Guilherme Kajawski wrote me from Brazil with some interesting questions about digital archiving. Here's part of my response:
I worked at all 3 major broadcast networks here, setting up divisions whose job it was to "mine" or "excavate" the tape archives, creating new programs they could sell to the cable channels. We were using the earliest practical nonlinear editing systems, where all footage is stored on hard drives, using various levels of compression. I realized quickly that our programs were going back into the archives and were being cannibalized to make other shows. To me this was problematic, due to the successive generations of compression. Before, we dealt with tape copies, a kind of analog degradation. Now we were adding digital artifacts every time we reused the footage. Yes, the new shows could go back to the original versions we had used, but why? These shows were produced quickly and cheaply. Who had the time, when someone else (us) had already dug up the best shots?
Now there are systems that are non-compressed, that don't degrade the image. And there are starting to be digital archives on servers. But there is just too much, a landslide of new material every day. Even if the systems go digital, there will still be that layer of material we created in the 90's, the pixelized, dusty geological stratum in the middle, between the film of the 50's and 60's, the blurry tape of the 70's, the better betacam of the 80's and 90's and the digital formats of the future.Posted by Dave at August 07, 2002 04:00 PM