In today’s know-everything entertainment climate, seemingly no aspect of the biz is off limits. And yet there’s one key element that tends to escape discussion: how Hollywood protects its valuable IP from destruction or theft, especially in the digital age, when hacking is so prevalent.

Archiving is the bedrock of keeping content safe to preserve the rich history of entertainment around the globe, and in many cases, the watchword is simple: Preserve or perish.

Variety Intelligence Platform dove deep on the topic, producing the data-filled special report “Archiving Entertainment” — presented by physical/digital asset preservation leader Iron Mountain Entertainment Services — as well as this companion webinar.

VIP+ media analyst and correspondent Heidi Chung sat down with IMES GM Lance Podell, VP of Technology Denis Leconte and archivist and records management expert Anthony Jackson to unpack the ins and outs of content preservation.  

So, where do today’s creatives stand in terms of guarding their legacy for decades to come? Oddly, according to Jackson, it was the pandemic that served to klieglight the need for proper preservation.

As the world hunkered down at home and became ravenous for content, he says, studios’ typically “back office” archiving and distribution teams were suddenly front and center. “The archiving executives started to get called up into the CEO suite and asked, ‘Hey, all of that physical content we had — can we digitize that and get it up on our streaming services?’ “

Now that the average consumer is aware of the importance of archiving, Jackson hammers home two key points: “We really are preserving cultural history for future generations … and whatever form a [film or master recording] was in 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago is no longer going to withstand the test of time if we don’t digitize it.” 

Despite the relatively recent increase in resources for media companies’ once tiny archiving teams, Podell says many studios and artists were long aware of the best practices for preserving their assets, using the premium archival services Iron Mountain offers, including digital imaging, data recovery and data migration. 

The actual processes of archiving have advanced tremendously over the past decades, with the development of new technologies and the birth of cloud storage, something IMES’ Leconte sees as both a blessing and a curse.

On the plus side, he says, advancements bring greater storage capacity and greater throughput to attack the “mountains of archives.” He credits the advent of machine learning for allowing “the gathering of metadata that really wasn’t thought of when the assets were created, so it helps ferret out what’s important.”

On the “curse” side, industry advancements can be a double-edged sword because preserving the legacy of old assets becomes more challenging. “As technology marches on, there are hundreds of formats, Leconte says, “and the technology decisions that are made at the origination of an asset really influence the life of the asset afterward.” 

“New,” of course, always brings with it unforeseen hurdles. One of the “civilization oopsies,” Leconte says, is that until the latter part of the 20th century, content archives were “human visible … they were optical” — as in libraries with preserved hard copies. Then “humanity went to archive media that required equipment.” In the case of videotapes, he adds, “lots of attention was paid to archiving the tapes, but not that much attention was paid to archiving the equipment to read these tapes.” And that is a problem today’s archivists face every day. 

The bottom line, Chung notes, is that it’s critical for studios, production companies, musical artists to protect their work, so all these challenges must be met. And this includes both preserving the assets that exist and monetizing the content that’s in their vaults. Is all this protection worth the outlay? Jackson says it succinctly: “Companies [and artists] that get it, get it, and they have a percentage of their budgets set aside for proper archiving.” 

On that point, all on our panel agreed. So if you devour content and respect the work of the past, this is one facet of Hollywood worth understanding. Be sure to check out our special report after replaying the webinar, and stay tuned for lots more VIP+ panels.  

 

Click for VIP+’s “Archiving Entertainment” report