The Digital Dilemma

The Digital Dilemma - AMPASIn the fall of 2007, the Science and Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) released a report entitled, “The Digital Dilemma“. In a nutshell, the Council tackled the topic of archiving digital movies. They examined how this could be done, what the costs would be, and how these methods and costs compared to CMYK.

Over time, this report has proven to be one of my favorites. The authors miraculously kept it at 70 pages, but managed to cover a lot of information within those few pages. I also tip my hat to them for battling the politics between and within L.A. movie studios, so that they could output a usable document with a set of recommendations that can be adopted across and outside of the movie industry.

My takeaways from the report were:

  • the studios’ movie libraries represent both a future revenue stream and the cultural heritage of the country;
  • the problem of preserving film has been solved, but the problem of how to preserve digital film is only now being addressed;
  • the practice of “saving everything” that works well with film is not financially feasible with digital movies, given the size and length of time required for storage of the digital film and all associated files;
  • film requires a “store properly and ignore for the next 100 years” preservation plan, while digital film requires migration to new formats, software, and hardware every few years;
  • the cost of preserving a digital movie for the next 100 years is 1100 times the cost of the same movie stored as CMYK film;
  • the use of standard formats, software, and hardware will reduce the long-term storage costs of digital movies;
  • studios should force vendors to use and adhere to standards and enforce this by buying and working with vendors who use standards;
  • and, last but not least, the digital preservation problem cuts across all industries — private, government, non-profit, and research — and movie industry representatives should work with these other organizations to develop solutions that benefit us all.

The report is available for free online in .pdf. You may also order a paper copy for US$20 from AMPAS or for free via your local library’s Interlibrary Loan program.

I looked at the STC portion of the AMPAS site to see if there were any follow up reports to this, but I was not able to find any information. I tried to contact AMPAS, but the web form is not working. I will follow up on this in a later post, once I have time to research this further.

Do any of you have any recent information on how or if the recommendations from this report have or are being implemented within any movie studios?

Please let me know what you think....