Pandemic brings new life to old movies

Movie and TV archives fill content gap while new production is halted

Home Blog Pandemic brings new life to old movies
reel of film camera

Movie and television production is on hold, thanks to the coronavirus. Yet with people sheltered at home and every theater and entertainment venue also closed, streaming services have become something of a lifeline. Netflix alone added nearly 16 million accounts between January and March.

All that new leisure time and a captive audience has put film archives on the radar screen. Since no new content is being produced, it’s an unprecedented opportunity to breathe new life into content from 20, 30, 40 years ago—not vintage cinema, but an enormous amount of great movies and television programming captured on film and tape.

LAC Group’s media archiving transformed by the pandemic

Concerned about the safety of our employees, we were about three weeks ahead of the state of California in terms of our response to the pandemic. Within 48 hours of making our decisions, we shut down completely for professional sanitization, furloughed and accepted voluntary separations to reduce staff, and scheduled fewer shifts. We continue to have fewer people onsite, and sanitize surfaces every two hours. Our popular break room and lounge areas have been off-limits.

Our facilities are open, but with more access limitations than usual. We schedule weekly windows with two drop/pickup windows for the time being at one facility and pickup only at the other for essential intake, and anything brought in is quarantined and sanitized. All movement of assets between our facilities in southern California is done under our control, by our own staff and vehicles.

For our employees, LAC masks are provided. Each person has been set up with their own cleaning/sanitizing kits and cleans their assigned areas every two hours.

Greater motion picture scanning demand

In 2017, LAC Group became the first company to acquire the Lasergraphics Director 10K film scanner and we added a second Director 10K in 2019 due to our increased demand.

Lasergraphics Director 10K film scanner.

The 10K enables us to scan 35mm, 16mm, and Super 16mm formats, creating files with up to 10K resolution and simultaneous output of image and soundtrack to DPX Masters. We also offer post-scanning file-cleaning, metadata services, and other digital archiving services.

The combination of a sophisticated motion picture scanner and our experienced approach makes for the quality output our clients demand for high-value content. We find that as much as 25% of any collection is likely to have at least some deterioration. Putting a distressed film reel in a scanner with a sprocket drive or a stress-inducing film path can do even more damage.

The Director 10K is sprocketless and very steady, so we can scan films that others can’t. And even when the original is in good condition, it should only be run through a scanner once, at the highest quality, so the digital archival copy can be used to make subsequent viewing copies.

Reshaping of entertainment industry

While the pandemic has been good for archives, we are looking forward to a return to new movie, television and music production. The industry was one of the first to shut down and will be one of the last to reopen. It directly or indirectly employs millions of workers, including our own talented archiving team.

Like other industries, the media and entertainment industry will not be going back to the way things were. Health and safety mandates will be a priority for the foreseeable future. Distribution is likely to be different, as it’s likely that more movies will be available for home viewing at the same time they’re released in theaters. As for theaters, festivals, and other venues, it will take months, possible years, to fully recover. And while streaming is reaping the rewards of people spending more time at home, the streaming service model itself may see future consolidation and changes to the “all you can eat” pricing model as large players like Apple, Netflix, Amazon and Disney strive to solidify their position and share.

In the meantime, it’s a market opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. The time is ripe for content and archives of all kinds. If you have a collection of film, tape or digital media—or any combination—and have been wondering how to make new use of these assets, please contact us. We’re happy to answer any of your archiving questions.

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Tim Knapp

Tim Knapp

Tim Knapp is EVP of Media & Archive services at LAC Group. He brings more than 30 years of experience in motion and still imaging – first in film, and most recently in digital. Tim has an extensive and wide-ranging understanding of the capabilities and challenges of film and video, including the issues and opportunities it presents for archivists as they face aging media libraries and an increasingly digital future.

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