Digital Motion Picture Archive Framework Project

About the Project

The Digital Motion Picture Archive Framework Project is a multi-year collaborative effort to investigate and address key issues in long-term preservation of and access to digital motion pictures. Launched by a partnership with the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) in 2006, this project builds upon earlier Academy research on digital preservation issues from the perspective of major motion picture studios and large film archives.

Visit http://www.digitalpreservation.gov for more information on the Library of Congress and the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP).

Why should we care about digital preservation?

The motion picture industry is in the midst of converting its 100-year-old film technology infrastructure to one that is completely digital. While much work has been done on the creation of technical specifications and standards for digital projection and theatrical distribution, insufficient work has been done to develop the digital equivalent of film preservation masters and associated long-term archiving practices. Film elements, when properly processed and stored, can last more than 100 years, but digital motion picture elements, even when properly stored, have in some cases deteriorated to the point of being unrecoverable after as little as 18 months. Today’s digitally created motion pictures are at risk of being lost forever, unless suitable technologies, practices and standards are developed and adopted.
Furthermore, the economics of digital archiving are fundamentally different that those of film. For example, the primary cost of archiving film is in storage space and environmental control, and archiving digital materials requires a reliable and specialized Information Technology (“IT”) infrastructure, which includes trained support personal, continuous hardware and software upgrades and copying of data to new storage media. The long term operating cost of a digital archive, built using traditional IT approaches, is significantly greater than that of a film archive.
The Academy studied these problems from the perspective of the major motion picture studios and large film archives, and reported on its findings in 2007 in “The Digital Dilemma”. It is believed that the conversion from film to a completely digital infrastructure and new digital distribution channels will provide the studios with the financial justification to invest in digital archives. For independent filmmakers, documentarians and nonprofit audiovisual archives, the challenges of digital preservation are significantly greater. “The Digital Dilemma 2”, published in 2012, is an in-depth report on challenges facing these communities.

Project Objectives

The Digital Motion Picture Archive Framework Project consists of the following elements:

Development and operation of a digital preservation case-study system based on an actual and historic digital collection to discover operational realities of various digital archiving strategies. The Standard Test and Evaluation Material (“StEM”), co-produced by the American Society of Cinematographers and the major studios to evaluate digital cinema projection systems, was deposited in the Academy Film Archive in 2004 and is the source collection for this effort.  Read about the Council’s experiences in defining and developing the system in “Long-Term Management and Storage of Digital Motion Picture Materials.”

Image data format specification, development and standardization: today, there are no industry standards for the unambiguous interchange of digitally mastered motion picture elements, and this results in production mistakes, inefficient workflows, increased costs, accidental reductions in image quality and no suitable archival master. These problems did not exist when film was the only acquisition and mastering medium because the entire imaging system – film stocks, processing chemicals and procedures – was developed and standardized by two or three film manufacturing companies and a similar number of film laboratories. With today’s variety of digital acquisition and imaging technologies, every company can develop its own proprietary approach to workflow and color management, and that is largely what has happened. This project element has already resulted in the introduction of file format specifications to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, an accredited standards development organization.

Please see the Image Interchange Framework for more background on this project and related activities at the Academy.

Educational efforts: the Academy has a long history of producing informative and educational public programs and materials that draw on its extraordinary membership and high public profile. And although it was a long time ago, the previous incarnation of the Academy’s Science and Technology Council published the definitive textbook on motion picture sound and a ground-breaking report on studio lighting that led to standards still in use today. The Digital Motion Picture Archive Framework Project is producing a wealth of information to be shared with the industry and the public at large.

Research: The Science and Technology Council initiated motion picture-specific research efforts in 2008, with a stated mission to initiate, encourage and/or fund scientific and technological research and exploration activities that may lead to improvements in any aspect of motion picture production, exhibition, and archiving. This project element supports digital archiving-related research efforts, either performed at the Academy or directed by the Academy at appropriate universities and research labs.

Related Events

Digital Motion Picture Metadata Symposium

The Digital Motion Picture Metadata Symposium, a component of the Digital Motion Picture Archive Framework Project, was a one-day event featuring guest lectures and case studies on the cataloging and classification of digital motion picture materials.

See topics and featured speakers

Download videos and presentations

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