Documentation of Cleaning and Remastering

At first, documentation was simple. When BAVC received tapes from a client the tapes were inventoried and sent to our off-site cleaning technician. When the tapes were returned, they were checked off against the inventory list. After remastering, the original 1/2" open reel tape and the new copy were rubber-banded together so they would not get separated. A label was created for the copy that included title, artist, running time, format of original and client name.

As new personnel began to work in the remastering center, and as more jobs came in, we needed to have better documentation for business purposes. If remastering work was done on the weekend or in the evening, the day staff needed to know the status of a job to answer any questions the client might have.

At the same time, we became aware that many of our clients were not the originalcreators of the tapes, many were not familiar with video production, particularly work made using now obsolete production tools and practices, and many had never viewed the tapes they were remastering. In fact, often the client had no idea what was on the tapes.

Also, we learned that when clients viewed the finished tape, they were surprised and concerned by technical artifacts that BAVC technicians took for granted. ( These included dropout or editing glitches. Clients were occasionally dissatisfied with artifacts on the remastered tapes which were intentionally created by the artist or the result of the technology of the times - artifacts not related to the remastering work done by BAVC. The most common concerns were:

  • No color

  • No sound

  • No titles or credits

  • Several seconds of video noise between program segments

  • Herringbone patterns in video (such as created by shooting video off of a monitor)


BAVC began to anticipate these concerns; before a transfer took place, we prepared the clients for what they might see. Using a form called a "Preservation Dub Watch," technicians began to document these factors and other "deviations" from what one might expect when viewing a contemporary tape that is playing back properly. Obviously these notations were subjective, but we tried to be as detailed as possible. , These observations sometimes revealed equipment problems, as opposed to tape issues, that could berepaired.

The dub watch form is still in use at BAVC. While many technical issues are now routine, the form serves an important function and is a great way for technical staff to communicate about specific jobs from one shift to the next.

The form also provides the client with a snapshot of the transfer process. As mentioned above, the tapes that BAVC receives are often unlabelled and the contents are faintly remembered or unknown. The dub watch form and proper tape labeling of the copy provide valuable information to the client. If ownership of the tape changes in the future, this information will also be valuable to the new caretaker.

BAVC's current preservation staff recommends the monograph Playback: A Preservation Primer for Video (BAVC, 1998) for further information on documentation.

See Appendix 12.3 for the Preservation Dub Watch Sheet