Audio Visual Archives

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about access to Audio Visual Collection

At Archives New Zealand we hope to make as much of our audio visual collection accessible as easily and quickly as possible. These questions are the ones we get asked most often regarding access. If you have any other specific questions please email Access Services.

What is the Archives New Zealand Audio Visual Collection?
Archives New Zealand audio visual collection is a service that provides information on New Zealand films and documentaries. This material is kept for significant historical value under the Public Records Act 2005. The collection contains around 21,000 reels of film and 1000 videotapes. The main source of this material is the National Film Unit (NFU), with other material coming from government departments and the private sector.
The collection covers a huge range of New Zealand life and culture including New Zealand tourist films, commercials, information films, post war development and coverage of the many conflicts New Zealanders have participated in since 1939. It includes films made by people such as Sam Neill, Brian Brake & Rydall Hayward.

Who can use it?
The collection can be used by anyone for both amateur and professional use, for research and re-use in documentaries and other media.

Where can it be accessed?
You can access the audio visual collection through our National Office in Wellington. If you live out of the Wellington area and wish to view a film at one of our regional offices in Auckland, Christchurch or Dunedin please contact our Access Services Department in Wellington and we will arrange for a video copy to be made and sent to the relevant office.

Is there a cost for using this service?
There is no licence fee for using our material but you will be charged for technical costs for producing copies of the film.
Our charges are based around the amount of time it takes to prepare the copy of the film rather than the length of the actual film. This can also depend on what format you wish to film to be on.
A list of charges is available from Access Services

Is all National Film Unit film available through the audio visual collection?
The NFU collection is split between Archives New Zealand and TVNZ. After a certain period of time the films are transferred from TVNZ to Archives New Zealand. Once they have been transferred and have been assessed and cared for properly they are made available to the public. This affects mostly the more recent film output from the NFU. The main searchable wiki of NFU films is based on the Unit’s previous printed film catalogues. While we have tried to add all of the main films from these catalogues, there is some material that was produced by the NFU but was never published in the catalogues. ‘This is New Zealand’ is a good example of this material. We are currently adding these films to the list. If you cannot find what you are looking for in the wiki, check on Archway which will have title and technical details or contact Access Services.

What other NFU records do you have?
The main wiki database contains the core NFU film collection. You can search Archway for supporting contextual information about the Unit’s film production work. This includes extensive photo collections, correspondence, commentary sheets, and shot sheets. Also look at our NFU pages for some history and further information about the Unit.

What other material is available through Archives New Zealand?
Our audio visual material includes films made for the government by private companies, unedited films shot by government employees and other government material. There is also material that was not been created for government but has been received in the course of a department’s work. These collections either are, or will become available via Archway. Listings only have details about the title, the producer and technical format (16mm print, negative, etc). All current lists of items that we hold are viewable as hard copies in Archives New Zealand’s Wellington (Head Office) reading room. We are in the process of listing all of our audio visual collection to our current archival standard and these will become published on Archway.

Are all these films in the public domain?
The National Film Unit films are not in the public domain. Most of these films are covered by Crown copyright and are released to the public under our standard terms and conditions. If you wish to use material from Archives New Zealand for anything other than private use or research you must clear the rights via our Access Services department. There is no licence fee for using our material but you will be charged for technical costs.

Can I have a copy of a film that is not made by the National Film Unit or does not have Crown copyright?
You need permission from the copyright holder to allow us to make a copy. If you do not have permission, you can view the item at any Archives New Zealand office only.

Has everything been transferred onto broadcast video tape?
There are around 21,000 reels of film and 1000 videotapes in the Archives New Zealand audio visual collection. This extensive range of titles makes it unviable for us to transfer everything onto a broadcast video tape. As an Archive, our film preservation work is carried out through laboratory duplication. To transfer the film onto broadcast video tape offers a quick solution to access at the cost of long-term preservation. This is something we are reluctant to do. We do, however, have a selection of films on broadcast tape, but these are simply an advantageous by-product of previous work we have done with various television companies. If we have a broadcast tape there will be a BITC VHS reference in the main search list.

Can I have whole items on a broadcast videotape?
It is an Archives New Zealand policy to not release whole items on broadcast tape. This ensures we are able to maintain the standards of the material and be confident that the material is being used appropriately.

Do all films listed have viewing copies?
Some films listed in the main searchable list have no viewing copy. As our preservation work progresses we will be able assign viewing copies to more films. We only have the master elements of certain titles. These master elements will become available once we have made film copies.

Can I have a DVD or VHS copy of a 35mm viewing copy?
Unfortunately we do not have the capacity to transfer 35mm motion picture film onto video. To do it properly is very expensive and we are reluctant to ‘shoot a copy projected off a wall’ which is the most common alternative. If you find a film that only has a 35mm viewing copy please email Access Services (email address) to inquire if we have an alternative copy in one of our non-NFU collections.

Why does the copy of my film look red?
Although motion picture film is one of the best ways of storing moving images in the long term, it can over time begin to show signs of decomposition. One of the most common signs of colour film decomposition is the fading of two of the primary colours leaving only the red colour. When we transfer films into the computer we can correct the colours as much as possible, but occasionally it will have faded to a point where we are unable to fix the problem.

What is the difference between Archway and the audio visual collection?
Archway is the main catalogue for Archives New Zealand. It will in time contain all of the lists of audio visual material held at Archives. It lists the title of the record, and details about the producer and technical format. At this point Archway does not contain content or contextual references. The main search list of material on this mini-site is a re-version of ‘Firstref’ which was the main search aid for the audio visual collection before the introduction of Archway. It contains the same information as Archway and also features the catalogue descriptions of the films or newsreels. The list also has hot links to transcriptions of commentaries, film information sheets and a few shot sheets to help provide a better idea of what the film is about and what the content is.

I have searched Archway for information on New Zealand fighter planes and nothing is coming up. What am I doing wrong?
At this stage of its development Archway has only details of the title, producer and technical details. It does not hold descriptive information about content. For example, a search for the World War Two aircraft ‘Dauntless’ may not bring up too many hits, but a search for ‘Guadalcanal’ may bring up records which feature the ‘Dauntless’ as Guadalcanal is mentioned in the title.