Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Out now: The Digital Dilemma 2 (online publication)

The Digital Dilemma 2: Perspectives from Independent Filmmakers, Documentarians and Nonprofit Audiovisual Archives. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Science and Technology Council, 2012. - Free to download from the Academy's website.

The Digital Dilemma (2007) published by the Motion Picture Academy is essential reading about movie preservation in the digital era. In The Digital Dilemma 2 the account is expanded to the even more challenging area of independent movie production.

The official presentation on the Academy website: "The Digital Dilemma, published in 2007, raised important concerns about the longevity of digital motion picture materials created by the major Hollywood studios, as well as other valuable digital data managed by large commercial, scientific and government organizations. It found that all organizations dealing with digital systems and data collection face the same problem: they do not have an operationally and economically sustainable means to maintain long-term access to their materials."

"The Digital Dilemma 2 focuses on the more acute challenges faced by independent filmmakers, documentarians and nonprofit audiovisual archives. While 75 percent of theatrically released motion pictures are independently produced, these communities typically lack the resources, personnel and funding to address sustainability issues that are available to major Hollywood studios and other large, deep-pocketed enterprises. Independent filmmakers create – and nonprofit film archives collect and store – a sizeable part of moving image and sound heritage. The Academy partnered with the Library of Congress's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) to produce this new study with the conviction that these communities shouldn't be allowed to fall through the cracks."

"For this report, a cross-section of independent filmmakers, distributors and marketers was interviewed and a broader online survey of independent filmmakers was conducted. In addition, a representative group of nonprofit audiovisual archives provided details on their digital preservation activities, including information about the content they receive as born digital files, their current practices for digitally reformatting content for preservation, and their overall digital infrastructure, policies and funding strategies. The report's findings show an urgent need for these diverse and widely dispersed individuals and organizations to address the digital dilemma before the cultural heritage they represent is permanently lost."


"The Digital Dilemma, published in 2007 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, focused on issues of digital motion picture data longevity in the major Hollywood studios and included comparative investigations of scientific, government and other major enterprises and industries. Among the report’s conclusions was that although digital technologies provide tremendous benefits, they do not guarantee long-term access to digital data; compared to traditional filmmaking using motion picture film stock, digital technologies make it easier to create motion pictures, but the resulting digital data is much harder to preserve. Long-term preservation – maintaining access to content for 100 years or longer – is a key requirement for studio archives. Meeting this requirement necessitates professionally managed digital storage systems and processes at substantial, perpetual operational and capital expense, and oftentimes major enterprise reorganization. This reality will exist as long as technology obsolescence remains an integral part of the digital storage technology business model."

"Independent (“indie”) filmmakers operating outside of the major Hollywood studios supply 75 percent of feature film titles screened in U.S. cinemas, despite facing substantial obstacles in doing so. As digital moviemaking technologies have lowered the barrier to entry for making films, competition among indie filmmakers seeking theatrical distribution has increased. Without the benefit of studio backing, these filmmakers must navigate the distribution waters on their own."

"New digital distribution platforms may make it easier for indie filmmakers to connect their films with target audiences and possible revenue streams, but these platforms have not yet proven themselves."

"Most of the filmmakers surveyed for this report have given little thought to what happens to their work once it is completed. Most pay for some type of storage for the master version of the completed work, but few store their film masters in proper environmental conditions or manage their digital masters using appropriate preservation practices. Many depend on distributors (traditional theatrical distributors, packaged media, pay TV) or new “streaming” platform providers to take responsibility for preservation. In general, independent films that beat the odds and secure some form of distribution do so after a much longer time period than movies produced by the major studios. This time period quite likely exceeds the “shelf life” of any digital work; that is, by the time distribution is secured, the digital data may become inaccessible. Most of the filmmakers surveyed and interviewed for this report were not aware of the perishable nature of digital content, or how short its unmanaged lifespan is compared to the 95-plus years that U.S. copyright laws allow filmmakers to benefi t from their work."

"Documentarians, defined in this report as independent filmmakers specializing in nonfiction topics, have access to funding sources that are not generally available to the broader group. These funding sources include grants as well as work-for-hire contracts. Unlike narrative filmmakers, documentarians achieve distribution primarily through broadcast and pay television; only a relatively small number achieve wide theatrical distribution. Many documentarians license archival footage for their work, and those surveyed noted the shift to acquisition of historical footage from film to videotape beginning in the 1970s, and then to digital formats in the early 2000s. Surveyed and interviewed documentarians did not seem concerned about or aware of the possibility or likelihood of digitally acquired historical footage being lost. To the contrary, they believed that the Internet and today’s digital technologies offered unprecedented access to historical footage."

"Most surveyed indie filmmakers, including documentarians, expressed two primary concerns: getting their work seen by an audience and moving on to the next project. They were therefore focused on securing distribution, with an eye to some measure of revenue generation. Today indie filmmakers face greater challenges in getting their work accepted to film festivals, which historically have been their primary path to theatrical distribution. They have consequently pursued nontheatrical distribution platforms such as direct-to-video and the newer Internetbased video-on-demand services, which can provide an easier path to a paying, if smaller, audience. Unless an independent film is picked up by a major studio’s distribution arm, its path to an audiovisual archive is uncertain. If a filmmaker’s digital work doesn’t make it to such a preservation environment, its lifespan will be limited – as will its revenue-generating potential and its ability to enjoy the full measure of U.S. copyright protection."

"The final destination for many independent films – as well as much historical footage – is one or more of the hundreds of nonprofi t audiovisual archives in the U.S. (and hundreds more worldwide) that actively collect materials in support of their particular missions. Many years can pass between the creation of such content and its entry into an archive. Archives surveyed for this report stated that increasing amounts of digital materials are entering their facilities through two mechanisms: analog holdings being digitally reformatted, and collections being created in digital form."

"The archives estimate that their collective digital holdings will grow from approximately 183 terabytes in 2009 to more than 2.7 petabytes by 2014, a 15-fold increase that will result in individual collection sizes in excess of 100 terabytes. Although archives can take advantage of digital technologies to provide greater access to their holdings, they are generally ill-equipped and inadequately resourced to properly store and manage such relatively large collections of digital materials for the long term. Well-established, time-tested analog preservation practices do not apply to digital holdings; digital materials are fundamentally different from motion picture film and other analog materials. Suitable long-term preservation and access mechanisms for digital motion picture materials have not yet been developed."

"At nonprofit audiovisual archives, the decision to start digitizing analog materials, as well as the digitizing itself, quite often precedes the establishment of a digital preservation program. The digital fi les are typically created to satisfy an immediate need – for end-user access or to preserve deteriorating materials already in a collection – so the program’s overall design and implementation are often deferred."

"The broader digital library community, which deals with smaller digital files in smaller numbers relative to audiovisual archives, has made progress in addressing digital preservation issues. While the motion picture industry has increased collaboration around these issues, independent filmmakers and nonprofi t audiovisual archives suffer from a dearth of fi nancial resources and active collaborative forums. This report describes proposals that may improve the outlook for these groups:

• Facilitating collaboration among representative organizations from these communities on issues of funding, technology and practice
• Organizing cooperatives to share technical infrastructure and knowledge
• Offering more educational opportunities at industry conferences, film festivals and film schools and greater exposure to the technical standards activities of major Hollywood studios and motion picture industry organizations"

"The digital dilemma is far from solved. Unless preservation becomes a requirement in planning, budgeting and marketing strategies, it will remain unsolved for independent filmmakers, documentarians and nonprofit audiovisual archives alike. These communities, and the nation’s artistic and cultural heritage, would greatly benefit from a comprehensive, coordinated digital preservation plan for the future."

No comments: