SMPTE 2015: Preserving and Archiving for the Next 150 Years

In addition to tackling issues related to new technologies — from Ultra HD to high dynamic range and high frame rates — SMPTE also considers how to preserve film and assets of the past. In a wide-ranging morning of sessions, experts considered the factors required to view archival content on HDR projectors or HDR displays; how the Library of Congress maintains the viability of over 7 million audio-visual assets for a mandated 150 years; and how to restore the original, variable frame rates of silent films for digital projection.

TV Technology quoted Deluxe OnDemand’s executive Ken Goeller as saying that, “among content providers, HDR represents the most exciting format to come along since color TV.” He noted the impact of HDR on Hollywood’s “appetite to access, repurpose and monetize their existing content libraries.”

videostream“The entertainment industry will need to begin supporting HDR… before standards issues are resolved,” Goeller said.

Library of Congress senior systems administrator James Snyder may have the most difficult preservation/restoration job on earth. He’s in charge of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, concerned with long-term preservation for 7,000,000 items, including 1,000,000 videotapes and 3,000,000 audio recordings, of every format known.

“Digital files are the future,” he said. “And they’re also the past,” referring to how quickly digital file formats are replaced by newer ones. His Center migrates its collection every three to seven years, he revealed, and maintains playback machines for every format. Meanwhile, diversity of content grows. “That’s why, when I see the AR and VR demonstrations, they give me heartburn,” he said.

Pickfair Institute founder Jonathan Erland, who created the Digital Projection of Archival Film Project, is researching how to transfer silent films designed for variable frame rate, usually 16, 18 or 22 frames per second, to digital formats while maintaining the intentions of the creators. He noted that while much attention is given to high frame rate production, “the provision of enabling technology for the ‘orphan’ rates associated with archive films has been given short shrift.”

“Our project actually seeks to take advantage of the expanding emphasis on high frame rates to achieve our goal of providing frame rates below the 20-frame DLP Cinema minimum,” he said, describing the solution of shutter blanking intervals used as ‘frames’ or ‘pulses’. “We believe this work will be a significant achievement… and vital for a museum, such as the one the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] is planning.”