IMAGO President: Digitizing Europe's Film Heritage Could Cost 2 Billion Euros

Nigel Walters warns that a lack of action could result in “disappearance of newly produced films,” Monday at the eDIT Filmmakers Festival.

FRANKFURT--“Unless there is serious money invested in the digitization of the European film heritage, a lack of action in eight years time will result in the disappearance of newly produced films,” warned director of photography Nigel Walters, who is president of International Cinematographers Federation IMAGO. "If we do not digitize the danger is that even film archive will be useless if the technology to preserve on film becomes obsolete."

Speaking Monday at the eDIT Filmmakers Festival, Walters reported that the estimated cost of digitization for the whole of Europe's film heritage ranges between 500 million Euros  (roughly $707.5 million) and 2 billion (roughly $2.8 billion). “It is rather like a bank crisis with black holes for endless pits of our money,” he said. “The cost of preserving our heritage annually after it has been digitized are projected at 290 million Euros (roughly $410 million) a year.”

Walters' discussed this archiving issue, as well as offered perspective on cameras, as part of an address that underscored the role of the cinematographer as the custodian of the image.

“The challenge of creating the image through sympathetic lighting and composition is not influenced in the slightest whether you are shooting with a Sony, (Arri) Alexa, Red, Panasonic or film camera,” Walters said, citing the various digital cinematography cameras used by some of the film industry’s best known directors of photography. “Vittorio Storaro shot his stunning Flamenco on a Red One, and Roger Deakins is about to shot the next James Bond film on the Alexa.

“Film is far from dead as witnessed by the use of Super 16mm on The Hurt Locker and Black Swan,” he added, noting that he has heard that the Coen Brothers were considering shooting their next movie on Super 16mm. “That possibility was in fact confirmed to me last week by Bruno Delbonnel, who is shooting it. The final decision will be made after the testing by Bruno and discussions with the directors.”

Said Walters: "The ideal camera to tell a story visually depends on the story. As there are many ways to tell stories in filmmaking, the choice of the most suitable camera should be the decision of the cinematographer."

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