Motion Pictures

Order Copies of Moving Image and Sound Holdings

Notice to Researchers: Item Approval Request and Fulfillment Process for Reproduction Orders as of June 2021

Effective today, June 23, 2021, the Moving Image and Sound Branch is accepting Item Approval Request Lists (IARL) Form (NA 14110) and reproduction orders. Requests will be addressed in the order received, and orders will be filled with some notable limitations in place. These limitations will allow us to progress through our reopening phases carefully, deliberately, and safely, and services are subject to change based on local health metrics. We appreciate your patience as we progress through NARA's opening operational phases.  For the most current information on NARA’s Phased Reopening Plans, and any updates on the status of NARA facilities, please visit NARA's Coronavirus page

Please note the following changes that have been made to NARA’s ordering procedures, effective immediately and enforced as of June 23, 2021. These changes apply to NARA Moving Image and Sound Branch reproduction order activities in our current reopening status:

  • NARA will accept one Item Approval Request List (IARL) Form (NA 14110) per week, per researcher or production group.
  • Each order is not to exceed 12 reels. All IARL forms submitted that exceed this requirement will be returned to the requestor without approval. 
  • NARA will only approve Intermediate (I) copies of items from its holdings to be sent out for orders during Phase Two . 
  • NARA will only approve items from its holdings that are physically stored at Archives II in College Park, MD. Items that are requested on an IARL that fall outside of the above parameters will not be approved. 
  • NARA cannot guarantee specific timelines for approval and filling of orders.  
  • NARA will only accept orders from IARLs within 6 months of the approval date, which is noted next to the order number.
  • NARA has temporarily extended the timeline for order fulfillment to twenty-five business days from vendor’s receipt of records from NARA.
  • There are no changes to NARA archival handling fees. 

Copies are made by off-site private vendor laboratories in cooperation with NARA. Many factors can impact the ordering times, mainly the format and condition of the original item(s), or any restrictions or permission needed for reproduction. Under normal operations, you should allow a minimum of 4-6 weeks to complete your reproduction order. Timelines may be longer under phased reopening. Reproduction options and procedures are described below.

General Information About Ordering Copies of Motion Pictures, Sound Recordings, and Videotapes During Phase Two Operations

Although the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) does not license footage, there is a transfer charge and an archival handling fee (per reel) if you wish to obtain higher resolution copies of our films using a NARA-approved reproduction process with contracted vendors.  Costs will vary according to the number of reels, the running time of the source material, the type of copy requested, and other factors, such as shipping. Some NARA vendors have basic pricing information on their websites, which can be used to determine approximate cost(s).

The Moving Image and Sound Branch holdings at the National Archives in College Park are vast and diverse, spanning more than:

  • 520,400 Film Reels
  • 312,066 Sound Recordings
  • 170,925 Video Recordings

Materials derive from federal and private sources and encompass the full range of audiovisual formats, both obsolete and active. From memobelts to digital video formats, each poses varying preservation requirements. As a result, ordering reproductions involves a variety of technical, financial, legal, and time considerations. For any item, details of origin, condition, and preservation history hold important implications for:

Please note that reproduction work involving any films, videos, and sound recordings in Presidential Libraries is handled through the respective library holding the items to be copied.

Reproduction Formats

For preservation purposes, an entire reel or item must be transferred, not individual clips or scenes. 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. Reproduction formats may include:

  • Digital Formats (DPX, ProRes422HQ, ProRes4444; in 4k, 2k; .wav, mp3)
  • Motion picture film (16mm and 35mm)
  • Video (commercial formats, standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD), and exhibition and home formats, on videotape or DVD)
  • Analog Sound Recording (open reel, audiocassette, and compact disc) 
    • Please note that in generating intermediates for vendor copying work, the National Archives Audio Visual lab may filter noise and correct some defects but does not attempt major enhancements of sound quality.

How To Order Copies of Film, Video and Audio Recordings

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 details for shipping or delivering reproductions with a vendor chosen from the NARA list. All arrangements for the loan of intermediates are handled by the vendor. Customers must direct all questions regarding the status of orders to the vendors who will contact NARA. 

Step 1. Identify Item-Level Citations

Regardless of the media or format involved, researchers interested in ordering reproductions will need complete item-level citations. These generally consist of:

Citations can often be found in descriptions in the National Archives Catalog. However, the National Archives Catalog does not cover all Moving Image and Sound Branch holdings, and item descriptions that are included may not reach the individual reel level. For those items not described in the National Archives Catalog, citations are obtained through on-site work in the Moving Image and Sound Research Room or hiring an independent researcher if you are unable to visit yourself. Moving Image and Sound Branch  Reference staff ( can handle general inquiries, but please note that staff resources do not allow in-depth research or the ability to match shots.  

Step 2. Complete and Submit an Item Approval Request List (IARL)

  • Obtain an IARL: this form may be downloaded at the link provided or requested by emailing  This is a Microsoft Word document. We cannot currently accept other formats, such as PDFs. 
  • When filling out the form: Please provide complete information on the IARL for boxes:
    • "A" (customer/researcher information)
    • "B1" (control and reel numbers--use the number that appears in the "Local Identifier field" Please enter items in numerical order. Each reel must be listed separately.)
    • "B2" (title/subject)
    • "B3" (order copy format-- this is the format of the copy you want delivered to you.)
    • During current Phase Two operations, each order is not to exceed 12 reels. All IARL forms submitted that exceed this requirement will be returned to the requestor without approval. 
    • NARA reference staff will complete entry for gauge (16mm, 35mm, VT), Archival format, Running time and Approval and Pending Codes
  • Save and send your completed IARL to

Step 3. NARA Review and Approval of the IARL/Process for Approved Orders on Item Approval Request List (IARL)

  • Moving Image and Sound staff will review your IARL, check the available copy format(s) in our holdings, the approximate running time, and if there are any known restrictions on commercial duplication. Please note that in Phase Two Operations, only reels with an existing Intermediate or Reproduction copy in our holdings will be made available for duplication. 
  • If you are receiving an approved IARL, please read the following order guidelines carefully:
  • The “Approval” column has been completed by NARA staff to indicate that we have reviewed the IARL form, approved the archival format that NARA has available for each item you wish to order, and have annotated the Pending Codes column with the appropriate code(s). Please review the Item Approval Request List Form carefully. Please note: 
    • Your Order Number, which is used to track the request through the order process.
    • The approval date, noted next to the Order Number. Approvals are good for six (6) months from the approval date.
    • In the Approval and Pending Columns, see the following codes:
      • "P" in "Pending" column: there is no intermediate copy currently available for the item,
        • If the Pending Codes column is marked with a “P” this means that there is no intermediate copy currently available for the item, and the item will not be approved. The item cannot be ordered during our current status, and will need to be resubmitted on a new IARL when NARA is able to expand our reproduction services. 
      • "I" in "Pending" column: there is an intermediate copy currently available for the item.
        • If the Pending Codes column on the IARL is marked with an “I”, this means that a film or video or audio Intermediate copy already exists in the National Archives holdings. Should you choose to order this item, this Intermediate copy will be sent to any approved vendor on the list to make your copy. Please note that during the current reopening phase, we are only approving Intermediate copies. 
      • "2" in "Pending" column: there is some restriction on the item, such as donor restriction or known copyright. 
      • A "check" and staff initials appearing in the "Approved" column: the item is approved for reproduction work. 
      • The columns for gauge, i.e., 16mm, 35mm or VT, "Archival Format," and "Running Time," are completed by NARA staff. 

Step 4. Choose a NARA-Approved Vendor to Complete Your Order

After checking that the item numbers in column B.1 Control and reel number are correct, please send the approved IARL Form to a Vendor chosen from the National Archives Vendor Contact List. Contact that vendor to arrange work, payment, and shipping details. Customers may split orders between vendors, but the same order number must be used to facilitate tracking. 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. The vendor will ship the reproduction(s) to the customer according to the customer's arrangements. These NARA-approved vendors can provide copies of NARA's Intermediate film, video, and audio holdings. 

Step 5. After You Receive Your Copies from the Vendor 

After you receive your copies from the vendor, please check your copies for content, accuracy and completeness. Please note:

  • Returns
    • Unsatisfactory reproductions must be returned within 30 days for replacement. Such returns will be honored only if we have made an error or the vendor processing or vendor transfer is faulty. Returns will not be accepted if, in our judgment, the defects are attributable to the condition of the original materials. Please note that exhibition and home use quality copies are purchased with the understanding that they may not be returned for credit, refunds, or exchanges.
  • Quality
    • Condition of originals: While the National Archives and Records Administration makes every effort to provide the best quality copy, some originals or copies of originals may exhibit physical defects due to fading, deterioration, a history of poor environmental storage conditions, or handling damage. Copies purchased from an approved vendor therefore may show the same visual and/or audio defects. All copies of National Archives records are purchased with the understanding that they may not be returned for credit refunds, or exchanges.
  • Commercial Reproduction Quality
    • Meets F.C.C. standards (limited by the quality of the original film, which may include scratches, splices, or other defects).
  • Exhibition and Home Reproduction Quality
    • Fair to good copies suitable for public and home presentation; videotapes may contain a visible flicker but may be acceptable for study, classroom, preview, or home viewing purposes only
  • Credit of NARA Special Media Records in Audiovisual Productions
    • To credit the use of NARA special media material obtained from our holdings in an audiovisual production, such as a film, broadcast documentary, or online presentation, we ask that you provide the general credit line:  
      • Courtesy: National Archives and Records Administration