Research Our Records

How To Order Moving Image Copies

Please note: NARA is not a stock footage house. It is a Federal Government agency. Please allow four weeks for handling and processing an order.

Follow these instructions only if you wish to place an order for a moving image copy (film-to-film, film-to-video or video-to-video).

Quality

Given the wide range of visual quality among our historic film, researchers are cautioned that the resultant copy will reflect the variations in quality that are in the originals.

Intermediates
  • All orders require the use of intermediates.
  • National Archives (NARA) will loan intermediates to the labs (called "vendors") only if NARA staff can confirm that the item(s) is/are not restricted and that intermediates exist.
  • An "intermediate" is a copy of an original archival film from which copies are made.
  • Some of the films held by NARA have intermediate copies, and others do not.

If an intermediate needs to be produced, customers initiate the process by placing an approved order for the reel(s) with one of the companies that NARA contracts with and advises the lab as to whether the vendor lab or NARA's lab will produce the intermediate. If the vendor lab produces the intermediate(s), as well as the customer's copy, it is at the expense of the customer. There is no cost to the customer for NARA's lab to produce the intermediate. The process of producing an intermediate can take two weeks or more. Rush service is available. Remember to add one-to-three work days to this time to allow NARA to process your order.

In those instances where there is no intermediate copy of a film and you want a videotape copy:

  • You must be willing to defray the cost of producing a Digital Betacam intermediate video copy that will become the sole property of the National Archives; or you must be willing to wait for NARA's lab to produce a film intermediate at no cost to you.
  • The intermediate may be reproduced by designated vendor labs, or by NARA's lab.
  • The entire roll of film must be copied onto the intermediate and customer copy videocassette, not portions.
  • Each roll must be copied onto a separate videocassette for the intermediate copy. If all reels are ordered, they will be combined onto longer videocassettes.
  • Customers may choose to combine several reels onto one videocassette for their customer copy.
In those instances where there is no intermediate copy of a film and you want a film copy:
  • You must be willing to defray the cost of producing a film intermediate copy that will become the sole property of the National Archives; or be willing to wait for NARA's lab to produce a film intermediate at no cost to you.
  • Intermediates may be reproduced by designated vendor labs, or by NARA's lab.
  • The entire roll of film must be copied, not portions.
  • Each roll must be copied onto a separate reel for the intermediate and customer copy.

Hi-Definition (HD) Transfer Options:

If you want a HD fee copy made and the existing Intermediate is an Electronic Intermediate (EI; i.e., a digital betacam or analog video master) you may choose to have your HD copy made from the existing "EI" by the "upconvert" method; or you may choose to have your HD copy made by having a film Intermediate made and your HD copy made from the film Intermediate. If you choose the latter method, you have the option to either have the film Intermediate made by the NARA film laboratory or by an approved EI vendor. If you choose to have the NARA laboratory make the film Intermediate, there is no cost to you, but it will be integrated into the NARA laboratory work load (4 to 6 weeks) and the completed film Intermediate will be sent to the vendor processing your order. If you choose to have the film Intermediate produced by an EI vendor to save time and expedite your order, then you pay to produce the film Intermediate that will become the sole property of the National Archives. It is from this new film Intermediate that your HD fee copy will be made.

Vendor Lab System

NARA has approved several vendors to produce moving image copies for customers. Customers must contact one of these vendors to request reproduction work. A list of these vendors is available.

A vendor will process a customer's order only if the customer sends the vendor an Item Approval Request List Form that has already been reviewed by NARA. This list will tell the vendor if an intermediate copy of the requested film is available to lend to the vendor.

How to order

Please note: Please limit your order to 46 items or two Item Approval Request List forms per week.

This is a two-step process:
  1. Obtain item approval from NARA
    The customer deals directly with NARA only during the item approval review process.
  2. Order from a vendor
    All arrangements for the loan of intermediates are handled by the vendor. Customers must direct all questions regarding status of orders or creation of intermediates to the vendors who will contact NARA.
Customers are responsible for:
  • Initiating the item approval process, by completing and submitting to NARA the Item Approval Request List Form
  • Arranging for all reproduction work, payment, and shipping details with a vendor chosen from the NARA list or with the intermediate vendors, if the item the customer wants has no intermediate copy.
  • Requesting creation of intermediates where they do not exist. This is done through the vendor who will contact NARA.

1. Obtain the item approval from NARA

To initiate the item approval and order process please carefully follow these instructions:
  1. Obtain an Item Approval Request List Form (and continuation sheets for more than 10 items).

    You may cite up to 23 reels per order. Orders of more than 23 reels will be split into multiple orders. Within an order, if you want to cite more than 10 items, you will need to complete a continuation sheet. Please be certain to provide your name, control number, and the number of pages for your complete order at the top of the continuation sheet. Larger orders will take longer to process.

    The form is available as a digital file when requested by e-mail (mopix@nara.gov), and from the Motion Picture Research Room, Motion Picture Reference.

  2. Provide complete information on the Form including
    1. Box "A" (contact information)
    2. "B1" (item and reel number)
    3. "B2" (subject)
    4. "B3" (order copy format)

  3. Submit the Item Approval Request List Form(s)
    • by e-mail: mopix@nara.gov
    • by mail
      Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Reference (NWCS-Motion Picture Reference)
      National Archives at College Park
      8601 Adelphi Road
      College Park, MD 20740-6001
    • by fax (301-837-3620); or
    • in person, to NARA staff monitoring the Motion Picture Research Room.
      Please allow up to ten working days for processing.

  4. NARA staff will e-mail, fax (if the requestor provides a fax number) or mail the reviewed Item Approval Request List Form to the customer.

  5. Review the Item Approval Request List Form

"order number"
Used to track the request through the order process.
"P" in "Pending" column
There is no intermediate copy currently available for the item.
"I" in "Pending" column
There is an intermediate copy currently available for the item.
"2" in "Pending" column
There is some restriction on the item.
A "check" and staff initials appearing in the "Approved" column
The item is approved for reproduction work.
The columns for gauge, i.e., 16mm or 35mm, "Archival Format," and "Running Time," are completed by NARA staff. Please refer to the Motion Picture Archival Copy Abbreviations to interpret archival format abbreviations.

2. Order from a vendor
  1. Choose a vendor from the Vendor Contact List

  2. Contact that vendor to arrange work, payment, and shipping details.

  3. Again, all reels that require the production of intermediates must be placed with one of the approved intermediate vendors. Customers may split orders between vendors, but the same order number must be used to facilitate tracking.

  4. The vendor will contact NARA to arrange loan of the intermediate(s)or preservation (original) copies and will make copies according to the customer's specifications.

  5. The vendor will ship the reproduction(s) to the customer according to the customer's arrangements.

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