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Video and Film Archives by Gay Keeble

Two years ago, on the 40thanniversary of the excavations of Fishbourne Roman palace, Brighton &Hove Archaeological Society sent out a plea for a super 8 film taken by a member of the original digging team. Forty years on this kind of record is regarded as an extremely important historical document, showing not only the people who took part, the finds and the worksite but the style and methods of excavation. The B&H Arch. Society contacted a number of universities who have repositories for films, video and DVD and they have collected together records of excavations in Sussex in the 1980s and 1990s which they can now relate to present day digs. The message from their President is that old film or DVD should be copied and placed in a safe deposit.

Gay Keeble

While it may have been filmed for personal reasons, these little pieces of history can become important documents for the community in years to come.(Including the Hatch Furlong quartet, Norman!)This put me in mind of a radio programme “Caught on Film” I heard a year ago. It was about the instability of film and based on information from the Bologna Film Restoration festival and the British Film Institute at Berkhampstead. We all know that badly deteriorated nitrate film can combust spontaneously at45-46ºC and it can also go crystalline — but were you aware that colour film from the 1940s – 1950stends to go pink and cannot be restored? Also acetate film can go vinegary (forming acetic acid which attacks the container as well as the rest of the film) and this may happen faster than you think! The experts think that over 80% of pre-1930 film has already been lost. This was encouraged by a 1932-3 US tax on exposed film so many studios squirreled their nitrate film away to caves, barges, etc. Some of the big studios deliberately used old nitrate film to fuel special effect fires on set or boiled it to regain the silver. The British Film Institute of course keeps an archive and its Restoration Department at Berkhampstead is permanently busy. Even younger film can develop crows' feet cracks around each perforation which must be painstakingly reinforced, hole by hole, before the film can be run through a projector. Apparently it takes 2 months to do this work on 800 ft (one reel) of a film! They also do sound restoration: - the early talkies used out-of-shot actors to dub ‘silent’ stars with poor voices and special effects such as gun-shots were added later and not always well-synchronised. Not only is film at risk by virtue of its material but film always needs a projector and sound system —sometimes this is the weak link to the future as replacement parts such as bulbs become unavailable and experienced operators are no longer available. Even more modern media made on an extinct breed of Operating System may rely on the last computer of its type tucked away in a college store to be seen and enjoyed. The total loss of a box-office success is unlikely but films of historic events (personal as well as national) are much more evocative than text and their loss is a tragedy. While we all bend our minds to the new theme “Now and Then” let’s make sure that the ‘Then’ films, which older members remember with awe, tucked away in cupboards, are copied and kept safe for enjoyment by future generations.

 

SECOND TAKE February 2010

PROGRAMME REVIEW
NONSUCH REVIVAL
THE MAKING OF SACRED AND PROFANE
A DAY TRIP TO CHICHESTER
SUCCESS ON A PLATE
BIAFF 2006 - A MEMBER'S VIEW
THE SURREY FILM & VIDEO FESTIVAL 2005
THE FUTURE IS RED
COURT SHORTS
TIME OUT
We came, We shot, We chomped
BOB'S BASIC EDITING GUIDE
My Introduction to the Wonder ful World of DV!
Grandeur of the Granada
FILMS ARE LIKE ELEPHANTS
How 305 Sqaudron was made
THE BIG FIVE "O"
MUSIC COPYRIGHT
NORTH V SOUTH 2008
HOT CHESTNUTS
WIDER AND WIDER
FALLEN ANGELS
EARLY CINE RAMBLINGS
MORE