Moving to the Collection Centre: the technical move
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!