Sunday, October 09, 2005 -- Taken over by someone else, please update URLs

Please update links for "Audio Artifacts" to

It seems that someone has already taken it after I abandoned it last night, and this message didn't get through:

Hello Audio Artifacts readers,

This blog has been live for almost ten months now. I wanted to thank those of you who read it through the site, an aggregator (like SLIS Blogs), or a blog reader.

For those who aren't familiar with Audio Artifiacts, here is a description:

Where art, technology, and commerce collide. Sound recordings, music librarianship, cataloging, media preservation, digitization, copyright, radio, and discography; along with general music and spoken word reviews and commentary on the world of live music concerts, audio events, and sound recordings of this century and the last two. Formerly called "Interning with Sound Recordings."

It is a webspace where audio is celebrated, in all forms analog and digital. It combines my interests in promoting and preserving sound recordings, both music and spoken word, with meditations on the live musical performance and the art of recorded sound. If it can be perceived by the ear, it's fair game.

This is a note to tell you that I'm changing the URL for the blog to . It's been called "Audio Artifacts," for a little over a month now, and I'm finally changing the last remnant of my old blog "Interning with Sound Recordings" to reflect the nature of this blog.

Enjoy the archives which are still intact.

Changes to look for in the coming months:
1) An associated Live365 radio channel
2) More reviews of recordings and shows and concerts around D.C.
3) More postings on the "musical process"

Have a great Columbus Day weekend!


Monday, May 30, 2005

Videotape Analysis and Evaluation

Roosa, Mark. (1998) "Videotape Analysis and Evaluation." In Playback: A Preservation Primer for Video (San Francisco, Calif.: Bay Area Video Coalition, 1998): 5-17.

Mark Roosa has written about preservation issues in audio and video since the early 1990s. His essay on analyzing and evaluating videotape was very succinct and comprehensible. Roosa talked about three major areas: 1) the physical properties of videotape; 2) the factors that lead to tape deterioration; and 3) how to identify signs of deterioration.

As I've mentioned before (in this and the Audio Preservation blog I keep), magnetic tape is made up of three major portions: magnetic particles, binder, and backing. The magnetic particles carry the signal of the audio and video; but they are suspended on the binder layer. And it is the chemical makeup of the binder that influences uniformity, the specific arrangement, and how well the particles stick to the binder. The backing is polyester (PET), and the most chemically inert. Videotape is generally very thin, only .5 mil; so it suscepticle to streching, breaking, and print-through.

Because most libraries and archives do not have the funds to do comprehensive restoration programs for video, preventive measures must be taken to maximize the media's life expectancy of each item. Some of the general preservation principles I've learned about storage and handling, stable and consistent environmental controls, and isopermic theory apply here.

He also talked about how to identify problems with videotape. There's two ways of doing that: 1) visual inspection; and 2) playback. Of course it's easier to tell problems visually when you can view the tape pack. That's not the case with videocassettes. If your tape is safe enough to play, Roosa identifies some potential problems you should note when doing a survey of videotapes:

* Video noise
* Blips
* Color shift and distribution
* Image and audio distortions

There were also some important notes in Playback's introduction by Sally Jo Fifer and Luke Hones. They talked more generally about why it's so important to be concerned about the longevity of videotape. The media arts field is awash in materials like video art and experimental video. They make an important point that television stations and film studios have much more of the monetary resources to preserve their property in a way that individual artists and non-profit organizations can't.

Video is also an important tool in documenting the performing arts, as well as oral history. For visual artists, works can't be considered complete unless all aspects of that installation are intact. It's important to remember that it's not just the videotape that's in danger; but the playback technology itself. The example they give is the television monitor that is used in the installation. The problem: the television which can't work unless obsolete tubes are replaced. Pure market forces in play here. Wow--when the artist includes the technology as part of the work; what hope is there for preserving it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Preservation Metadata

Catalogablog has an entry today about the new PREMIS Working Group's final "products" (note: they're long, and metadata-oriented):

PREMIS Working Group Final Report, the Data Dictionary, and Examples

Conservation and Documentation of Video Art

Laurenson, Pip. (1999) "The Conservation and Documentation of Video Art." In Modern Art: Who Cares? (Amsterdam: International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art): 263-271.

From a symposium organized by INCCA on the unique preservation and conservation challenges posed by installaton art and other contemporary art forms. Some of the ideas posed include the ways video is represented by artists:

1) As part of a larger exhibit in which the video interacts with other physical items.
2) As imagery in which the viewer interacts with the screen either passively or actively.
3) As part of a larger work where individual screens and different programs are juxtaposed within an exhibit.

Boy, this really stretches the boundaries of what we think of as a museum piece. It has implications for later use of the "work." When the "work" is loaned to another museum, the Tate Gallery (in this case) preserves their rights by making an archival master tape and retaining the underlying documentation that goes into how a work is shown. (I'll stop with the double quotes now, you get the idea).

Same problems for video art, as some of the literature I've read: polyester magnetic tape, storage and handling problems, use of material with a encoded signal. Unlike many sound archives, the Tate Gallery is not committed towards preserving playback equipment; that probably means reformatting and/or digitization.

The conservation department of the Tate look at the condition of the art work, assess its physical condition, document the details of the exhibition, etc. One of the formats they use is an Optical VideoDisc, which is analog in nature. Tate makes a digital copy whenever a video art work enters the collection.

Their definition of "master tape" is the edit master, "the first tape that was made from the original footage after it has been edited into its final form." The artist or dealer usually keeps this. It is what art museums and galleries look at before accepting it into their collections, permanently or temporarily. They list the aspects of a tape they survey:

1) Whether it has color bars and tone as references at the beginning of the tape
2) Whether any drop out or tape damage has occurred.
3) Whether there are any faults or technical problems with the audio.
4) Whether the combined chrominance and luminance levels are below 110%
(significant for choice of display format)
5) Whether the artist feels the color levels are correct when viewing the video on
a "correctly-calibrated" monitor.

The archival master is not done by the Tate. It is outsourced to production houses, who use professional, non-compresed digital formats. The Tate works with these outside engineers to ensure that the unique nature of the art work is preserved. Some of the same principles of conservation relating to doing no harm should be followed. An artist herself can even guide this preservation process.

To insure that multiple parts of the exhibit can be re-created for future installations, all aspects of the exhibit should be well-documented. There might be specific types of monitors which an artist would want to use, as well as having interactivity with museum and gallery viewers. Appendix A of this case study includes the Tate Gallery's guidelines for the care of video art works, including management of the material, storage, the choice of archival formats, the choice of display formats, compression, the conservation record. Appendix B is a list of questions to be asked of artists about their exhibit.

Fast Forward: The Future of Moving Image Collections

Besser, Howard. "Fast Forward: The Future of Moving Image Collections", in Gary Handman (ed.), Video Collection Development in Multi-Type Libraries (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994): 411-26.


Howard Besser is one of the top minds in the field of film and video preservationnn, heading New York University's Moving Image Archiving & Preservation Program. In 1994, he wrote a chapter in Handman's Video Collection Development in Multi-Type Libraries. It's interesting to read about what the future was supposed to be back in 1994. Back then, VCRs were in the mainstream, even up till a few years ago. Now, I think it's fair to say that VCR sales and sales of VHS tapes are in decline. Sure people still have VCRs and will continue to rent movies, as long as Blockbluster rents them. But that's the point--the market is moving forward and leaving VHS behind, as surely as they left Beta and U-Matic tapes. Remember when Mini-Discs and laserdiscs were going to change everything! So Besser's article is interesting for what's not true anymore, and the principles that continue to be relevant.

Minidisc & recorder
Laser Disc

In Besser's 1994 article, high speed networks for video streaming were envisioned by the end of the decade. Later in the article, he does say that this probably is unlikely unless a scheme of compression-decompression is invented that will be high in quality and low in cost. Many of these changes often take place because of applications within the professional television and video world. Some of the formats Besser mentioned that seem to be left behind include:

CD-I (1986, relesaed 1991; Sony & Philips) which was supposed to be able to hold 72
minutes of 1/4 screen, full-color, full-motion video

CDTV (Commodore/Amiga)
CD-ROM XA (Microsoft, Sony, Philips) with FM-quality audio, full-motion video, but won't play audio CDs.
DVI (MS-DOS)- A proprietary video compression algorithim. Invented by David Sarnoff Laboratories
IBM M-Motion

Some that did make it include HDTV. Mini-discs have a limited use still, unfortunately.

Besser said that one of the lessons that U-Matic taught the library community that any storage format will be superseded by another format in less than 20 years. LOL! 20 years--that seems like forever today. I'd say 2-5 years now if you're lucky. Maybe 10-15 if your format has gained commercial viability.

Some of the principles that endure which Besser mentions is that: 1) libraries have to cope with format changes, 2) the continuing convergence of computer and video technologies, and 3) the ability to seamlessly alter images will lead to authorship and copyright problems. One digital format that has endured since 1994 is Apple's Quicktime.

Compressions take algorithims to work; and while use of these formats for access copies is necessary, it's no way to do long-term digital preservation of moving images. Optical carriers continue to be brought before the public, like DVD- Blueray, DVD-R, DVD+, etc. I guess this is because people still like to browse and buy items from the shelf of a book/music/video store and take it home with them. Television and video adhere to certain technical standards: NTSC, PAL, or SECAM. One of the chapter headings probably says it all about the future of my career:

Blurring the lines betwen Content Developers as Libraries and Libraries as Content Providers.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Videotape Preservation Handbook by Jim Wheeler

Wheeler, Jim. Videotape Preservation Handbook. 2002. (PDF, 28 pages)

According to Wheeler's opening paragraph, his handbook is meant to be a resource for archivists, librarians, and others who oversee collections of videotapes. His first point (which is starting to sound familiar) is that magnetic tape should not be considered a long-term storage medium. Why? The medium itself, and the equipment needed to play it. His recommendation: "Migration must be considered element of all long-term archival plans."

Wheeler separates two kinds of restoration: 1) physical restoration, and 2) content restoration. The first involves "actions to stabilize and return a deteriorated or damaged tape as nearly as possible to its original condition." The second uses "video and audio enhancement techniques" to a copy (not the original).

The second section gives a brief history of videotape, its physical properties of tape (backcoat, substrate, binder, magnetic coating), life expectancy, and common problems such as sticky-shed syndrome, bad playback signals, edge damage or warped tape, and unstable video.

1956- First usable videotape recorder 2” Quad (Ampex)
Used to delay network TV programs for various time zones.
1969- Open reel video tape recorders in Japan ½”
EIAJ (Electronic Industries Association of Japan) standard. Affordable
1971- First successful cassette machine (VTR) ¾” U-Matic (Sony)
1975- First successful VCR for the home (VCR) ½” Betamax (Sony)
1976- VHS introduced ½” VHS (JVC)
1978- Type C open reel tape; replaced quad machines 1” open-reel tape
1987- Digital videotape recorder introduced D-1
Only top-of-the-line production studios used these.
1995- New digital videotape recorder formats used for industry and educational

There’s three impressive lists under Figures One-Three in the back of the Wheeler manual. Figure One gives the formats for analog videotape from 1956 to 1989. The columns give the year the format was introduced, the tape width (varies from 8 mm and 1/4” to 2 inches in width), whether it was open reel or cassette, its usages (either professional, industrial/educational, or consumer), an obsolescence rating (extinct, critically endangered, endangered, threatened, or OK), originating company, and any comments.

Figure Two gives formats for digital videotape from 1986 to 1996. the categories given include name, year of introduction, makers, tape width (.25” to .75”), tape thickness, hours per cassette, tape type (iron, metal particle, metal evaporated), compression, bits, and quantization.

Figure Three is a graph of format categories under which analog and digital videotape can be categorized; either composite or component.

Wheeler points out that VHS “is an analog format to make videotaped recording affordable to everyone, and it was not designed with high resolution and long life in mind.” Oh, boy. There are industrial VCRs, which are better than consumer brands. Another format called S-VHS (a component, analog system) is a little better than VHS (composite, analog)—but that’s no longer made. Wheeler discusses Betacam-SP which has been considered an archival format in the past.

The parts:
1) Backcoat: Thin carbon-black backcoat that minimizes electrostatic charge, to help maintain a uniform tape pack, and to prevent slippage.
2) Basefilm (Substrate): Our favorite: PET! Different thicknesses from original quad tapes to the most recent ones.
3) Binder- the jello
4) Magnetic coating- the fruit floating in the jello. Types of magnetic coating include: iron oxide (rust, used in quad tapes), cobalt-doped iron oxide tapes (Type C tapes), MP (metal particle) tapes for digital video and Hi-8.

For alleviating the problem of bad playback signal, Wheeler recommends cleaning the tap guides, adjusting the tape tension, or playing the tape on another tape recorder. Sometimes older formats will not work on machines intended for newer formats. He cites the example of High-Band Quad not being compatible with low-band quad. For “unstable video”, in the case of tearing, vertical rolling, or jiggling, Wheeler recommends “using a video processor or a time-based corrector to make the video stable.”

The sections on preservation management, includes recommendations for care and handling, reformatting, environment control, and emergencies. There’s also a useful glossary of frequently used terms—many of these terms I’ve learned for audio preservation. But not helical scan recording, coercitivity, magnetic remanence, or some other magnetism terms. Why didn’t I do better in physics in high school! Ack! Some other figures in the back show a cross section of magnetic tape, a graph of constant absolute humidity curves vs. relative humidity (looks like isoperm theory to me), and a comparison of data bytes per minute/hour of video.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Video and videotape readings

Here's a bunch of readings and websites (not all of which I'm reading for next week) that I found last night. Most from Stanford's Palimpest site:

Besser, Howard (1994). Fast Forward: The Future of Moving Image Collections , in Gary Handman (ed.), Video Collection Management and Development: A Multi-Type Library Perspective, Westport, CT: Greenwood, p. 411-426.

Roosa, Mark, "Videotape Analysis and Evaluation" and Adelstein, Peter, "Videotape Storage" in Playback: A Preservation Primer for Video (1998), p.5-17.

Brooks, Connie, "Videotape Preservation: Ethical Considerations", Playback: A Preservation Primer for Video, p. 18-24.

AMIA Preservation Committee, Video Preservation Fact Sheets, 2003. ( )

Wheeler, Jim. Video Preservation Handbook, 2002. (

Videotape Preservation Fact Sheets ( )

This resource, prepared by the Preservation Committee of The Association of Moving Image Archivists, offers guidance to custodians of archival video collections of any size. The coverage of topics aims to be comprehensive and the discussion uses non-technical language to focus on the fundamental issues concerning the long-term care and handling of videotape.

Bay Area Video Coalition

Abstracts, slide presentations, and transcripts from playback 1996, a conference on video preservation, held in San Francisco March 29-30, 1996 and hosted by BAVC, the nation's first independent, non-commercial video preservation facility.

See also: PLAYBACK: Preserving Analog Video, "an interactive DVD [produced and for sale by BAVC] that invites users to view the technical practices of video preservation and to experience the complex decision-making process artists, conservators and video engineers engage in when the reconstruction of video artwork occurs."

Experimental Television Center, Ltd.'s Video History Project

"An on-going research initiative which documents video art and community television, as it evolved in rural and urban New York State, and across the US." Includes a useful section on " Video Preservation - The Basics."

Jim Lindner

Confessions of a Videotape Restorer, or how come these tapes all need to be cleaned differently?

Digitization Reconsidered

The Proper Care and Feeding of Videotape

Magnetic Tape Deterioration: Tidal Wave at Our Shores

Videotape Restoration--Where Do I Start?

Library of Congress
Television/Videotape Study

Jim Wheeler
The Do's and Don'ts of Videotape Care
Videotape Preservation


Informative site from a vendor that provides magnetic media duplication, restoration, digitization, and consulting services. Includes images of historic a-v equipment and a list of resources

Canadian Conservation Institute
How to Care for Video Tapes

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

Standards, such as ISO 18923:2000 titled "Imaging materials -- Polyester-base magnetic tape -- Storage practices", are available for purchase.

See also: Standards relating to telecommunications, audio and video engineering

Library of Congress

Specifications for Plastic Containers for Long-term Storage of Motion Picture Film and Magnetic Tape Media

ScreenSound Australia
How to Care for Your Video

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE)
Standards and Recommended Practices in Print

Including SMPTE RP 103-1982 (Reaffirmed 1987), Care and Handling of Video Magnetic Recording Tape.

Jim Feeley
"Tape Formats Compared: How do DV formats measure up with Betacam SP and 601?" In Digital Video Magazine May 1999.

Steven Davidson and Gregory Lukow
The Administration of Television Newsfilm and Videotape Collections: A Curatorial Manual. Los Angeles and Miami: American Film Institute and the Louis Wolfson II Media History Center. 1997. Covers the range of archival issues, including several chapters on preservation.

Barbara L. Grabowski
Interactive Videodisc: An Emerging Technology for Educators. ERIC Digest. 1989.

Erich Kesse
Archival Copies of Video Tapes. University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries policies and procedures.


Shelf Lives and Videotape (excerpt from an article in Fortune magazine, Oct. 18, 1993)

Pip Laurenson

" The Conservation and Documentation of Video Art" [pdf] In Modern Art: Who Cares? (Amsterdam: International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art): 263-271. 1999. From a symposium organized by INCCA on the unique preservation and conservation challenges posed by installation art and other contemporary art forms. Other papers from the symposium are available from INCCA's Web site.

Library of Congress Preservation Directorate

Research and Testing Publications.
Provides a listing of printed reports which are available at no charge to the public upon request. Several address audiovisual materials specifically, including the most recent report issued in February 2002, "Bibliography on the Preservation of Magnetic Media" by Gerald D. Gibson.

Jerry Rodgers

"Preservation and Conservation of Video Tape." In Care of Photographic, Moving Image and Sound Collections: Conference Papers, York, England, July 20-24, 1998, edited by Susie Clark (Worcestershire: Insitute of Paper Conservation): 6-10. 1999.

Steve Seid

"TechArcheology2000." In MAIN (Newsletter of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture), Winter 2000.

"The Terrible Tenets of Video Preservation"


"Recovery of Mold Damaged Magnetic Tape at Vidipax: A Procedure Sheet." In Mold Reporter vol. 1, no.6. 2001.

ACVL Manual(Association of Cinema and Video Laboratories)

Richard Wright

"Broadcast Archives: Preserving the Future." [pdf] Describes the results of a survey of holdings within ten major European public service broadcasting archives and their preservation needs.

Rebecca Bachman

Video Preservation: Glossary of Terms , handout from playback 1996 a conference on preservation of video, held in San Francisco March 29-30, 1996.


Glossary of Film / Video Terms

Sarah Stauderman
Video Format Identification Guide (

An invaluable tool, complete with color photographs, format obsolescence ratings, and a glossary of terms. Created with the assistance of the American Institute for Conservation's Electronic Media Group and Jim Lindner/VidiPax.

ScreenSound Australia
Technical Glossary of Common Audiovisual Terms

The NINCH Guide to Good Practice in the Digital Representation and Management of Cultural Heritage Materials (242 pages!!!) (PDF)

While chapter seven specifically addresses Audio/Video Capture and Management, other sections of this guide provide information relevant to digital video and preservation, such as the appendices on equipment, metadata, digital data capture by sampling and a very extensive bibliography. Produced by the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII), University of Glasgow, and the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH). 2002.

Jerome McDonough

Preservation-Worthy Digital Video; or, How to Drive your Library into Chapter 11 [PDF] Paper presented at the AIC Electronic Media Group 2004 meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Judith Thomas

"Digital Video, the Final Frontier ." In Library Journal netConnect. January 2004.

Howard D. Wactlar and Michael G. Christel

"Digital Video Archives: Managing Through Metadata." In Building a National Strategy for Preservation: Issues in Digital Media Archiving. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources. 2002.

Dance Heritage Coalition's Digital Video Preservation Reformatting Project

Project Description
Press Release

Managing Digital Video Content

Documents from a two-day workshop on current and emerging standards for managing digital video content. 2001.

The Open Video Project

SMPTE Metadata Dictionary and Related Items

Universal Preservation Format

An effort initiated by WGBH-TV staff


"Five institutions . . . established the Video Development Initiative (ViDe) in 1998 to identify and prioritize digital video development issues." Offers access to resources on video, especially metadata, and includes a publication titled, " Digital Video for the Next Millenium", which "provides an overview of digital video on demand -- the underlying technology, the client/server capabilities currently available and development areas for the near future."

Formats and Standards
AAF Association

Advanced Authoring Format
Bruce Devlin

MXF -- the Material eXchange Format [pdf]


Video Interchange Standards (NOTE: This URL points to the Diffuse site preserved by the Internet Archive in June 2003.)


Adam Wilt


Found Movies: Art in the Attic

On Saturday the Toronto Star printed an article by entertainment reporter Murray Whyte called "Found Movies: Art in the Attic." It's about a new genre of film art, the home movie. These "found films" that were once of only personal significance have become objects of social documentary and unique perspectives. In our reality program-oriented, and phones-as-recorder [read: nigh voyeuristic] culture, documentartians and filmmakers are going beyond contrived narratives and filmed scripts to use the footage that has been captured by non-filmmakers.

There's a great quote by Whyte about these films:

"As a view into a world that was, home movies offer a different perspective, not of world leaders and grand events, but milestones of the personal scale: birthdays and Christmases, first bike rides and school plays, against the backdrop of the ever-changing world. It is everday life, unfiltered, fascinating in its mundanity."

I'd also say it's a primary document of social history. As film historian Ian Fila points out "the art and the preservation of home movies is a happy marriage...Home movies are probably the single largest untapped resource of images of life in the 20th century that exist, and finally, historians are recognizing their significance."

Another good point is made: "Celluloid, unlike videotape, can survive for decades virtually unvarnished." Perhaps not totally true, but the principle is there.

Some of the subjects and provenance of films mentioned in the article come from 1) 15 years of home movies of a young girl named Catherine from 1937 to 1952; 2) home movies of an anonymous family's trip to Mexico in the 1950s; 3) a 1940s air show; and 4) portryals of Jewish life during the Nazi occupation of Europe. Just think how powerful it is now to watch a home-made movie of the construction of the World Trade Towers!

Some of the players in this area mentioned include: Ian Fila and Jonathon Pollard, film historians with Home Made Movies (Toronto) [ed: no website found],, (Northeast Historic Film), and (Home Film Preservation Guide).

The Association of Moving Image Archivists started "Home Movie Day", an annual event. So many people, doing so much good work for their own benefit and everyone's enjoyment...a good start to today.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Revolution Will Be Digitized

Another article I read recently was from the Chronicle of Higher Education (Apr. 29, 2005, pp. 30-32) by Scott Carlson, where libraries are creating online archives to preserve and share film and video. [It'll be online on EBSCO Academic Premier for you IU folks in June].

Colleges and universities have realized that they have local materials which are unique, but often they think it's valuable only to them. Maybe, but it's also content (in the new-fashioned way we think of everything). Websites and the people who experience them have a voracious crave for content, and updated content at that; The challenge as William G. Thomas, director of the Virginia Center for Digital History, points out is how to "present, manage, and access video materials."

The barriers: time and staff and equipment to digitize; copyright and rights issues--how or whether the archives which hold this material has the right to exploit it (in a non-profit, fair use manner) that will make it worth their while to collect and manage such materials; and how best to order/catalog/meta-dataize (i.e. give access) to these materials. The time was yesterday, the future is in 15 minutes--strap on your seatbelts, kiddies.

How digital is filmmaking today?

Ok, I found the chart last's in the April 2005 print issue of "Wired." The chart is related to a story called "The Cuban Revolution" by Xeni Jardin about Mark Cuban, "the maverick billionaire blogger" who "wants to take the film out of the of the film industry." It's mainly about the future of the industry, but these kind of changes obviously have a major impact on institutions which keep records and objects from the archives, who need film and videotape suppliers to keep their preservation efforts in business, until digital video preservation standards are fully worked out, and it becomes scalable (affordable). Anyways, the story's online and here's the chart [by Ken Taylor]:

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Evolution of American Moving Image Preservation

Mann, Sarah Ziebell. "The Evolution of American Moving Image Preservation: Defining the Preservation Landscape (1967-77)." The Moving Image I:2 (Fall 2001):1-20.

Sarah Mann's article is a detailed history of the NEA and AFI's attempt to federalize moving image preservation in the 1960s and 1970s in the areas of film and television recordings. The American Film Institute was formed in 1967, and unlike other NEA areas, mandated that preservation be part of the activities that the organization would be involved with.

Because there were already a number of film preservation activities in the US (unlike the UK which only had the British Film Institute), like the Museum of Modern Art, the George Eastman House, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress, the AFI was seen as a funnel for funding these and other film archives. These activities were coordinated by the AFI's Archives Advisory Committee.

While the AFI had a large pot of money in its early years from government and corporate supporters, it ran dry quickly. The AFI moved on to fund "sexier" projects such as a school for filmmakers, and gradually reduced the amount of funding for preservation projects. In the 1970s, the AFI gained independence from the NEA. At that time, television broadcasts were seen as important cultural records to be maintained and preserved. One of the prominent efforts in this area was Vanderbilt University's program of off-air tpaing of nightly newscasts. These formed the basis of the Television News Archive. Lawmakers began to see that preserving this material was important as film, and included in the 1976 copyright act a provision to create the American Television and Radio Archives (ATRA) at the Library of Congress.

Another case that Mann talks about is the court case Gilliam v. ABC (1976) which was one of the first to bring the concept of "moral rights" (droit moral) to the American legal system (I think, don't quote me). Gilliam was Terry Gilliam, who had helped to create the British TV series, Monty Python's Flying Circus. But because the US hadn't signed the 1886 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, that couldn't be used as an argument.

Gilliam won because of an interpretation of the Lanham Act, which is a trademark statute that prevents "misrepresentation that may injure plantiff's business or personal reputation, even where no registered trademark is concerned." Kind of round-about, but the moral rights of the creators were protected for their creative works. It also brought out the concepts of what corporate copyright owners could do with an artists' works, even those they commissioned; what autheniticity is, and where the concept of "integrity" comes from when talking about a work of moving image and sound. (Sort of like the Metropolis re-creation by Giorgio Moroder in the 1980s).

Basically, this is a worthy article which discusses how federal film preservation efforts began and the rocky road it's been on from 1960-1980.

Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS: Cinematic Visions of Technology and Fear

Elsasser, Thomas. "Innocence Restored? Reading and Rereading a "Classic"" in Minden, Michael and Bachran, Holger, eds. Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS: Cinematic Visions of Technology and Fear. Camden House, 2000.

While much of this article dealt with film theory that I haven't the background to comprehend, I was taken with the concepts of restoration, original, and derivative works. In 1984, the musician/producer Giorgio Moroder set a sort-of new-wave/disco soundtrack to the original film Metropolis, and thus, it became something new and different. That work had become appropriated and transformed through the eyes of another creator. The original music was performed on piano, and consisted of salon music. Very different effect. And yet, which is truer to Fritz Lang's vision. In this area, restoration and preservation are complicated by what the original conception of the work is, and how it was carried out. If the original (not in Metropolis' case) was a flop, and the writer/producer decide to revise it later, and it then succeeds--that will be the version that will hopefully be remembered. Everything else is just context. We should remember the context, but be sensitive to when the artist considers the work to be done.

I think it was a televised Boston Pops concert wit John Williams conducting that illustrated to me the power of music with images. Imagine Jaws without the minor 2nds, or with a Beach Boys inspired soundtrack. Not the same effect, huh?

This Film is Dangerous: A Celebration of Nitrate Film

Bigourdon, Jean Louis. "From the Nitrate Experience to New Film Preservation Strategies." This Film is Dangerous: A Celebration of Nitrate Film, ed. Roger Smither. Bruxelles: Federation Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF), 2002. Pages 52-73.

Here are some notes from the chapter of this really collection of essays on film called This Film is Dangerous. Let's start out with the basics.

There are three components of all types of photographic film: the support (or base), the image (or emulsion), and the binder (which holds the other two together). The support moved from a cellulose nitrate backing to a cellulose triacetate backing to a polyester backing. The image layer relies on one of two types of materials: metallic silver particles [think glitter] for black & white images; and color dyes for color film. The binder is almost always gelatin. (Which might be why Cosby and Jello make so much sense together. ;-)

According to Bigourdon, it was only in the late 1880s that it became possible to manufacture a "sufficient length of film" to make a motion picture of substantial length--i.e. a long enough roll of film to hold all of the image frames on. In 1889, Eastman Kodak started to develop film on a cellulose nitrate plastic backing. He talks about the properties of nitrate film base, and the challenges of preserving inherently unstable chemical materials (really active compared to paper). He notes that "any kind of film is subject to spontaneous chemical decay." Later acetate film bases had their own problems, and symptoms of decay include: vinegar syndrome (the smell), and color fading. That film is also likely to become brittle. Cellulose triacetate base was phased in gradually and came into full usage by the 1950s (about the time that nitrate film stopped being used for new film stock). Polyester film came along in the 1960s, but wasn't fully adopted until the 1990s. Indeed, camera original film is still acetate in base.

Nitrate and acetate aren't that different. Both are developed by a similar process, that of esterification. The forming of nitrate base involves nitration, and acetate base involves acetylation. The latter is a mixture of acetic acid, acetic anhyride, and a catalyst like sulfuric acide. Three acids in one! In both cases the polymer and solvents combine to form those types of film. Earlier ways of acidifying film involved using cellulose diacetate (which is prone to shrinkage), acetate propionate, and acetate butyrate). Oy--if I had only taken a chemistry course in the last 10 years!!!

1955 brought the advent of PET, or polyester polyethylene terephthalate. Polyester for short, which was made by adding solvent and plasticizers to the polymer.

Back to, nitrate is basically modified cellulose. It's highly flammable, unlike acetate which burns slower. In the 1930s, some of the dangers of nitrate film came to be understood, and manufacturers and those in the film industry responded by coming up with useful handling procedures, proper transportation and use regulations, better ways to construct vaults, and better can and cabinet design. Most of which was done to prevent fires, and their spread.

What happens to nitrate film after a certain number of years? Well, there's 5 stages--which I'll get into in a future post. But like other organic materials, the nitrification of film base can happen because of heat, oxygen (oxidation), acid, and moisture (hydrolysis). The moisture can act as a reactant which releases acids from the nitrate. It can become brittle and decompose. There can be amber discoloration, degradation of the binder, softening/[melting?] of the emulsion, strong odors, and eventually it might decompose into a pile of brownish powder.

The emulsion is at risk when the base degrades, because of certain reactions with the silver or the dyes. Silver corrodes when exposed to oxygen. Dyes can fade in light. The silver on acetate film doesn't decompose as quickly or harshly as on nitrate film. Why? Bigourdon says that when nitrate degrades it produces oxidizing compounds that oxidize the silver. And when it's hydrolized, the resulting nitric acid decomposes the gelatin binder. Oy.

So, in the 1930s, it became recognized that film was not only a vehicle for ephemeral entertainment ventures, but could be important cultural records in themselves. Their preservation efforts were focused on dealing with the flammability of these materials, constructing better storage spaces and enclosures, and providing "cool storage" for these materials (15 degrees C, 60-70% RH!!!), and doing experiments in film base stability.

Jump to 1948 when cellulose triacetate was the film base of choice. Why was it advocated? It burned slower, and as such was considered safer for handling and exhibition. But itself was a preservation problem. Acetate film, according to Bigourdon, is an unstable plastic, and like lacquer discs, can delaminate; and be susceptible to vinegar syndrome and all the wonderful things that happen to materials with acidic material in them.

So, how does one deal with these materials. According to this chapter, three strategies should be employed: 1) environmental control, 2) a condition assessment, and 3) a prioritized duplication program.

You can detect acidity with Acide Detector strips for nitrate based film, and A/D strips for acetate based film. For the silver emulsion, there's the alizan red test method. And Kodak has a way to test for color dye stability as well. You can find some of this stuff in two publications by James M. Reilly: IPI Storage Guide for Acetate Film and the Storage Guide for Photographic Color Materials. Cold storage can prevent dye fading, and slow down other chemical reactions.

This book contains some wonderful photographs, tables, charts and graphs relating to reaction times, timelines, etc. Much of what Bigourdon talks about with catalyzation and chemical reaction, I knew from Jake's class last semester. So, this reading was more about the physical nature of film--which I'll be reading for next week.

Broadcast flag article

A week ago I blogged about the recent court ruling that struck down the FCC's mandate that a piece of code or "flag" be attached to all over-the-air digital content, and that all new digital receivers would have to be able to recognize and comply with this flag. Well, here's the article I mentioned that was published right before that about the effects of the broadcast flag. (It was in PC World, not Wired, my bad). FYI.

The article was entitled:
The FCC's new broadcast flag will restrict your ability to copy and share your favorite digital television shows and movies."

Laurianne McLaughlin
From the June 2005 issue of PC World magazine
Posted Monday, May 02, 2005

I don't mean to be cavalier in making this statement, but I think I have a reasonable fear that digital rights managment schemes will take the "fair use" out of everything that's on a computer. Hopefully, this summer I'll be able to dive into some of Lawrence Lessig's other books.