Collectieblog

  • FIAF Congress, Summer School and Digital-Born Film

    maandag 8 augustus 2016

    [Official 72nd FIAF Congress program]

    The 2016 Il Cinema Ritrovato festival was not the only filmic event in Bologna where EYE was present. Partially overlapping with the festival, the 7th FIAF Congress was held from June 22 – June 26. A great opportunity for the Cineteca Bologna to showcase its plans and ambitions, as an institution that joined the FIAF in 1989 and since then hosted the Congress in 1994. Moreover, it was host to the most recent FIAF summer school editions.

    This might seem like a strain for interested archivists, curators and other parties to divide their time over all these interesting events, but it actually helps to combine important yearly film preservation events like these. They attract more or less the same audience, so when these events coincide, attendees can kill two birds with one stone. Moreover, seeing films, joining tours through the Cineteca’s collections and the L’Immagine Ritrovata film lab, and theorizing at the same time can be inspiring. For Bologna and its Cineteca, it solidifies the city even further as an important site for film archiving and restoration.

    The congress consists not only of the conference, but also involves a symposium with a specific theme on which case studies are presented. This year, the theme was 'New life for cinema's past'. This is a very broad theme, which makes for a broad set of case studies from the partaking institutions and experts. It not only forms a platform for case studies from archives all over the world, but moreover workshops are held and ideas and projects are being discussed for future cooperation between archives, institutions and independent experts. Not only were there presentations and discussions about the many FIAF members’ restorations and changing workflows due to the expanding amount of born-digital films, EYE’s director Sandra den Hamer gave a presentation on the newly built Collection Centre. Other presentations concerned for example the rise of historical theaters and of film heritage screenings at a time when general theaters seem to be closing. Another session was that of The Reel Thing, which is a semiannual event curated by founders Grover Crisp (Sony’s Film Restoration & Digital Mastering) and Michael Friend (UCLA Film & Television Archive). EYE will be hosting The Reel Thing in the spring of 2017, more specifically from Sunday 28 to Tuesday 30 May. This follows up on the yearly EYE Collection Day on Saturday 27.

    Besides the film festival and congress, FIAF’s Summer School took place at the same time but went on after the festival, until July 15. This Summer School has been organized yearly  by FIAF since 1973 and has been hosted by many FIAF members, from the Reichsarchiv in Berlin to George Eastman House in New York. The course consists of three steps: starting with an online theory course in May, then having hands-on theory lessons at the Cineteca and attending the festival as well as the congress.

    [Photo by L’Immagine Ritrovata]

     Then, after the festival wraps up, restoration classes took place at L’Immagine Ritrovata. Participants from all over the world are selected, but all have a background in film archiving, be it as working in institutions such as film archives or studying in this specific area. Also, scholarships by FIAF and ACE are granted to eight participants yearly in order to help them with the program’s 3000 euro fee. This might be considered a high price, but with the extensive hands-on program and the involvement of many well-known archivists and technicians from the field, the Summer School is a steady vehicle of the training of new film archivists.

    EYE’s Film Conservation and Digital Access department was represented at this year’s Summer School by head of the department Anne Gant. Not only did she give a glimpse into an interesting case study that is the management of born-digital films, but it was also a good opportunity to interest young film archivists in EYE’s archive, museum, and the EYE Study for researching its collection. She made sure to not give a glamorous view of the life of an archivist, but rather show that it is often a matter of arranging, rearranging, conserving and maintaining objects: “only a small percentage of the items really get the big treatment of a full restoration” (Anne Gant, Summer School Presentation June 2016).

    Moreover, the large EYE vaults in which over 210.000 cans are kept are really breathtaking, but it is the growing digital-born collection that needs our attention just as much. This especially since we are still figuring out what standards to use and how to process everything efficiently. Although born-digital films still make out a small portion of EYE’s collection compared to the analog material, they require much work and the numbers are increasing at a fast pace:

    1 born-digital film in 2009
    88 born-digital films in 2011
    125 born-digital films in 2016


    This is not unique for EYE, and therefore other institutions and people like Anne Gant had to come up with digital workflows and plans to fit these into the collection more swiftly. Maybe more importantly, since EYE is to collect, protect as well as provide access to Dutch film heritage, criteria for filmmakers, distributors, producers and other people who submit their films to the archive are to be agreed upon so that the depositing runs smoothly. Dilemmas that were never there before, such as questions like: should I backup first, then harmonize/fix the data structure, and then back up again? Also, where before things could physically get lost because parts of a film were not put together on one shelve, now the problem gets more complicated if all metadata is not catalogued properly. This might be something often mistaken by people when thinking about digitization: it is not necessarily less labor-intensive.

    In her presentation, Anne Gant stressed that archives, although new to the digital born issue, need to see this issue as an opportunity. The archives should skill their employees so that they can deploy not only a Steenbeck viewing table, but also a digital scanner and know how to cope with difficult file systems. Needless to say, with the collection that EYE has, it will always be important to have specialists in analog film restoration, and no one can be an expert in both that and digital processes. Also, at some point in time it will be hard to find people that still know how to restore analog film, so we have a duty as film archive to maintain and teach this craft.

    Last but not least, as department of Film Conservation and Digital Access but also on an institutional level for EYE in general, new policies had to be developed. In this, we are working together with other film institutes since we are dealing with similar issues everywhere and benefit from each other’s experiences. If you are interested in how this is voiced by EYE, see the 2014-2017 Collection Policy here.

    [Both photos by EYE staff]

    FIAF, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Cineteca de Bologna, restoration, L'Immagine Ritrovata, FIAF Summer School, born-digital film, collectie, collection, The Reel Thing, metadata, digitized, digitization, digitalisering, film labs, filmfestival
  • FoFA in het Journal of Film Preservation nr. 94/April 2016

    vrijdag 10 juni 2016

    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)

    FIAF, EYE Study, Collection Centre, collection, collectie, Dziga Vertov, restoration, technology, collectie-informatie, digitalisering, digitization, Tweede Wereldoorlog
  • Moving to the Collection Centre: the technical move

    dinsdag 26 april 2016

                                                                                                                                          

    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!

    archief, archive, digitalisering, digitization, technology, Collection Centre, Steenbeck, Scanity, barcoding project, collectie, collection