We are living in a world of ever-changing and advancing technology. This can be confusing for a still image buyer because there are so many options to choose from in terms of footage formats. Melinda Hood, Archive Director at Global ImageWorks offers some guidelines:
It is important to know what master format is needed by the end user before you start your research. Will your client require an HD master or not? Many productions, due to requirements by distributors, can only use HD elements in their productions. Once you know the final master format, the next step is determining the best way to provide your client with preview materials, also known as “screeners”.
Screeners can be provided in many different ways; the most common is online via clip bins or a lightbox. Clip bins are collections of clips you have selected that can be downloaded and shared with your production team. The shots from the clip bins are most often QuickTime files (.mov) or MPEG files. If your research requires you to provide deeper content, more than just a few short clips, you can request DVDs or Betas screeners. Please be aware you may be charged for physical screeners.
After the production decides on the footage they want to use, it is time to go back to the archive and get your master material. Before you contact the archive, you need to know if the production requires a tape based master or a digital master.
For tape based masters, be sure you know the tape format (i.e. beta, digibeta, HDCAM), frame rate (i.e. 29.97, 24p, 60i), and video standard (NTSC, PAL, or SECAM). For digital masters, you will need to know file type (i.e. QuickTime, MPEG), codec (i.e. ProRes, H.264, DNxHD), frame rate, and video standard.
If the digital master is HD you will also need to know the aspect ratio (i.e. 16:9 or 4:3), and whether it’s progressive or interlaced. Knowing these answers before contacting the archive will save you a lot of time. Check with the Assistant Editor or Editor if you are unsure about the answers to the master format questions. Knowing your production’s technical requirements before you start your footage search will save you a lot of time and money.