Question: Motion Picture File Formats
This week’s highlighted question comes from Dan in NARA’s Motion Pictures (NWCS-M) department. The unit has been looking for some time at new models for delivery of NARA’s film, video and audio holdings as it struggles with keeping the aging analog reference collection alive and well. Given limited resources, the problem requires a multi-faceted solution, and some of this work has already been initiated through digital partnerships. A definitive agreement among many stakeholders thus far is that web delivery of content is highly desirable for our various user groups. The unit will continue to experiment with new workflows and deliverables, and as they get closer to implementing them they’d love to be able to get some user feedback on the process. Dan also points out that NARAtions might be just the place for NWCS-M to get a feel for user preferences that we here at the Archives might not currently be aware of.
Dan’s main question centers around file format preferences for digital video content delivered via ARC. In commemoration of Veterans’ Day, we’ve compiled the following list of military-related motion pictures to give you an idea of the various formats currently in the catalog (hint: click on the “Digital Images” icon to view the video in ARC):
Amazon Trailers (.wmv):
ARC ID 2569716 “Army Medicine” (2:00 trailer provided by partnership agreement. B&W)
ARC ID 69651 “A Day in the War in Vietnam, Tan Son Nhut Air Base and Saigon, Vietnam, 12/1965 – 01/1966″ (2:00 trailer for each of five reels; provided by partnership agreement. Color)
SAMMA Project (.wmv):
ARC ID 2569910 “Materiel Readiness” (full length. Color)
Google Project (.MP4):
ARC ID 38957 “U.S. Bombs Japanese from New Base in the Aleutians [Etc.]: 1943” (full length. B&W)
ARC ID 45022 “The John Glenn Story, 1963” (full length. Color)
Each of the above categories have slightly different specs as to how the files are created, so the goal is to pin down what users think and whether they (you!) find them easy to use. Is .MP4 or .WMV easier to work with? What might you actually be doing with the files you’ve viewed/downloaded? Are the frame sizes and resolutions appropriate for that work? Are there other formats that would work better for a significant number of users?
Any suggestions you can give would be greatly appreciated, and would go a long way towards making sure that the new Motion Picture online resources are as researcher-friendly as possible.