Non-judgmental Preservation (was: chicago film archive)

From: C Keefer (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 04 2007 - 22:15:09 PST

Hi Freya,

you asked,
"What kind of lifetime might I expect from colour negative film? I understand that the colours will deteriorate with time..."

If it's contemporary polyester-based stock, stored in an archival cold vault with proper temperature and humidity levels, perhaps 100 years, perhaps more. That's assuming you're not pulling it in and out of the vault, making dozens of prints, etc. Fluctuation in temperatures and constant handling will increase the level of deterioration.

Re your questions below - When restoration is done on older color films, new preservation elements such as interpositives and internegatives are made. These are the valuable elements; new prints are for access, not necessarily a required part of preservation. The point of preservation is to protect the original negative (or master positive, or whatever is the best extant material) by making a preservation copy photochemically on stable stock, then storing it properly (and keeping and storing properly the original as well). Digital processes are not preservation (though some processes may be used to clean up problems in picture or track, like DRS, no-noise, etc.). Transfer and storage on any type of digital format is not preservation. It's storage, and a means to create access copies.

For older films, yes, the original negs are more prone to deterioration, as often they have been/are stored improperly and are on acetate-based stock (as opposed to today's polyester-based stock).

Making a preservation element (or 2) photochemically is proper preservation. Only then will there be an element for transfer to future digital formats over many generations, as needed for access. You cannot continually migrate digital files or videotapes to the next digital format, artifacts will be introduced at each migration. Just think about it - if you only had your films on 1" tape, then you reformat them to digibeta, and then the next format comes along, well, you're out of luck trying to reformat to HD. But if you have a negative (or even a print) to re-transfer to HD or BluRay or whatever, then you'll be fine. And so it goes over future generations, but you need that film element for transfer. Remember, the only playback medium that has lasted over 100 years is film. And ideally you want a preservation element sitting safely away in the cold vault, and another one for transfers & printing, but that's not always financially possible in A-G film, though we do stri!
 ve for that as much as possible.

One last comment, storage on today's DVDs are probably the worst possible option. DVDs just don't last long at all, are easily scratched, etc., make sure you have your master on another format.

Cindy Keefer
Center for Visual Music

-----Original Message-----
>Date: Thu, 4 Jan 2007 09:02:14 -0800
>From: Freya <email suppressed>
>Subject: Re: Non-judgmental Preservation (was: chicago film archive)
>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! :)

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