[Tig] types of film (technicolor)

Tom Nottingham nottinghams
Wed Mar 9 17:02:34 GMT 2005

Your assessment of digital media is based on testing and other forecasting
methods, but such media has yet to last long enough to confirm such
conclusions. Digital media is subject to the same problems as video and
audio tape in that the support media and the binder that binds the magnetic
coating to the base are subject to failure. Yes, it true that digital backup
media may be copied (just like film), but this assumes that someone checks
the condition of such media over the course of storage so that backups may
be generated in a timely fashion.

Films shot before the turn of the century (1900, that is) still exist today.
And that is with no consideration given to longevity at the time. Since that
time, archival technology has deemed photographic images of silver on a
support base has excellent storage properties for extended periods of time.
Since Edison invented the 35mm film format in the late 1800's, the basic
film format has not changed. This has allowed for new modern equipment to
handle even 100 year old films without problems. Such films as Gone With The
Wind, and The Wizard Of Oz can look as good today as they did on the screen
65 years ago because they were stored on black and white silver based films
that were properly processed. Even Nitrate film stock, properly stored,
exist today and are available for future generations. That is not to suggest
that film does not have problems - it certainly does. But proper storage can
greatly extend any such limitations, and should be part of any archival

Digital storage methods have come and gone in a matter of a few years. As
the technology marches on, the likelihood of being able to play digital
media even 20 or 30 years from now remains dim. While copying and backing up
digital storage media every few years remain a possibility, having the
technology available to process the media does not. A few examples of such
problems are A and B format 1 inch video tape, 2" helical tape, streaming
tape backups, 8" and 4" floppy disks, Bernoulli, Zip and various other
computer tapes - all used for archival storage methods.

In the 1980s, the Library of Congress deemed Laser Discs to be good for
archival purposes - since deemed unreliable due to Disc Rot. CDs and DVDs
seem to subject to the breakdown of the silver coating; another form of disc
rot. Burnable forms of DVD and CD-ROMS are subject to "image fading" due to
exposure to light. The list goes on and on.

This is not to condemn all forms of digital archiving, but only the march of
time will determine just how archival such media can be. In the mean time,
if longevity is an issue, then storage on 35mm black and white separations
is the best available technology.

 -----Original Message-----
From: 	tig-bounces at tig.colorist.org [mailto:tig-bounces at tig.colorist.org]
On Behalf Of Martin Euredjian
Sent:	Tuesday, March 08, 2005 5:31 PM
To:	'Telecine Internet Group'
Subject:	RE: [Tig] types of film (technicolor)

Thanks to Digital Pictures Sydney for supporting the TIG.

> 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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