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camera for oral histories/archive


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 10:39 PM

Hey All,

I'm consulting on an aviation museum's grant bid to fund an oral history project, to capture on video the recollections of pilots and airline employees from the early days of commercial air travel, who are dying fast.

I'm trying to find the right balance, like, they don't need a 10,000 micro 4/3s camera package or anything, but better than shooting SD, which would pretty limit the footage's use outside of being an historic record. If its something that could one day be useful in a documentary, it'd be great if it were in HD.

The big thing is archivability. This is oral history first and foremost, and the footage is meant to last. And while I've worked with file based cameras for several years, and love them to death, I'm not sure they're right for this project, because of the issues of just how to archive it (blu-ray backups? multiple hard drives...it all adds to the budget for equipment and labor).

So I was thinking about going down the middle, and recommending getting a nice, older HDV type camera, like the V1U. This way, their footage would be in high def (albeit 1080i), but it would also "live" on tape as a source, and then could be backed up to hard drive after it's logged.

Is this sound, or would you all suggest another route. Is there ANY data on the long term outlook of tape stock in terms of archival stability when properly stored? I'd hate to go through all this, and find we've shot on tape stock whose emulsion will start flaking off in 10 years! :(

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Best,

BR
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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 11:07 PM

For anything intending to be kept for any length of time, I should think that film is the natural choice for picture format. Perhaps you should get a nice super 8 camera and lots of film.
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#3 Brian Rose

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 11:26 PM

For anything intending to be kept for any length of time, I should think that film is the natural choice for picture format. Perhaps you should get a nice super 8 camera and lots of film.


I take it you're joking?
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 11:59 PM

I take it you're joking?


Not at all. Why would I be joking about that?
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#5 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 01:21 AM

Seriously, getting a DP who owns an Aaton or SR and shooting S16 is probably the cheapest route. If not, shoot 1080p on an HVX and transfer the final edit to 35mm film. You can not archive anything digital and this is a hard fact. This is why all studios make 35mm films of all of their properties. Tapes, and hard drives (even worse), lose data with each passing year while sometimes becoming corrupted suddenly with no chance of recovery.

I feel for all those indie films that are being shot digitally today; they will be gone in 50 years, just like all the families that have all their photos on drives and cell phones... no record will exist of many of them sooner than anyone realizes.
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 02:36 AM

I worked for a few days on an oral which was shot on JVC's GY-HD200 and there was so much material you couldn't have shot on film. If you have to shoot on video, I'd go for a robust tape format like Digibeta, there's a lot of broadcast material on that format being archived and you can now buy a camera for not too much money or just rent a camera. How it will last over 50 years who knows, that would depend on the storage conditions etc, but you do need to have an active preservative system in place for hard drives.

Here's a document that the Academy brought out

http://www.oscars.or...digitaldilemma/
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#7 Robert Lewis

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 05:34 AM

Here's a document that the Academy brought out

http://www.oscars.or...digitaldilemma/


Having taken the time to read the Academy's publication "The Digital Dilemma", I have to say that I found it a very informative and interesting document.

Putting on one side the issue of whether film is better than digital imagery - simply for the reason that those who believe in the superiority of one over the other in terms of quality of image are, in my view, quite unlikely to convince anybody but themselves - it does seem that there is evidence that whilst long term retention is a problem and is costly for both film and digital, it is especially so for digital imagery. Although doubtless it is correct to say that digital imagery has made much progress in terms of the quality of image, one might be excused for thinking that it seems that those who proclaim its superiority over film have very little to say about the issue of long term retention. This may, of course, be because the issue of superiority is a highly subjective question and is one which tends to excite those who are at the sharp end of production.

In the UK, and I am sure elsewhere, there is a fascination with film shot many years ago, particularly in the context of documentaries of a historic nature. It is a fact that the film utilised in those productions exists and is therefore tremendously important. I should imagine that those who shot those films thought little about the long term retention of the imagery they were shooting, and it is simply a statement of fact that the images they shot still exist. It seems to be the case that the events of today recorded on film will have the better chance of survival in the longer term and to have the same chance digital imagery should be transferred to and stored on film.

It would therefore appear that as things stand at the present time, the original poster has a choice. He can record on film; he can record digitally and have the record transferred to and stored on film; or he can record the material he is commissioned to archive in digital form or on tape, and store it in that form, but he does need to ensure that those commissioning him are aware of the risks associated with these options and of the cost/benefit issues which need to be taken into account, so that any decision they take on the matter is "informed".

Edited by Robert Lewis, 12 June 2011 - 05:35 AM.

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#8 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 07:25 AM

Film. For longevity, definitely use film. Look at it this way. In one hundred years, a person picking up a DVD or a harddrive most likely won't be able to "read" any of the information on it. But in a hundred years, you'll still likely be able to pick up a strip of film and see pictures.
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 09:56 AM

Another option for longer-term storage of digital media would be to output it to LTO tape. I'm not 100% on the life-span of LTO, I have heard in the range of 20 years. From there, they'd need to make a new copy of the LTO (5 is the current generation) to whatever the newer form of tape is. LTO is primarily used for data back up for big corporations, and as a format has been 'round since the 90s.

Another option, albeit, more expensive, would be to look into "cloud" storage solutions, wherein the actual "storage" of the data is outsourced to a company who then will keep it on servers somewhere. Cost and time to upload/download become an issue here, of course, and one would need to pick a company who you think will be around for awhile.

But as mentioned before, the best way for long term archival would be to record the project to film. Now, whether or not this means you'll shoot film is another story. One could, of course, shoot video and edit each oral history down (remove cuts, dead zones ect) and then shoot out each one, and a final edit, to film to safe keeping. This would save some money, but still be an expensive proposition.

HDV is a poor poor choice for acquisition as well as archival, it's just not robust enough as a recording medium (and was never designed to be) to assure performance even 5 years out. Also, as it is a format in decline, one cannot be assured access to working decks/interfaces for later digitization in the future (as most things are going tapeless and HDV was always niche.) If you want a good broadcast standard which seems to be set to live on for awhile, you could look at recording and archiving to HDCam (preferable HDCamSR). While this will be a larger cost up front, you'll be dealing in a format which was designed for professional use on professional products, and as it comes from the Beta line of Sony, something which was intended to have backwards capabilities (e.g. newer HDCam decks can still read Beta, and HDCamSR can do HDCam). These are important areas to consider. Also, any post house will have an HDCam/HDCamSR capability which will allow you to shop around a bit on price.

Optical media is not a good choice for archival. Something as simple as being left in the sun, or allowed to heart up too much, or scratch, can destroy your archive. While I have and do keep backups on BluRay for clients and for myself, these are never a primary solution. Generally, for a big project I'll have it stored to a RAID hard drive array, 2x stand alone hard drives, and BluRay. This isn't a great solution, and my power company loves me, but as of yet I haven't had catastrophic data loss. But this can only be temporary until such time as the Client has finished their work (most of this is industrial/commercial/indie film) at which time it's on them, though the blu-rays are retained off-site just incase (though some of them don't make it).

You will really need to sit down with the client and go overall the costs/benefits of each option you can present. This will require you to, of course, research each one and get quotes based upon your predicted total footage. From there, guide the client to their choice and just be honest with them. This way you allow them to make the harder choice as to how to keep it archived. It will also be helpful as they may already have a digital media archival solution which they can bring to the table and help inform the situation.

Good luck
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#10 Brian Rose

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 10:31 AM

First off, my apologies. I didn't mean to belittle one of the film suggestions. Just that shooting super 8 seemed to me wholly inpractical for many reasons, but most of all the short magloads are very unsuitable for oral history, where much the point is to allow the sitter to talk and free associate.

As for film in general, I had considered it, but it addresses only half the problem, and opens up more new ones. Yes if I shot on film, say black and white negative, I'd have an image that, properly stored, would last a very long time.

But that solves only half the equation. What about sound? Sound I'm still faced with how to record and store, though the options are becoming limited here as solid state recorders supplant tape and the old nagras.

The audio is more important, really. I mean, the visuals could be lost, but if the audio survived, you'd have SOMETHING. If you lost the audio, the visuals would be practically worthless.

Then there is the matter of linking the two in post. Either I do it digitally, which produces the same basic problem of, okay, how do I preserve this now, or I finish on film and get an answer prints made...but when we're talking oral histories that could last hours, you're faced with a cost that is going to balloon quickly.

So the goal really is not so much finding THE correct way to do this project, but striving for the LEAST INCORRECT way given the available capital, which depending on the grants, I would imagine won't crack into five figures.

Thanks for all the input so far, and please keep it coming.

Best,

BR
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#11 Chris Burke

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 04:05 PM

I would think that sound is the primary concern. I am not sure if nagra tape is more robust than anything digital, perhaps you should seek advice on a sound forum. Definitely shoot super 16, contact kodak and fuji with your specs and perhaps you can get a major deal. the nice lady from kodak quoted me .19 per foot for 7222. purchased in bulk, you could get a substantial deal.
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