 1) Save the original footage or the highest quality output, 2) Document the footage/videos with descriptive information, 3) Organize your videos by date or source, 4) Make back up copies on quality hard drives, stored in separate locations, 5) Check your saved files at least once a year. See the Library of Congress’s Personal Archiving site for more information.