American Library Association Digitization Standards

Excerpted from ALA.ORG

Film is the last area where there are large numbers of people who believe analog duplication, that is film to film, is the proper form of preservation. Preservation on film is expensive, time consuming, creates hazardous waste and is subject to the same challenges of all analog-to-analog duplication.


There is significant disagreement whether digitization will ever create an appropriate surrogate for film. One side argues it is only a matter of time until the resolution of digitization surpasses the amount of information that can be captured in photographic film. The other side argues digital projection will never match luminesce of light projected through film onto a screen. Digits may capture the information on film, but it will never reproduce the experience of projected film.

We may look back upon two recent events as catalysts for moving into a file-based solution for film preservation. Recently, Kodak filed for bankruptcy and an earthquake in Japan shut down the only factory where HDCAM tape is manufactured. The demise of Kodak removes a major player in the manufacturer and processing of film. The inability to purchase tape for $130,000 professional video machines hastened the migration toward file-based workflows. As data storage has become larger and cheaper, the economics of working on computers are fast becoming significantly less than purchasing, handling, editing and storing film.

While major motion picture studios can be expected to continue to do high end color separation, photo-chemical preservation of major films, and to care for the analog preservation work performed to date, the rapidly falling cost and increasing resolution of digitization will make it harder and harder for smaller institutions to justify film-to-film preservation.

The authors feel that there are currently too many unknowns to make a well informed recommendation on digitalizing moving image film at this time.

This topic is discussed in detail in the following document produced by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences:

  • “Digital Dilemma 2.” Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 2012. Web. 8 Jun 2012. ACADEMY DIGITAL DILEMMA.

Client Comments

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Peter Limbrick, Associate Professor, Film and Digital Media , UC Santa Cruzquote2-40

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