Workprint — October 2022

IN THIS ISSUE

DIRECTOR’S REPORT
SETTLING IN ON ARGYLE
Erica Meus-Saunders

FEATURE
MEET ARCHIE
Evan Bower


SETTLING IN ON ARGYLE

It’s been a busy and exciting time. I’m four months and a few days into this role and the time flew by. There’s been lots of learning and events—FILM 5 Party & Linda Joy AIFF Awards, and on top of that the planning and execution of AFCOOP’s big move!

If I’ve learned anything in this time, it’s that ‘no person is an island,’ and that old and new AFCOOPers have a genuine love for this co-op. So many people came out to help during our two move days and long after that. We could not have done it without all your help, and we are humbled and grateful. While there is still work left to do in the edit suites and some final finishing touches, I’m happy to say that we are back up and running and rentals have resumed since October 19.

We are excited for this new phase and new location and can’t wait to welcome you to share and celebrate with us in the new space. Erica Meus-Saunders

FEATURE

MEET ARCHIE, THE 5K FILM SCANNER WITH A HEART OF GOLD

by EVAN BOWER

Here at AFCOOP, we’re incredibly excited and borderline emotional about finally getting our hands on our new Lasergraphics Archivist scanner, now affectionately known as Archie.

Our team has been hard at work learning the nuances of this wonderful machine, and as we count down the days to opening services at the Atlantic Media Preservation (AMP) Lab—housed within and supported by our partners at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia—we sat down with AFCOOP’s technical coordinator Abner Collette to learn everything we need to know about our new film-scanning friend.

Workprint: Hard-hitting questions first: what will the process look like for AFCOOP members looking to get their celluloid digitized?

Abner Collette: Anyone interested in getting their film digitized will be able to fill out a form on our website, or in person at AFCOOP. We will provide you with a quote, and will take your films to the AMP Lab to clean, digitize, and apply colour correction and grading to your film as needed to make it look just right. When your order is ready, we will notify you, and you will be able to pick up your film at our new office on Argyle Street.

We will have our prices listed on our website for reference, as well as all of our digitization options.

WP: What are the barriers that have kept hardware like the Archivist out of our region for so long?

AC: Well, the primary factor is certainly cost. Beefier versions of the Archivist film scanner we recently acquired would cost upwards of $250,000—used! It is quite specialized equipment which, up until recent years, was reserved for the film and television industry, film processing labs, and archival or educational institutions.

We have had film labs on the East Coast in the past that have had scanners, but it would have been so long ago that they wouldn’t have compared in terms of technology. Nearly all film processing labs (that process film in-house) have modern scanners nowadays, but they are nearly all located in bigger cities where there are also bigger film industries and more hobbyists.

Atlantic Canadian filmmakers, archives, and post-secondary institutions are very much accustomed to sending our film to Ontario to be scanned due to a lack of alternative options. It’s been a kind of a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system where individual filmmakers would need to pay the gatekeepers of digitization (aka film labs) to turn their work into a digital file by shipping it away and paying the same rates as industry folks, or they could use whatever DIY telecine system they have access to locally.

But with the arrival of more cost-effective motion-picture film scanners like the Lasergraphics Archivist (8mm, 16mm) and Blackmagic’s Cintel scanner (16mm, 35mm), professional scanners have become more feasible to acquire for organizations like AFCOOP. These scanners are new mid-level models that provide all the archival-quality standards we ship our films away to achieve, but in a smaller pared-down package that deals in only a few select formats to save on cost.

WP: Are there any larger archival projects that will be the first priority to preserve once the Archivist is up and running?

AC: Our biggest priority will be tackling the pre-orders list we have started, along with any other orders coming in via AFCOOP from our members or the greater community. We’ll also be offering scanning services to the institutional members of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, but AFCOOP’s orders will always maintain priority.

WP: It sounds like you had a serious tutorial on the Archivist with some pros in Poland. What did you take away from those sessions about the usability of the Archivist and what it’s capable of?

AC: It is an insanely well-made machine! I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be able to navigate celluloid via digital thumbnails, for one thing. That was a mind-blowing thing to see—the accuracy and control that the machine is capable of is really stunning. It’s perf-less, so you don’t need to worry about damaging the film as there are no sprockets pushing into the perfs.

Our trainer, Pavel, showed us a manual colour-correction process that took about twenty or thirty steps, which transformed a film with severe red-dye fading back into normal colour ranges. It was very impressive to watch him bring the images back to life, but even more impressive when he showed us that we could accomplish nearly the same result with the push of a button.

WP: How is the Archivist equipped to deal with damaged or warped film?

AC: The Archivist is a modular scanner, which means we will be able to expand its capabilities and add components over time. One of the expansions available is the warped-film gate, which helps to handle damaged and warped film more safely without damaging it further in the digitization process. It also has the option to add a magnetic sound reader, which we are keen to add as well.

WP: What kind of file formats can the Archivist output to, and what formats will serve filmmakers best?

AC: With the Archivist, we can scan 8mm films in up to 2.5K and 16mm films in up to 5K. We can create outputs in a variety of codecs including ProRes 422/4444, DPX, TIFF, and H.264. I’m guessing the most popular will be ProRes 422 in 2K for both 8mm and 16mm scans, but we shall see!

WP: Pivoting back into Frost/Nixon mode: what kind of timeline are we looking at to get to the point where we’re accepting film from co-op members?

AC: Kay Slauenwhite, Chris Spencer-Lowe and I are all in the final stages of our training with the Archivist, where we are looking to refine our results and establish a workflow. We are currently taking pre-orders, and we anticipate being able to start fulfilling them in the coming weeks. We will be sure to make an announcement in our newsletter when we are ready to launch.

WP: What are you personally most excited about attempting or accomplishing with the Archivist?

AC: Honestly, I can’t wait to scan my own work! So far we have been working with older archived samples of film, as they tend to be more challenging, but I am really looking forward to feeding through some of my hand-processed film experiments and finally seeing the results at their intended playback speed. I’m sure it will be the last thing we get around to before processing actual orders, but I’m hoping it will be worth the wait!

Still need to know more? Send your Archie-related questions to Abner (abner@afcoop.ca) and he’ll break them down in his Tech Corner column in a future edition of Workprint.

This project was made possible through our funders and partners: Public Archives of Nova Scotia (PANS), Department of Canadian Heritage and the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage.