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Archiving 16mm film to digital ?


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#1 Jeremy Mayhew

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 10:50 AM

I made a 16mm documentary (50 min long / 2000 ' reel) in 1999. I'm wondering if anyone can steer me in the right direction for how and where to go to for digitally archiving the film. I also have hopes of authoring it to DVD with a Final Cut Pro / After Effects / DVD Studio Pro workflow (for playback NOT archiving).

I've heard that having it telecine'd at 4:4:4 1080i HD to a firewire drive may be a way to go. Any suggestions? Are there service locations that anyone could recommend? :blink:
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#2 Bryan Darling

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 02:14 PM

In my opinion, if you truly want to archive it, you'll want to have your film scanned into an image sequence. That way it's independent rather than a particular video format. You can then turn it into any format you want to either now or in the future. Budget will dictate this option, but it really is the only way to archive a film digitally. You can do either 2k or 4k resolution, each frame becomes an image file that can be strung together in an editing program and/or converted to a video format using software.

As video formats change and evolve, you'll consistently have to be converting between formats and possibly losing something inbetween. As image files, you don't have those issues. It becomes more about resolution and the file type you choose.
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#3 Michael Carter

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 02:22 PM

What about this place? http://www.moonpro.us/ It looks like a Sniper or a Workprinter scan frame by frame with a 3CCD HD camera. Iwas thinking of getting some of mine done there.
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#4 Simon Miya

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 02:39 PM

It's already in the best archive format right now. Film, when properly stored, will outlast any digital format.
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#5 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 02:47 PM

What about this place? http://www.moonpro.us/ It looks like a Sniper or a Workprinter scan frame by frame with a 3CCD HD camera. Iwas thinking of getting some of mine done there.



Hate to be a spoiler here but there is no digital medium which will last even a fraction as long as the original 16mm film if stored properly. Tapes don't last as well, drives fail to re start and the many many digital formats and codec's interfaces etc. mean loss of technology and difficulty accessing data later on. Try to buy a floppy disk now they were ubiquitous just a few years ago.

As for the work printer I would not try to do an archival process on a clearly consumer system get it scanned on a real telecine or scanner which will capture the range and color of the original properly and try DLT tape but just do not expect there to be a working tape mechanism in 40 years.


If you really want to preserve the film have a Dupe made in 16mm and send it to a real cold archival storage facility like Iron mountain where it has the potential to last for a millenia.


-Rob-
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#6 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 09:43 PM

Tapes don't last as well, drives fail to re start

If you really want to preserve the film have a Dupe made in 16mm and send it to a real cold archival storage facility like Iron mountain where it has the potential to last for a millenia.
-Rob-



As if to prove my point the USB backup drive I use to "archive" all the stuff I have on my laptop has just failed to spin up. This is a 120G laptop drive in a little USB2 enclosure and about 10 mo. old. Just sitting there on the shelf at my house doin' nothin' and now dead.


-Rob-
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#7 Jeremy Mayhew

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 08:18 AM

thanks for all the input guys! keep it comin'!
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#8 Jeremy Mayhew

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 08:22 AM

In my opinion, if you truly want to archive it, you'll want to have your film scanned into an image sequence. That way it's independent rather than a particular video format. You can then turn it into any format you want to either now or in the future. Budget will dictate this option, but it really is the only way to archive a film digitally. You can do either 2k or 4k resolution, each frame becomes an image file that can be strung together in an editing program and/or converted to a video format using software.

As video formats change and evolve, you'll consistently have to be converting between formats and possibly losing something inbetween. As image files, you don't have those issues. It becomes more about resolution and the file type you choose.



i really like this idea. i'm used to working with large image sequences from my work with after effects. do you know of any services that will help create high rez image sequences from 16mm?
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#9 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 09:04 AM

i really like this idea. i'm used to working with large image sequences from my work with after effects. do you know of any services that will help create high rez image sequences from 16mm?



Check out pixelharvest.com in LA they can do real 2K scans for a reasonable number. And give us a call if you want a 16mm dupe to archive.


-Rob-
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#10 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 09:07 AM

"In my opinion, if you truly want to archive it, you'll want to have your film scanned into an image sequence. That way it's independent rather than a particular video format. You can then turn it into any format you want to either now or in the future."

That sounds ideal and seems to be the most flexible option. However, what type of storage device would you keep this 'image sequence' on? Of course there's every chance that such a device might oneday fail. Then again, you could always have back ups on additional storage devices.
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#11 Jeremy Mayhew

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 09:07 AM

Check out pixelharvest.com in LA they can do real 2K scans for a reasonable number. And give us a call if you want a 16mm dupe to archive.
-Rob-



thanks rob ;)
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 10:34 AM

At the ASC, we recently had a presentation on theories regarding digital preservation by some guy from Sun Microsystems. Without espousing one format or facility over another, he basically said that any preservation system had to be built around regular data migration to eliminate the issue of format obsolescence and medium disintegration/deterioration.

Basically he proposed four master copies in two locations as a starting point that would be migrated to whatever data format you chose (maybe LTO tapes) every five or ten years. The risk of data error was fairly low he calculated.

The trick was getting an archive fully funded that could do that data migration on a regular basis. There are some practical problems -- some tape archives are so large that at any one time, a quarter of the collection may have to be in the process of being copied, which is beyond the staffing capabilities (archives are notoriously underfunded) and despite the low data drop-out rate of LTO tapes, for example, many post houses complain that some copy that they pass around to each other aren't playable at all. Someone pointed out that the ASC Stem material test had five LTO tapes made and sent to various post houses, and four weren't playable. Someone else mentioned that they can't even access and playback files that are only two years old at the D.I. facilities. So there are real-world practical problems despite the theoretical high standards of data storage.
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#13 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 11:34 AM

Go for a film out! Film is pretty much timeproof and doesn't suffer from versionitis. Then get some dup negs made. It's expensive, but it avoids the issue of the various HD formats that will continually be coming out for the next 100 years.

If ever there's a format that comes out and you need to transfer it, you have your high quality film negative to go from.

:)

Otherwise, David's advice is great.
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#14 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 12:47 PM

At the ASC, we recently had a presentation on theories regarding digital preservation by some guy from Sun Microsystems. Without espousing one format or facility over another, he basically said that any preservation system had to be built around regular data migration to eliminate the issue of format obsolescence and medium disintegration/deterioration.

Basically he proposed four master copies in two locations as a starting point that would be migrated to whatever data format you chose (maybe LTO tapes) every five or ten years. The risk of data error was fairly low he calculated.

The trick was getting an archive fully funded that could do that data migration on a regular basis. There are some practical problems -- some tape archives are so large that at any one time, a quarter of the collection may have to be in the process of being copied, which is beyond the staffing capabilities (archives are notoriously underfunded) and despite the low data drop-out rate of LTO tapes, for example, many post houses complain that some copy that they pass around to each other aren't playable at all. Someone pointed out that the ASC Stem material test had five LTO tapes made and sent to various post houses, and four weren't playable. Someone else mentioned that they can't even access and playback files that are only two years old at the D.I. facilities. So there are real-world practical problems despite the theoretical high standards of data storage.




I can attest to the tape issues right now, we took on an archival job for a US Senators library this year which consisted of a large volume of 16mm film from the 50's to the 80's and an even larger volume of all types of tape formats from 1" to VHS. Migrating all of the tape to DVCams was the solution, and a less than ideal one at that IMO, but the cost factors weighed in heavily on this job. Two copies made and then one copy held and digitized onto a server at the library and the other copy sent for proper storage but no funding for any real data migration schedule although we all talked about and were soberly aware of the issues. Much of the videotape had degredation and especially the vhs which I do not think will last all that much longer.

We do archival jobs for 16mm all the time and had a large collection come in about a year and a half ago with footage dating back as early as 1907 or so. The film was in surprisingly excellent condition proper storage and chemical sieves from Kodak and back to the library for another 100 or more and a D-Beta copy for access.

I think there is a strong desire to believe that the digital information generated these days will last forever, as the marketers have advertised, this is just not a sober look at the reality of data IMO. Digital data is highly ordered and highly complex and the mechanisms which it is stored on are of an exotic and complex nature I do not think it should be surprising that they are ripe for entropy and degrade quickly. Furthermore the issues of material and energy expenditure to keep this form of information alive into the future are a real problem with no good current solutions.

-Rob-
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#15 Bryan Darling

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 02:32 PM

I think as a matter practicality for an end user rather than say an organization or company, scanning your film then storing it on hard drives is an optimum choice. As for anything digital, you don't store all your eggs in one basket. You keep a copy on another hard drive. Since both of these hard drives are for storage rather than day-to-day work, you won't be putting a bunch of hours onto them. Hard drives are relatively cheap these days, if you are really concerned then buy a bunch. As a side note, I recently read an article on a study done with hard drives. They found that there was no direct correlation to heavy hard drive use and drive failure. As a matter of fact, sometimes it was light use that gave to more failures.

As everything transitions to the world of digital, it's really going to be a matter of shifting perspectives and practices. For one, you will still have your 16mm film so there is your analog archive so to speak. For practical purposes, scanning the film will provide you with a digital archive that becomes very flexible and easy to use in the ever growing digital realm. Since pretty much all forms of post are digital, save for final film prints, it is becoming far more practical to have a digital version to manipulate and use rather than "breaking out" your original film anytime you want to do something. Scanning film also bypasses issues of future unsupported formats, something that plagues video.

In regards to who performs these services, there are a number of labs & houses that scan film. There is Monaco Film & Video in San Francisco, FotoKem in LA, I would do a search and shop around. Ask people on here who have done this, like David Mullen. No matter what, it is not an inexpensive endeavor. Consider doing your edited film, or used takes, rather than the entire film. You may find that no matter what, the undertaking is too costly and it's better off taking care of your film original and re-transferring on occasion.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 02:44 PM

The other issue, assuming you solve the problem of digital storage medium longevity, might be whether the data can be played back. Will the HDV codec still be deciferable in 50 years, for example, let's say JVC's particular version of 24P/720? Will a bunch of files (OMF? M2T? I don't know the names) be playable in 50 years? Can I open up a 20-year-old Word Perfect file today?
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#17 Bryan Darling

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 06:05 PM

The other issue, assuming you solve the problem of digital storage medium longevity, might be whether the data can be played back. Will the HDV codec still be deciferable in 50 years, for example, let's say JVC's particular version of 24P/720? Will a bunch of files (OMF? M2T? I don't know the names) be playable in 50 years? Can I open up a 20-year-old Word Perfect file today?



Well look at it this way, there isn't a image file format I know of that I cannot open today. The world of still images seems more stable than the world of digital video, etc. If there is a file I can't open, there is usually a plug-in I can download that allows me to open said file. As for your 20 year-old Word Perfect file, yes you can open it today, it may just take some finagling. I think computer companies, mainly that of software companies, have become a lot smarter on this issue. While I might not be able to write a file in a format of the past, I can open it and rewrite into some other format. This is becoming more prevalent in today's designs than say 20 years ago, but only because of the experience of what has happened to digital formats and mediums of the past.
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#18 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 06:35 PM

Well look at it this way, there isn't a image file format I know of that I cannot open today. The world of still images seems more stable than the world of digital video, etc. If there is a file I can't open, there is usually a plug-in I can download that allows me to open said file. As for your 20 year-old Word Perfect file, yes you can open it today, it may just take some finagling. I think computer companies, mainly that of software companies, have become a lot smarter on this issue. While I might not be able to write a file in a format of the past, I can open it and rewrite into some other format. This is becoming more prevalent in today's designs than say 20 years ago, but only because of the experience of what has happened to digital formats and mediums of the past.



This may be a bit true but the supposition of file format cannot be separated from the physical media entirely either. Todays USB or SATA bus will be possibly completely unknown in the future as has happened time and again with computer hardware. Then you have "finagling" with the file format and it becomes work and effort every 15 or 20 years to maintain data which means in the real world much of this will be lost due to the inherent complexity of the system.

-Rob-
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#19 Bryan Darling

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 02:06 PM

This may be a bit true but the supposition of file format cannot be separated from the physical media entirely either. Todays USB or SATA bus will be possibly completely unknown in the future as has happened time and again with computer hardware. Then you have "finagling" with the file format and it becomes work and effort every 15 or 20 years to maintain data which means in the real world much of this will be lost due to the inherent complexity of the system.

-Rob-



I agree with you there. However, I contend that there is no reason that one's media should be trapped on a SATA drive 20 years from now. Common sense and stewardship would have you transfer your data over to a newer system as they become available. There is no shortage of time in the overlapping of old and new systems. For instance, IDE is being trumped by SATA, however both have been running parallel for at least 3 or 4 years that I can remember. Even if all the IDE drives dried up tomorrow, the computers available today can interface with both. Moreover, let's say that all computers automatically switched from IDE to SATA tomorrow as well. You can find items that adapt IDE to other interface types, say Firewire for instance. Now that's also saying IDE will be phased out by SATA. But this is just an example.

I think that consumers, developers and engineers are more aware of these situations due to the experiences of the past. They are taking these things into account as they create new media, software, and hardware. As we continue to leave behind analog and head into a more streamlined digital world/workflow, I believe these issues will be addressed, either head-on or through work-arounds. Nonetheless, for practical purposes we will need our films in the digital realm in order to work with them. It seems to me that the best way for this is in sequential scanning, and as technology develops and demand increases from not just the commercial sector but from the industrial, prosumer, and consumer sector, the cost will also decrease. There will always be the more costly "Hollywood" versions, but I see the technology expanding into the "middle class" arena, as can be seen in the film-to-video transfer industry.
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