Experts raise red flag over preservation

Outlining challenges of digital transition

With a sense of urgency, keynote speakers outlined challenges that the digital transition is creating in film restoration and preservation during the Reel Thing XX Technical Symposium.

The event was presented by the Association of Moving Image Archivists, Friday and Saturday at Hollywood's Linwood Dunn Theatre.

"We really need to consider content that is born digital so that it does not die digital," warned Leon Silverman, president of Kodak's postproduction business LaserPacific and vp of Kodak's Entertainment Imaging unit.

"Right now, we really don't have a good digital archive medium," Silverman said. "While we are abandoning videotape as a place to store video, we seem to be embracing the same stuff, just calling it data tape. It's too bad data tape is a lot like videotape in that its shelf life is short and the formats change like the weather in Chicago."

Explaining that digital holds the ability to be integrated, he said, "Right now it's not -- not by a long shot. It is disintegrated."

If the digital challenge is not met, Silverman continued, "the industry will literally disintegrate into a pile of lost flash drives, hard drives, tape drives and other drives as the bits slowly fall off where we are carelessly creating them, placing them for the moment and storing them without a plan."

In a second keynote, Dalsa Digital Cinema president Rob Hummel addressed image resolution. Today, 2K is the most commonly used resolution in film restoration, but there are industry leaders who argue that that resolution has to be higher.

Hummel contends that digital 2K resolution is not enough for archiving. "Film has at least 4K worth of information," he asserted. "Why does everyone scan at 2K?

"Shame on everyone," he scolded. "It's because it's convenient. I'm trying to raise a caution flag," he added. "Don't compromise because it's easier. You're doing stuff that you'll probably never get a chance to do again because the financial people care about this quarter's results. Do your best to try to make sure not to compromise."

Silverman urged the industry to address its digital challenges. "For those of you who have created an industry of creative and technical excellence, who have insisted on doing it right and doing it well, you will have no better legacy," he told the crowd. "Together, the work continues. Our work is our passion, and our passion is this industry and the desire to preserve and protect it."