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Long-Term Management and Storage of Digital Motion Picture Materials

The transition from motion picture film to a completely digital infrastructure has one unintended – but hugely important – consequence: no guaranteed long-term access to digital data.  Motion picture film is relatively simple and inexpensive to preserve, since it only requires suitable environmental conditions (temperature and humidity) to remain stable and accessible for 100 years or longer.  By contrast, digital motion picture materials require continual and active management, which in turn requires substantial and ongoing capital and operational expenditures.

In 2005, the Science and Technology Council began researching the issues and challenges facing the motion picture industry and other large entities in their efforts to manage and store massive amounts of digital data.  The results are covered in two of the Council's reports: The Digital Dilemma and The Digital Dilemma 2, both available for download here.

However, the Council felt it was important to gain some firsthand experience managing digital motion picture materials to better understand the digital dilemma.  In 2006, as part of its partnership with the Library of Congress's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), the Council launched a digital archiving case study project to examine the practical realities of various digital archiving strategies and technologies.  Using the Standard Test and Evaluation Material (StEM), co-produced in 2003 by the American Society of Cinematographers and the major Hollywood studios and deposited in the Academy Film Archive in 2004, the Council developed requirements and design specifications for a digital preservation system based on motion picture film archiving best practices and current digital data management theory.  The Academy Case Study System (ACeSS) was built to these specifications, and the Council is now using the system to test the design assumptions.

Long-Term Management and Storage of Digital Motion Picture Materials: A Digital Motion Picture Archive Framework Project Case Study documents the Council's experiences in researching, specifying and building ACeSS.  For audiovisual archives, the report provides practical information arising from real-world experience with a digital motion picture collection.  For equipment manufacturers and service providers, the report provides detailed end-user requirements that may guide future product development.