Moving the archives

Cans I am in the middle of moving home, and the spectre of film archiving has raised its ugly head again. Having three features and countless other projects under my belt, I now have a lot of materials – mostly old BetaSP / DigiBeta tapes and 35mm neg and 35mm mag. And there is a lot of it (including a ten can stack of Gone Fishing 35mm camera neg).

I now have a loft and so some of the film elements can go up there for now, but I don’t want to store anything magnetic up there as lofts have a tendency to get very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. I reckon that we will be pushing 50° on the hottest days, and maybe -5° on the coldest, so that’s a temperature range in excess of 50° – of course I could do a loft roof insulation (it’s already insulated on the floor but not the roof), but that’s another thing to do and has a big dollar tag attached. Then add to this the possibility of dampness, and then add the seasonal temperature up / down (expand / contract), year after year, and tape stock will simply fall apart.

As a final blow, most of it is already ten years old, some of it up to nearly 20 years! More recent stuff tends to be DV sized, or even data on a hard drive, which is easier and smaller to store, but still needs careful consideration.

So what to do? It’s a dilemma. I can’t just ditch it all. Nor can I spend months and loads of cash properly archiving for the future. I think the only option is to embark on a five year plan to whittle away at it, bit by bit, basically converting everything into digital data, with maximum quality and hope that this will solve the problem. The obvious place to start is with the old Magfilm premixes and final mixes from White Angel (there is a small mountain of it). Phew! As if I didn’t have enough on my plate.

Onward and upward!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author

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