Industrial Archaeology Recordings

Putting industry on video - an archive for the future

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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About Us Video Archive Features FAQs Links Sales Contact Us Search

Other people's films

We specialise in recording our own material rather than exploiting existing historic films, but if you know of some film or video footage of any format that deserves wider circulation, we would be happy to add it to our catalogue, credited clearly to yourself and the original producer. We would have to have a written statement that you have the copyright of all content, including any music, before publicising such material.


We are entirely voluntary, so unfortunately we don't have any employment opportunities. If your interest is in I.A. itself rather than recording work, there may be a society near you - have a look at our links page.


Anyone who buys a DVD is helping I.A.Recordings, because funds raised finance further archive recording work! You could also help by letting us know of any sites you think deserve a visit.

We are interested in anything with a significant historical interest, for example, existing firms carrying on an ancient trade like in Hand Made Bricks, or those about to close after a long career of manufacture as with Hand Rolling of Steel. We also record derelict sites, especially if they are threatened with demolition.

Many individuals and organisations have assisted us over the years and we are very grateful to them. We always try to credit those who have helped.

You are also welcome to donate to I.A.Recordings.

Site suggestions

Let us know by e-mail to: e-mail address (To stop 'spam', this address must be typed in manually!). We do our best to respond to such calls on merit, whether funds are available or not.

If funding is available, we can share copyright, so the client gets a copy of the recordings and the client and I.A.Recordings have equal rights to use the material. This allows us to keep any fees very low.

Visiting the sites

We usually give National Grid References for the sites we record, but often they are on private land or are intrinsically dangerous, so we can't always encourage others to visit. Factories and mills, whether derelict or working are potentially dangerous places. Mines are especially hazardous and no underground exploration should be attempted without adequate training and equipment. There are many museums which feature similar sites in safety, including underground - have a look at our links page.

I.A. stands for Industrial Archaeology.

Special Interest Video

Did we invent the term? No, but we could have done, it's what we've been doing since 1978!.


I.A.Recordings shoot and edit video material using professional and broadcast equipment and techniques. We have always taken great care to get the best quality recordings that we could manage. When we started and funds were even scarcer than they are now, we took advantage of second-hand equipment which we luckily had the skill to repair and maintain. As tapes were sold, we frequently upgraded the equipment and now use 1920x1080 full-HD XDCAM EX CineAlta. We have been using 1125-line High Definition equipment since February 2005 and in early 2019 started recording in 4K.

One major consideration is archive longevity. In the days of tape we preferred to master on Betacam because evaporated metal tape as used by mini-DV, DVCam, DVCPro etc. did not have a proven long shelf life. We now keep disk copies of all digital recordings and analogue footage digitised for editing, as well as the final master.

Broadcast Standard Equipment

Does I.A.Recordings use it?
Unfortunately, the term "Broadcast Standard" has been pretty meaningless in the UK for many years. Broadcast producers will often use whatever equipment they feel like, irrespective of picture quality concerns. Many TV programmes are shot by researchers or presenters rather than trained camera people, using wobbly DV cameras or 'Action Cameras' to save money! When using tape, I.A.Recordings preferred BetaCam SP which was the format used for prestige television drama and documentary until it was superceded by Digital BetaCam and then HDCam. BetaCam SP was a world standard, is still accepted by broadcasters and has a proven long tape life.

The next step down from Digital Betacam was DVCam, which is a beefed-up version of the domestic mini-DV handycam format. These are used for less demanding broadcast rôles, such as news and hidden-camera journalism, where the small size and low cost are a great advantage. I.A.Recordings only use small cameras when it would be impractical to take a larger camera, such as when abseiling or climbing ladders scores of metres down into a mine!

Our current main recording format is XDCAM EX CineAlta and we edit with a full-HD non-linear system, so our whole workflow is HD broadcast-standard and of course four times better than SD broadcast-standard! We have shot our own footage on 1125-line High Definition since February 2005 which gives superb results when converted to Standard Definition and our recent 4K material gives even better results when converted to HD or Standard Definition for DVD mastering.

Two I.A.Recordings members have worked in television broadcasting for over 30 years, on a wide range of programmes from live outside broadcasts to award-winning dramas, so we have broadcast experience as well as broadcast equipment!


We are happy to record any industrial subject, from Aqueducts to Zinc mines, working or derelict, but there is one area we have deliberately neglected: Railways. Why is this? We have nothing against them, they contributed massively to the industrial revolution, but they have one feature that sets them apart from other subjects; They have always been popular!

Railways have been diligently recorded by artists, historians, photographers and movie makers almost since they were invented! One of the first publicly-shown movies was of a train! People like Ivo Peters have been filming trains in superb quality for years and there are literally thousands of enthusiasts today photographing and videoing them. We don't really need to get involved with railways; they are already very well served. We are trying to bring a similar level of coverage to every other industrial subject!

First on the web

We have had these pages on various servers with various URLs since 1995. At that time, a Lycos search for "Industrial Archaeology" found only our web site and two U.S. university sites with some pages about their I.A. courses. This means we must have been the first on the web with I.A. as the main subject!

Video, not film

When we first started we had to decide between video and film. Black & white film stock has a proven long life. Colour stock eventually fades. Reversal (the cheapest colour film) fades faster, but film still seemed a safer choice than video: Video tape has only been around since the 1950s and some early tapes are already unplayable. Unlike film, each video tape format needs specialised playback equipment to recover the pictures and working machines for a given format might not be around in the future.

So why did we choose video? Cost. Even reversal film stock is so expensive that we could not possibly afford to cover entire industrial processes. We would have to film in short bursts and we would not be able to get a full record of the event. This is a problem that has always faced documentary film makers. Old film of industry is frustrating to watch as the shots are too short to follow the action, and usually just concentrate on the 'pretty bits'.

With video, we can afford to keep recording so as not to miss vital action. We can record entire processes lasting for hours if necessary, then produce different edited versions: a Compilation showing as much as possible; and a Production using just the vital bits. The whole unedited recording is still in the archive for posterity. As it happens, we have been lucky with video. Even our earliest tapes from 1978 are still playable. Modern tape stock lasts much longer than the early stuff. We were recently able to compare some material we shot on U-Matic in 1982 with some 16mm film shot by a TV news crew covering the same event. Our video looked better!

Now everything is recorded digitally on memory cards then transferred to various disk formats for long-term storage, in theory it can be copied any number of times without loss onto whatever digital format becomes fashionable.

When did it start?

We started photographing industrial subjects in 1972. In 1978 we hired a portable video recorder and made some tapes featuring canals and mines. In 1982 we decided to put the work on a formal footing and created I.A.Recordings. We rejected some obvious names such as 'Heritage Video' and 'Archive Productions' and followed the lead of Research Recordings Ltd. and became Industrial Archaeology Recordings; I.A. for short.

Why is so much of this site about selling DVDs ?

Our only aim is to record industry for posterity, not to make money for its own sake. That is why we are .org rather than .com! In an ideal world, we would be able to do this work full-time and give copies away for free.

In the real world, we have to pay for equipment, maintenance, digital media, printing, duplicating, travel costs, delivery charges, etc. etc., but none of us take any fees.

We don't get any grants or government aid. Our only regular source of income to fund further projects is from sales of Productions and Compilations. So we have to promote these as much as possible. Remember, all DVD sales fund archive recording work!.


Do any I.A.Recordings Productions use music? Yes, some do; but we know how annoying it can be, so we keep it to a minimum - perhaps just during the opening and closing sequences and very occasionally as a quiet and subtle background for one or two scenes within the production.

Do we mindlessly add a continuous loud 'drum machine' beat to every scene, like so many TV 'documentaries' do nowadays? NO! Never!!


Does I.A.Recordings use 'celebrity' presenters?

No, we don't like it when a famous personality talks-down to the audience or feels they have to intervene with irrelevant wisecracks. Many television documentaries are more about the presenter than the content - the chosen 'luvvie' has to be prominent in every shot, often getting in the way of an interesting background. We prefer the subject matter to fill the frame! Besides, they're too expensive.

Slow TV

Did I.A.Recordings invent 'Slow TV'?

The Compilations we have been making since 1982 let you watch the subject in great detail - without a presenter in the way, without intrusive commentary and without music, but also without long boring bits with very little happening, or excessive repetition!

  © 2024, I.A.Recordings, Last modified: 07-Feb-2024