The Archiving Workflow

Organize your digital video files and documentation.


Store your videos, manage the storage environment, and recover from errors.


Create a structured and searchable system for creating and managing metadata, and finding your videos.


Ensure that your collection will be preserved and accessible far into the future.

Who is this Guide for?

  • You are a human rights activist, a small or grassroots human rights organization, or media collective;
  • You are creating or collecting digital video to document human rights abuses or issues, and;
  • You want to make sure that the video documentation you have created or collected can be used for advocacy, as evidence , for education or historical memory – not just now but into the future….
  • But you are not sure where to begin, or you are stuck on a particular problem.

If this is you, then this Guide is for you.

Why Archive?

With everything else you need to think about and do – why archive?

One reason to archive your videos.

One reason to archive your videos.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you want your videos to be available in the future?
  • Do you want your videos to serve as evidence of crimes or human rights abuses?
  • Do you want your videos to raise awareness and educate future generations?

If the answer is yes, it is important to begin thinking about archiving before it is too late.

Still not sure? Here is what might happen if you do not take steps to archive:

  • Your videos may be accidentally or deliberately deleted and lost forever.
  • Your videos may exist somewhere, but no one can find them.
  • Someone may find your videos, but no one can understand what they are about.
  • Your videos cannot be sufficiently authenticated or corroborated as evidence.
  • Your videos’ quality may become so degraded that no one can use them.
  • Your videos may be in a format that eventually no one can play.

What is Archiving?

Archiving is… a general term for the range of practices and decisions that support the long-term preservation, use, and accessibility of content with enduring value. In this Guide, our focus is on your digital videos.

Archiving is … an ongoing process that begins when a video is created and continues infinitely into the future.

Archiving is…a process that can be incorporated into your existing video workflows .

Archiving is … a way to ensure your videos remain authentic and intact, so you can use them as evidence .

Archiving is … a way to ensure your videos are available, findable and playable long into the future.

Archiving is NOT… a one-time action.

Archiving is NOT… putting your videos on a hard drive and leaving it on a shelf.

How to Use this Guide

Create Transfer Acquire Organize
Store Catalog Preserve Share

Stages in a video archiving workflow.

Are you looking for information about a specific topic or stage of archiving, such as metadata , storage devices, or cataloging ? Jump in via any of the Workflow topics or look at the “Key Concepts” page.

Not Sure Where to Begin?

If you are unsure how to incorporate the video archiving stages above into your current situation, one place to start is to chart your current video workflow. A workflow is a map of processes and roles for activities that require multiple actions and usually more than one person. Visualizing how you or your organization works can help you build and improve on the way you get things done. See the scenario below for an example of a workflow.

Once you map your existing workflow, it will be easier to see where the archiving stages can fit in. In some cases, it might just mean making slight changes to something you are already doing. In other cases, it might mean introducing entirely new steps in your workflow. Everyone’s workflows are different, and everyone will incorporate these archiving stages in different ways.

As you read through this Guide, you will be able to determine what you can easily incorporate and what might take more planning. Do not become discouraged! Building an archiving workflow takes time, but every small step you take along the way contributes to the survival of your videos and increases their ability to be used in the future.


An Activist Media Center

The Activist Media Center has an efficient workflow for getting newsworthy videos online in a timely manner, but has not given much thought to the videos’ long-term usability up to now.

An efficient workflow for getting videos online, but not for long-term usability.

An efficient workflow for getting videos online, but not for long-term usability.

As they collect more and more videos, the Media Center starts to see the potential value of the collection to future legal cases, and as a historical record of events. However, the way they have organized their videos is not consistent, and only one person really knows how to find the older videos. They also realize that media outlets are having a hard time verifying their videos, and that it would be hard for the Media Center to prove that its videos are authentic. Then, one day, someone accidentally drops a cup of coffee onto one of the hard drives and it immediately stops working. Because the Media Center does not have a backup copy, the videos on that drive are permanently lost.

In an effort to improve their practices, the Media Center adds some archive-minded steps to their workflow:

  • The Videographer notes important metadata for each video, such as date, location, hash value and her name, in a document that she includes with her videos on the encrypted USB stick.
  • After receiving and decrypting the USB stick, the Media Center offloads the original files to its primary storage.
  • The Media Center organizes the videos and makes backup copies on 2 additional hard drives.
  • The Media Center makes a catalog record for each video in a database, expanding on the metadata provided by the videographer, to make the videos findable.
  • The Media Center adds detailed titles and descriptions to its YouTube videos, and provides descriptions along with videos to news outlets.
  • Instead of transcoding videos during offload , the Video Editor makes transcoded copies from the offloaded original files.
  • The Video Editor outputs a full quality master of her edited video in addition to the lower quality output she uploads to YouTube.
A few steps are added to the video workflow to improve the long-term usability of the videos.

A few steps are added to the video workflow to improve the long-term usability of the videos.

Ready to Start?

In the menu, look under “The Workflow” to find out more about the stages in the video archiving process. Start with “Create” and follow along, or jump to any particular stage you want to learn more about.

Videos to Get You Started With Key Concepts


Planning to Preserve Video for Human Rights

What Is Video Metadata?

Deconstructing Digital Video for Activists

Help WITNESS create more human rights change

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