Transferring Video

Uploading and Downloading Video

Video can be uploaded from a camera or from a computer to a remote system in order to allow someone in another location to view or download the video. The remote system could be one that you own and control, owned by an entity that you pay a subscription fee to use (e.g. Amazon, Dropbox), or owned by an entity that lets you upload for free (e.g. YouTube, Internet Archive).


Transferring Video Files

No matter how or where you upload and download, transfer video files in a way that preserves their authenticity and usability:

Transfer the original file

For raw video footage, the original file is the most authentic and highest quality copy of your video, and contains valuable embedded metadata. Upload your original files to a location that will maintain their integrity and that will allow you to download without altering or transcoding the files. Always download original files if they are available.

Download original files if they are available.

Download original files if they are available.

Alternatives to the original file

If it is not possible to download the original file (e.g. if you are downloading from YouTube), obtain the highest quality copy available in a current and widely used format. Note that important embedded metadata (e.g. date and time recorded) can be lost in transcoded copies, so document and upload important metadata in a separate form (e.g. in your YouTube title and description).

Some metadata may be lost if you download transcoded files.

Some metadata may be lost if you download transcoded files.


YouTube Data API allows you to access some metadata from your original file that is not present in copies downloaded from YouTube, which are transcoded.

Check your transfer

Transfers can be interrupted, so check your files to make sure they have transferred completely and intact. A simple way to check is to see that the file sizes and number of files match, and to play a sampling of the videos. If hash values are available for the files, verify against the hashes. See the section on “Keeping Files Intact (and Proving It)” for more on how to do this.

Choosing a System/Service for Sharing Files

Whether you own and control your own remote server, or use a free online file sharing service to transfer your videos to others, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:


Since you may need to download the file at some point after you have uploaded it, the system should not remove or delete your videos without your authorization, or at least without adequate advance notice.

Data integrity

The system should enable you to download an exact copy of what you uploaded, without alteration, data loss, or corruption.


The system should not be vulnerable to unauthorized access. In cases where you have restricted information, choose a system that allows you to encrypt or limit access to selected files.


The system should monitor and log activities that affect the video (e.g. who uploaded and when, who accessed and when, who edited and when, etc).


If you have accompanying documentation, like consent forms or shotlists, choose a system that allows you to keep this documentation associated with the video.


The system should enable you to access and download your videos in the manner and at the frequency you need.


The system’s method for uploading and downloading needs to to suit your time and resources.


You must be able to afford the system’s cost to upload and download videos in the volume and frequency that you need.

Comparison of Popular Systems/Services

File sharing services all handle uploaded files differently, potentially affecting their authenticity, integrity, and usability. This downloadable tipsheet compares a few popular commercial services, while this tipsheet focuses on security-minded transfer tools.

Be aware that technologies and terms of use change frequently, so check for the most current information before making a decision.

  • When offloading videos from your camera to your computer, make sure you transfer the files completely and without alteration.
  • Always make sure to include your metadata and documentation with your video—or make sure they can be matched together after transfer.
  • If using the Internet to transfer files, choose a file sharing service that meets your needs for permanence, data integrity, security, chain of custody, documentation, accessibility, efficiency, and cost.
  • Use hashes to check that your files have transferred intact, and to show that your files have not been altered over time.
  • If physically transporting drives, make sure to have another copy and be aware of cross-platform constraints.
  • Organize your videos in “information packages,” or folders with your video and metadata, for transfer.
The Archiving Workflow

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