[Tig] types of film (technicolor)

Martin Euredjian ecinema
Wed Mar 9 01:30:48 GMT 2005

> Properly processed and stored, YCMs offer more than 100 years
> of preservation for photographic images. Before you digital people jump on
> the band wagon, I should point out that no one knows the shelf life of
> tapes yet...but if video tape is any example, 20 years would be a problem.

What do you do with film after 100 years (if you can get that long out of a
non-trivial library)?

Regarding digital data.  Sure we know.  The shelf life of digital data is
probably as long as the period of time that this planet will be populated by
human beings (or longer...see move "Ai" for one vision of a possible

Anyhow, any important data has nearly limitless longevity.  All that is
required is transfer to a new medium.  In film you have to store under ideal
environmental conditions to get best lifetime.  This cost money, probably as
much as a digital backup every x number of years.  

Let's say that, today, x is 15 years.  I think that we can all agree that a
backup done to whatever medium in 15 years is very likely to shrink the
physical volume of the storage medium (due to increased density).  The value
of x is also very likely to increase significantly, perhaps 30 to 50 or more

There are very interesting projects going on in the MEMS community.
Projects that could very easily rival anything that any existing storage
technology (including film) can do in terms of longevity, reliability,
flexibility and sheer volume of data.  I've seen some of these new methods
at work.  Definetly embryonic today.  However, some of these are slated for
initial introduction in the 2007 timeframe.  

Silicon-based technologies can withstand 1000g's of shock (for reference,
that's about equivalent to crashing into a massive concrete structure at 150
miles/hr, or 240 km/hr ) as well as survive in environments approaching 1000
degrees C (for reference, Aluminum melts at 660 deg C).  At the very least
this means that expensive environmental controls will not be required for
optimal storage when using MEMS-based media, trading off enviromental costs
for duplication costs.

There's clear evidence that digital technology makes things cheaper, faster,
better, more flexible, etc. over time.  No reason that this will not
eventually affect the way we store motion pictures for archival purposes.

And, while film is not dead by any measure, if you think ahead far enough,
it is pretty much a guarantee that digital --from acquisition to exhibition
and archival-- will be dominant, that's not even an argument (or shouldn't
be).  The key is to let go of what we know today and understand that the
future will bring huge advances in all affected areas.  The Wright brothers
couldn't have envisioned a 767 airliner, YF22 fighter or a Concorde.  Keep
that in mind.

At the same time, to paraphrase, we don't make movies with the technology we
wish we had, we make them with what is available today.

With that said, I think that what makes sense today is to store on film with
a look at moving to data in 5 to 25 years, depending on the nature of the
property and evolution in the necessary technology fields.  

There's yet another twist to this.  The cost of duplicating film as it
approaches end of life is likely not to scale as digital would.  This means
that property owners might have to let some of their product die simply due
to cost.  Digital is guarenteed to allow ever-decreasing cost of storage,
duplication and distribution.  The immediate consequence is that you may be
able to sell copies of "American Chopper" and "The Apprentice" in 200 years
while film-based libraries such as those at the Cousteau Society might loose
significant chunks of material due to the logistics and costs involved.
Back about 10~15 years ago I was involved in the planning of a restoration
and preservation project for Mr. Cousteau.  The pricetag --including new
enviromentally-controlled storage-- was in the order of US$20 million.  It
never got done due to funding needs elsewhere within the organization.  I'm
sure lots of material is already lost forever.

To conclude, it is nice to quote the theoretical 100-year shelf life of
film, however, the long-term reality might very well be that this is just
about the worst choice one could make if the library must survive many
generations.  On that time scale, dealing with film might be just as hard as
trying to find a working 8 inch floppy drive today.

Martin Euredjian
eCinema Systems, Inc.
voice: 661-305-9320
fax: 661-775-4876
martin at ecinemasys.com
ecinema at ieee.org
NAB Booth SL1210

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