The EYE Study is slowly but steadily taking shape in the new Collection Centre. An important part of its rich collection are the film journals and periodicals. One of these, both in print and digitally available at EYE, is FIAF’s Journal of Film Preservation. FIAF stands for the International Federation of Film Archives and was established in 1938 in Paris. Its founding institutions are the British Film Institute in London, the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, the MOMA in New York City, and the Reichsfilmarchiv in Berlin. All were relatively new institutions at the time, with different ideas and goals about film preservation. (The Dutch Filmmuseum was only to be established in 1943, and joined FIAF in 1947). Of the four founders, the Reichsarchiv was the oldest, inaugurated by Hitler in 1933. Not coincidentally, Joseph Goebbels was known to be a film enthusiast with an understanding for its cultural and political and is therefore believed to be one of the motivators behind the Reichsarchiv’s founding.
In the following years, the war had far-fetching consequences for the cooperation between the FIAF members. Fortunately, after the war, the FIAF members (excluding the Reichsfilmarchiv) re-established their contacts and welcomed new archives as members. These new archives were often set up in the hausse of the post-war years in which national heritage became an important political issue. In the decades that followed, FIAF expanded both in activities and recognition. In 1973 the first FIAF Summer School was held. Ever since, these regular events have helped train archival personnel. In 2015, the number of 155 affiliates was reached, in 74 countries worldwide.
In 1972 the first issue of the FIAF Information Bulletin was published, which would in 1993 be renamed the Journal of Film Preservation. With issues published twice a year, it provides an international forum for current-day film preservation discussions that range from theoretical to technical and historical aspects of moving image archival activities (source). In the latest issue, EYE and the EYE collection play a prominent role. Ulrich Ruedel, Professor for Conservation and Restoration in Berlin, wrote a review on Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory: The Adventurous Years of Film (1907-1916). This book was published by EYE in 2014 and coincided with EYE’s exhibition by the same name. Ruedel takes readers through the different sections and contributions of the book while at the same time hinting to the importance of the Desmet collection for EYE. Not only did the Desmet films for a great part lay the foundation of EYE's collection in the fifties, it moreover was of great importance for films such as Peter Delpeut’s Lyrical Nitrate (1991), which was reissued on DVD at the time of the exhibition and book launch.
EYE’s head of Film Conservation and Digital Access Anne Gant has written a case study for a more elaborate article on the FofA group. This group first came together in 2012 and was formed by nine film preservation experts from the field, amongst them Giovanna Fossati, but also preservationists from Cinématheque Française and Library of Congress. Within an informal setting, the group gathers on a yearly basis, and have been discussing the many challenges that film-archiving community is faced with since the move to digital film production. Examples of this are the availability of raw stock, continuation of laboratory services (for example film lab Haghefilm Digitaal next to the former EYE Collection building at Overamstel) and the manufacturing of film digitization equipment. Other important issues are the imperatives of long-term preservation and staff training. By keeping to its original 2012 agenda (Raw stock; Laboratories; Scanning; Storage; Training and Succession; Formats and Materials), revision and continuous discussion makes for all kinds of impact and results. For more information on FoFA and its agenda, goals and debates, do read the main FoFA article in the latest Journal of Film Preservation issue, written by FoFA’s chair and BFI’s Head of Conservation Charles Fairall.
Interesting for people curious as to what EYE does regarding these preservation challenges, is Anne Gant’s case study that is one of three to follow Fairall’s text in this issue. Together with Jon Wengström from the Swedish Film Institute, PhD researcher Guy Edmonds from Australia and German conservation & restoration professor Ulrich Ruedel , she shows what digital film production and other facets of the fast-changing field of film preservation can mean for an organization such as EYE. Specifically, she speaks of the shifts in workflows that have come about both in digital and analogue activities. This is directly connected to the project “Images for the Future”, she explains, which had an enormous impact on how the department functions on a daily basis. The other case studies involve early cinema and cognitive creativity (Edmonds), moving image preservation studies at HTW Berlin (Ruedel) and sustaining photochemical laboratory processes in Sweden (Wengström).
When the EYE Study is up and running in October, feel free to reserve a desk and indulge yourself in this Journal of Film Preservation as well as the rest of EYE’s periodicals collection.
[For more about the history of FIAF, click here and here.]
Carpet in EYE Study (still from Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, 1929)Tag:FIAF, EYE Study, Collection Centre, collection, collectie, Dziga Vertov, restoration, technology, collectie-informatie, digitalisering, digitization, Tweede Wereldoorlog
It has been well over a month since my first collection blog about the move to the new Collection Centre in Amsterdam Noord. Last week was an important and extensive stage in the moving process, as the technical move was carried out. Amongst the technical devices that needed to be rehoused carefully, were Steenbeck’s flatbeds and the Scanity filmscanner. These heavy machines were hoisted out of the Overamstel building by crane.
As you can see from the pictures, this was a great operation. Luckily, the Steenbeck company was present to prepare the flatbeds/viewing tables for the move. On these tables, varying from rewinding tables to editing tables with two screens and speakers, film and sound can be run individually and matched to synchronize. The originally German-based company was taken over by one of its former Dutch dealers in Venray, in 2003. Besides the maintenance that is involved with the delicate mechanisms of these machines, the company’s focus remains with developing viewing and editing tables as it has been for the last 60 years. (For more information on the history of Steenbeck, see their company's history page).
Film scanning: Scanity's technology
Scanity is another machine of great importance to the EYE archive and the Film Conservation & Digital Access department. With this, we have the possibility to scan 16mm and 35mm analog film image (and sound) up to a 4K digital format at a high pace. The demand for analog film scanned digitally is high. As digital born films are issued in 4K, the demand on historical film - and its gatekeepers - is changing because of it. The European Broadcasters Union (EBU) has set up guidelines that apply here, as quoted by Giovanna Fossati in her book From Grain to Pixel: The Archival Life of Film in Transition:
Technology is now available to scan and digitize the full information available in film images. Experience with such equipment shows that a pixel pitch of 6 μm (about 160 pixels per mm) is considered sufficient to reproduce current film stocks. This corresponds to a scan of 4k x 3k (actually 4096 x 3112) over the full aperture on 35 mm film. If film is scanned at lower resolution (corresponding to a larger pixel spacing), less information is captured and more aliasing artefacts are introduced” (EBU 2001 in Fossati, p. 77).
Besides the advantages of Scanity in high-paced scanning of EYE’s archival films for use within and outside of EYE, it has some other features that are most important for the sort of film the archive holds. Scanning film is often a precarious undertaking because of the state of many archival films. Scanning film is often a precarious undertaking because of the state of many archival film footage. It can suffer from shrinkage, warping, loose splices, rips, mold, etc. The process can be stressing the film and deteriorating the film’s state ever further. If we for example look at the perforations of a certain film copy, they can be torn in many ways, such as on this image (left). The perforations are used for the transport through most projectors, editing tables, and other machines. These systems, as well as many scanning systems, pick up the film by sprockets or pins that go through the perforations. Because of this, the perforations have a tendency to wear easily. Scanity on the other hand, does not use the perforations for transporting the film through the machine for the scanning process.
(Source: DFT Film)
The technique Scanity uses instead is based on a capstan and roller gate transport system. This entails that the film is not guided through the machine by fixed guides, but instead goes through the scanning process on a number of rollers.The capstan on the machine makes for a relaxed move of the film through the process. Still, for scanning the film it is essential to identify the film per frame. This because if the perforations are not located, the image stability of the digital scan will not be up to standards. To make this possible, Scanity uses a camera technology dedicated to detect the perforations without having to physically use them. This makes for a steady digital scan in the end. For more information from DFT’s perspective on digitization of analog film and how Scanity works, see DFT's datasheet.
At this point in time, gathering the EYE collection in this new Collection Centre has proven to be a great success: from February until today, about 85% of the 200.000 cans that needed to be processed and barcoded have found their new place into the shelves. It has been great to find titles that inspire your inner film geek to re-watch, not to mention the beautiful and/or completely ruined film cans. The film in the can below is for example taken out and put into a new can, left from the corroded one on the picture. Under the right circumstances, these cans are archived under the same roof as the Film Conservation & Digital Access department, the EYE Study and other departments that work closely with this collection. To keep updated on the different stages of the move to the Collection Centre, keep an eye (...) on this collection blog!Tag:archief, archive, digitalisering, digitization, technology, Collection Centre, Steenbeck, Scanity, barcoding project, collectie, collection
Recently EYE was part of a quite exciting project involving the re-enactment of the software code filmmaker and computer artist Bart Vegter used to create his computer abstract animation film ‘De Tijd’ in 2008.
In 2011 after the filmmaker passed away, his complete archive was donated to EYE. We had already previously worked on the restoration of his films, but this was the first time we received a filmmaker’s archive made up of a diverse range of media testifying to the different image-making techniques he used during his lifetime; together with previously unreleased 16mm or 8mm early films, the boxes also included old hard-drives and floppy disks containing the software code he wrote to make his computer films.
As the expertise of our film curators and restorers lies primarily in the preservation of analogue and digital film rather than computer art the computer-based artefacts in Vegter’s archive presented us with a number of challenges. In order to bring us closer to understanding and appreciating the working method of Bart Vegter, and his use of the computer as a creative medium, EYE commissioned Bram Bogaerts and Jesper Vos to respond to this archive. We asked the designers to focus specifically on the preservation and access of the self-written software code. The result is ‘Machine Room’; a large-scale spatial installation which is a real-time visualization of the computer code Vegter used to make his 2008 film ‘De Tijd’ and at the same time a study of the life-span of software codes.
Who was Bart Vegter and why is he important to us?
Bart Vegter (1940-2011) was an experimental filmmaker who lived and worked in Rotterdam. He is often considered one of the pioneers of abstract animation in The Netherlands.Initially Vegter did not train as a filmmaker. In his twenties he studied Electronic Engineering at Eindhoven University and, following this, went on to work as an engineer for a number of large corporations. After working in this field for almost two decades Vegter decided he wanted a career change. In 1976 he began to channel his energy into experimental cinema. He started attending Frans Zwartjes’ Cine Workshop at the Psychopolis Free Academy of Art in the Hague (Vrije Akademie). During his time here he was introduced to the work of a number of prominent Dutch experimental filmmakers and animators. Jacques Verbeek, Paul de Mol and Karin Wiertz, as well as the artists associated with 1960s and 1970s American experimental cinema, influenced Vegter’s early film work.
During his first years as a film-maker, he worked mainly with traditional animation techniques. In 1981 he made his first experimental film, Horizontalen. This film, along with In Need of Space (1983), De Hemel is Vierkant (1985), and Four Moves (1987), was filmed on 16mm and made by using traditional methods like cuts-outs, cell overlays and other printing techniques. From the 1990's Vegter started to use computer generated images in his films, the first one of this kind was Nacht-Licht (1993). The films that followed, Space-Modulation (1994), Forest-Views (1999), Zwerk (2004), and De Tijd (2008) all were made using his self-written computer software code. These computer-made films were transferred back to film for projection copies on 16mm and 35mm. Vegter continued to make films using this technique up until his death in 2011.
Still from De hemel is vierkantStill from Horizontalen Vegter’s switch to computers was based upon his desire to combine his technical background with his creative interests and to be able to explore a new medium. Though Vegter’s use of computers changed the aesthetics of his films, his overall approach to filmmaking remained the same throughout his life. He was interested in exploring the inherent qualities/rules of processes present in physical realities or perceptual experiences. As Joost Rekveld writes on Vegter: “He had an eye for intriguing visual phenomena…He took many pictures of sand patterns in the dunes, enjoyed the rhythmic circular waves in a puddle when it was raining, admired the light projections on his wall caused by the sun’s rays reflected off windows and through trees, and wondered why he could only see the reflection of his cactus in the window when he was moving it…In a way, besides their beauty and originality, perhaps the strongest statement the films of Bart Vegter make is that they share his admiration, curiosity and above all his pure attention for the visual world.” The computer-made films of Bart Vegter are the end result of a long process which starts with a self-written software code that either creates or manipulates an image. These codes could be considered the DNA of the film but contrary to film, they cannot be read or easily accessed by third parties. Researching the Bart Vegter software code for the project ‘Machine Room’ is a first step into understanding how he worked with the computer and could hopefully provide interesting insights into computer art in general and its preservation, an area of interest not yet widely spread among film archives but in need of attention due to the speedy technical obsolescence of equipment and softwares. In the future we hope to develop and expand upon this area of research. For more information on this project you can watch the short documentary we produced for Art-Tube with interviews of Bogaerts and Vos, Martijn van Boven and Simona Monizza.
On Tuesday 15th March 2016, in collaboration with ArtEZ, EYE will present ‘Machine Room’, the EYE-commissioned installation by interaction designers Bram Bogaerts and Jesper Vos.
To know more about the project Machine Room you can watch this short video reportage by Bram Bogaerts and Jesper Vos.
Simona Monizza, Curator Experimental Film & Ruth Sweeney, internTag:experimental film, computer, digital, technology, interactive, interaction, archive