The preservation budget for an installation work requires consideration of each component of the work on its own, as well as the needs of the work as a whole. The budgetary guidelines below focus on media components-video and digital components, to be specific. Further information on budgeting can be found in the exhibition and collection sections of this site-information that can help in the consideration of a preservation as well. Additionally, the basic principles outlined in this section-the necessity of breaking down costs into such subcategories as condition, storage, etc.-can illuminate the budgeting process for non-media components as well.
The costs of video preservation are determined by a relatively small number of variables. These variables include the format of the original tapes, their condition, their length, the desired destination format, and the level of restoration desired. Reviewing these variables, in consultation with a vendor, provides the necessary information for determining a clear and workable budget.
When dealing with a vendor, discuss each of these points, and get an idea of how each may affect your total cost. A questionnaire detailing the steps needed to work successfully with a vendor can be found here (PDF file.) Further information about each of these variables can be found on our Best Practices page.
The first variable to consider is the condition of the tapes. In addition to being able to tell the vendor everything you can about the age of the tapes and how they may have been stored over the years, a basic inspection of the tapes can provide much critical information. A step-by-step procedure for tape inspection can be found here. [See the Association of Moving Image Archivists' guide to videotape inspection for a step-by-step guide to physical inspection.]
Damage or deterioration has a direct effect on the costs involved with transfer. For example, dirty tapes may need to be cleaned. If they exhibit symptoms of sticky shed syndrome , they may need to be "baked"-heated in a dry oven to reduce sticky shed. Both of these procedures will probably cost additional money; check with your vendor. (They are also not to be attempted by non-professionals.)
The second variable is format. Obsolete tapes-tapes for which playback equipment is no longer manufactured-may limit the number of vendors who can handle your job. Some very obscure formats can only be played back by a small handful of labs.
Also, early tape formats may require additional adjustments to equipment before they play back properly. Quad videotape machines-playing back 2" open-reel tapes-often require extensive setup time. In particular, 1/2" open-reel decks often exhibited wide variations in recording; today, 1/2" tapes may need to be tried on several different decks to get a good enough signal.
An accurate listing of tape formats is critical when dealing with a vendor. The following website offers a detailed guide to videotape format identification:
Level of Restoration
The third variable is the amount of restoration. Is it a simple reformatting with minimal intervention? Do you want correction of dropouts, color shifts, etc.? (Keep in mind that these questions have ethical as well as fiscal implications.)
Most vendors charge more money for supervised sessions-sessions in which the client is present-than for unsupervised sessions. It probably does not make sense for you to be present at every moment of the process. Discuss with your vendor what you want the end product to be and the most efficient way of achieving that goal.
Finally, the formats to which you want your materials transferred can affect your cost. What master format do you want for preservation, and what format do you want for viewing copies? Digital Betacam and videotape, for example, can cost as much as $100 a tape, depending on vendor markups. In general, this is one variable for which your vendor should be able to give you exact figures.
An often overlooked item to consider is the cost of quality control. Each new tape should be reviewed for quality when it is returned from a vendor. Checking such things as running time, audio and video quality, and chaptering on DVD copies, for example, takes a great deal of staff time. Costs for this review should be figured into the project from the beginning.
It is also very important to calculate storage needs as part of your budget. In planning a preservation project, archivists sometimes overlook the need to provide for what will essentially be a doubling of their storage requirements. Moreover, storage conditions should not be forgotten; the substantial investment of time, money, and effort that a preservation project entails should be backed up by storage that will allow the new masters to last as long as possible.
The budgets for preserving computer-based art can vary wildly. Consider the following questions as a guide in shaping your specific budget.
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