Digital Archiving Technology DOTS Could Be Available in 18 Months

DOTS--a Digital Optical Tape System that its makers are pitching as a solution to Hollywood’s digital archiving dilemma—could be available in roughly 18 months.

That’s what execs from Group 47—a startup formed by several of Hollywood’s tech veterans who are driving the DOTS initiative—said Thursday at the Association of Moving Images Archivists’ The Reel Thing conference at AMPAS’ Linwood Dunn Theatre.

Archiving in the digital age is considered a dilemma that might result in the loss of some of Hollywood’s movie history.

For this reason, studios continue to save their movies on film because it is the only proven archival technology that can last at least a century, according to research conducted by AMPAS’ Science and Technology Council.

Generally studios also store a digital LTO (Linear Tape-Open) tape of movies for long-term storage, but that requires periodic migration of  the materials to new tapes. It is believed that LTO tape can actually last several decades, however some Hollywood insiders have whispered that they have identified instances of significant data loss on these tapes in less than five years.

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Concern is largely centered on digitally-shot independent titles, or elements of movies, that rely solely on digital media for long-term storage.

Group 47 is proposing its DOTS technology as a digital archival format that it claims is secure, inexpensive—and could last 100-plus years.

DOTS was actually developed at Eastman Kodak during ‘90s—at an R&D cost of more than $80 million—but the project was abandoned in 2002, according to Group 47 CEO Rob Hummel. In 2010, Group 47 was formed and acquired the DOTS technology including the roughly 30 patents and related intellectual property.

Since then, Group 47 has been further developing the technology and business model while looking for investors. “We’re finally getting ready to close a round of funding so we can build an engineering model,” Hummel reported during the Reel Thing conference, adding that the company believes it can make the technology available to Hollywood in as little as 18 months from funding.

Group 47 claims DOTS has been tested and found to be robust, for instance able to withstand extreme temperature and exposure to electrical or magnetic fields. The company asserted that once recorded to DOTS, movies need only be stored at room temperature.

With these properties, some members of Hollywood's archival community are already showing interest in the technology. And, since archiving of historical material is a global issue that extends well beyond the entertainment industry, Hummel told The Hollywood Reporter that “Group 47 is also working with some government agencies who are very supportive [of DOTS].”

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As to the technology itself, Group 47 has already applied for nine patents. CTO Dan Rosen reported: “There are two places where we greatly improved on Kodak’s design: We developed a completely new way to represent the data and write it onto the tape, and since we switched from a frequency modulation representation for the data to a visual binary representation, that gives us the option to story imagery in a file format-agnostic, visual way.”

Group 47’s plan is to license the technology to manufacturers, who would make and sell it, in order to make this a non-proprietary system.

In related news, a federal judge approved Kodak's plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection on Tuesday. "We are moving forward and expect to fully emerge by early September," said Andrew Evenski, president of Kodak's entertainment imaging and commercial films division. "As part of the company's emergence plan, traditional films will continue to play an important role in Kodak's product portfolio."

Twitter: @CGinLA