Inside the Academy’s Quest to Help Filmmakers Preserve Digital Titles

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science has set up the Academy Digital Preservation Forum, a website inviting filmmakers and others to address the challenges facing digital preservation.

The forum is part of the Academy’s larger preservation efforts to advance the digital preservation of motion pictures for years to come.

Heading the project is Andrea Kalas, SVP Asset Management at Paramount Pictures. Her career has been long devoted to the world of preservation, having worked at the British Film Insititute, Dreamworks SKG and Discovery Communications.

Kalas hopes the forum’s website will become a place to educate those with an interest in film preservation through the stories, videos and topics posted.

Speaking with Variety, Kalas said the idea stemmed from frequent meetings with a group of experts that included Randal Luckow, Director, Archives and Asset Management, HBO, Ujwal Nigudkar, Technical Advisor for India’s National Film Heritage Mission, Brian Nogle, Manager, Creative Technologies, Netflix and Janice Simpson, Library Archivist at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, The Walt Disney Company.

During that time, they shared concerns for digital preservation — such as which assets should be preserved, the costs of preservation, how to preserve digitally, and consumerism.

Those issues now serve as the forum’s main foundation.

On the subject of consumerism, Kalas spoke about what happens when streaming platforms remove original titles from the services. “While it’s public knowledge that film studios often do restorations on older titles, it’s not widely known what happens to new original films.” She added, “They [the studios] are looking after the newer digital titles. If a title comes off the site, it’s not going away, it’s there. It is taken care of.”

Technology is another concern for digital preservation, as studios consider what would be the best type of file on which to save film. What happens if the software used today becomes obsolete? Kalas says, “If you have a proprietary format, you might need to change that format to something else that will be readable. Data lives on, and it’s constantly moving and migrating, you need to make sure nothing happened to it, and there are ways to do that.” She continues, “There’s this approach of caring about those digits and that those digits are art. There’s a lot of work to be done, but there are a lot of people working on it.”

The Academy is the perfect place, Kalas says, to be the home of this forum. She hopes it will become a place where filmmakers and industry folk alike can confront challenges, encourage information exchange, and stimulate productive work to address these challenges.

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