Planning Process

The planning process for an institution or individual developing a collection of video works varies based on the collection and the collector. For example, libraries, museums, schools and private collectors may each have different planning priorities and goals. However, there are certain considerations that may be useful for a range of collections. Issues ranging from the size of one’s budget to the existence of an adequate infrastructure for the maintenance, storage, and display of the collection should inform planning decisions. It is important for curators, artists, registrars, researchers, and private collectors to fully research and consider what might be involved in collecting a time-based art form. Single-channel video works are typically acquired from video art distributors or commercial galleries. A distributor provides a "license agreement" that outlines the conditions and rights of ownership, while a gallery issues a "certificate of authenticity." One should consider issues such as the technical specifications and requirements of the works involved and the acquisition of the appropriate playback equipment.

Perhaps most importantly, one must also consider the future preservation and stewardship of a collection of media artworks. To ensure your collection's future viability and accessibility, the preservation, cataloging and conservation of single-channel video works should be addressed at the point of acquisition. For a detailed discussion of preservation guidelines, see the Preservation Planning section of this Resource Guide.

The following is an outline of basic practical considerations and planning recommendations for acquiring single-channel video works.


Acquiring & Receiving Works


Contact Distributors and Galleries

Research the distributor or gallery that represents the work to be acquired. Inquire about available formats, fees, and rights and restrictions on the use of the work such as exhibition, duplication, and migration.

Archival Formats

Single-channel video works should be acquired on an archival format such as Digital Beta or Betacam SP. An exhibition copy on a suitable reference format such as DVD should also be supplied as part of the acquisition.

Please visit Basic Questions, Equipment and Technical Issues, and Formats for more information about archival formats.

Acquisition Fees

How much does the work cost? What is included in the fee?

Fees for media works vary depending on a range of factors, including the source of the artworks (distributor or gallery), the media format (Beta SP, Digital Beta), and the terms and rights being acquired.

Fees for single-channel video works that are sold as limited editions through a gallery vary greatly based on the size of the edition and the market value of the work.

Uneditioned video works, available through a distributor, are offered for a range of fees that follow a standardized price structure typically based on duration and format. For example, archival formats such as Digital Beta, which may be offered with extended rights to migrate to other formats, will cost more than a reference copy on DVD.

Visit Budget and Agreements & Contracts for more information on this topic.

Rights & Purchase Agreements

Purchase agreements, such as license agreements, should outline the rights and restrictions that accompany the acquisition. The following list of questions may be used as a guide:

  • What rights are extended with the acquisition?
  • Can one migrate the work to another format?
  • Can one exhibit the work publicly?
  • Can one loan the work?
  • Can one copy, broadcast, digitize, put on the Internet, or excerpt the work?
  • Can one compile the work with other videos?
  • Can one resell or donate the video?
  • What happens if the tape gets damaged or degrades?
  • Can the work be screened at a party, outdoors?
  • If the work includes sound, can it be shown without sound, or with different sound?

Visit Agreements & Contracts for more information on this topic.

Lead Time

In general, both distributors and galleries require a significant lead in time to produce acquisition copies of single-channel video works. As three months lead time is standard, it is advisable to plan ahead if your purchase is connected to a public exhibition.

Distributors are specialists who are prepared to supply video for exhibition loan and collection acquisition, while galleries deal with a range of media and may not be able to react as quickly as distributors. Galleries usually have to work with a facilities house to produce an archival acquisition copy, while a distributor can often do this in-house.

Exhibition Requirements & Guidelines

If you plan to publicly exhibit the work, it is important to research the exhibition requirements. The following questions will serve as a guide:

  • Do you have the appropriate playback and display equipment?
  • Are there restrictions around projecting the video or exhibiting it on a monitor?
  • Are there any guidelines about sound, the use of headphones, or the amount of light in the exhibition environment?

Please visit Exhibition Planning Process for additional information.

Acquiring and Receiving Works

Acquire Works

Contact distributors and galleries to confirm acquisition. Once received, view works to ensure that there are no unanticipated defects in the image and sound.

Register and Catalogue Work

Incoming works should be registered and catalogued using a collection management system. Collecting institutions will likely have a database system in place for this purpose. Some databases do not easily accommodate moving image media. A supplementary database specific to media such as IMAP's Cataloguing Template may be useful for both public and private collections.

Please visit Preservation Best Practices for detailed information.

Storage of Collection

An ideal storage environment for videotapes is approximately 50° F at 25% relative humidity, with little fluctuation. The tapes and other materials stored should be dust-free. The biggest dangers to video and other media are: damp, rapid temperature change, mold, and dust. The Preservation section of this Resource Guide details the Best Practices for media storage as well as includes recommendations for collections that may not be able to provide optimum storage environments.

Please visit Preservation Best Practices for detailed information.


Preservation refers to the overall process by which the content of an item is saved, and its long-term viability ensured. The Preservation section of this Guide provides comprehensive discussion of recommended preservation practices, including archival formats, digital files, triage, in-house versus outsourcing, and migration basics. If the single-channel video works in your collection are in active distribution you should contact the distributor prior to re-mastering, restoration or migration.

Please visit Preservation Best Practices for detailed information.