Digitising at-risk film stock
Lots of film stock includes unique historical documents and real works of art and needs special attention when it’s being preserved and digitised. That’s why meemoo adopts a film stock strategy where preservation and digitisation go hand in hand. CINEMATEK is helping us to develop this further and implement it in practice.
Three film stock digitisation challenges
In good conditions, you can store film stock for a hundred years. But poor conditions – for example with poor ventilation, inadequate packaging, fluctuating air humidity or changing temperatures – can cause different issues. Color film kan discolor or the level of acidity in the film can increase, which can result in a process known as vinegar syndrome. This syndrome produces a vinegar-like smell, hence the name, and causes the film to degrade and become deformed in later stages. It can shrink, curl, warp, crack or decompose, causing white powder to appear on the edges, and is self-reinforcing, irreversible and furthermore can spread to other film stock in the vicinity of the film that’s already been affected.
It’s very expensive to digitise film. It can cost up to fifty times more than for other audiovisual carriers, which is why a careful selection is made at item level before the digitisation process is started.
Experts in the world of audiovisual and film archiving are still very busy looking for the definitive, most suitable target formats, codecs and specifications. That’s why we’re currently selecting – like many audiovisual archives – the best and most widely accepted format available for film at the moment: DPX for images and LPCM in a WAV container for audio.
In 2014, PACKED vzw – now a part of meemoo – made an inventory of all the at-risk film content from Flemish broadcasters and institutions responsible for managing collections. This project was funded by the Cultural Heritage Act, and led to a report which demonstrated that there was an urgent need for a comprehensive policy on the preservation and digitisation of Flemish film collections. Meemoo therefore set up three main trajectories: