Caring for our collective memory.

Submit An Inquiry

Preserving analog media can be surprisingly complicated, and no two projects are alike. Submit an inquiry and give us details to help us determine a cost estimate and jump-start a more in-depth conversation about your preservation needs.

If you have a general question about preservation or digitization, contact our department directly (415) 558-2158 or

What Is Preservation?

As audio and video technologies have changed, and as old formats age and disintegrate, we are at risk of losing significant media that documents the art, culture and history of our diverse communities. BAVC Media works to preserve and digitize these cultural artifacts and other precious works of media art. Since 1994, BAVC Media has preserved over 7,000 hours of audio and videotape.

Why Preserve Analog Media?

Analog media preservation is necessary because of two central factors: technical obsolescence and deterioration. Experts say that magnetic media has an estimated lifespan for playback of 10-15 years, and companies have already ceased manufacture of analog playback decks, the devices required to digitize and preserve analog media.

Our Work

Education Initiatives

BAVC Media is developing a series of tools, curriculum, and hands-on training opportunities with the goal of furthering education and equity in the field of audiovisual preservation. We aim both to address the urgency of preserving high volumes of historic audiovisual content held on degrading obsolete formats and to develop a more diverse and inclusive pipeline of preservationists.

Open Source Tools

BAVC Media Preservation, in collaboration with other leading organizations in the field, has developed open source tools that make the work of media preservation more accessible and more efficient.

QCTools, AVAA, and AVCompass are used worldwide by archivists and collection holders to help preserve memory held on obsolete AV media. 

Transfer Services

BAVC Media rigorously maintains endangered analog equipment in order to provide high quality transfers to preservation standard formats. BAVC Media’s tape storage and transfer facility follows the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) guidelines for magnetic tape storage and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) care and handling practices for extended usage.

Currently, BAVC Media only transfers tape formats manufactured for the North American NTSC video system, including:

  • 1″ Type C Open Reel Video
  • 1/2″ Open Reel Video (AV and CV)
  • U-Matic, U-MaticSP
  • Betamax II/III
  • Betacam, BetacamSP
  • Hi8mm/Video8mm
  • MiniDV, DVCam
  • Digibeta
  • 1/4″ Open Reel Audio
  • Audiocassette
  • DAT

To request a quote for preservation transfer services, please fill out the preservation transfer inquiry form.

Upon Arrival

  • Inspecting, evaluating and itemizing each asset
  • Cleaning and Conditioning of tapes
  • Treatment for tapes with Sticky Shed Syndrome and Binder Hydrolysis
  • Re-housing of tapes as required
  • Storage in moisture and heat controlled environment

At Transfer

  • Cleaning and inspection of playback machine before each transfer
  • Video signal passes through time base corrector for signal correction as required
  • Real-time, fully supervised transfer
  • Digitization to uncompressed or losslessly compressed, high quality digital file format
  • Documentation of signal issues to transfer log by technician
  • Quality control checks of every file
  • Hardware upscaling (1080p and 2k) and retiming services available

On Delivery

  • Archival quality files
  • Access and Mezzanine files upon request
  • Detailed transfer logs
  • QCTools Report
  • MD5 checksum
  • Necessary codecs and instruction

Frequently Asked Questions

From terminology to processes, your questions about BAVC Media’s preservation services answered.

Video preservation transfer is the conditioning and digitization of an analog video recording to a robust digital file format which captures as much information, and is as true to the original recording, as possible. A digital preservation master is produced and stored with any necessary codecs and associated metadata functioning as the archival file.

Analog video preservation is necessary because of two central factors: technical obsolescence and deterioration. Analog video was originally manufactured without durability in mind; experts say that magnetic media has an estimated lifespan for playback of 10-15 years, and companies have already ceased manufacture of analog playback decks, the devices required to digitize and preserve analog video.

The preservation file is the robust file that results from a transfer from analog video; it contains a maximum amount of data from the original recording. These files tend to be large and, as a result, are not meant for general playback or editing. The preservation master file is designed for archiving and long-term storage, and serves as the source from which smaller, compressed files can be made for editing and playback. BAVC Media can deliver preservation files in either uncompressed or losslessly compressed formats, both of which are used by archives, libraries, and museums across the country.

A mezzanine file is a lightly compressed file that can be used in video production, editing and to make additional compressed versions. An access file is a highly compressed, lower resolution version which is suitable for web streaming and is easily shared and accessed.

Preservation files are meant for storage; they are large and require a robust computer set-up with specific software for playback. You should use your mezzanine or access files for playback.

BAVC Media uses preservation formats used by libraries, archives, and museums across the country. The file formats adhere to best practices and standards developed by the archival community at large. The two major file formats BAVC Media uses for preservation files are 10-Bit Uncompressed MOV and FFV1/Matroska. The latter is recommended and used by California Revealed, NYPL and Indiana University.

When we receive your tape, we label it with a unique ID, inspect and evaluate its condition and log this information in a transfer log. Tapes are stored in a secure, temperature- and humidity-regulated space. If necessary, the tape will be cleaned and/or baked to prepare it for transfer. We will then digitize from your analog video recording to an uncompressed or losslessly compressed high-quality preservation master file. Production and access files are produced from this file on request. Each resulting file is checked by a quality control technician before delivery.

BAVC Media has tape cleaning machines which run your tape over a cloth-based cleaning tape to safely remove any debris from its surface. If a tape exhibits signs of “sticky-shed syndrome” it is incubated in a low temperature convection oven at 120-degree Fahrenheit for twenty hours, resting for 48 hours before transfer.

At least two copies of the files should be stored in geographically distinct locations or on a server with a regular backup system. Please be aware of data corruption and the dangers of bit rot; anyone storing preservation files should put into place a system to check the quality of your files over time. There are many great resources on the web about digital preservation of your files.

What is included in the transfer log is what is called metadata, which is ancillary information about the provenance of the preservation master files. Metadata is a way to keep track of information about the file produced, a way of having a “label” for files. Metadata is essential for preservationists in the future who need to know on what operating system your file was made, and on what software program it can be played back. For example, do you remember Real Player or Word Star? These software programs produced many files that are now difficult for digital archivists and family historians to recover.
A codec is a computer program that can read the data in a digital file and allow it to be played back. The codecs necessary to playback your files are included on your hard drive, along with instructions for installing them on your computer. It is a good idea to store this folder with your preservation master files.
The overall process requires time not only for the transfer, but also for tape inspection and treatment, documentation and quality control of resulting files. Analog to digital transfers have to take place in real time and each preservation transfer at BAVC Media is fully supervised by a trained technician. Additionally, the equipment we are working with is very old, often rare, and requires specialized care and servicing.

Yes, as long as you follow some guidelines. We recommend shipping 2-Day using a major shipping company, such as FedEx or UPS, which allows tracking and insurance. BAVC Media only ships tapes Monday thru Wednesday to ensure that tapes never sit in a warehouse over the weekend.

We recommend you consider the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization dedicated to archiving media for researchers and the general public.

Digitize your tapes before it’s too late!

Apply to BAVC Media’s Preservation Access Program

The old tapes you have in storage are likely way past their shelf-life, and the longer they sit the harder it will be to preserve the content they hold.

If you need funding to help cover the cost of digitization the Preservation Access Program is here to subsidize the preservation of your collection.

History of BAVC Preservation

As one of the nation’s longest-standing non-profit video and audio preservation organizations, BAVC Media remains a leader in the field, developing the highest quality preservation standards and practices while working with individuals and cultural, academic, and media organizations to meet a range of needs for preserving historically and artistically important video and audio materials.

Established in 1994 with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and in partnership with the Getty Research Center, BAVC Media’s Preservation program has also received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Funding has also been provided by California Humanities and the State of California through the California State Library.

In addition to partnering with institutions such as the Stanford Media Preservation Lab and New York University’s Digital Library Technology Services on research and development projects related to archival moving image and video preservation, BAVC Media’s Preservation Department works with museums, artists and cultural institutions around the world to remaster, transfer, and archive seminal creative and historical works on video and audio tape. Clients and partners have included the Dance Heritage Coalition, Human Studies Film Archives of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, The Kitchen, Video Data Bank, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Fales Library at NYU Special Collections, Walker Arts Center, and San Francisco Ballet among others.

Thank You To Our Current Funders