AMPAS tackles digital dilemmas


The rapidly advancing digital transition is pressing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Science and Technology Council to solve problems related to next-generation archiving, image interfacing and motion picture cameras.

Andy Maltz, director of the council, said digital will have more impact on the industry than did the advent of sound. "It changes everything about the way movies are made," he said. "It gets to the very definition of what is a motion picture."

Taking a leadership role in the critical area of digital archiving, the council is composing a white paper, to be published in the coming months, to report on the council's extensive research on the subject.

Project leader Milt Shefter, president and principal of Miljoy Enterprises, reported that there have been incidents where digital content could not be accessed after only 18 months.

"The owners of film content for over 100 years have lived with the capability to have master material that would generate a commercially acceptable copy," he said. "With the advent of digital technology, we are losing that capability,"

He added that there have been suggestions of migrating to different digital formats every three to five years.

"When you're talking about an entire library, it's economically unfeasible," Shefter said, adding that an alternative solution must be identified. "Doing nothing is not a decision; doing nothing condemns it to be lost."

The image interface framework initiative surfaced when it became challenging to exchange images when multiple facilities were working on a motion picture. The goal is to enable a company to open a file with any device and get a look that's meaningful.

"That's really hard to do today," Maltz said. "The work of this project is to lock down an image encoding scheme and set of known transforms that accommodate the range of workflows and pipelines that are out there."

Additionally, the council, beginning this month, plans to conduct a series of digital motion picture camera assessment tests to identify a common metrology with which to measure color gamut, dynamic range and other image characteristics.

"There are several ways to measure these parameters," Maltz said. "Unless you know how the numbers were arrived at, you don't know what they mean."

Maltz reported that the council hopes to publish measurement data and images for use by filmmakers.