Equipment & Technical Issues

All video-original materials face preservation problems due to the unstable nature of videotape. The technological aspects of preserving video art generally fall into two broad categories: playback equipment and display equipment.

Display Equipment

Display equipment poses certain problems unique to video art. Television programs were designed to be seen on any and all TV sets; preserving the programs does not require any particular attention to their eventual display. Much video art, however, was designed with specific monitors in mind-equipment that is just as much a part of the work as the video signal itself. This equipment can range from specific individual monitors that are clearly part of the work-as with the vintage TV sets in some of Nam June Paik's installation pieces-to basic, off-the-shelf monitors that merely need to be of certain dimensions.


Works that are shown by projection rather than on monitors offer challenges of their own. In a sense, they can be somewhat easier to deal with, in that projection equipment is generally meant to be invisible, whereas display monitors are visible to one degree or another. This means that, theoretically, an obsolete or non-functioning projector can be replaced with an upgraded model without affecting the work. In practice, however, great care must be taken in choosing the new projector. Not only must the original dimensions and aspect ratio of the image be retained, but the visual qualities-contrast, color balance, resolution, etc.-must also be preserved. In this case, documentation and consultation with the artist are critical-especially if a projector is replacing one that has already failed, rather than proactively replacing the original, against which its image could be compared.