Monday, April 19, 2010

April 14, 1906

Market Street in San Francisco.

A pulled comment on the video:
"What's really great about a piece of analog film like this is that after all this time we can still pull an image from it. The story is told of a fellow going into a farmer's greenhouse and noticing the glass panes were actually 8x10 civil war negatives shot in 1865 by Matthew Brady. Prints could still be made from them.

Not so with our newfangled video and digital formats.

Ever heard of the Panasonic M 1/2" professional video format? No? The entire early history of the B-2 bomber was shot on that format. Hundreds of hours of development, manufacturing and flight test. Good luck finding a player that will allow you to see what's on that tape even today, just 25 years later, much less a hundred years hence. It is lost, even though the tapes are safely stored for the time being until someone says, "We need the space. Throw it out."

And if you say, "Well, just transfer it to a newer format..." think again. There is no one willing to pay for it.

Then there's 3/4" video format; other formats like 1/2" Betacam; 1" and 2" video. And the tape itself is falling apart because the emulsion binder is failing. Unless it's digitized, and even at that stored on a playable format, it's all lost.

I thought I had captured my resume forever when, in 1983, I typed it into an Apple II word processor and saved it onto a 5-1/4" floppy. By the time I wanted to update it, both the computer and the program I wrote it in were gone. Some precious stuff is on the hard drive of my Mac Plus in the garage...if it can even boot. Some digital "history."

They say the web is forever, but servers crash, hard drives fail. YouTube is cool for the moment and seems like it's forever, but will everything we see on it today be there even next year, much less in 104 years? Hardly.

Meanwhile, last week I was asked to pull 13,000 feet of original 16mm film that had sat untouched in our vaults since 1965 and estimate what it would take to transfer it to video so the government could study it.

It's 45 years old and still viable...and viewable. I doubt 104 years from now much of anything we see today will be around.

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