Creative LeadershipMedia ProductionChristian Media

Is Your Historic Media Safe?

The importance of protecting your archival film and video

Lakewood Church in Houston (Pastor Joel Osteen) lost much of their historical video library years ago in a fire on the Lakewood campus. Other major non-profits and media ministries are losing their historical film and video footage to accidents, neglect, and simply time. Particularly with early 1 and 2 inch reel to reels, ¾ inch cassettes, and Beta SP tapes, deterioration happens very easily – especially if you don’t keep the footage in a temperature controlled facility.  I’m not a videotape expert, but I do know the critical importance of preserving your historical and archival materials for the future.

At Cooke Media Group, we’ve helped a number of clients transfer their archival footage to digital formats for preservation.  At least at the digital level, the chances are far greater that the footage will keep.  And remember – this is footage that you’ve spent  hundreds of thousands (or even millions of dollars) to acquire. So letting it deteriorate on the shelf in a back room is not only wasteful – it damages your legacy.

For one client we even transferred everything online with a searchable database built around tags. As a result, future students and scholars can now search his lifetime of video teaching easily and quickly and find quotes and messages on any number of topics.

But whatever you do, don’t keep putting it off.  You may think the cost is expensive today, but what would the media staff at Joel Osteen Ministries or Lakewood Church  pay today to have those hundreds of burned reels back in their collection?

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  1. I am wondering what to do with all our church media.  My question is this…if I lose all of our "historical" (picnic pictures, video testimonies, old sermon audio) media has the world actually lost anything?

    Has the move of Jesus even been slightly hurt by the loss of Joel's old umatic tapes?  Has a pastor at my church preached something so wonderful that in 20 years someone will say "I lost my salvation because you lost my favorite sermon!"

    I understand Lucas needing to archive his stuff.  He needs to protect his Star Wars investment.  His whole reputation is based off a very small selection of IP.

    Preachers are only as good as the sermon the week before.  They can't really preach them again. (to that church anyway 🙂 )

    The thing with the bible is, it is always fresh and renewing.  New things are always being preached with different and tailored teachings for the exact date and time for a specific audience.

     I have just been personally struggling to find out if its worth saving any media at all past a few years…..not being a biblical teacher, I just might not understand….

  2. I think you're missing the point.  It's not about the material being so great, it's about history.  At the church's 50th anniversary, they'll wish they had your stuff.  Also, when the church or ministry grows, that archival footage and material is really great for fundraising programs, special events, transitions, and anniversaries…  The truth is, when it comes to history and legacy, it's not up to us, it's up to future generations to put a value on it.

  3. This is more vital than most people realize. You don’t need to keep every show or every sermon, but you do need to keep the best and the landmark episodes.

    It is scary how much analog tape is sitting on shelves in ministries around the country.

  4. Hi Phil


    Great stuff.  We're helping one of the largest churches in America with this very situation.  Not only to protect their history, but provide a media strategy for all of their work both historic and current.  It's been an eye opening experience for them and not all of it easy, but it is proving to be incredibly valuable for them.  Thanks for bringing this to light.




  5. I have served as a media director for several of the largest churches and ministries in the nation of that day. In those years 2" videotape cost about $250 to $300 per hour – when it was blank / new. This is not counting the time, effort, and expense of capturing the video footage with cameras and tape machines that also cost a fortune in the 70s and 80s. As ministries faced budget crunches, decisions were made by so many to erase master tapes and re-record over them. Some ministries cycled through their libraries as quickly as every 6 months – just because it was so expensive to archive. So in that way much was forever lost – and that willfully because of a lack of money. In today’s dollars, ministries were spending about $12,000 each month just for tape for their weekly telecasts, and for those who recorded daily hour-long broadcasts, they were spending about $7,000 per month in dollars of their day or about $70,000 in today’s dollars. It was simply too expensive to archive it all – in tape costs and in storage facilities, for each tape was housed in a container about 14” by 14” and over 2 ½” wide. The weight and sheer size of the libraries and vaults was prohibitive. Many times these were stored in basements that were not humidity and temperature controlled, and tape oxides themselves were prone to disintegration in about 10 years if unprotected. And if stored improperly, they were also subject to edge damage of the control track or audio degradation if stored flat instead of vertically, depending upon which side of the reel was on the bottom.Today there is little excuse for not preserving this precious historical and biblical content for posterity. DVDs cost just pennies. The recording technology can be purchased for about $100 to master the DVDs, and then these DVDs can be mass duplicated and stored safely in several locations many miles apart from one another.Paul Cooke's idea to transfer them digitally and archive on file servers using archival storage and retrieval systems is the wave of the future. I urge all ministries to consider implementing such a plan while the media they have is still useable – before it disintegrates and becomes totally unreadable.I sell broadcast equipment for a living, and I can verify that people are still purchasing 1" and 3/4" decks in great working condition for the sole reason of having functioning playback equipment for this transfer process.  Instead of repairing the decks, they replace $70,000 and $125,000 units with a similar unit costing under $3000 in today's dollars.In Bible days, the scribes preserved the Word of God – writing down what the Apostles and prophets and kings and our Lord Jesus spoke. Today we have the news media, but we also have an unction to preserve what the Lord is saying today – a Rhema word to His people. The medium is electronic rather than written, but the effect is the same. People of future generations will be able to understand and know and appreciate the godly heritage and legacy of this generation. 

    Gene Steiner

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