The works in the Media Burn Archive cover all sorts of topics, but they share important qualities: all were produced by independent videomakers outside of corporate contexts; they engage with the issues and concerns of ordinary people, both locally and nationally; they teach us about the world around us and the unifying characteristics of humanity; and they demonstrate artistry, skill, and creativity in the art of videomaking. They encompass many types of works, from documentary to animation to narrative, but they all share a spirit of innovation and creativity that sets them apart from the crowd.

The collection features hundreds of disparate and fascinating subjects, among them musicians, mayors, sports legends, radio personalities, community leaders, and neighborhood festivals. In addition to hundreds of award-winning documentaries, much of the collection is composed of camera original footage—uncut audiovisual primary sources capturing people, places, and events of cultural and historical significance. In 2008 and again in 2012, our Chicago Collection was recognized as a part of “America’s documentary heritage essential to understanding our democracy, history, and culture” by the National Archives with preservation grants. In 2011, we were again recognized by federal agencies with a “Save America’s Treasures” grant, administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The archive has been accumulated over the 40-year career of videomaker Tom Weinberg, who has produced many TV shows featuring the work of independent producers, such as Image Union and The 90’s. The tapes came from these shows, from work by friends, or from people who donated them to the archive. We have received large donations of videos from Bill Veeck and Studs Terkel.

If you’re wondering about this, you must be one of a tiny number of people who we couldn’t find. Before we went online, we made a concerted effort to find all the producers whose work is on the site, but some couldn’t be found…they moved, were unlisted, or one thing or another. Or maybe we just messed up. We aren’t making any money off of your video (see below: “Why would you need donations to have a website?”), but if you don’t like it streaming here, please contact us and we’ll take it down. Please understand that FITV is a non-profit and we do not have enough money for what we want/need to do, much less pay big bucks for lawyers. So, accept our apology, let us know, and we’ll remove it. We don’t want to upset anyone, we just want people to get to see a good video.

Our entire collection originated on actual physical videotapes. Before a video can be seen online, one of our staff needs to play the videotape, physically care for it, and transfer it to digital files for preservation and streaming. This entire process takes a few hours for each hour of videotape, and can take much, much longer when a tape is highly deteriorated and in need of extensive conservation work.

Digitizing our collection is our full time job. Our focus at any given time is on the videotapes in our collection deemed most at danger of deterioration and loss. We typically plan about 2-3 years worth of digitizing ahead of time.

However, we also want our audience to get to see the videos that interest them. We make our records from our entire collection of videos available to the public on our website–both digitized and non-digitized tapes–so that people have access to as much information about our collection as possible.

If you come across a video that you want to be able to see and get the message, “This video is not yet digitized,” email us to let us know you’re interested in watching it, and we’ll see if we’re able to make it available online it sooner.

All these videos represent the hard work of talented independent film and video makers. They are not public domain.

You need to license this footage for any commercial re-use. We represent and/or own a portion of the footage on our site; hopefully, we can give you a lead on how to find the rights holder if we can’t license it ourselves. Because the work in the archive was made by so many different people, rates and permissions vary based on which pieces you pick. If you are interested in purchasing footage, please email us (please include a link to the specific footage you’re interested in) and we’ll talk. We can also help you find additional footage that hasn’t been digitized yet.

Media Burn is much more than a website. All of the videos on our collection reside on fragile analog formats that are already, or are quickly becoming, obsolete. It is literally a race against time to digitize them before they are lost forever to physical deterioration or lack of equipment to play them. Have you ever noticed that some of your old VHS tapes are very staticky? This process of deterioration happens to videotapes very quickly, and depending on format, they can become unplayable in as little as 10 years. For other formats, the issue is that it is very hard to find equipment to play them back–just like how you might have trouble finding ways to play your 8-tracks or laser discs. Because 90% of the tapes in our collection are the only copy in existence, this means it is crucial that we work fast to transfer them so they will continue to be watched and appreciated by future generations.

No way. mediaburn.org is a project of the Fund for Innovative TV, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We manage to keep it all together through the generous contributions of individuals, government sources, and foundations. Please consider donating in order to allow us to keep this up. (See our About Us page for more info on our funding.)

It hasn’t been easy! We started working on the database, digitizing, fundraising, and systems in 2003. It took three years to get to the Beta release. We accomplished it with the extraordinary creative vision, advice, help and dedication of dozens of people. We were vastly undercapitalized, so even though we were among the first to start on streaming video, we couldn’t afford to move nearly as quickly as YouTube, Google Video, and others with tens of millions of dollars for their start-up. We were able to raise a small amount of start-up money from family, friends, small foundations, and the Illinois Arts Council. We weren’t anywhere near the scale of the commercial world. But, we have unique content – some 8,000 independently produced videos – most of which is not found anywhere else. Since that early period, we have seen support from many generous sources. Check out our About Us page for a list of foundation and government supporters.

Not at this point, but in the future some will be available for download.

Great! If you were in a video, or recognize a location, or you were the one that made the video, or you know a lot about a certain topic, or you see that we misspelled someone’s name, etc please email us and let us know what you know. Enhancing the historical information in our records is very important to us.

We highly recommend the new Audiovisual Citation Guidelines created by the British Universities Film and Video Council: http://bufvc.ac.uk/projects-research/sharedservices/avcitation/guidelines

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