In the 1980’s, it became apparent that the heritage of motion pictures was at risk of getting lost. Nitrate film preservation was a continuous problem. Moreover, the safety film that was normally used as replacement started getting affected by a vinegar syndrome; a unique decay. The manufactured color film was at risk of fading. At the time, the only known solution was duplicating the original film to a medium that is more secure.
Out of all American sound films made before 1950 and American silent films made before 1929, 90 % of them are lost. Even if the preservation institutional practices are dated back to 1930’s, it was not until 1980 that the field received an official status when UNESCO made a realization of the moving images’ as an essential part of the global cultural heritage.
Even though preservation and archiving are the initial steps taken towards conservation of the cinematic heritage, we cannot ignore restoration. Unless it is maintained in optimum conditions, the film is a fragile medium and with time, it is prone to scratches, deterioration and vinegar syndrome. In India for example, most of the films are in a deplorable state due to complacency and neglect.
What is Film Restoration?
Film restoration refers to a series of continuing efforts by archivists, film historians, cinematheques, non-profit institutions and museums in their bid to preserve images and rescue the decaying film stock .In a wider sense, restoration today assures that a movie will continue existing just like it was in its original format. For many years, the aim of preservation’ was to create a durable copy without losing quality. Today film preservation entails the concept of duplication, handling, accessibility and storage. Archivists seek to protect film and share content publicly.
Film restoration is the process of returning a film format to its previous known state. It not only entails repairing the physical damage or film deterioration, but also considers the intent of the original creator, his accuracy, artistic integrity and film completion. The process includes selection, cleaning, physical repair and other digital and photochemical techniques for creating new materials and images.
Restoration of Film in India
Presently, the film restoration carried out in India does not fall in the full-fledged restoration. Normal practice is to do a digital clean-up and scan while disregarding the restoration and repair of the material’s original source. Many of the film laboratories have closed down their facilities in photochemical that are necessary for carrying out quality restoration. If not restored urgently, India risks losing the numerous original camera negatives.
The future of Film Restoration
In pursuit of this objective, the Foundation in India is seeking to collaborate with other image archives from across the globe to ensure availability of the latest technology, most suitable facilities, and techniques for restoration. In order to keep up with the latest technological developments, the foundation will make arrangements and take part in seminars and workshops by the field leaders. The aim is in developing a native film restoration facility in conjunction with international field leaders.
The rapid emergence of digital technologies in recent years in this field has now redefined film preservation.
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