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Digital Film Preservation “12 Times Cost Of Analogue”

by Naresh Sarwan on January 4, 2011

Dominic Case writing on the Australian National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA) Blog discusses an increasing concern shared by several commentators that digital preservation is turning out to be more expensive and complicated than analogue:

…no-one knows how long digital data can be preserved or how much more it will cost. Best estimates for most digital formats are around ten years, while a couple of years ago the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the organisation behind the Academy Awards or Oscars) in its seminal report The Digital Dilemma estimated that long-term, secure digital preservation would cost about 12 times as much as conventional film preservation.” [Read More]

The same observation was made in the Rolling Stone article we covered at the end of 2010 by David Browne where the contention was made that digital media is a “feeble storage medium”.  Anyone who has endured the pain of a migration from a legacy DAM system, or simply converting legacy formats into a more modern equivalent will appreciate that the process is far from trivial.

Cheryl Mckinnon, writing on her Candy Strategies blog identifies the same issue in her ECM predictions for 2011, taking the view that the consumer market may lead the way in forcing a change to open formats rather than business or public sector which seem to take a lackadaisical attitude towards the problem:

Digital Preservation panic will rise out of the consumer world, putting the enterprise to shame. I’ve already tried to play online videos from only 5 years ago that are in formats my laptop cannot figure out. Does business and public sector yet again need to be provoked into action by the tech challenges faced in the personal space? Rather than budgeting big money for regular file conversions every few years, or copying degrading digital assets from media type to media type, perhaps it’s time to really start pushing for the adoption of open standards for digital formats as one of the few real buffers against the loss of our personal, public and corporate heritage. Is no one else afraid of our age of information overload becoming the Dark Ages 2.0” [Read More]

Since many of the innovations that lead to the uptake of digital media (and subsequently DAM as well) originated in the consumer market, I would have to agree with her point.  A large proportion of funds which could be invested into developing more effective Digital Asset Management solutions is currently being put to the sword to pay for needless “format churning”.  This is an issue which participants in the DAM industry should be more actively involved in and vocal about.

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