Digital archive costs surprising

According to the NYTs, the costs of archiving films made digitally are huge.

To store a digital master record of a movie costs about $12,514 a year, versus the $1,059 it costs to keep a conventional film master.

Much worse, to keep the enormous swarm of data produced when a picture is “born digital” — that is, produced using all-electronic processes, rather than relying wholly or partially on film — pushes the cost of preservation to $208,569 a year, vastly higher than the $486 it costs to toss the equivalent camera negatives, audio recordings, on-set photographs and annotated scripts of an all-film production into the cold-storage vault.

…the hardware and storage media — magnetic tapes, disks, whatever — on which a film is encoded are much less enduring than good old film. If not operated occasionally, a hard drive will freeze up in as little as two years. Similarly, DVDs tend to degrade: according to the report, only half of a collection of disks can be expected to last for 15 years…

I remember during my photo workshop last Spring, the instructor (who uses large format film cameras) spent lots of time poo-pooing digital cameras. He said people run around taking pictures like chickens (snapping without thinking). He also mentioned, file formats and storage mechanisms are always changing. Ten years from now, you might not be able to open the photos you’ve taken today. Still have your floppy, Iomega and Syquest drives? I still have the discs around but the drives are long gone. Yes, film degrades in about 100 years. But it is a very high quality storage vehicle. Now it looks like it may be far more inexpensive than digital equivalents–at least for the time being.

From a teaching perspective, digital is absolutely the way to go. You get immediate feedback on your work. But in terms of picture quality, I find I’m more consistently impressed by film images scanned and uploaded to Flickr than those taken from digital cameras. For me, it’s mostly better composition. Also, sometimes digital photos are too over sharpened for my taste. These both apply for my own digital photos.

For 2008, there will be less equipment purchases for me. I’ve decided I want to focus more on image quality. I’m going to start to experiment with lighting and really learning how to use my existing equipment. I’d also like to do some experiments with medium and large format cameras. I’ll report on my adventures.

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One Comment on “Digital archive costs surprising”

  1. I guess that means I won’t be buying a used Nikon body, huh? 😉
    Also, I *try* to put my images in albums so I won’t have to worry about keeping my digital files. I am also hoping Flickr will worry about archiving for me. I’m willing to pay money for someone to do that for me.


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