Mining gold in film assets of major motion picture studio

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Business need: Identify and prepare images worthy of being stock footage from over 10,000 rolls and trims

Demand for stock footage has never been higher with Amazon, Apple, Netflix and other new movie and programming markets. That’s why many archive owners are looking at their collections anew, beyond traditional historical and cultural archiving perspectives.

One of Hollywood’s oldest production studios holds an extensive collection of movies dating back to the advent of commercial cinematography—over 10,000 rolls of “B” camera rolls and trims—a treasure chest of rare and unique images for monetization.

But a collection of that size presented a daunting task for the studio’s internal operations, complicated further by the fact that they were captured on nitrate film, which requires special handling because it’s fragile and highly flammable. Nitrate was used in the earliest days of cinematography and photography, until it was replaced with noncombustible safety film.

Business solution: Provider with both nitrate film and digital media expertise

Seeking a reliable vendor with both nitrate experience and film digitization and cataloging capabilities, the studio selected LAC Group. Working in collaboration, the two teams established standards for image identification and physical condition to identify and select the most desirable ones for stock footage.

A key part of any film-cataloging project is naming and tagging the images for searchability and future access, known as metadata. LAC Group’s content team provided accurate and consistent metadata and also saved the studio many hours of time by entering all cataloged footage directly into its media asset management system.

Digital film scanning

After cataloging, the film was digitized. PRO-TEK Vaults operates high-speed, high-resolution film scanners for motion picture and still image film. This project required the ability to work on both ends of the spectrum—original physical media and digital media. Digital storage is another important consideration. The studio chose a cloud solution for this project. Other frequently used storage vehicles include solid state drives (SSDs) and LTO tape, always with a redundant copy for security.

The final step was determining whether to store or dispose of the originals. Because the images were nitrate-based, the studio opted to destroy them. Long-term nitrate storage is costly and risky, with few vendor options—it may be one of the only film services PRO-TEK Vaults cannot provide. Disposal of nitrate film requires the services and security of a certified hazardous waste management company, which was arranged for the studio.

Business outcome: Thousands of new stock footage products to sell and license for creative development

The studio has preserved and organized 100 years of valuable, often-unseen movie history for entertainment and use in future revenue opportunities.  At the same time, by digitizing and eliminating redundant images that were both decomposed and dangerous to store, the studio has eliminated the risks and the costs of maintaining a nitrate film archive.

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