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Video and moving images

This page provides specifications for digitising video and moving images, including minimum standards and best practice for digital conversion and born digital images.

Specifications Video: moving images - Archival Master files 

Minimum standard

Digitising

Use a video capture card or digital video recorder with best quality settings selected.
If settings and output format options are available:

  • Digitise at an aspect ratio that most closely approximates the source content, using a progressive scan setting of 720p (pixel resolution of 1,280 x 720) and a frame rate (FPS) of 50
  • Render the video as H.264 Baseline video and AAC audio in an MP4 container

Born digital

For existing files:

  • Archive the original or source file
  • Transcode ephemeral material or material in a format that is unlikely to be supported in the future as H.264 Baseline video and AAC audio in an MP4 container

When recording video:

  • Use the highest resolution settings available on the recording device. If using a High Definition (HD) camera, select a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9, a progressive scan setting of 720p (pixel resolution of 1,280 x 720) and a frame rate (FPS) of 50
  • Where possible, retain the source files created by the recording device alongside the rendered and edited version

Best practice

Digitising analogue recordings of moving images:

  • Use a professional video capture card and optionally a time base corrector and colour corrector
  • Digitise at an aspect ratio that most closely approximates the source content, using a progressive scan setting of 1080p (providing a pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080) and a minimum frame rate (FPS) of 24
  • Render the video as a WebM file consisting of VP8 video and Vorbis audio streams at best quality respectively. If WebM is not available as an output container format, use H.264 High Profile video and AAC audio in an MP4 container

Born digital

For existing files:

  • Archive the original or source file
  • Transcode the file as both WebM (VP8 video and Vorbis audio streams at best quality respectively) and MP4 (H.264 Baseline video and AAC audio streams at best quality respectively)

When recording video:

  • Use the highest resolution settings available on the recording device. If using a High Definition (HD) camera, select a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9, a progressive scan setting of 1080p (providing a pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080) and a minimum frame rate (FPS) of 24
  • Render the video as a WebM file consisting of VP8 video and Vorbis audio streams at best quality respectively. If WebM is not available as an output container format, use H.264 High Profile video and AAC audio in an MP4 container
  • Where possible, retain the source files created by the recording device alongside the rendered and edited version

Rationale

Technologies and standards for digital video are evolving rapidly and at this point no definitive processes can be recommended.

Generally the digitisation of existing analogue film and video stock requires expert technical knowledge and professional equipment. When this option is not available, use a computer equipped with a video capture card. Another alternative is to use a digital video recorder (DVR), a consumer electronics device that records video in a digital format to a disk drive, memory card or other storage device. See JSIC Digital Media - Equipping a Video Digitisation System.

For ‘master files’, there is no widely used, open, lossless file format for archival quality video. When necessary and where possible, capture unedited source files from the camera or retain digital video tapes to transcode in the future.

Digital video files contain multiple tracks; typically these are used for video, one or more audio tracks, subtitles and even metadata such as cover art. A video with the file extension .mp4 might contain moving images delivered using the H.264 video codec and sound delivered by the MP3 audio codec. There are many container file formats and even more codecs.

Two lossy video codecs that are unencumbered by patents are Theora and VP8. The latter was open sourced by Google in 2010. The guidelines above assume that the WebM container format (in which the VP8 video codec is embedded) will soon gain wide support.

With the number of container formats and codecs available, a common issue is finding a suitable player to view digital video files. VLC media player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD and various streaming protocols.

For an excellent overview of publishing video to the web, see Mark Pilgrim’s Dive Into HTML5.  An earlier series of articles by Mark Pilgrim A gentle introduction to video encoding  provides detailed but readable background on container formats, codecs and captioning. Also recommended is Creating digital video by DigitalNZ. This resource also suggests options that will assist in choosing a video camera.