Project: Expert systems for long-term Preservation and Restoration of Films

CineXPRES will research and develop new technologies, methods and expert systems for automating the long-term digital preservation and restoration of archived films. _x000D__x000D_Cinema is over 100 years old, and film reCOs the pinnacle of entertainment media; the ‘Seventh Art’ has become part of our lives and heritage. In the past century, Hollywood studios have produced over 300,000 movies and there are millions of hours of film in Europe’s archives. Much of the film in archives is fragile or damaged; all of it is deteriorating. It needs preservation and restoration so that it can be made available for viewing now and by future generations. Preservation and restoration are also major issues for commercial studios and production companies, from Hollywood down to the independents, which wish to exploit their back catalogues._x000D__x000D_In the digital world, as well as the physical one, the preservation of an object in a particular state is a different process – with different problems – from restoration, which is designed to repair damage or degradation. Previous attempts at film preservation and restoration have essentially been based on digitally scanning the images frame-by-frame, and then applying sophisticated algorithms to correct the effect of dust, scratches, colour change and physical damage on each of the frames. This approach has had some success, but has not been widely adopted. Part of the problem has been the high cost of computation and the even higher cost of the time needed for experts to check the film before, during and after restoration, decide which software functions to apply, evaluate the results, and perhaps repeat the process using different methods. The volume of data is enormous, and the digital data is difficult to preserve. It is not sufficient just to migrate copies of the stream of images from disk to disk, platform to platform. Data formats change and storage media decay; compression artefacts can multiply; data loss and degradation occur in the digital world as well as the analogue. Restoration is linked to display: the quality parameters for cinema projection are different to those for viewing from disks, broadcast TV or iPhone display. Digital projection at 2K and 4K in cinema, and Blu-ray with ‘real HD’ in the home, have raised the quality demands; the drive for better viewing and listening quality will only increase. Many archives, which started to make MPEG-2 files to save digital storage, are already finding that the media quality is insufficient for the latest display technologies._x000D__x000D_Recent EU research into long-term digital media preservation, advances in computer technology and better understanding of intelligent systems, all now make it possible to develop technically and economically viable systems. The key to success is (a) treating the preservation and restoration processes as separate steps, so that digital restoration can be carried out on demand, at any time in the future; and (b) using expert systems to automate process, cutting the amount of human intervention and therefore the cost. The project therefore proposes a new approach, which is based on:_x000D_• Employing the widest possible range of information derived from the original film, its physical characteristics, images, soundtrack and physical defects_x000D_• Modelling the film degradation and preservation processes and storing them as metadata, so that the digital content can be reconstructed and restored now, or at any time in the future without the limitations of present techniques_x000D_• Coding the data and metadata in an efficient lossless form that allows viewing copies to be produced at many different resolutions_x000D_• Developing expert systems to increase the quality and reduce the cost of automated quality assessment, audio and image restoration, to reduce human errors in media transfer, to guide operators, and speed up their work._x000D__x000D_The emergence of digital cinema creates new opportunities in both the archive and commercial sectors. Public archives have a duty to conserve their holdings and make the results publicly visible. Digital projection makes it profitable for cinemas to show alternative content. There is also an opportunity for content owners to restore and sell the ‘long tail’ of their back catalogues as downloads or on disk._x000D__x000D_The Ps are SME specialists in digital cinema, preservation and restoration technologies. Doremi Technologies is the world leader in digital cinema server technology and an expert in digital cinema preservation based on JPEG2000. Doremi’s technical director is a pioneer of film restoration research and software. Cube-Tec is the world leader in audio preservation technologies, and number two in audio restoration tools. NISV COtains and provides access to 70 per cent of the Dutch film and media heritage; it is a leading European centre of archive preservation, restoration and research.

Acronym CineXPRES (Reference Number: 5953)
Duration 01/07/2011 - 30/09/2013
Project Topic CineXPRES will research and develop new technologies, methods and expert systems for automating the long-term digital preservation and restoration of archived films.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
The project resulted in positive benefits for the company on multiple grounds._x000D_As soon as the preparation of the project, there was the ambition to define a better and systematic approach to digitise and restore the film heritage. _x000D_The work resulted in the development and refinement of two strong general workflows : transmittance scanning and a practical quality assessment framework. _x000D_Then, the associated developments resulted in structured software: mathematical models of degradation , degradation estimation, content quality assessment computations, and restoration algorithms. _x000D_These findings and the associated softwares will be put to use in future products and services by the company._x000D_Finally, the dissemination activities, conferences, published papers and participation to the Prestocentre, have contributed to the reputation of the company and raised its scientific level.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 5

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
3 Cube-Tec International GmbH Partner Germany
3 Doremi Technologies Coordinator France
3 Stichting Nederlands Instituut Voor Beeld En Geluid Partner Netherlands