Future-proofing our Cinematic Heritage for the ‘Digital Next’ Era
Since the 1890s when motion picture cameras were first invented, films have captured the essence of cultures and communities across the globe. Like books, films are an extraordinary representation of our past, and their historical importance can not be emphasized enough.
It is therefore of monumental concern that thousands of films, especially those made before the advent of the digital era, are today in danger of being lost forever. Because of the fragility of film stock, a vast majority of early films which were not stored in optimum conditions have deteriorated over time. Some of these have caught fire, other shave simply crumbled into powder and still others were intentionally junked by studios. The Film Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, claims that half of all films made before 1950 and over 80% made before 1929 have already been lost. The state of India’s cinematic heritage is equally dismal. Out of a total of 1700 films made in the silent era, only 5 or 6 currently exist in their complete state*. It is little wonder that the last decade has seen the cause of film preservation being championed by several prominent film makers, historians, archivists, museums and non-profit organizations across the globe. As Scorsese rightly puts, “Film is history. With every foot of film that is lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other, and to ourselves.”**
A Strategy for Preservation & Monetization
Today, one of the most popular strategies for film preservation is digitization. The benefits of going digital are myriad. It ensures secure storage and preservation of content for long-term use and brings accessibility to a user’s fingertips. Content owners no longer have to worry about their priceless assets being vulnerable to natural disasters, fire, theft or misplacement. Digitization also makes it easy to search through content and create copies in multiple formats. While analog content typically suffers from quality loss each time it is copied or transmitted, digital content can be disseminated an infinite number of times with zero degradation.
Most importantly, digitization opens up a whole new world of revenue streams, making it possible for content owners to re-purpose legacy content for high resolution viewing across all devices and platforms of the global broadcast universe, including film festivals, linear television, OTT and VOD platforms. Content owners thus have a strong financial incentive to carefully digitize and archive their complete library of films, as without digitization, they cannot showcase their content even if there is a demand for it.The widespread penetration of technologies like HD and 4K has further made it impractical to continue maintaining content in physical forms like reels, tapes and spools.
Enabling the Tryst with 4K
Movie studios, distributors and audiences are increasingly seeing the benefits of digitizing and remastering classic movies in 4K resolution, as it yields breathtaking results. Since the process of digitization involves frame by frame scanning of a film into a digital file, it gives content owners an exciting opportunity to restore and enhance the quality of the original picture and sound by removing dirt, dust, grain, noise, scratches, instability, drop outs, banding, flickers and other glitches, while reviving lost details and sharpening quality. Once films have been digitally restored, they can even be projected in cinemas in 4K resolution, allowing moviegoers to re-engage with cherished cinematic landmarks in all their glory.
The Journey of Digital Transformation
With the new digital paradigm all set to re-structure the Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry’s working models, digitization is of crucial importance to all content owners, especially those handling legacy content. Many have held back, as film scanning, if not done properly can damage the only available original source of a priceless asset. To avoid this, it is imperative to use high quality equipment at every stage of the process. Several content owners have also raised concerns about retaining the aesthetics of their original prints during digitization. An experienced partner can help address these apprehensions effectively, enabling content owners to undertake the journey of digital transformation with confidence.
PFT provides high quality Digitization services for the conversion of analog information (sound-picture-text) into digital form. We also offer services for 4K Remastering, Up conversion & Restoration using Academy® Award winning Lowry technology. We have proven experience digitizing more than 100,000 hours of content, backed by 15 years of deep involvement in Digitization and QC.
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