AMPAS joins Library of Congress initiative

Help is on the way in the struggle to save digital movie content from falling to bits.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Science and Technology Council announced Friday that it has entered a three-year partnership with the Library of Congress to preserve digital content, including movies, for future generations.

The Acad now becomes one of eight private orgs in the LOC’s “Preserving Creative America” initiative.

The LOC’s National Digital Information Infra-structure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), will provide matching funds toward the Acad’s efforts in digital movie content preservation.

“The announcement of this project and this partnership with the Library of Congress speaks for itself as to the importance of what the Academy thinks of this issue,” Sci-Tech Council director Andy Maltz told Variety. The Academy doesn’t do a lot of joint efforts.

“This is big, and it goes to the heart of what is a motion picture and what is a motion picture going to be 50-100 years from now.”

The Sci-Tech Council, made up of more than 100 leading tech experts from the motion picture industry, has been warning the industry for several years that digital content, especially raw footage shot on digital cameras, is in imminent danger of being lost forever.

Some data tapes have become unreadable in less than a year. No method for digital storage approaches the longevity of current film stocks, which can last more than 100 years.

In fact, film is still the preferred archival medium for movies, but trims and outs are not transferred to film, leaving those assets vulnerable.

The LOC’s support will be a major help because “they have taken the first steps in building a community of disparate parties from different parts of the digital universe, if you will,” Maltz said. “The problems of digital preservation are much bigger than any industry or institution, including the government.”

Digital archiving issues also affect financial, scientific and medical records that must be preserved longer than the useful life of the machines they’re recorded on.

“Preserving Creative America,” authorized by an act of Congress in Dec. 2000, works with private industry and other orgs to save many kinds of creative works, including digital photographs, cartoons, movies, sound recordings, and vidgames.

Maltz said the pact signals the Academy’s resolve to “getting back in with both feet in taking on important technological issues.”

The Acad’s next step in this area will be a major report from the Council defining the scope of the digital archiving problem for the industry for the first time. That paper is due in a few months.

“We’re itching to get it out there,” Maltz said.

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