The third annual ARRI Archive Workshop took place at ARRI's headquarters in Munich on June 19th and 20th 2012, attracting more than 130 professionals from the world of film restoration. Some 15 different speakers delivered seminars or screened restored material over the two-day event, covering a broad range of issues within the often challenging discipline of film preservation and image restoration. As well as addressing the problems of historic film materials, the event also looked at the archival needs of films being produced today and the potentially short lifespan of digital file formats.
Seminars were presented in the ARRI cinema, while the various exhibitors -- representing leading manufacturers and software developers -- were set up in one of the ARRI television studios on site, providing further space for attendees to mingle and network. The workshop's dual structure, combining presentations in an auditorium with 'hands-on' technology demonstrations in the studio, makes it unique. Many of those present were returning for their second or third visit.
Fabrizio Carraro, of Cinecittà Digital, noted: "Film is becoming a precious and magical thing of the past; it is a privilege to be working with archive footage and trying to save its cultural and historical content. This privilege is the source of the energy and enthusiasm I could see in many people attending this workshop, both the attendees and ARRI staff. I enjoyed watching the results of restorations and discussing the issues encountered and the methods used. Having the opportunity to compare and test the latest technologies in image restoration allows us to make the wisest choices; sharing experiences with other attendees at the ARRI Archive Workshop is an invaluable source of new ideas and motivation, and improves the quality of everybody's work."
The event allowed technology providers to demonstrate their latest products and describe them in detail, a fact appreciated by Daniel Borenstein of the French film archive CNC, who commented: "I found the workshop to be both interesting and unique. It's not like the Bologna or FIAF events; the strong point is that it's based more on technology than on film, so the focus is on tools and techniques, rather than just on film history. I have even decided to propose a paper for next year's workshop myself!"
It is more than just technical conundrums facing those who must make decisions about what to do with some of the most fragile and historic film materials in the world -- there are also ethical considerations. To what degree should modern digital imaging tools be used to generate images that have been lost? How do you best represent an original film if the only version that exists today is a patchwork of later reprints? If the camera negative is missing, by what basis do you decide upon an appropriate grain structure for your restoration? Questions such as these were illustrated with screened examples and provoked passionate debate amongst those in attendance.
Annike Kross of the EYE Film Institute, which is the national film archive of the Netherlands, was one of those present representing a very large collection of film materials. "We have a big archive with material dating back to the early 1900s - so a lot of silent films and a lot of delicate nitrate film stock -- and we have an in-house digital restoration department," said Kross. "It's fascinating to come here to see what is happening in the field right now, to see what solutions are being developed for the problems people encounter and to discover if others face the same challenges as we do. We can meet developers to see the latest versions of restoration software; it's just a good place to meet a lot of different people."
Representatives from film archives with small but growing restoration facilities were also present, keen to learn from the activities of their larger counterparts. Adriana Noviello, of the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna, commented: "We have a fairly small digital restoration department that we run in cooperation with two other companies in Austria; currently we are restoring part of our own amateur and experimental collections, but also films from outside clients. For us, coming to the ARRI workshop is useful for finding out how others work on their projects and seeing the various different approaches. It takes me out of the absorption of day-to-day work and allows me to compare my experiences with those at different, often bigger, facilities. We're just starting our first full-length feature film restoration, so we can learn a lot about the best approach to take by coming here."
Seminars from the ARRI Archive Workshop will soon be made available online.
We get a glimpse during the filming of ARGO, directed by Ben Affleck and shot by Rodrigo Prieto ASC, AMC on ARRICAMs, ARRIFLEX 435, ARRIFLEX 235 and ALEXA.