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Thursday, 12 April 2012 15:55


Written by  Bob Fisher
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The Digital Dilemma 2 report was co-sponsored by the Academy of  Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program at the Library of  Congress. It was co-authored by Andy Maltz and Milt Shefter. Maltz is  director of  the Science and Technology Council at the Academy of  Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Shefter is president of  Miljoy Enterprises, Inc., a media asset preservation firm that provides consulting and project management services.

The report was based on surveys and interviews with independent and documentary filmmakers and archivists. It states that analog images recorded on film will last for 95 years or longer before restoration is required if they are archived in humidity and temperature controlled environments. In contrast, digital content, hardware and software have comparatively limited lives.

“Many of  the documentary filmmakers we interviewed seemed enamored with the perceived benefits  of  digital image capture and workflow in postproduction,”  Shefter says. “But, many of  them hadn’t considered the lack of  long term, guaranteed access of  digital content. They are used to archiving and ignoring film, and may not understand that digital records require continuous and active management.”

Maltz agrees that some or  many of  those filmmakers might not be aware that the narrative films and documentaries they produce in digital format may not be there for tomorrow’s audiences. He cites the report’s recommendation that filmmakers consider their own preservation strategies as part of the production process.” 

Shefter recalls, “I became aware of  the rapid obsolescence of  video technologies early in my career, when I was running the video department at CFI Lab in Los Angeles. Some television programs were produced on two-inch videotape. others on three-quarter inch videotape and other formats that subsequently became obselete.
“CFI also processed the negative for motion pictures and television programs, including  I Love Lucy. Sid Solow, who was president of  CFI, kept the negatives in a vault at a low temperature. They produced 179 episodes of  "I Love Lucy" beginning in 1951. The series was still in  syndication 60 years later.”The same week that the Digital Dilemma 2 report was made public, Cine Libre Studio released a director’s cut of  Latino in DVD format.  The director was Haskell Wexler, ASC, who also wrote the independent feature that was released in 1985.

Cine-Libre also released an enhanced version of  No Sub-Titles Needed: Laszlo and Vilmos, a documentary that James Chressanthis, ASC produced in 2008 about Laszlo Kovacs, ASC and Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC. The documentary artfully blends comments by Kovacs and Zsigmond sharing memories with film shot during the uprising in Budapest more than a half a century ago and scenes from movies they shot during the past 50 years. 

Paramount Pictures celebrated  the 85th  anniversary of  the silent movie Wings, which won the first best picture Oscar with a screening at the Academy of  Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater in Hollywood and by releasing the film in DVD format. Shefter played a significant role in establishing the archive on the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood,  where the negative for Wings and hundreds of other motion pictures are maintained for future audiences. Maybe it was a lesson he learned from Solo. 

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