Acquiring Video

Deciding What to Keep

You may not need to keep everything you create or receive. Archives use a basic tool called a selection policy to identify what to save or acquire; it is a simple exercise that can make a big difference.

With a selection policy or statement, you can:

  • Focus your limited resources on what is most important.
  • Provide clarity for your acquisitions team in their day-to-day work.
  • Provide guidance for discarding videos you do not need to keep.
  • Give potential users of your collection a sense of whether you might have what they are looking for.
  • Avoid wasted effort or resources in collecting video that you cannot use, or that is being archived elsewhere.

In the long run, a selection policy helps ensure that the content you preserve has significance and enduring value.

A sample collection selection policy.

A sample collection selection policy.

Identify Your Collecting Goals

To develop a selection policy, first identify the goals and priorities of your collection:

  • What is the overall goal or purpose of your collection?
  • Who are the target audiences or users of your collection?
  • What is the content scope of your collection?
  • What types of materials or formats do you collect?
  • What is not included in your collection?

Other Selection Criteria

Other potentially important criteria for selecting videos are:

Sufficient metadata

Is there enough contextual information available so that the video can be used and understood?


Is the video at risk of being lost? Do you have the only copy, or is the video already being properly archived elsewhere that you can access if needed?


Do you have the legal right to use or distribute the video?

Best fit

Do you have the capacity to maintain the video over time, or is there someone who is better suited to do so?


Is the video intact and playable? Is this the better quality copy of the video available?

  • Decide what you will—and will not—collect and save; create a selection policy based on your goals and needs.
  • Acquire unaltered original files whenever possible.
  • Acquire all available metadata and related documentation about your videos.
  • Check your acquired files to make sure you have copied or downloaded them completely and correctly.
  • Do not rename video files if they have their original camera-given filenames.
  • Maintain the chain of custody by documenting the source, time, date, and location of your acquisition.
  • For edited videos, acquire a high-quality master whenever possible.
  • For edited videos, acquire production elements like project files and graphics.
Key Concept: Selection Policy

A selection policy provides clarity on what you will acquire and what you will not.
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Key Concept: Authenticity

Maintain the authenticity of a video when you acquire it by collecting the intact original file(s) and the metadata that comes with it.
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Key Concept: Chain of Custody

Your acquisition forms a part of a video’s chain of custody.

Document your acquisition, so that an unbroken chain can be traced all the way back to the source.
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Key Concept: Completeness

Be sure that you acquire all of the files needed to create a complete record, as defined by the purpose or requirements of your collection.
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Key Concept: Original Order

You may or may not receive video files in the order in which they were originally created, but you should restore the original order after you acquire them.
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Key Concept: Integrity

Ensure that no loss, tampering, or file corruption occurs during the process of acquisition.
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Key Concept: Original File

Always acquire an exact copy of the file created by the camera with no alterations to content or technical specifications, unless doing so is impossible.
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Key Concept: Metadata

Metadata may be embedded within a video file, or it may be a separate document. It is as important to acquire a video’s metadata as it is to acquire the video itself.
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The Archiving Workflow

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