From Camera to Archives: The social construction of video formats

Marek Jancovic, Jimi Jones

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperAcademic


Standardized file formats are essential to the functioning of contemporary archival institutions. Format standards ensure that audiovisual archives can exchange information, verify the objects that enter their custody and ultimately preserve them according to internationally accepted workflows. But the strategic choices archives make regarding target formats for digitization are often based on a complex set of considerations, including not only technological and financial factors but also social and even political ones. The film and broadcast industries significantly influence what formats archivists encounter, and not all of those formats are suitable for smaller memory institutions with limited resources, staff or knowledge. Yet the on-going lossless video format standardization efforts demonstrate that in contrast to the past, archives not only passively react to the ebb and flow of formats dictated by the media industries, but have also begun shaping them.

Drawing from interviews with archivists in North America, Europe and West Africa, this presentation seeks to provide insight into the social processes and current difficulties involved in producing and implementing archival video standards. We argue that formats can be viewed as a site of power that reveals much larger reconfigurations taking place within the media landscape and affecting the future of audiovisual heritage. By following the adoption and implementation of video formats such as JPEG2000, MXF and MKV, the changing character of present-day archival labor can be made visible.This contribution will present interim findings from a larger book-length treatment of these issues.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 27 Sep 2021
EventIASA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives) 2021 Conference -
Duration: 27 Sep 202130 Sep 2021


ConferenceIASA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives) 2021 Conference
Internet address


  • video formats
  • archives
  • standardization


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