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Media Movies The Almighty Buck Entertainment

Afterlife Will Be Costly For Digital Films 395

Posted by kdawson
from the same-time-next-year dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "For a few years now we've been reading about the urgency of adopting open document formats to preserve written records. Now, a 74-page report from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences warns that digital films are as vulnerable to loss as digitized documents, but vastly more expensive to preserve — as much as $208,569 per year. The reasons are the same for video as for documents: magnetic media degrade quickly, and formats continue to be created and abandoned. If this sounds familiar and worrisome, it should. We are rushing pell-mell into a future where we only focus on the exciting benefits of new technologies without considering the qualities of older technologies that are equally important — such as ease of preservation — that may be lost or fatally compromised when we migrate to a new whiz-bang technology." Here's a registration-free link for the NYTimes article cited in Andy's post.
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Afterlife Will Be Costly For Digital Films

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:37PM (#21800016)
    "Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it."

    - L. Torvalds
    • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:36PM (#21800458)

      "Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it."
      - L. Torvalds
      I know that's moded funny, but that might actually be a very good argument for "open sourcing" movies.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DMoylan (65079)
        we'd be missing a lot of dr. who episodes if it weren't for folks who copied the original broadcasts. not bad for the 60s.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Who#Missing_episodes [wikipedia.org]
      • by Xenographic (557057) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @07:59PM (#21801414) Homepage Journal
        > I know that's moded funny, but that might actually be a very good argument for "open sourcing" movies.

        I wouldn't call it "open sourcing" exactly, but let's just say that films won't soon go extinct [thepiratebay.com], at least as long as there are people willing to copy them.

        Actually, that's how books survived. The only ancient books we have now are the ones people thought were important enough to copy regularly, plus a few random things that survived for a ridiculously long time.
        • Like Barbra Cartland? [wikipedia.org] Or Penny Dreadfuls? [wikipedia.org] Or the RFC Archive? Or YouTube?

          Huge amounts of fundamental culture simply disappears because it is so transparent or ordinary to those it affects. The next generation comes along and they forget about it because of that apparent mediocracy. For example, breast feeding was normal, ordinary, and public in America up through the 1950's. Movie and later Television rule-makers didn't allow showing it unless it was part of some National Geographic type presentation
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Hypothesis: it can be as important to lose data as it is to retain it. If all knowledge were preserved, the human specie would be incapable of processing it (with our current technology) in a meaningful way. The problem becomes more advanced when you change 'knowledge' to 'data'. Natural selection occurs as fundamentally in our pursuit of knowledge, our collections of art, and our collective memories as it does in the survival of species. Data must be sacrificed for information to be gained. That we de
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ianare (1132971)
      The problem with this type of storage and distribution, is that it strongly favors only what is popular. This is exactly what happens with bittorrent sites like isohunt or pirate bay, and with usenet as well. You'll have no problems finding the latest and greatest blockbuster in HD (until the excitement wanes of course), but try finding some obscure independent film, or a foreign film and you'll be lucky to get a low quality version.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ricree (969643)

        The problem with this type of storage and distribution, is that it strongly favors only what is popular.

        This comment really hits the nail on the head. Even worse is that it only favors what is popular at a given moment. What is popular today might not be as popular tomorrow, and what is popular after that could be different still. If we relied on the interest of individuals to preserve content, then all it takes is one uninterested generation for valuable content to be lost forever. It doesn't matter if people for the next thousand years would love to have that content, since once it is gone it is gone

  • Just imagine. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Veggiesama (1203068)
    Imagine. A world without Alvin and the Chipmunks [imdb.com].

    Here's to hoping for a brighter future... for our children.

    • Re:Just imagine. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pilgrim23 (716938) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:53PM (#21800152)
      Or, if they don't preserve Chicken Little, will the sky not fall?
      Seriously, IF the older films are an authentic art that deserves preservation, the why is most of it scrapped on the cutting room floor? why are all the really old films sitting still on their Nitrate Stock in archives in hollywood slowly turing from film to dust?
      AS others point out, released to the Net a movie is saved in various codecs, on various media (hard drive, tape CDR DVDR laserdisc even film FOR FREE just like music and most other data is. Horrible thought that; information in the hands of the people.... unsupervised, heck UN TAXED!
      In the 15th century the Church tried desperately to put an end to this new Printing Press because it was putting their scribes out of work. They even excommunicated printers. Now we do the same only we use Lawyers.
      I await the next turn of the wheel to see what damn foolishness humans are yet capable of..
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      See, we don't need to archive the old ones, we can just make a new version of the old movies.
  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thygrrr (765730) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:40PM (#21800036)
    Why is it more expensive to preserve a bunch of bits and bytes than, say, a reel with analog information, printed on some soon-to-be-brittle plastic? I'm very sure the latter will decay in a quicker fashion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nurb432 (527695)
      Because ultimately the digital storage is just a bunch of brittle plastic ( dvd ) and non permanent ferrous spots on metallic plates. Really its all the same thing, just now you have to also contend with a faster 'obsolesce' of your medium due to technologies lack of a long term memory and no respect for 'yesterdays' history.
      • by xant (99438)
        But the difference is you can make a perfect copy of a digital format. You can't do that with analog formats, there's always some loss.

        And since you can do that, you can also archive the environment and toolchain used to create and read it, so why the heck they don't do that I don't know. Store the Linux operating system it was rendered on, and an emulator for the cpu chipset, what's the difference? It's bound to be less data than the archival-format movie data they're already storing.
        • by tepples (727027)

          Store the Linux operating system it was rendered on, and an emulator for the cpu chipset, what's the difference?
          Will you have a drive capable of reading the physical medium? Will you have a compiler for the language in which the emulator for the cpu chipset was written?
          • by Animaether (411575) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @06:54PM (#21800994) Journal
            ..in that order.

            Yes - You don't need to have 5.25" drive now to read back data that you stored onto an 'old' IDE drive 2 years ago. And that's a bad example because you can still get 5.25" drives. 200 years from now when we're working with crystalline storage methods, we won't have to read back from HDD platters.. just from the holographic storage drives that things were transferred to with the last generation of storage devices.
            Will we still have film projectors 200 years from now? Possibly not.

            Whocares - because the formats used to store digital film aren't exactly H.264 or whatever fancyschmancy codec the copyright-infringent care about; google 'digital intermediate'. And yes, those formats do tend to change, but they all remain lossless and, again, things can be transferred with each generation.
            Will we still know what to do with film 200 years from now? Ahhh.. there's the kicker.. probably, yes.

            This is also where the cost comes in - you have to keep upgrading to the latest formats and the latest storage devices to ensure that there will be no 'digital divide', so to speak.

            With film, you don't incur this cost. It's lossy in an analog sense, but if somebody looks at a film reel 2,000 years from now - and we assume to still have the same visual system in our watersacks - it will be trivial for them to see, literally, that it is a series of pictures which, in succession, appear to animate. Even if there's no device to play them back then, it would be trivial to build one from scratch using very rudimentary knowledge.
            With digital, even if you have the latest format and the latest hardware to read the device it's stored on, it is non-trivial for the layman to read this file and be able to put it back into a picture; in fact, it tends to take people with intricate knowledge of the device and the storage format.

            Personally I'm all for doing both, costs be damned, if the material is important enough. That said, do we really need to hold on to all material forevermore? Like a history book, it should be enough to retain the highlights (be they positive or negative), and not cling onto minutiae, as a society. Similarly, like family archives, those who believe something to be well worth the preservation for future generations (either within the family or civilization as a whole), will - or at least should - do so on their own and have history prove them right, or wrong.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by timeOday (582209)

              With film, you don't incur this cost. It's lossy in an analog sense, but if somebody looks at a film reel 2,000 years from now -
              - what you will see is a little pile of black powder. Preserving even the top few classic films from only 70 years ago is already a huge challenge, they're pretty far gone.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      It depends what the specific file was. The original silent films were an absolute nightmare to maintain, the film material would break down relatively quickly, and was highly flammable.

      The reason why digital is so much less durable than analog films is that digital files are much easier to corrupt than analog. If you're storing your films in a cold and dry place, they can last a really long time, with digital it is somewhat hard to say how long it'll last.

      If you've ever seen the classic film Metropolis, cha
      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

        by mj01nir (153067) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:22PM (#21800354)
        If you've ever seen the classic film Metropolis, chances are you didn't see a good 1/3 of the film, with digital, if they had been taken care of that poorly chances are you'd have nothing to watch.

        Actually, the damage to Metropolis is due in large part to editing rather than damage of the film stock. Metropolis was edited early and often; the only time the whole, original film was viewed was during its original (and brief) German first-run. Subsequent German, US, and other world-wide releases contained major deletions, reordering of scenes, and other changes which significantly changed the storyline of the film. The only reason that we now know the original order the scenes were meant to go in, and just how much has been lost, is due to the discovery of the original score and title cards.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by danilo.moret (997554)
      > Why is it more expensive to preserve a bunch of bits and bytes than, say,
      > a reel with analog information, printed on some soon-to-be-brittle plastic?
      > I'm very sure the latter will decay in a quicker fashion.

      Someone can throw the latter through the window from the fifth floor in case of fire and hope it will survive, while I had a HD worth tens of movies (just worth... cough, cough) that died from a 1,5 m fall. Plus, I can explain anyone how to take care of a reel (keep on a safely closed place,
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:40PM (#21800040)
    ... so who cares?

    Preservation was a lot easier when the media lasted longer but by far the largest problem is the increase in the amount of data.

    What is interesting is that old analog film & tape also degrades, but does so more gracefully. They also get degraded by reading, not just by storage. Archives of old footage etc have largely been converted to digital to allow older signals to be accessed without damaging the originals.

    • by DreadPiratePizz (803402) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:46PM (#21800102)
      The original negative is rarely ever touched, except to make more intermediate positives. Even when they remastered the star wars trilogy, they did so from the intermediate positives made from the negative. The original negative should stay in good shape for a very long time, as it's really only accessed to make intermediate positives, usually 3 or so after the negative has been cut. You can always make more inter-negs and release prints from these, which means that the negative will probably NOT degrade due to usage, but from the natural wear of the dyes.

      Also, the line in the article regarding digital editing is incorrect. Films are edited in digital form on the computer, but the edit decision list is given to a negative cutter who cuts the negative. There is no loss of quality editing digitally.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      Well mosty of it is crap anyway ... so who cares?
      Crap or not, it is modern mainstream culture and thus needs to be preserved for historical purposes if nothing else.
      • In the biggest limitation was the cost of and access to publication. Now cost is close to zero and access is close to unlimited which is why we have youtube etc.

        I'm not convinced we need to keep 90+% of youtube or Friends and similar crap for people to watch 100 years from now.

  • Why not just... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:43PM (#21800058)
    release the file into the public domain and put it out on bit torrent? You'll get lots of backups made, for free. It will get converted to new formats, and backed up again, for free. Oh, you want future profits? Then quityerbitchin about the archival costs.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:57PM (#21800182)
      I'm doing my part to back up as much of what hollywood puts out as I can. I'm not a pirate - I'm actually saving them money!
    • Re:Why not just... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dabadab (126782) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:38PM (#21800474)
      Well, the question is: what do you want to preserve?

      If just a DVD-quality copy of the final cut, then it's certainly not a problem.
      If you are aiming at preserving the final cut in its glourious uber-HD, lightly compressed form, things get a bit trickier.
      If you want it all - all the shots, the various data (textures, models, etc) used in digital production in their raw, original form, well, in that case we are speaking of storage space well beyond what you found even in a heavy torrent user's computer.
  • Does this mean no vintage porn in future?
    • Redundant storage, over wide geographic, political and technological domain will ensure your future viewing pleasure of grainy plum flesh in motion. School book example of data that will last as long as humanity is around and beyond.
  • ... the same story as this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Domesday_Project [wikipedia.org] digital document? The answer is simple, copy it over frequently. Granted, certain obscure works will be lost from time to time, if they're skipped over. But so what? I remember once seeing a documentary about some old silent picture, as an example of pictures made on film stock that was rapidly decaying. It was a comedy about newlyweds, pretty much the same story that's been told time and time again.
    • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:59PM (#21800202) Homepage

      The answer is simple, copy it over frequently.
      Yeah, from the article, are several silly things are going on here:

      1. They're stuck in a 1985 mindset where the internet doesn't exist, and hard disks are very small, so everything has to be archived on tape, and the tapes have to be preserved in a salt mine in Kansas.
      2. They're stuck in a 1985 mindset where computer formats aren't documented, or the documentation gets thrown out because someone retires and cleans out his file cabinets. Welcome to the 21st century: you document the format digitally, and preserve the digital document. People keep on bringing up this silly old chestnut about NASA tapes; in this article: "Thus, NASA scientists found in 1999 that they were unable to read digital data saved from a Viking space probe in 1975; the format had long been obsolete." Welcome to 2007: you save the documentation for the format in, say, html, and write it to the same archive where the actual data reside.
      3. They're stuck in a mindset where file formats are secret and proprietary. Solution: use a nonproprietary file format.
      4. They're not just talking about preserving the equivalent of the digital theater release of some bomb like The Golden Compass, they're talking about preserving vast amounts of ancillary cruft, like the time when the director left the (digital) cameras running between takes while he complained that his double frappucino was too sweet. The colossal Hollywood ego believes that this kind of stuff will one day be seen as a vitally important historical document.
      • by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @06:46PM (#21800934)
        Maybe they are living in 2007, where they are paying a $200,000 a year licensing fee to a patent troll who got a patent for "A business process which preserves digital motion pictures".

        In all seriousness, the biggest obstacle to preserving a history of our culture is copyright. If the owner of the copyright doesn't care to preserve the piece of our history that they have their monopoly on, the information will simply deteriorate and there is nothing legally that can be done about it. We can only hope that the evil dirty thieving pirates save our history for future generations.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jabuzz (182671)
        Apart from the idea that you would not use tapes I am in complete agreement. I would add they are stuck in a 1985 mindset where the internet does not exist.

        It is a pretty simple problem to solve. You set up a smallish data centre on three continents. You install some LTO4 tape libraries and start replicating the data to each over the internet. With LTO4 you are looking at ~600TB per 19" rack, and when you are not accessing the data (most of the time) you are not consuming power. Add in some checksumming and
  • how much? (Score:4, Informative)

    by PhreakOfTime (588141) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:45PM (#21800080) Homepage

    I cant help but relate some personal experience here. I know its not production quality, or lots of information, but I recently pulled out my Apple IIe from storage. It included the original 5 1/4 floppy disks and drives.

    There was also a cardboard box with ~150 floppy disks, some as old as 20+ years. NOT A SINGLE ONE WAS BAD. Yes, "Zork" still works!

    Could it possibly be that the quality of media just isn't up to the demands of a longer life of storage anymore? We all know how Cadillac runs that racket, as in sell the crappy car, and make the money off replacement parts. Has media storage gone the same way? As in 'sell the media, but just good enough to work for x years' before being replaced. And with the demands to increase revenue year over year for public companies, perhaps that time-frame has become shorter and shorter over the years to keep the money flowing in.

    Or am I just being too cynical? But you know, a world where such works as "Zork" can survive and "Legally Blonde" can not, on their respective media, might not be that bad.

    • by xant (99438)
      You probably ruined all that media by running on your 20-year-old IIe, with its deteroriating drive. :-P
    • by johannesg (664142)
      I have the same experience with old, single-sided 3.5" disk (that's 360KB per disk). I guess the quality of manufacturing for the first set of disks was higher (later disks had cheaper processes that resulted in worse-quality disk), and possibly the lower data density might help as well.

      So all my MSX stuff is still there, but the Amiga stuff is pretty much all gone... Sad.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jacquesm (154384)
      that's an easy one... the bigger the bits the longer it will take to get them to demagnetize spontaneously, simply because more particles got magnetized in a 360k floppy vs say a 20 MB bernoulli drive or a harddrive platter.
      So, higher density = shorter shelf life. I've tried to read in some 10 year old DAT tapes, and no luck at all (not that I needed the data, just to see if it would work).
      • by Firethorn (177587)
        Better yet, switch it out for non-magnetic media. People might complain about DVDs degrading - but most of the time they're talking about DVD-Rs. For stuff like this, not only would I demand a dozen or so duplicate DVDs, I'd also go after a glass master, along with numerous machines capable of reading it stored in secure fashion.

        Then have an IT staff with a binder - each year they go through all the formats stuff is stored on and give it a rating - Modern(HDDVD, blueray), Current(DVD, CD), Outdated(VHS),
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:45PM (#21800086) Homepage Journal
    As jonadab [slashdot.org] once put it:

    > Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it

    Yes, and those who do study history are doomed to watch in frustration
    as it is unwittingly repeated by those who do not :-)
    • by dino213b (949816)
      Not to criticize your humor (which is funny), but, from a historian's point of view:

      This cliché statement (..doomed to repeat..) relies on the supposition that progression of events is linear in history. In other words, it's the idea that there is a sequence of events that seemingly always leads to the nearly-same end result. Part of this statement also assumes that progression of events may be cyclical -- but -- it's arrogant to assume that this cliché applies to every situation. Often it does n
  • How much can they save by dropping DRM so any backup system will work?
  • Step 1: upload your complete digital master on p2p file sharing networks.
    Step 2: wait.
  • I would think digital would avoid the problems with conventional film where the distribution prints get scratched, faded, and lose segments where the film broke and was spliced back together. Plus the masters are subject to being lost and having the colors degrade in strange ways. Many films have been completely lost and others are only available in an incomplete form. At least with DVDs, a film is unlikely to be lost, even if the DVD version doesn't have the same quality as the master print.
    • The real problem is that centralized storage of important documents and media is convenient, but risky. From the great Library at Alexandria to modern times, central data stores get damaged or destroyed. Fire, theft, natural disaster, obsolescence ... we have the power to replicate our cultural heritage, every culture's heritage, on a truly global scale. By doing so we make it virtually impossible that civilization can suffer the kind of losses it has in the past. Of course, this all depends upon our mainta
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:54PM (#21800160)

    The reasons are the same for video as for documents: magnetic media degrade quickly,

    The myth of bit rot on hard drives is just that- a myth. It's been perpetuated for two decades by the idiot Steve Gibson, selling his own snake oil (Spinrite), and unfortunately, not enough people are calling him on it [radsoft.net]. I thought it actually did something too, until I read that post from someone who actually knows how modern drives work. As the author points out, there's a track that can only be written at the factory, and if what Gibson claimed were true, ALL drives would be dying left and right after a few years. Funny how I've found drives made almost a decade ago working just fine now...

    The problem hasn't changed; it's mostly obsolescence in drive interfaces, and the drives themselves (for tapes.) PATA is common these days, but everything is going towards SATA, for example.

    Both DAT and 8mm were in common use as little as 6-7 years ago...but you'd be fairly hard pressed to find a place to but either now save eBay. And...do YOU want to entrust a backup to an ebay drive?

    • Keeping drives around is pretty easy. Store files with added parity data to multiple hard drives at least 3 compare 2 hard drives at a clip a few times a year. Upgrade the drives every few years. Base cost about 400 for the best current best bang for your buck drives in 3 external enclosures. Tape generally works the same but the tape head cost needs to be amortized to save you money in the long run (500 GB HD about 100 bucks 400GB tape about 50 tape drive to use it 5k) The key is to differentiate back
    • by IvyKing (732111)
      While bit-rot may not happen exactly as Steve Gibson explains, hard drives can gradually fail over time. The whole point of the scrubbing functionality of ZFS is to catch failing sectors when they're still readable (retries).

      Good point on the drive interfaces changing - though the problem isn't quite as bad as you make out, PATA started out a bit over 20 years ago as a proprietary Compaq interface. SCSI is still around, but in a much smaller niche than it used to be. USB should be readable for at least a

      • For the same reason (as you agree) it'll continue to fade away.

        The whole point of both interfaces is to allow external, portable interfaces. I know that any office I go to with a portable USB drive will be able to read it. Worst case scenario, it's over USB 1.1, but it's still usable.

        If I bring a firewire drive, I'll get funny looks, and it has a pretty good chance of not working. Even though most recent mid to high end motherboards have it, almost everyone has never used it. There's a very high chance that
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``Funny how I've found drives made almost a decade ago working just fine now... ''

      As if a decade is a long time.

      Especially compared to how long copyright lasts nowadays.
  • Would it not be cheaper to print [wikipedia.org] the movie using a more traditional archiving method (paper, microfiche, analog tape)? Plenty of digital->analog methods are available [adams1.com], and surely some more could be invented if necessary. Might be a lot of pages, but hey-- paper is cheap and may not degrade as quickly.

    Just a thought.

    W
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:05PM (#21800246)
    If they want to permanently archive digital media, why not just keep the DVD glass masters around? They shouldn't degrade like plastic, and if carefully packaged it seems that they could last for millenia. If a special reader were developed that could optically scan the glass surface without the need for a rot-prone metal layer, then the information could be retrieved without having to risk damaging the master by making a new pressing.
    • by DigitAl56K (805623) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:33PM (#21800430)
      DVD's have a fraction of the resolution of the original digital video and have already undergone lossy compression (e.g. MPEG2 video, AC3 audio). HD DVD/Bluray is also lower resolution than the original, and the compression is still lossy. As some others have mentioned, you ideally want to store all the film's components (unedited footage, audio, etc.) at the highest quality possible for re-mastering to new formats in later years.

      Beyond that, single-bit errors in encoded data streams (e.g. MPEG2, AVC, MP3, AC3) can lead to large distortions in the decoded data. You really have to store everything raw in order to reduce the chances of severe corruption and increase the chances of recovery.
      • by Fweeky (41046)
        Just because you're using a DVD doesn't mean you have to write MPEG2. People who backup to DVD-R don't convert their disk images to .ts before burning them do they?
    • That's no good. Glass flows over time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rebelcool (247749)
      But in 1000 years, what machine will be able to read the DVD?

      The problem isn't necessarily the medium of storage itself, its the whole of how the information is encoded. After awhile, the machinery and knowledge of the format will be lost.

      With normal film, hold it up to a light, the image is there. Suppose that in 200 years someone wants to play back the film - even if such a machine did not exist, it would be easy to construct.

      I recall reading a similar problem nasa ran into... they wanted to resurrect s
  • My favorite part: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xant (99438) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:06PM (#21800252) Homepage
    Where he compares salt mine storage of analog media to storage of digital media, and decides to just multiply his made-up $208k figure by 100 years to come up with.. wait for it... $208 million. I guess that's why he went into journalism and not the sciences.

    Leaving out the humongous math error, why can't you just store the digital fucking media in the same salt mine? The things that damage analog film are the same things that damage digital media.

    Is it any wonder we have the expression "lies, damned lies, and statistics"? This article is all three, with some incompetency thrown in.
  • by stradofear (1202990)
    1/ Draw each frame on a sheet of papyrus, staple the whole thing together on one edge, making a flip book, and hide the whole mess in jars in caves in the desert. Don't forget to include copies of the scripts.

    2/ Devise an obscure religion based on your film, spread it to as many people as possible.

    3/ Wait.

    As nearly as I can tell, the whole concept of recorded history probably ended when we developed means to record reality directly, rather than transcribing it to clay slabs, stone, and paper.
  • And yet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:22PM (#21800352) Journal
    analog also decays. The difference is that it is easier to pull SOMETHING out of it as it decays. The downfall of analog is that it is is MUCH more expensive to protect.

    Back in 90/91, I worked for a company that did burning of CDs and Laserdisc (compressed data for the DOD). The CDs cost something like 5 or 10 each, and the laserdiscs were a couple of hundred each. IIRC, These were based on gold, and would last something like 50 or 100 years without losing a single pixel. I would guess that hollywood could easily afford these.
    • by Jartan (219704)

      analog also decays. The difference is that it is easier to pull SOMETHING out of it as it decays.

      This isn't true at all. If you actually plan for the decay you can make the digital copy keep far higher quality via error correction data.

      The study the article was based on sounds like the typical problems faced by people who just don't get it when it comes to protecting their data. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't even have the digital films stored in a format they can freely read without the use of pro

  • nonsense (Score:3, Informative)

    by nguy (1207026) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:27PM (#21800386)
    The standard motion picture format is MJPEG2000. It's not a very efficient format, but it's well defined and going to be around for a long time: there's both a lot of hardware and software that relies on it, and it scales up to high resolutions.

    The consumer format wars between Microsoft, Apple, Sony, and other companies have no influence on this.
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot&keirstead,org> on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:34PM (#21800438) Homepage
    Once again repeat after me... the benefit of digital is not that it LASTS FOREVER or is EASIER TO PRESERVE. It is that it is EASY TO COPY.

    Who gives a rats ass if a given copy of a film will degrade in 10 years. I can make a 100% perfect copy of the thing in minutes. Copy the data every year. Hell copy it 100 times. Copying also makes the obsolescence of formats meaningless.

    I still have emails and RTF documents written in 1994. These are 100% perfect copies of the original data. Is that somehow to be interpreted by brain-dead fear-mongers that any day now my data will be "obsolete" since the obviously 15-year old media is almost degraded beyond recognition? Or are people a bit more intelligent and realize I have already copied this from hard drive to disc and back about 30 different times?
  • Not a new problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skater (41976) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:55PM (#21800564) Homepage Journal
    First, what kind of film was it that had a tendency to burn? Nitrate-based film?

    Second, I just heard that the studio that produced Aerosmith's first album has lost the masters, so they're going to re-record it.

    This kind of problem isn't new, and blaming it on electronic media is silly.

    Yes, you do have to take steps to ensure the availability of it in the future - but the same is true of analog versions too. If you don't have a good filing system, or your 'vault' is the backseat of a car in southern California, the reels are going to get damaged/destroyed/lost, too.

    I was on a railroad photographers' list for a while, and I remember the digital/analog debate came up one time. Someone said, "I'll be laughing when you lose all your files because your hard drive crashed and don't have pictures any more!" Obviously he never considered he could easily lose his negatives/slides, or have them damaged in a flood or fire. Analog media has different risks and storage requirements, but they BOTH require proper storage. (And, frankly, digital has the additional advantage that it can be easily backed up at multiple sites with no loss in quality.)
  • 1. Build a pyramid 2. Paint copy of movie on walls of catacombs 3. ? 4. Profit
  • One of the fundamental qualities of any digital media is the separation of abstract data from the means of it's storage and expression. Analog media is inevitably related to the physical way of expressing or recording it. Copying a vinyl disk is identical to copying the physical shape of the tracts on the disk; referring to analog "music" is identical to referring to the wavelengths we hear.

    With digital, data and medium are separate. By itself, data is just an abstract collection of ones and zeroes. While t
  • With normal DVDs taking 4 GB, Hi Def DVDs taking maybe 10 GB, I figure 100 GB is probably a safe bet. If you want to save all the discarded takes and everything, maybe 1 TB. Just for the fun of it, let's make it ten times that, at 10 TB. Using a commercial service like AWS, 10 TB would cost $18,000 per year, and I think that's pretty generous.

  • So all my important communications I write by hand in archival black ink on acid-free 100% rag paper. For truly mission-critical stuff, I have some stone tablets.
  • What about microfilms? I know this is a terribly old solution, but that's what was used in the 1940 time capsule [wikipedia.org] that's scheduled to be opened in 8113. Surely, that's terribly old tech, but anyone can read microfilms.

  • by dsgrntlxmply (610492) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @06:43PM (#21800906)
    The article failed to mention that conventional integral tripack color films, especially print films of the 1960s-70s, degrade with dismaying speed.

    Technicolor dye transfer (imbibition) prints were much less fugitive. Color separations onto black and white film stock (often termed YCM for yellow, cyan, magenta) are much more robust. Production of these separations (and imbitition relief "matrix" films) was intrinsic to the Technicolor printing process (even if the film was shot in conventional tripack negative, then transferred to Technicolor for printing), and films where these intermediates were saved (or where someone presciently thought to have a set of YCMs made), are much safer for the future than anything kept only on color stock.

    In the 70s there were some photo places (especially in Los Angeles) that marketed Eastman Color Negative 5247 movie film (short-end remnants from the movie industry) as a cheaper alternative for 35mm color negative still photography, and printed this onto 5283 color print film (same as movie prints) for 35mm slides.

    I recently found a few boxes of these that I had shot back then (and stored under entirely careless, or Arrhenius/Murphy if you prefer, conditions). I am not good at evaluating color negatives by eye, but the positives were faded either to mutated colors or to almost nothing.

    Even simple technologies can have amazingly short shelf lives under conditions of disuse. I recently turned on my stereo system after close to 3 years of not being used. The amplifier, CD player, and LP turntable all failed to operate. Part of this might have been due to de-formed electrolytic capacitors; these appear to have more-or-less repaired themselves after a couple of hours with the power turned on. Both the CD player and the turntable suffered additional electromechanical problems that required a combination of manual exercise and cleaning to rectify.

    None of these devices have anywhere near the scary sophistication of a modern hard disk drive.

    Seeing as I cannot remember what I last set my external firewall password to, imagine the additional challenge of future Hollywood being bitten deeply in the butt by present Hollywood's favored time-bombed destined-to-be-lost-art proprietary DRM technologies, with the keys long since dissipated in Hollywood's perennial miasma of mergers, acquisitions, lawsuits, cocaine, and personal vendettas.

  • by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @09:52PM (#21802060)
    Although we are probably getting a little too carried away in making everything digital, there is a lot to be said for the long-term storage options of data in an analog form. Even if an item stored in an analog form is destroyed by 50% or more, it's not impossible to recover most of it with fairly reliable accuracy simply due to the amazing ability of the human mind to recognize common patterns and fill in the blanks. Even if the analog were warped out of it's original order, odds are good we could recover it.

    On the other hand, digital archival of data, which can offer incredible clarity and potentially 1:1 accuracy in restoration often becomes an all-or-nothing proposition if even a tiny bit of the data is lost or altered. Even with file formats/codecs that offer some form of error correction or redundancy, the final result we may end up seeing could be little more than randomized shifts between a blank screen and a perfect image... all of which are swapped in and out so quickly, we may not see the recoverable parts long enough to identify any usable pattern.

    For example, try comparing something like the "scrambled" channels (mostly the porn channels) on cable television back in the early to mid 90s to something like DirecTV during a heavy rain storm. Even though the cable stuff was typically visible warped and uncomfortable to look at, you at least had a good idea of exactly what was going on behind the scrambling, even without the audio channels. But, try watching a DirecTV signal under less than ideal weather conditions, and the best you get is a bounce between a random mosiac and pitch black, combined with severely degraded audio pops here and there. You're luck if you can even get a useful picture of anything on the screen, let alone being able to comprehend what is going on in the show itself.

    That said, how difficult would it be to create a micro-film drive (photosensitive analog scanner/burner) that could not only store any document on a computer in an analog form, but do so in a format that could be interpreted entirely by the human eye using a proper magnifying device. For that matter, why not create a hybrid device that would store both an easily visible analog form of a document as a high-resolution thumbnail, along with a digital version using pattern of dots similar to how data would be stored on an optical disc. This way, no matter what device you use to extract the information, you'd always have the means to access the data you need.

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