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IMAP > Information Resources > Internet Resources > Format Guides

Internet Resources

Format Guides

The Archives Association of British Columbia has a brief format guide on Optical Disc Media at:
The AABC is a charitable organization committed to the preservation of British Columbia’s documentary history. The Association is part of the Canadian Council of Archives and represents archival institutions in British Columbia in this forum. The Archivist’s Toolkit section of this site provides links to international sites—such as the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Koreno of New Zealand, and Ontario Museum Notes—which generally outline their preservation policies and discuss format issues. This Optical Disc Media guide covers a variety of CD formats including CD-R, CD-RW, and WORM (Write-Once Read-Many).
CBC Archives (television):
This site, part of the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, provides historic information, offering audio and video clips recorded by CBC Television and Radio.  This television-specific format guide starts with the Kinescopes of the 1950s and moves forward to cover 2” tape, 1,” 3/4,” U-Matic, VHS videotape, and analog and digital Betacam.
Digital Preservation Coalition’s online handbook has a format and media section at:
DPC is an organization addressing the preservation of digital resources in the United Kingdom. This site provides an online edition of the DPC handbook, Preservation Management of Digital Materials. The format/media section includes general information on magnetic and optical media formats, and a chart that lists lifetimes for D3 magnetic tape, DLT magnetic tape cartridge, CD/DVD, and CD-ROMs at five different storage temperatures.
EMG has a format guide found at:
This guide is the product of a collaborative effort between Sarah Stauderman, Preservation Manager at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and Paul Messier, Conservator at Boston Art Conservation, with images provided by the VidiPax Museum of A/V Technology. It  breaks down videotape formats into three time periods: 1956–1970, 1970–1985, and 1985 to the –present, offering thumbnails of each period’s most prevalent formats, obsolescence ratings (for example: threatened, critically endangered, extinct, vulnerable, or lower risk), and manufacturers. Brief narratives about the formats and additional photos are also available. Formats included range from 2” Quadruplex to EIAJ Type 1 to V-Cord, Betamax, and VHS to D-2, Hi8, and Digital-S.
Film Forever: (for small-gauge film)
Film Forever, a web resource sponsored by AMIA, focuses on private collection films (particularly small-gauge film) and offers strategies for preservation, particularly home storage. Its extensive format guide covers film specifics in stocks and soundtracks: film bases (nitrate, acetate, and polyester), black and white versus color, reversal versus negative, and soundtracks (Super/8mm, Soundtrack-Picture Displacement, and Magnetic). The site also includes a table for Kodak Edge Codes (also available as a PDF).
Library of Congress MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging):
Machine-Readable Cataloging allows bibliographic, classification, and other data to be encoded read and interpreted by a computer, allowing for standardized cataloging of library resources. The site includes extensive format documentation guidelines for all areas of cataloging, such as bibliographic, holdings, classification, and community information formats.
Little Film: small-gauge format guide at
Little Film, a project of Brodsky & Treadway, a commercial film-to-tape transfer service, is an informational site dedicated to the preservation of recreational/hobbyist/noncommercial films—often referred to as home movies. Their format guide covers 9.5mm, 16mm, 8mm, and Super 8. They offer an easy guide to identifying film with thumbnails of the formats. In addition, each format’s section has a brief narrative detailing the time of its popularity and its most common usages (home movies, cartoons, etc.).
The National Archives and Records Administration has an archival format guide at
The National Archives and Records Administration is charged with providing access to documents on the rights of American citizens, the actions of federal officials, and “the national experience.” Their format guide addresses general archival  topics rather than specific video preservation questions.
Universal Preservation Format Home:
The Universal Preservation Format is designed to eliminate a need for a universal acquisition format. This homepage includes a PDF that explains how the Universal Preservation Format works and details its usefulness in archiving media and electronic records. While this project is currently inactive, the web site provides a good source of information on the subject.
VidiPax: (video and audio format guides)
Vidipax is a commercial magnetic media restoration company. The Vidipax videotape format guide is a survey of all National Television System Committee formats commercially introduced since 1956. It includes images, format descriptions, and technical specifications for each format. The audio format guide contains an interactive mapping of the development of audio technology across cylinder, disc, magnetic, optical, and solid-state formats from 1859 to the present. This site provides a solid overview of the history and technical aspects of NTSC formats. 


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