Licensing Footage

Our collection is entirely composed of videotape–no film. That means that the collection dates back to the emergence of portable videotape, which is around 1970. The collection features a wide variety of work from around the US and the world, with a focus on nonfiction footage (documentary or journalism). The collection has a strong focus on politics, culture, activism, sports, and Chicago, but generally has a pretty wide reach of coverage during the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. We also have a lot of “camera original” footage, which is the original unedited material shot in order to create a program, meaning there is a lot of footage available which has never been used in any program before.

Media Burn is a great source for highly specific footage of people, places, and events that were not widely documented. We’re a great source for that rare piece of footage you can’t find anywhere else. We’re not a great source for general establishing shots or atmospheric footage such as clouds, city skylines, wildlife, landscapes, landmarks, and the sort of shots often associated with a stock footage house. Our footage is logged on a shot-by-shot basis, so if you want to find a clip of Studs Terkel talking about Mahalia Jackson, we should be able to easily find that. However, if what you want is something general like “people driving cars in Los Angeles in the 1990s,” we might not necessarily know how to find that even if we have it.

Nope! It was all produced by passionate independent producers who deserve to be compensated for their work. And none of this footage would be available without considerable ongoing expenses for digitization, cataloging, file hosting, website development, maintaining obsolete video decks, etc.

No. The copyright varies from piece to piece. Sometimes we own the copyright and can license it, sometimes we represent the footage for licensing on behalf of the producer, sometimes we don’t cannot license the footage but can provide access to master quality files that you license on your own from the copyright holder. Generally, music is never licensable.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to determine whether or not we own/represent a particular video from looking at our website, so please email [email protected] to find out the status of any piece you’re interested in.

All of our source material comes from SD videotape-based sources. While our digitization procedures adhere to all national standards for magnetic media preservation, please understand the inherent limitations of the source material: decades-old videotape looks like decades-old videotape, and does not look like celluloid film.

1) Research our collection to determine if there are shots that might be useful for your project. 

The easiest way to get started is to simply enter your search terms into the search box on our website. Our tapes are very well-cataloged and you should be able to find a lot on your own. You can watch the videos right on our website without needing to request any special access.

Of course, our staff also has great knowledge of the collection and might be able to enhance your results with some additional suggestions. We also have access to records of tapes that have not yet been processed and are not visible on the website.

We suggest that you first browse our site yourself and see what you find, and then contact us to see if there’s anything we can add. 

Please send an email to [email protected] describing your project, the footage you’re looking for, what you’ve already found, and what you still need help with. We will happily assist you with research free of charge. Please try to keep your requests as specific as possible–we are unlikely to be able to help you with a request as broad as “footage of Chicago.”

2) Request screeners of promising materials.

Once you’ve identified one or more videos that you’re seriously interested in, the next step is to obtain “screeners” that your editing team can import into your editing software to start fine tuning which shots you would like to use in the final product. 

We do not typically charge for screeners, provided you preview the videos on our website first and only request screeners of items you are strongly considering licensing. Costs may apply for requests for more than five screeners. The other exception is if the material only exists on tape and requires digitization prior to creating the screener.

To request screeners, send your list of videos with links to their location on to [email protected]. The screeners will be provided as downloadable mp4 files.

3) Determine what you plan to license and get a quote.

Once you know how approximately how much footage you’re planning to license and from which pieces, contact us for a quote. Please let us know:

  • What rights you need (such as “all rights, all media, worldwide, in perpetuity)
  • What kind of program you are creating (documentary film, TV show, podcast, web series, etc) and where will it air?
  • Who is producing it?
  • Overview of the project (e.g. “I’m making a documentary about Chicago Blues music.”)
  • The specific footage you plan to license and how many seconds from each
  • Any relevant timetables or deadlines we need to know about

4) Submit your footage order, pay your invoice, sign a licensing agreement, and receive masters

a) Submit your footage order

Once you’ve finalized the clips you plan to license, you’ll submit a list of the clips and timecodes.

For example:

Video 19021: 

01:21-01:34 duration: 0:13

46:39-46:42 duration: 0:03

Total duration: 0:16

Video 37605:

10:20-10:53 duration: 0:33

Total duration: 0:33

b) Pay your invoice

We will use your shot list to create an invoice and send it to you electronically. You can pay via credit/debit card or via ACH straight from the invoice, or you can mail us a check. If you prefer to pay by wire transfer, let us know and we can set that up.

c) Sign a licensing agreement

We will also need to sign a licensing agreement that states the terms and the specific footage being licensed. We can provide one or are happy to review one created by your team to see if it is suitable for us.

d) Receive masters

Once the invoice is paid and the licensing agreement is signed, we’ll send the masters electronically.

We will add short handles to the clips to assist with editing. We typically provide ProRes master files but can meet any alternate specifications your team requires.

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Media Burn Archive | 935 W Chestnut St Suite 405 Chicago IL 60642
(312) 964-5020 | [email protected]