[Tig] How much time film really has?

Bob Friesenhahn bfriesen at simple.dallas.tx.us
Thu May 16 14:57:19 BST 2013

On Thu, 16 May 2013, Bojan Mastilovic wrote:
> I have some thoughts that do not let me sleep well. I work in film
> restoration business and it is a slow business here in central europe.
> I would like your comments on this topic:
> Every time I speak with film archivists there is same thing over and over
> again: we should archive film on film stock as this is the medium that has
> proven to be stabile at least for 100 years…
> I strongly agree with that. Each time the archivists  remind me that
> digital technology is not meant to last. As even today you can not use the
> floppy drive or even PATA drive, because the reading devices are simply
> extinct. We found new technologies and simply trash the old ones.

It is true that digital media has limited lifetime (often due to 
continuing technology improvements) but digital content has an 
infinite lifespan provided that it is periodically copied to new 
media.  Copying digital content becomes easier and easier as time goes 
by.  What is needed is responsible curatorship to assure that this 

The data from those old floppy drives is just a fly-speck of storage 
consumption on today's media so once it has been carried forward, the 
data is easy to preserve.  Many typical emails consume more space than 
a floppy drive is able to store.

> What will happen after that? So my point is that we do not have much time
> left to digitize all the archive films that we want. Not because film will
> deteriorate, but because there will be no more machines to do that. And
> even projectors will be obsolete very soon. So we will be stuck with the
> mountains of film stock with no devices to read them. As we would be if
> someone today would gave us the tonne of 6,25 floppy diskettes.
> Please correct me if I am wrong, I will sleep better at last.

I think that this is a very real concern.  Restoration surely does not 
pay as well as new blockbuster feature films.  Most films have still 
not been transcribed to digital format for preservation (whatever that 
means).  Older films will require special (or modified) equipment to 
handle them, which is not the same equipment which was used most 
recently for new films.  There was something on PBS News about this 
issue (the closing gap on restoring films) a few weeks ago.  It is 
possible/likely that soon the only equipment available for use will be 
used equipment with dated digital interfaces.

Bob Friesenhahn
bfriesen at simple.dallas.tx.us, http://www.simplesystems.org/users/bfriesen/
GraphicsMagick Maintainer,    http://www.GraphicsMagick.org/

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