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Author Topic: Digital- to-Film for 50-year archive  (Read 5540 times)
Zerui
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« on: October 07, 2011, 04:01:30 AM »
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I recently gave high level public lectures illustrated by 100 photographs I had taken fifty years ago in 1961. The lectures are being followed by a book. For the lecture I digitized (and cleaned up) Kodachromes that had been mounted in glass slides and stored for fifty years, without any thought to conservation. The images are still vibrant with the rich colours of Kodachome.  I am now digitizing some of my 70mm (sic) Hasselblad Ektachrome photographs from the 1960s. They will also be used in lectures and a book.
My point is that when stored as film, the photographs have survived fifty years in a box. I did not have to do anything to ensure their survival.  There was no need for active conservation beyond providing a reasonable climate for storage.
My question is how to ensure the fifty-year term survival of images I am taking today with my digital Hasselblad.  I doubt whether they will survive as digital images after I am dead, when nobody is taking care to maintain them in successive new formats and media that will emerge over the decades.  But the interest shown in my 1961 photographs suggests it is worth preserving those taken in 2011. My recent experience suggest that the photographer cannot predict which images will prove most interesting in fifity years time.  So it is necessary to preserve a much larger collection of original images than one can reasonably store as prints for fifty years. Those I choose to print today are for the interests of today, not those of 2071, which I cannot predict.
One solution might be to convert the digital images to film. That is done in the motion film world with systems like the Arrilaser and Celco's Film Fury.But I doubt that the operators of these sophisticated devices would quote an affordable price for converting a few thousand digital still images to film.  Do you know of any equivalent service for still photographs? Are museums doing this?
Do you have any experience of archiving still images on film? What is your strategy for photographic posterity in the digital age, other than archiving prints?
John   
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2011, 04:45:09 AM »
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No experience with archiving, but here's a guess: Why not use the internet and save it under different servers for free? Someone will have to wipe out the internet to destroy all copies of your data. This way, it stays digital, in the exact specifications you stored it in. Most common archival format is TIFF (at least that's what it says on wikipedia!). I don't know if this will help, but it's a start.
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Graham Mitchell
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2011, 04:58:14 AM »
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There are commercial services for producing film images from digital files but I haven't used one in years and I'm not sure how common they are any more. But if you want to do a few thousand images, then this is probably going to cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. That could buy you a LOT of hard drives, and it will only buy you one film backup per image. One copy doesn't help in the case of a fire, flood, theft, etc.

I agree this is an issue, but film is not necessarily the answer.

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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2011, 06:27:47 AM »
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I would get in touch with a Data Online Storage company. There are a lot of companies and solutions with differents warranties, most probably much cheaper than outputting it on film.

Thierry
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Zerui
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2011, 09:07:26 AM »
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Thank you to those who have responded so far, much appreciated.  I have my doubts about relying on ANY digital solution, whether hard disk or cloud, on the grounds that 50 years is much longer than the half-life of (1) computer technology and (2) commercial enterprises. TIFF in 2071?  Maybe?  I still think film is probably the best solution. It has worked for fifty years in my case. Perhaps some enterprising person will design an affordable desktop "reverse scanner": digital in, film out. There might be a market for it. Meanwhile I look forward to further suggestions.  John
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Ajoy Roy
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2011, 09:20:41 AM »
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Here is a service provider http://www.prolab.com.au/services/Lab-Services/Film-Writer-LVT.php

I think that the problem with digital is more in the data format than the storage or the medium. If you have data from early eighties, and if you wants to preserve it, it will have to go through a format conversion now and may be every ten years. This is in contrast to paper (or film in our case) which needs no conversion through out its life. As newer and more efficient formats appear, the older formats fall into disuse and finally there is no way to read them. So if there is a need for long term archiving, a long term data format standard needs to evolve. Another problem with digital data is the media. I have yet to come across a media which is guaranteed to last a reasonably long time, without being prohibitively expensive. The best I have come across is 50 years, and that is an estimate, not proven life. In contrast film and paper, if properly preserved will last till eternity.

At one time I was also thinking of converting the digital images to a film. In my case I had thought of rigging up a solution using 4x5 or 8x10 colour sheet film (though expensive it has the advantage of easier review compared to 35mm or 6x6. If the demand is high enough, some one will come up with a cost effective service. After all what is needed is a high resolution film writer, similar to printer but with a finer density (2000DPI vs 600DPI).

The only source for film that I could find is http://www.fujifilm.com/products/professional_films/pdf/velvia_100f_datasheet.pdf
As there is quite a decent volume of film based processing still, I am investigating the feasibility of digital to film conversion, and if the volumes are high enough to justify the investment, a unit can be set up in India.

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cng
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2011, 09:41:17 AM »
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My 2cents: if you're really trying to avoid digital archiving, then I would consider outputting to print (not film). Document scanners are more prevalent than film scanners, and could be argued to continue to be so in the future. Also, is there any archival rating or guarantee for the emulsions used in the digital-film transfer?

Print multiple copies (say A4 or 8x10) using archival materials and store appropriately in multiple locations for redundancy. Repro from prints can actually be more desirable in some situations.
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2011, 11:08:40 AM »
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Fuli Velvia 100 is rated for 300 years without fading and major changes in color stability. Kodak, too, agrees that film is the best way to archive images. Is there a control process to manage color and the full dynamic range (and color properties) of different digital color spaces?

There is a system for motion pictures, though. You could try contacting a film lab (for movies) that does DI and film outs - they might handle your files for you at a reasonable cost, but they only output to 35mm film (mostly) - unless you can afford IMAX. The higher end labs are also used to dealing with the CIE XYZ color space (DCI spec). All the best.
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Graham Mitchell
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2011, 12:26:18 PM »
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Thank you to those who have responded so far, much appreciated.  I have my doubts about relying on ANY digital solution, whether hard disk or cloud, on the grounds that 50 years is much longer than the half-life of (1) computer technology and (2) commercial enterprises. TIFF in 2071?  Maybe?  I still think film is probably the best solution. It has worked for fifty years in my case. Perhaps some enterprising person will design an affordable desktop "reverse scanner": digital in, film out. There might be a market for it. Meanwhile I look forward to further suggestions.  John

If TIFF is ever replaced, it will be a gradual process. Photoshop 2071 could be used to batch convert the files from TIFF to the new standard. That part of the problem is insignificant.

Every home should have a digital vault, and probably will do some day. The concept exists already but will become more mainstream as internet speeds improve and data storage costs drop.
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2011, 01:21:05 PM »
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My 2cents: if you're really trying to avoid digital archiving, then I would consider outputting to print (not film). Document scanners are more prevalent than film scanners, and could be argued to continue to be so in the future. Also, is there any archival rating or guarantee for the emulsions used in the digital-film transfer?

Print multiple copies (say A4 or 8x10) using archival materials and store appropriately in multiple locations for redundancy. Repro from prints can actually be more desirable in some situations.

Hows about printing on transparency with archival inks? The celluloid is much more stable than paper. The biggest problem short of a catastrophe is humidity cycles with the seasons.
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Wayne Fox
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« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2011, 07:56:40 PM »
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You are comparing the preservation by yourself of images you placed some value on while you are alive to what will happen once you are not.  

If the images are valued by future generations there will be efforts to preserve them regardless of how they are archived.  It they are not valued, I don't think using film will help, because someone will just toss them some day (or they'll get ruined in a flood or fire).  so despite the ability of the film to perhaps maintain  quality, 50 years from now will anyone care enough about that box of pictures?  Digitally there can be redundant copies and any transition to newer formats will certainly be slow with tools to handle that so your odds might be better with digital.

Another challenge, if they are valued and held onto will there be any technology then which can utilize the transparencies?  How do you know there will be anyway to convert the visual information to a useful format ... who knows if there will even be a way to scan them anymore?

MJ over at TOP did a nice article about this, which puts a little different spin on the whole permanence/archival thing.

(also wondering why this is in this particular forum, not that I care, just sort of curious as it seems there are some other forums that may get more responses).
« Last Edit: October 07, 2011, 07:59:22 PM by Wayne Fox » Logged

ced
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2011, 12:49:00 PM »
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As all the major government archival agencies, institutes, cities etc. are digitising images, documents etc; etc. I think there is no need to worry about archiving digital data.  There would be such an outcry if these bodies were unable to access this archived material.
They could also initiate research to recover such data if there ever was some way technology would leave this method behind.
I think that you have been fortunate that your films kept so long, I know & also have personal experience that this is not always so.
Save 2 copies one Tiff & one Jpeg and put them on separate raid sets of disks and sleep peacefully for another 50 yrs.
Some Links to extra info:
http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1027&context=libr_pubs&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.be%2Furl%3Fsa%3Dt%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D23%26ved%3D0CCgQFjACOBQ%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fdigitalcommons.
uconn.edu%252Fcgi%252Fviewcontent.cgi%253Farticle%253D1027%2526context%253Dlibr
_pubs%26rct%3Dj%26q%3Dbest%2520format%2520for%2520image%2520archival%26ei%3D7YuQTpv1F6rS4QSOmdTCAQ%26usg%
3DAFQjCNHGEAD2XCRXQGLcYxquFInUfDuDGg%26sig2%3DBQe4Fj-2ODH9kDP9Autk_w#search=%22best%20format%20image%20archival%22

www.historicalvoices.org/papers/image_digitization2.pdf
« Last Edit: October 08, 2011, 06:46:28 PM by ced » Logged
hjulenissen
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« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2011, 03:27:28 PM »
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There was recently some media articles about a new DVD format designed to last for 100s of years, while still being playable in regular DVD players.

If you can do some intervention every 10 years, then I think the problem is easy. If you want to do 50 years with no intervention, it gets harder. Perhaps put a good-quality PC with a hard-drive in a bank deposit box. If the PC runs or can be fixed (a few caps perhaps), it may be easier exporting the data when you have the software and electronics to read it.

But using tried-and-true media is a good point. Analog film and analog music media have survived for quite some time (with some degradation and some total loss). The track-record for digital content remains to be seen.

-h
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design_freak
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« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2011, 03:41:14 PM »
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There was recently some media articles about a new DVD format designed to last for 100s of years, while still being playable in regular DVD players.

If you can do some intervention every 10 years, then I think the problem is easy. If you want to do 50 years with no intervention, it gets harder. Perhaps put a good-quality PC with a hard-drive in a bank deposit box. If the PC runs or can be fixed (a few caps perhaps), it may be easier exporting the data when you have the software and electronics to read it.

But using tried-and-true media is a good point. Analog film and analog music media have survived for quite some time (with some degradation and some total loss). The track-record for digital content remains to be seen.

-h

I can say only that 100 years for DVD - it is only marketing. After 10 years you could lost everything.
Even goog quality HD is not good idea. Till today the best possible medium to archive is tape :-) If you have 1% of nominal signal on the tape it is possible to read it without problems. It's my 2 cents


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hjulenissen
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« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2011, 03:53:52 PM »
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I can say only that 100 years for DVD - it is only marketing. After 10 years you could lost everything.
This is my reference:
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9140771/Start_up_claims_its_DVDs_last_1_000_years

Of course, no matter if it lasts 12 years or 1000 years, this thread will be dead by then anyways :-D

-h
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2011, 11:28:45 PM »
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Kodak sells archival DVDs too, which will supposedly last 100+ years. But can you find players for 5.25 or 3.5 floppies today? It might be a good idea if these companies also guaranteed players to last that long.

I do not recommend backups on tape or HDD - even the companies making the most expensive and robust archival systems can go kaput. Even film needs periodical maintenance - as filmmakers know only too well.

Or one could seal their work in vacuum and store them at sub zero temperatures in an air controlled vault - like Mr. Gates is doing. The Egyptians tried something like that a few thousand years ago...it might just work.
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« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2011, 04:08:45 AM »
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Kodak sells archival DVDs too, which will supposedly last 100+ years. But can you find players for 5.25 or 3.5 floppies today? It might be a good idea if these companies also guaranteed players to last that long.
3.5" and 5.25" players: no problem. Older storage formats a little harder but usually doable if you spend some time. Eventually, it is going to be hard to find a computer with the necessary interface to use that player (serial port is still fine, but what about "printer port" and scsi port drives? parallell ATA is also going the way of the dodo). Putting a self-contained PC with display and everything in a vacum container is safe in that everything is there (you just need to make it work and figure a way to get the data out of it).

The problem more often (I believe) is that even if you can read the raw data off the medium, interpreting the data can be hard. Especially if the data is complex, database-like, proprietary (like my database of Canon raw files stored in a Microsoft-type filesystem neatly organized and tagged Adobe proprietary lightroom database, really).

So perhaps the optimal solution is to spread your images as film, on the internet, as hard-drives, etc. If you have enough independent "channels", the probability that at least one survives for some finite period of time should increase.

-h
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amsp
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« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2011, 12:02:03 PM »
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Honestly, I don't see how anything could be safer than saving them in TIFF with an online hosting company. It's not like the format is going to die and be replaced overnight and all of a sudden all programs that supported it will decide to no longer be backwards compatible. Same thing goes for a company offering the archival service, they don't close down business and erase your data out of the blue. I've used the same hosting service for 14 years now for example. The cloud is your safest bet IMO, with copies stored locally on your HD.
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John.Williams
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« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2011, 12:51:42 PM »
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Taking a step back, I see the significance of your premise, John.

In other words, fast forward to 2020 and will you be able to with the same degree of ease, reference your digital files as though retrieving the shoebox, opening, and holding up to the light, the instant visibility of the image.

A retiring Fuji film representative told me a decade ago that he would argue that film is:
  • A proven technology to store images
  • Low cost of acquisition/operation
  • Durable storage medium that is universally compatible
  • Can function without electricity

Of course, we had a good chuckle about that, but the implications of his statement are solid points to ponder. This does not mean we are to abandon our digital technology, but to make the effort to meet the need for retrieving our images in 2020 with the same degree of ease and reliability of "the shoebox."

P.S. as a completely shameless plug, we have a Flextight scanner in our rental pool for this exact scenario: shoebox + film = digital file.

Enjoy exploring!

John
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Ajoy Roy
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« Reply #19 on: October 09, 2011, 10:17:10 PM »
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A visual image directly decoded by our eyes, beats digital archiving for instant retrieval. Think of all the problems involved in decoding lost scripts, and you can visualise the problems that can creep up with digital archives. I always wonder how in those end-of-the world scenarios, the hero has always the means to access high tech gadgets, while the villains are have lost it all. In reality it may not be so, and I will not want the future generation to wonder how the gadgets left by the posterity function. Give me film which is recognised immediately, without bothering about readers, electric voltage and accompanying infrastructure. You do not even have to know how to read to appreciate the photo on film.
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