BYDGOSZCZ, Poland — The great art of the Renaissance has lasted for more than 500 years, while film may only last another 100, says master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. The lifespan of digital images as hard drives corrupt and formats change is substantially less than a decade — and that worries him.
Storaro, who until this year’s “Cafe Society” has religiously stood by shooting on film, how now embraced digital technology — but insists his colleagues bear in mind their role as artists who will leave behind legacies.
The Italian veteran lenser hosted a video chat at Camerimage this week with Rob Hummel of Group 47, a venture that has been pushing for the adoption of an ultra-stable digital archiving system which was — incredibly enough — developed by Kodak in the ‘90s at a cost of over $80 million.
Hummel, who presented the system of encoding on Mylar strips that are fused with metal alloys, says the result is digital storage that’s highly resistant to heat, humidity and corrosion.
The venture has promoted DOTS — the Digital Optical Technology System — for three years, winning interest by Storaro and U.S. government archivists, worried that many of the most important cultural treasures of our time may not survive too many future generations.
If widely adopted, the savings and logistics simplification for studios, which still preserve work on film, would be enormous, Hummel says. DOTS would also far outlast digital tape, he says, another standard backup system widely in use in Hollywood.
The system uses lasers to encode terabytes of data on the strips. Hummel’s group has since applied for nine patents, advancing the technology while promoting the method and seeking investors.
The project, formed “by several of Hollywood’s tech veterans,” has so far worked out a method expected to keep digital files intact “at least a century.”
Storaro, who highly values integrating art from every era into film, says current efforts to preserve movies with transfers to new media and formats are wasting energy that should be used for improving cinematic art.
“If we are preserving the future, that will be a great, great thing.”