Videos are a challenging format to work with, especially when it comes to reformatting video from analog to digital. In addition to staffing this kind of a project, there are also hardware and software concerns: Is the appropriate player available for this VHS (BETA, U-Matic, etc.)? Is there a way to connect it to a computer for conversion? Do I have the appropriate software for import and/or manipulating files?
Once you’ve addressed those concerns, then things get hard. The output format must be addressed as well as long-term preservation concerns. Let’s talk about the output first. Is your newly digitized item going to stay a digital file? Does it need to be streamed? Will it be burned to a playable DVD? All of these impact the output file format you will need…and may necessitate multiple formats depending on your end goal(s). And to tie into preservation, is the output format one that is sustainable over time?
To assist in making these decisions, the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative, recently developed a guide for Digital File Formats for Videotape Reformatting. This guide is made up of 5 documents that have table components for easy comparison among digital file wrappers (more commonly known as formats/file extensions) and encodings. If you’d like a more detailed description of the project’s parameters, check out Comparing Formats for Video Digitization on The Signal.