Video specifications

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The following are the 2015 specifications for video digitization at the University of Alabama Libraries.

Much of this information comes from Chris Lacinak's Guide to Developing a Request for Proposal for the Digitization of Video (and More), 2013-10-09, Audiovisual Preservation Solutions. This was made available via the following license terms: [].


Reproduction Setup

  • Video and Audio setup must be performed for each tape to ensure alignment with source tape and optimal reproduction. If bars are present on a tape the luma gain as well as the chroma gain and phase shall be adjusted so as to meet the standard values of the bars using a calibrated waveform monitor and vectorscope. If tone is present on a tape the audio level shall be adjusted as early on in the signal path as possible so that the tone is at 0VU on a VU meter or -18 dBFS on a digital/peak meter – using calibrated precision meters.
  • If there are either no bars on a tape or the bars are misrepresentative of the content on the tape (i.e. there are clear chroma and luma errors) the luma and chroma shall be adjusted according to the content on the tape. References for adjustment may include skin tone, sky, known black and/or white objects, etc.
  • If there is no tone on tape the audio levels shall be adjusted so that content averages 0VU and -18dBFS with peaks not to exceed 0dbFS and with no added analog oversaturation or digital clipping. All level adjustments should be performed as early on in the signal path as possible.
  • All tracks of audio must be checked for existence of audio content. All audio content on all channels shall be transferred in full.

Signal Path

  • All components in the signal chain must be tested and known to pass the audio and/or video signal without alteration (level or quality) at null.
  • Calibrated high quality distribution amplifiers or routers must be used for any signal splitting and distribution. No other substitutions may be used.
  • The most direct and clean signal path must be used at all times from source to destination. There may be no devices inserted in the signal path that are not being used.
  • If there are multiple destination formats being used in the transfer the signal path must be routed in parallel. No daisy-chaining of devices may occur.
  • The highest quality signal format (composite, S-Video, Component, SDI, etc.) available for the source media type must be used throughout the entirety of the signal path from source through destination. Exceptions to this must be explained and requested prior to performing the transfer.

Image and Sound Processing

1) Preservation and Access Masters

  • No image or sound processing such as dropout compensation, noise reduction, audio equalization, or limiting shall be used in the creation of the Preservation and Access Masters.
  • All Preservation and Access Masters shall maintain their source formatting, including interlacing, frame rate, aspect ratio and recording standard.

2) Access Copies The Access Copies shall be de-interlaced. Levels may be adjusted

Destination File Format Specifications

  • The preservation master:
    • MXF wrapper will be losslessly compressed via FFMpeg into FFV1 encoding in an AS-07 Material Exchange Format (MXF) wrapper (application/mxf, extension .mxf)
    • Frame wrapping will be used; the first byte of the key for the first Essence item will be used to indicate the start of the Content package
    • Frame by frame timecode values will be stored in the System Items
    • The complete metadata will be included in the Footer Partition.
    • Video encoded using 10-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 uncompressed codec with the FourCC "FMP4"
    • Audio encoded as uncompressed PCM, 48kHz
    • Maintain the original aspect ratio, recording standard, interlacing, number of audio channels and auxiliary information such as original timecode and closed captioning.
  • The Access Masters:
    • Video encoded as MP4 using the FourCC "dvc ".
    • Audio encoded as uncompressed PCM, 48kHz
    • Maintain the original aspect ratio, recording standard, interlacing, number of audio channels and auxiliary information such as original timecode and closed captioning.
  • Access Copies:
    • Video encoded as MP4 using the H.264 codec.
    • Audio encoded as uncompressed AAC, 44.1kHz, 256kbps
    • Aspect ratio of 4:3 (640 x 480) using a square pixel aspect ratio.
    • Bitrate of 5000kbps
    • Maintain the original recording standard, frame rate, number of audio channels and auxiliary information such as original timecode and closed captioning.


Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) AS-07: MXF Archiving and Preservation


The original timecode of the source tapes shall be regenerated and maintained in the destinations. When timecode breaks are encountered, timecode should continue in “jam sync” mode to enable continuous timecode. The original timecode, with breaks, should be documented in the auxiliary timecode track of the QuickTime wrapper.

If there is no source timecode, original program shall start at 01:00:00:00.

Head and Tail Content

1) Preservation Master

  • All source head formatting, such as bars and tone must be included.
  • In the event that program ends prior to the end of media the tape shall be checked through the end of the tape to ensure awareness of any additional content.
  • In the event that there is additional content, all content on the tape shall be captured. In the event that there is no additional content the file should contain the end of program followed by 10 seconds of additional tape playback.

2) Access Master and Access Copy

  • All non-program material at the head and tail of the tape, such as bars, tone or excessive black/silence should be removed to make for a better viewing and listening experience.

Reference Files



At the beginning of the project, 20 seconds of bars and tones representing each setup used for reformatting tapes shall be digitized using the following specifications:

  • The signal generator shall replace the playback device in the signal path
  • The test signal shall be routed through the same signal path as the audiovisual signal from the playback device
  • The signal generator shall use the same output format as the playback device it is representing
  • The bars shall be SMPTE bars for 15 seconds followed by 5 seconds of black.
  • The tones shall be 2 channels and shall consist of 5 seconds of 50 Hz, 5 seconds of 1000 Hz, and 5 seconds of 20kHz, all at -18dBFS, followed by 5 seconds of no tone. Note that the silence shall consist of the signal generator being muted, and shall represent the noise floor of the signal path post playback device.
  • The file specifications shall match the preservation master destination format. The resulting files shall also be encoded using the same signal path/software and settings, matching the specifications for the access master and access copy files.

For instance, where two setups are used to transfer U-Matic tapes via S-Video, and VHS tapes via composite, (2) 20-second preservation master level files will be generated. If more workstations were to be used additional files must be generated for each one. In addition, access master copies and access copies will be generated, resulting in a total of (6) 20-second files – 2 preservation master level, 2 access master level, and 2 access copy level files.

Each “setup” shall be assigned a 4-character alphanumeric system ID containing no spaces and only lowercase characters. This will be used in filenaming below and incorporated into system metadata.

Folder, File Names and Metadata

The files shall be placed in a directory structure using the following conventions and the Reference Files folder shall be placed at the root level:


The filename shall be embedded into each file.

The CollID will be established in the contract. SequenceID will begin with 1 and increment with each item; the sequenceID will be left-padded to a total of 7 characters. For example, if the collID is u0007_0000001, the first item digitized would be u0007_0000001_0000001, and the second would be u0007_0000001_0000002, and so forth.

Embedded Metadata

We will provide the title, form of file identifier, and organization name to the vendor for embedding into each file.

  • Full file identifier (without extension) (as AS-07_Core_DMS_Identifier)
  • Organization Name (as AS_Core_DMS_ResponsibleOrganizationName)
  • Title information (as AS-07_Core_DMS_WorkingTitle)
  • Signal standard (frame resolution and aspect ration of the encoded file) (as AS_07_Core_DMS_PictureFormat)
  • Intended display format per SMPTE 2016-1 table 1 a3 a2 a1 a0 (as AS_07_Core_DMS_IntendedAFD)
  • Y/N value to indicate if captions are present in the encoded file (AS_07_Core_DMS_Captions)
  • Controlled vocabulary string value indicating the AS-7 Shim name (AS_07_Core_DMS_Shimname)
  • All other required values of the AS-07-Core DMS (Digital Metadata Standard) will be included as defined in AMWA Draft Document: AS-07 MFX Archive and Preservation Format.

Vendor Quality Assurance and Control

  1. Operators must fully monitor the whole (audio and video) of the program in its entirety using calibrated high quality video and audio monitors as well as audio meters and video waveform monitor and vectorscope. The monitoring environment shall be suitable for critical viewing and listening. The physical transport of the media shall also be monitored during the transfer, paying attention to instability in the transport and with immediate access to the source machine controls. The operator may not engage in any other activities or work on any other transfers during the transfer of this tape.
  2. The operator will fully document the reproduction throughout the duration of the transfer noting the timestamp and description of any artifacts that appear. Any notable events such as program changes, periods of black, changes in timecode, etc. should be documented.
  3. Audio and video of all destination files must be checked at the head, middle and tail for content matching, completeness, and quality differences.
  4. The audio and video on 25% of the source titles must be checked against a destination at the head, middle and tail for content matching, completeness, and quality differences.
  5. All slates, labels and metadata (embedded and in the database) shall be compared and checked for accuracy and completeness.
  6. Any inaccuracies in the data furnished by CLIENT shall be corrected and noted as being changed in a comments section for the tape.
  7. An MD5 checksum shall be created for every digital file created as early after the files creation as possible and after any purposeful changes to the file. The checksum value shall be documented in the metadata set for delivery. Once the files are on their delivery medium their checksums shall be verified prior to delivery.
  8. Vendors must perform routine integrity testing and maintenance of equipment and systems to ensure proper performance.
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