Re: Non-judgmental Preservation (was: chicago film archive)

From: Freya (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 04 2007 - 09:02:14 PST

With the death of Kodachrome, assuming I want to
continue making films I now have to look at
alternatives and consider the archivability of them.

I'm presently considering doing something in 16mm
colour negative and doing a telecine. However this
leads me to ask some questions.

What kind of lifetime might I expect from colour
negative film? I understand that the colours will
deteriorate with time, but is all the information
stored in the colours and if the film lost all it's
colour could a black and white image be recovered?

When restoration is done on older films shot on colour
negative, do the prints end up being more useful than
the original negative? Perhaps the original negs are
more prone to deterioration? If I go straight to DVD
there will be no other film elements than the negative
to collect. (eeek!)

If the colour in the negative has deteriorated badly
won't it be realy hard to make prints from the
original negative years down the line? I assume theres
only so much colour correction you can do when making
a print.

...and lastly, how long might colour negative films be
expected to last?

I've been meaning to ask this for some time but I've
been at a bit of a low ebb lately and now we are
discussing archiving it seems like a good time to
sieze the moment and ask! :)



--- Jeff Kreines <email suppressed> wrote:

> >> For some reason hearing about grant money always
> makes me think of
> >> how it might otherwise have been used, or more
> exactly, about what
> >> factors go into choosing to preserve old films
> and which ones. I
> >> wouldn’t conclude it should be used any other
> way, but what
> >> exactly goes into this embalming process?
> A good question. So many films, so little time, and
> never enough
> funding.
> Right now, it's very expensive to preserve a film,
> either
> photochemically or digitally, and even large,
> well-funded government
> archives might only preserve 50 films in a year.
> (And, of course,
> restoration -- fixing problems -- adds greatly to
> the time and expense.)
> This means that most of what is preserved falls into
> three categories:
> * Films that generate income, and are preserved
> by studios as an
> investment.
> * Films that are "important" -- artistically or
> historically, and
> have slowly risen to the top of a to-do list.
> * Films that are pet projects of curators (often
> for excellent
> reasons) and are rescued. These include many
> avant-garde films, home
> movies, amateur films, etc.
> But any large archive has millions and millions of
> feet of film on
> their shelves. There is simply no way that the bulk
> of that material
> will ever be preserved -- even a single access print
> struck --
> because there's neither time nor money to do so. It
> can cost an
> archive (with their own lab) $50,000 or more to make
> preservation
> elements of a single B&W 35mm feature film.
> Restoration expenses can
> double that. That's preserving perhaps 10,000 feet
> of film. Do the
> math -- there's not enough time or money to preserve
> (let alone
> restore) most films.
> And of course, that doesn't deal with the "mystery
> cans" of film
> every archive has -- to really determine the
> contents of a roll of
> negative one needs to print it or at least transfer
> it to video, a
> large expense for an unknown quantity.
> But treasures lie on these shelves -- a favorite
> recent example of
> mine is the discovery, at the Library of Congress:
> "Larry Appelbaum was thumbing through some old Voice
> of America
> audiotapes about to be digitized at the Library of
> Congress when he
> made a discovery that would stun him and many other
> jazz fans. Eight
> 10-inch reels of acetate tape were labeled "Carnegie
> Hall Jazz 1957."
> One of the tape boxes had a handwritten note on the
> back that said
> "T. Monk" with some song titles.
> Appelbaum, a jazz specialist at the Library of
> Congress, got excited
> at the prospect of finding unpublished materials by
> the jazz master
> Thelonious Monk. Then he heard another distinctive
> sound. "I
> recognized the tenor saxophone of John Coltrane and
> my heart started
> to race," Appelbaum says. The Nov. 29, 1957,
> concert was recorded by
> the Voice of America but never broadcast. For years,
> the recordings
> were lost and forgotten. Now, thanks to Appelbaum's
> discovery, Blue
> Note Records is releasing them."
> Of course, it's relatively cheap to preserve audio
> (no DAT jokes,
> please).
> So what to do about film?
> First, a video transfer is NOT preservation -- at
> best it is an
> access copy. A video transfer made on a device like
> an "Elmo" can do
> more harm than good -- damaging shrunken film while
> making a very low-
> quality video transfer.
> There are fewer and fewer film labs around, and only
> a handful do
> preservation and restoration work. Many are really
> good, but expensive.
> Digital scanning holds promise, but most scanners
> are designed for
> new, unshrunken, undamaged film, and are very slow
> -- some take
> several seconds per frame. Most are designed for
> 35mm, with 16mm as
> an afterthought, and other formats are rarely
> supported. Some
> facilities price digital scanning at well over a
> dollar per frame,
> even at 2K resolution. Add to that the cost of
> storing this data,
> and migrating it to new media every few years... a
> mess.
> A couple of years ago, I designed a special digital
> scanner for the
> Library of Congress Motion Picture Conservation
> Center, for scanning
> the Paper Print collection. These were films that
> had, for copyright
> purposes, been printed (pre-1914) onto 35mm-wide
> paper (some
> perforated, some not) and deposited at the US
> Copyright Office.
> There had been many projects over the years designed
> to transfer
> these films back to film. with varying degrees of
> success. Most
> involved manually lining up and photographing each
> frame, a painful
> process that produced jittery images very very
> slowly -- perhaps 3
> frames a minute with a fast operator. Of course,
> this produced mere
> copies -- dirt, dust, scratches, jitter, contrast
> problems, blotches,
> etc. remained intact.
> The scanner (part of a complete system) works at 2K
> resolution (more
> than enough for these prints) and scans at speeds up
> to 16 frames per
> second -- essentially realtime, for silent films.
> While designed for
> paper, it works well with film, and is capable of
> handling extremely
> damaged material -- shrunken, mis-perforated,
> torn-perfs, etc. --
> without requiring extensive repairs first. (Note
> that repairing torn
> perfs on shrunken film is extremely demanding and
> time-consuming, as
> it's done with clear tape and an X-acto knife. A
> reel can take a
> week or more, depending on degree of damage.)
> We can currently scan 2K at 16 fps, and 4K at 5 fps
> -- and 1600 x
> 1200 (a good choice for regular 16mm) at 32 fps.
> This may change
> radically in the near future, with very fast high
> resolution scanning
> -- 24 fps or greater at 4K. (Note that most current
> Hollywood
> effects work is done at 2K, so 4K is very high
> resolution, able to
> preserve all the detail in 35mm material.)
> Of course, there's the issue of data storage.
> Storing uncompressed
> 4K scans (at 12 bits, each frame would take over
> 18MB, or 27 gigs per
> minute). But the second you are dealing with 4K
> scans, wavelet
> compression -- JPEG 2000 or Cineform -- can be very
> helpful, and
> visually lossless -- about 40MB/second, or 2.4 gigs
> per minute. On a
> 400 gig LTO-3 tape, costing $65, holds 166 minutes,
> or a cost of
> forty cents per minute -- 2x that -- 80 cents -- for
> two copies. 2K
> scans at 12 bit would normally take 5MB per frame,
> or nearly 7GB per
> minute -- lightly compressed they take about
> 700MB/minute. That's
> 570 minutes on a $65 tape, or, if stored on two
> tapes (one a clone)
> the cost is about 25 cents per minute.
> Of course, LTO-3 tapes should be cloned every five
> years or so, so
> that is a future expense (though the process can be
> done
> automatically with very inexpensive autoloading tape
> drives.
> In the near future, holographic disks are coming.
> The first version
> of these will store 300 GB on a $150 disk, with an
> estimated storage
> life of 50 years. More expensive, but less cloning
> required over the
> years. Prices will drop quickly as these become
> more common.
> But what does it cost to scan film? Using our most
> expensive
> scanner, which is overkill for most users
> (especially on this list)
> the cost, based on running it 40 hours per week x 48
> weeks per year x
> 5 years, is $28/hour, plus operator.
> If you are scanning at 2K, at 16 fps, you can scan
> about 35 minutes
> per hour -- so the cost per minute would be less
> than $1/minute for
> the machine, and another 25 cents for tape. Add
> another 50 cents to
> make a couple of access DVDs of the scans (done
> easily on a cheap
> computer from the same scans). So, $1.75 per
> minute.
> If you are scanning at 1600 x 1200, you can scan
> about 70 minutes per
> hour, so the cost drops, with tape, to under
> $1/minute (plus
> operator, space, electricity, etc.).
> Our less expensive scanners (which have some
> limitations, but the
> quality is the same) will reduce this cost further.
> If you take the $40,000 needed to make preservation
> elements of a
> single B&W 35mm feature, you can scan and save 380
> HOURS of film at
> 2K resolution.
> 4K is currently more expensive, because it's slower
> -- about 10
> minutes of material scanned per hour -- so the cost
> is about $30 per
> minute, plus another dollar to store the data on two
> tapes, and the
> cost of DVD access copies. When faster sensors come
> along, it's a
> simple upgrade, and costs will drop to below 2K
> levels.
> Of course, this only preserves the work -- it
> doesn't restore it.
> Actually, part of the work of restoration is
> included in the scanning
> -- most scratches and dirt and dust that aren't
> printed into previous
> generations of the film are minimized by a special
> lamphouse design,
> and most film damage (except for open splices)
> doesn't need repair.
> There is less expensive software coming that can do
> batch processing
> (no operator required) of dirt/dust/scratch removal,
> deflickering,
> and stabilization -- of course you still have your
> original unaltered
> scans archived, so as software improves you can
> always go back to the
> source if need be.
> Color correction and grading can be done using
> inexpensive tools
> these days, and digital versions (HD, 2K, etc.) can
> easily be
> generated at little expense. If you want to go back
> to film, of
> course it costs more, but we also make reasonably
> low-cost film
> recorders that will help keep the cost down.
> Not trying to promote anything (didn't even mention
> the company name)
> but I am very excited about making preservation so
> affordable that
> it's actually as cheap as re-canning!
> We also are finishing a low-cost "desktop" scanner
> for film schools
> -- HD or 2K scans directly compatible with Final Cut
> Pro -- shipping
> this spring.
> Jeff "got to get back to work" Kreines
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at
> <email suppressed>.

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For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.