Preserving History: Innovations in Film Archival and Restoration
Our company has recently broadened its horizons. We’ve moved beyond our roots in post-production for TV and film. Now, we also specialize in the restoration and archiving of 16 and 35mm film. A notable project highlighted our new direction. We undertook a massive task for Fox Archive. It involved scanning 3.5 million feet of 16mm film. This film came from the TV station known as KTTV which began shooting news film in 1949. Today this Los Angeles station is owned and managed by Fox News.
This scanning project was not just about sheer volume. It showcased our ability to manage and preserve historically significant media and create the metadata to make it even more valuable. It also demonstrated our capacity for innovation. We faced the challenge of organizing and restoring a vast collection of film stocks. Moreover, we developed unique solutions to do so.
In embarking on this journey, we’ve set new standards in the field of creating a film archive. We’ve shown that our expertise extends far beyond post-production. Now, we are a leading force in film restoration and archival work.
The task we undertook was immense. We received over 200 boxes of f2000’ film cans, each filled with 16mm news film rolls. The contents varied greatly. Some cans held a single reel, while others contained up to 75 small rolls of loose film. The initial step involved a detailed logging process for each box. This process was crucial for managing the massive collection effectively.
The condition of the film added to the complexity. Much of it was deteriorating, underscoring the urgency of our work. We aimed to preserve not just the physical film but its historical value as well. This required a careful, systematic approach from the outset.
Organizing this vast amount of material was a logistical challenge. Additionally, the technical aspects of splicing the loose rolls into reels, cleaning and prepping each reel, then scanning and preserving the scant data that existed was daunting. We were determined to find innovative solutions to these challenges. Our goal was to ensure the preservation and accessibility of this significant collection.
- Initial Logging and Organization
- Our journey began with the logging of each box. This first step was meticulous. We photographed each box, can, and clip. Information written on each clip was carefully recorded. We also assigned a barcode to each clip. This system enabled efficient tracking throughout the project.
- Cleaning and Sorting
- Next, the cans were passed to our film editors. Their task was vital. They cleaned each reel and sorted them by film type. Then, they spliced the films into 2000-foot reels. This phase was detailed. For each 2000-foot reel, we created a log. It listed the reel’s barcode, film type, and details about each clip. This included barcodes, slugs, frame counts, and the specific frames where each clip was located on the reel.
- Digital Logging with Foxy
- To streamline this process, we introduced “Foxy.” This proprietary job management platform was a game-changer. It allowed us to log metadata and images digitally. Moreover, Foxy generated Edit Decision Lists (EDLs) for precise scanning. This platform was crucial for managing the project’s vast scale.
- Scanning and Quality Control
- Scanning was the next critical step. We used Lasergraphics ScanStation scanners for high-resolution scans. Each clip was scanned in three formats: 5K DPX, 5K ProRes, and 1080p ProRes. After scanning, we conducted a rigorous quality control (QC) process. This ensured that each clip was completely scanned, and no frames were missing.
- Archival and Delivery
- The final steps involved archiving and delivery. We archived the DPX frames onto LTO tapes. The ProRes files were prepared for delivery. A comprehensive manifest, generated through Foxy, accompanied the files. This manifest detailed all the information we had for each clip. It was uploaded to Fox’s asset management system, ensuring seamless integration.
Overcoming Metadata Challenges
Upon completion of the archival work, a significant issue had to be addressed. The film’s metadata was limited. Traditional labels or “slugs” on the film rolls were brief, often only one or two words. This made the archived material hard to search. A more robust solution was needed.
To address this, we launched an initiative we called “Enhanced Metadata Creation.” The goal was to make the archives fully searchable. This required a new approach. We had to build another proprietary system from the ground up. Thus, “Lucid” was born.
Lucid was a breakthrough. It is a fully searchable asset management system designed for our specific needs. It allows for media file playback and is fully modular. Depending on the file type, different fields can be shown or hidden. This flexibility was key to our enhanced metadata approach.
Moreover, we integrated advanced features into Lucid. Speech-to-text transcription was one such feature. It allowed us to transcribe each clip, adding another layer of searchable data. We also developed a feature for “clipping” stills from significant frames. This made it easier to identify and highlight high-value shots within the vast collection.
The introduction of Lucid marked a turning point. Our archival material became not just preserved but also accessible and navigable. This significantly enhanced the value of the archived content, making it a powerful resource for research and reference.
Our journey into archival work led to significant technological advancements. The creation of Lucid was just the beginning. We realized early on that to truly enhance our archival capabilities, we needed to implement cutting-edge technology. Speech-to-text transcription was one of these innovations. It allowed us to add a new dimension of searchability to our archives.
Another breakthrough was the development of a feature for clipping stills. This allowed us to isolate and highlight key frames within the footage. Such frames often contain moments of historical significance or visual interest. Identifying these moments amid millions of feet of film was a challenge. However, this feature made it manageable and efficient.
These innovations were not just about preserving the past. They were about making historical content accessible and relevant for future generations. Through technology, we ensured that this valuable media could be explored and appreciated in new ways.
The project with Fox Archives was a milestone in our company’s history. It pushed us into new territories of film restoration and archival work. We didn’t just preserve 3.5 million feet of film; we revolutionized the way such projects can be approached. Our work has set a new benchmark for the industry.
Our commitment to innovation and excellence has positioned us as leaders in the field. The successful integration of technology and archival expertise in this project underscores our unique capabilities. We are not just preserving history; we are ensuring that a valuable asset can be monetized and be accessible for years to come.
We are proud of our achievements and excited about the future. Our journey into film restoration and archival work is just beginning. We invite you to explore our services and consider how our innovative solutions could support your projects.
Whether you’re looking to preserve historical footage or manage a vast media archive, we have the expertise and technology to meet your needs. Let’s work together to keep history alive for generations to come.