Access critical in archiving

AMIA focus on asset management

The Association of Moving Image Archivists has identified a need to address asset management, specifically relating to moving images and sound, and with emphasis on how it impacts archiving in the digital age.

To that end, AMIA is holding a digital asset symposium, "The Life Cycle of a Digital Audiovisual Asset," today at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Linwood Dunn Theater at the Mary Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study. The conference program will trace the life cycle of a digital asset, including creation, metadata, workflow and storage requirements. The goal is to make gathering an annual event, said co-chair Tom Regal, director of the audio restoration and preservation group at Universal Studios.

"We've been inching from analog to digital, and so much more material is 'born digital,' " he said. "The more we move toward digital, the shorter the archival life span. … We face issues with born-digital assets as well as digitizing our analog legacy materials. It's digital, really, that's the tricky part. A film might last 50-100 years, but a digital DVD might last five years."

Time frames for certain digital formats might be even less. One of the conference speakers is Milt Shefter, president and principal of Miljoy Enterprises and the project leader on the AMPAS Science and Technology Council's digital motion picture archival project. In discussing digital archiving, he said that there are instances where digital content could not be accessed after just 18 months.

Complicating the situation, Shefter estimated that about 75 formats have been introduced in the market since the 1950s.

Access, Shefter emphasized, is critical. "Preservation means nothing unless you can access the materials," he said. "The collective memory of what we are producing is in danger."

The AMIA program will be presented in a case-study format. "This way, we could showcase methods that are currently employed, the challenges that were faced and why choices were made," Regal said.

Scheduled speakers include Regal; Shefter; Andy Maltz, director of AMPAS' Science and Technology Council; and Tony Beswick, senior vp business operations and technology at Sony Pictures Entertainment.