AnthroCine: Archival Film Digitizing System
AnthroCine: Archival Film Digitizing System
The AnthroCine is a specialized film scanner, designed to scan old and damaged archived film stock at high resolution and low cost.
The AnthroCine is a specialized film scanner, designed to scan old and damaged archived film stock at high resolution and low cost. Read more
About this project
Film archives have more than just newsreels: movies, television, sports, culture, and every aspect human life were recorded... and most of it has never been digitized, and especially not at high resolutions. The AnthroCine motion picture film scanner will ensure that the world’s film heritage lives on.
Help Advanced Film Capture Save the World’s Film Heritage
There is an urgent need to digitize archived motion picture film worldwide; every day untold amounts of footage becomes irreparably damaged. For over 100 years humanity has recorded every aspect of its existence on motion picture film for the benefit of future generations. Decades of entertainment, arts, politics, sports and industry that were captured on motion picture film for posterity lie rotting – and with each day more is lost forever.
We believe that Advanced Film Capture’s AnthroCine archival film digitizer will create a unique opportunity for the world’s motion picture film heritage to finally make it into the digital realm, preserving the captured images for posterity and allowing them to be distributed within modern content ecosystems.
Why is this Happening?
There are companies and equipment that convert motion picture film to the digital realm everyday, providing what is know as a “digital intermediate” for contemporary motion picture productions. The high visibility and profit margin of modern motion picture productions has driven existing film digitizing efforts (commonly referred to as “film scanning”) almost exclusively towards newly shot film footage.
The majority of motion picture film archives simply lack the funding necessary to digitize their collection using the equipment currently available. Costs can be more than 50 cents a frame for the digitizing alone, well beyond the reach of most archives; at that price, an hour of footage would cost well over $40,000 just to scan (not counting film preparation and consumables). The efficiencies of the AnthroCine allow AFC to reduce the cost of film digitizing by up to 90% of what is currently being charged for a 4k or 6k digital deliverable.
Motion picture productions that use photochemical film have begun to rapidly decline. Technological advances have dramatically dwindled the film camera market, and the former market leaders in film camera technology (ARRI, Panavision and Aaton) have discontinued production of their film camera lines. Film cameras produced as early as the 1940’s are still in active use around the world, and additional inventory is simply not required by filmmakers and rental houses (Creative Cow has a fantastic article on the decline of film as a motion picture medium).
Existing motion picture film archives typically have great difficulty obtaining the funds required for the digitization of their collections, despite the opportunities provided by modern content distribution ecosystems. Film preservation organizations are woefully underfunded, and often have very specific mandates and organizational goals imposed on them by their supporters and funders; investing in new technology is beyond their purview.
Despite the urgent need for a fast, affordable system for the digitizing of archived film, the perception that we are at the end of the film era has put traditional start-up funding sources out of reach for Advanced Film Capture and the AnthroCine film digitizer. After years of meetings and negotiations with venture capitalists, angel investment groups, lending banks, and bridge financiers, the Advanced Film Capture team was awestruck by the arrival of crowd-funding. Kickstarter is genuinely the only way a project like ours can get off the ground and stay true to our mission.
Archives Eagerly Awaiting the AnthroCine
First in the long backlog of AntroCine clients is the Sherman Grinberg Film Library. A stunning collection of newsreels and other footage going back over a century, this library (formerly known as the Sarnoff Paramount Pathe News archive) is jaw-dropping example of the motion picture legacy that is silently decaying across the globe. Here’s a YouTube video of some low-resolution scans of the Sherman Grinberg Film Library material.
Advanced Film Capture has also partnered with a world leader in digital storage and archiving, who will immediately commission several AntroCine’s once the final field model is completed and thoroughly vetted. This company maintains massive motion picture film archives for hundreds of directors, production companies and archives the world over.
Once AFC is cash-flow positive as a company, our Archive Outreach Program will go into effect. Even though the AnthroCine film scanner reduces digitization costs by up to 90%, many smaller archives (some of them non-profit organizations) operate on budgets that barely cover their storage spaces. AFC will give these archives the opportunity to have their collections digitized by waiving our scanning costs, preserving the contents of the archives while allowing them to pursue distribution options.
What makes the AnthroCine different from other motion picture film scanners?
Delivering lower costs for the motion picture film digitization processes are irrelevant unless the resulting digital imagery fully captures the spatial and dynamic qualities of the film. The AnthroCine system has numerous proprietary features, ensuring that the image quality of the film is fully captured during the digitizing process. A proprietary dual exposure process records two exposure levels for each frame in each color: one at low light and another at a brighter light level. Both light level exposures are then integrated to ensure that the full dynamic range of the film is represented in the digital master.
The AnthroCine also boasts the ability to precisely adjust each color's exposure level (red, green and blue) through the use of its proprietary lamp house. Archived film spans many decades and is comprised of both negative and positive prints produced with a wide variety of technologies, in addition to significant variations in the amounts and types of deterioration. The AnthroCine delivers a wide variety of lighting options to support the digitization process, allowing an optimal setting regardless of the type or condition of the film.
AFC’s unique combination of technologies allows the AnthroCine to produce a digital version of the film that not only does justice to the photochemical print, but creates a "future-proof" digital master. By marrying the latest camera technology to AFC’s exclusive film capture techniques, the AnthroCine is capable of generating a faithful digital representation at a minimum of 4K resolution and 16 bits of dynamic range.
To ensure the safest possible film handling, the AnthroCine utilizes a film transport developed in conjunction with a highly respected manufacturer with decades of service to the motion picture industry. The transport, coupled with AnthroCine’s additional safety features, monitors the film’s path and immediately stops the digitizing process if any issues are encountered.
Since many older films have weak or missing sprocket holes, the AnthroCine uses a capstan drive system. This allows for a wider range of films to be run, and it also eliminates the need for a wide range of labor intensive film repairs. Old motion picture film is frequently warped in a way that causes it to be curled from edge to edge, the AnthroCine uses a gentle stream of HEPA filtered air to ensure the film lies flat in the digitizing area.
Unlike existing systems, the AnthroCine is designed for temporary deployments within archive facilities. The system is roughly the size of a large commercial refrigerator and can be set up and calibrated within a single day. Transporting an AnthroCine unit is dramatically safer and simpler than moving vast quantities of delicate film reels, especially considering the volume the system can process in a single day.
Shipping or otherwise transporting film (particularly older, fragile film) is potentially damaging, due to temperature variations, humidity changes, and vibration that may occur en route. Safety film stock was not commonly used until well into the 1950s. Prior to that point silver nitrate films were the standard, and that class of film stock is now classified as toxic waste and is highly combustible. The relative portability the AnthroCine scanner removes the need to ship silver nitrate films, which would otherwise require costly permits, hazardous material shipping containers and specialized carriers.
Q: How will Kickstarter funds be used?
A: The majority of funds will be used for the construction, testing, and initial deployment of the first field-ready AnthroCine film scanner. Less than 10% of the money raised will go towards overhead expenses such as work space leases and legal/accounting costs.
Q: Why digitize old motion picture film? It looks horrible compared to modern HD video...
A: The AnthroCine will capture motion picture film at a minimum of 4K, well over 6X the resolution of 1080p/Blu-ray quality video. Existing captures of older film stock were often done at very low resolutions. A Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition of an older film is good example of what is possible.
Q: Isn’t every piece of motion picture film worth scanning already scanned?
A: Not by a long shot, and most of what has been scanned was done at low resolutions. Motion pictures and television programs though to be lost are rediscovered with regularity (recently, Martin Scorsese's Hugo dramatized the rediscovery of the work of Georges Méliès).
Q: Some of the old footage is at a different frames per second rate than what we normally play videos in. It makes everyone appear faster than they are. Would your digitizing account for this?
A: Yes, even the really old 16 frame per second footage can be played back at the correct rate. Traditional telecines were hard wired for conversion from 24 fps, but digital progressive scanned images can be viewed at the proper frame rate.
Q: Older films are typically not in very good condition. Why not just use 1080p HD resolution - isn't 4K overkill?
A: We will provide a 4K digital master at a minimum. Our objective is capture all the nuance on the film, regardless of the condition. That because even if the image is scaled down to 1080p from 4K it will look better than if it was digitized at 1080p.
We've seen a vast range in the condition of film at the archives. By scanning at very high resolutions we want to ensure we get all we can from each reel, even if it is ultimately stored at a lower resolution.
Q: Not every piece of film is important. How will it be decided which films get digitized?
A: It is really up to the archives and foundations in regard to which films are the most important to digitize first. That is driven by primarily by demand for the content, but I would like to think it will all get digitized before too long!
Q: I am concerned that once all the film is digitized it can be classified as new work and thus fall under copyrights laws. I believe this should all remain under public domain, and so my question is, will all scanned film remain under public domain?
A: Digitizing film does not generate a new copyright, nor does making another type of copy. Adding something new to a film, like colorizing it, can generate a new copyright.
While there are films in the public domain, I don't think it's a big percentage of what is in the archives. PD films would still be in the public domain after they were digitized. However, if an entity owned a copyright on a film prior to digitizing it would still own the copyright on the digitized version.
Q: Can your business model really deliver the cost reductions that you've stated? I am just very interested in knowing exactly why it is that you will be able to offer a massive cost reduction to clients while still running a profitable operation.
A: Happy to outline our operating strategy. Ultimately, it's the combination of our business model and the technology that makes our low price point possible. We operate the AnthroCine on a per-frame lease, in contrast to selling the scanning system which is the industry norm. The reality is that once an archive's material is digitized, they won't have any further need for a scanning system. Additionally, we operate the AnthroCine at the archive/library, so existing staff can perform as much of the triage, logging and other associated tasks as possible, while reducing our overhead and labor costs. This also keeps the archive's assets on premises and eliminates the expense and risk of shipping any film.
The hardware costs for an AnthroCine are relatively low because the design is comprised of a number of proven subsystems that are widely used in a number of other industries, in addition to the film transport - which is from a premier manufacturer in the motion picture industry. The hardware costs are amortized after three months with modest usage; basically a feature film a day. We expect much higher throughput after a setup and calibration period, and adding additional shifts is always an option to further increase digitized output.
Our company is a for-profit venture, but we have a decidedly altruistic spirt and have deep personal interests in film preservation. We have a small management team, and have developed all of our software and technology without incurring debt or giving up ownership of the intellectual property. With a conservative amount of scanned output we will have sufficient cash flow to build additional systems, although none of our team is expecting to make a fortune. We all do consider traveling the world unearthing previously unseen archived motion picture film a "dream job". This is not a traditional venture capitalist's dream however, hence our Kickstarter campaign.
Thanks For Your Support!
Initially we are only going to build one, but once it is operational in an archive we will build more AnthroCines from the proceeds.
No, it is essential that the AnthroCine design be kept trade secret because no patents have been filed for it yet. We have worked for years on the design and to publish the design here would put the intellectual property in the public domain.
To capture all of the detail that is on motion picture film, it takes a number of large precision lenses, illumination sources, extremely high resolution cameras, powerful computers and of course, the film transport. There just aren’t any shortcuts to this process; Nearly all of the money we are seeking will be used to buy hardware.
I really like the idea of this project, but I would like to hear more about how the digitized material would be shared with the public. Other than the promotional DVD that is described as part of the kickstarter, what plans or ideas do you have?
Great question! What we are building is a system that makes it financially practical to make a digital copy of these old films. The rights for the owner of the motion picture film we'll be digitizing will vary from archive to archive. While we don't necessarily have any influence over how a digital master will be distributed, just by having a digital master means these films will be distributed through traditional licensed channels or possibly through Amazon CreateSpace DVDs and iTunes/Google Play store downloads. We intend to release public domain films, television, etc. as often as we can, in addition to creating torrents.
Unfortunately, we don’t have permission to publicly exhibit the material we have tested with. We haven’t yet been able to get some good quality footage that is in the public domain.
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