Legacy Video Files


 Endangered large

Video files in any format containing moving pictures and sound recordings, particularly those that are proprietary, contain or utilize encrypted Digital Rights Management (DRM) or carrier bound.

Digital Species: Sound and Vision, Formats

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


STARDIVA; AVI; MOV; MKV; MP3; MP4; on DVD or other carriers.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of replication; encryption; digital rights management; proliferation of file formats; weak or non-existent technical documentation; lack of preservation capability or commitment; poorly managed or digitization processes or QA; reliance on encoding/decoding software.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Effective replication; normalization of file formats; strong technical documentation; preservation pathway; good descriptive cataloguing; trusted repository.

2023 Review

This entry was added in 2019 under ‘Video files’ to emphasize the issues of video preservation that pertain to offline recording, whether from broadcast, film industry, institutional and private collections. The 2019 Jury noted the connections between this entry and others relating to social media but argued for a standalone to emphasize the range of issues tied to numerous formats and standards.

The 2021 Jury discussed the need for further rescoping, arguing that the entry was too broad to be useful without specifying at-risk types or formats. For this reason, its scope was narrowed to legacy videos that are proprietary, encrypted or carrier-bound. The classification remained Endangered with a 2021 trend towards greater risk given the growing content of at-risk legacy video files but a limited mandate. The 2022 Taskforce noted no change to the trend (they agreed these risks remain on the same basis as before).

The 2023 Council agreed with the Endangered with the overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend). Additionally, they agreed that a submitted Bit List nomination for the NSV-based STARDIVA storage format would provide a good example of a video file format especially at risk due to aggravating conditions rather than a separate stand-alone entry.

Additional Comments

There are simply too many formats and too many standards, but the FFMPEG project and its related tools have significantly mitigated the technical risk to most video files. This enables a practitioner to transform the vast majority of file formats to safer preservation formats while retaining significant properties. However, technical risk is only one of the factors. There needs to be institutional engagement with audio-visual data as a priority. The issue then becomes one of identifying the organizations responsible and, constrained by the cost to store video data, making effective selection decisions.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • The NSV-based STARDIVA storage format is a video format with multiple audio streams used in simultaneous translation session recording by agencies such as the UN. It is a proprietary format that is no longer supported, cannot be natively preserved and cannot be viewed correctly using standard video playback tools. As noted by the nominator, given its use by agencies such as the UN, the loss of this format would be a loss of an international record. The nominator added that by using MediaArea LeaveSD it can be partially normalized for preservation purposes. See MediaArea (2022) ‘LeaveSD’. Available at: https://mediaarea.net/LeaveSD or https://github.com/MediaArea/LeaveSD. [accessed 24 October 2023]


See also:

  • NFSA, 2015. Deadline 2025: collections at risk. Of note, on page 04, “Tape that is not digitized by 2025 will in most cases be lost forever as: Analogue video and audiotape, as well as early digital tape formats, will be effectively inaccessible due to the practical inability to maintain playback systems”. NFSA (2015), ‘Deadline 2025’. Available at: https://www.nfsa.gov.au/corporate-information/publications/deadline-2025 [accessed 24 October 2023].

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