Tag Archives: film preservation

Feature

Spring – The Uncertain Season

What does the coming of spring call to mind for you? For Shirley Maddock, the filmmaker behind The Uncertain Season (1962), a pictorial essay made during the first years of television in New Zealand, spring brings a range of pleasures, including:

Fluffy chicks:

Chicks
“The Uncertain Season” (Shirley Maddock, 1962)

 

The release of new season’s fashions:

"The Uncertain Season" (Shirley Maddock, 1962)
“The Uncertain Season” (Shirley Maddock, 1962)

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BattleOfTheSomme

The Battle of the Somme

This year marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Imperial War Museums (IWM) and members of the First World War Centenary Partnership are working together to show the UNESCO listed film The Battle of the Somme (1916), to audiences across the world.

We will be commemorating 100 years since New Zealand joined the Battle of the Somme on 15 September 1916 at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Wellington, with a free screening of the film on Thursday 16 September 2016, at 7pm.  Find out more about Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s screening here.

The British High Commission, in partnership with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Wellington City Council, Ticketek New Zealand, and RSA National will also be presenting special free screenings of the film with live musical accompaniment. At these screenings, on Saturday 24 September at 3pm and 7pm, at the Michael Fowler Centre, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will play a specially commissioned orchestral score by the British composer Laura Rossi. Find out more about the British High Commission screenings here.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision will then offer additional opportunities to see the film at 7pm, Mon 29 Sept, Sat 1 Oct, Wed 5 Oct & Fri 7 Oct.

Read on for more information about the film, as well as the work that has gone into the restored version audiences here in New Zealand, and around the world, will be watching later this month.

Advert for "The Battle of The Somme" in "The Dominion," 18 October 1916, p.7. Image: Papers Past.
Advert for “The Battle of The Somme” in the “Dominion” (NZ), 18 October 1916, p.7. Image: Papers Past.

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RewindNZ

Rewind NZ

By Diane McAllen (Digital Programme Developer, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Earlier this year we screened Rewind This (2013), an American documentary that celebrated the VHS format. The documentary featured an array of angles on the demise of this physical format: from enthusiasts who revel in the hunt for the rare and fantastic VHS limited editions, to the filmmakers and distributors at the height of the launch of VHS tape onto the domestic market.

On the opening night we invited Andrew Armitage, Louise McCrone, and David Summerfield to contribute to a panel discussion following the screening. We primarily wanted to know what impact VHS and its subsequent demise had had on New Zealand. We discovered on the night that we could have scheduled hours for the discussion. Here is a snapshot of the topics we covered:

Andrew Armitage opened the doors of the Aro Video Shop in 1989, with a collection of VHS tapes to cater for urbanite tastes beyond the mainstream. In this clip from the panel discussion he recounts what motivated him to go into the video rental trade, and the transition to DVD:

David Summerfield is an avid VHS enthusiast and collector. In this clip he talks about what drew him to VHS, the nostalgia, and a little about the VHS collector scene in New Zealand. Andrew adds that New Zealand was seen as a rental rather than a collector’s market, and mentions the impact of classification legislation on the distribution of cult videos in New Zealand: Continue reading

OffToTheFront

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage: Making WWI Material Available for Third Party Requests

World War One commemorations have provided the impetus for a number of projects at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. UNESCO’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage gives us a moment to celebrate this work undertaken to ensure the preservation of, and access to, audiovisual materials relating to New Zealand’s experience of World War One.

In this blog post, the third in our World Day for Audiovisual Heritage series, the archive’s Partnership department reflects on making WWI film materials available for use in documentaries, exhibitions, phone apps, theatre and plays, music performances, and news broadcasts

Read the first and second parts in the series.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision received an extraordinary number of requests for WWI footage leading up to Anzac Day 2015, which marked the 100 year landings of Gallipoli, as well as commemorating 100 years since New Zealand’s entry into WWI. Over this busy period we received a wide variety of requests from all over the world for a range of different projects, including: documentaries, exhibitions, phone apps, theatre and plays, music performances and news broadcasts.

A frame enlargement from Off to The Front (1918)
A frame enlargement from Off to The Front (1918)

Along with the enquires – came the questions and interesting comments.

We just need some action shots.”

There are precious little of these “glamour” shots that were repeatedly asked for. We have continually seen re-enactments of trench warfare in film, television and documentaries, so perhaps there is an imagined notion that there is an abundance of war footage. The reality is that it simply does not exist, as it was never shot or it did not survive. Although the footage we do carry does not depict WWI in action as such, what we do have in the collection collection is significant for two reasons.

Firstly, that we even have footage to begin with – given the fact that the medium of film was barely twenty years old in 1914. Most of the surviving footage we do have is of troops marching, leaving on ships, and being inspected.

This clip F1820 – Off to the Front (1914) shows the Wellington Infantry Battalion marching along Lambton Quay. It also includes a short snippet showing men from the 6th Reinforcement on board the troopship H.M.N.Z.T. No. 28 Tofua at King’s Wharf, and finally the ship steaming out of the harbour, on 11 August 1915 (see the film on our anzacsightsound.org.nz website here). Continue reading

Egypt

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage: Sights and Sounds of WWI

World War One commemorations have provided the impetus for a number of projects at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. UNESCO’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage gives us a moment to celebrate this work undertaken to ensure the preservation of, and access to, audiovisual materials relating to New Zealand’s experience of World War One.

In this blog post, the second in our World Day for Audiovisual Heritage series, the archive’s Audience department reflects on Sights and Sounds of the Great War. This is a project undertaken with funding from the WWI Lottery Grants fund to repatriate, research, preserve, digitize and make accessible material that relates to New Zealand’s experience of World War I.

Read the first part in the series here.

Prior to the start of the WW100 commemorative period, the Film Archive (now Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision) held 60 films shot during the first world war, and countless documentaries, shorts and TV programmes made since. The films came to the archive from a number of different sources: some were part of the National Film Library collection, others have come from private depositors, and we also received copies from archives in Australia and the UK. Over the years these have been preserved to film or telecined, with access copies made available on VHS, DVD or more recently as digital files.

Inspection of the New Zealand and Australian Division in Egypt (March 1915).
Inspection of the New Zealand and Australian Division in Egypt (March 1915).

The films in the WWI collection are all silent and black and white. They show troop departures, training and fundraising at home, through to NZEF soldiers serving overseas at Gallipoli, the Western Front and the Middle East. These films were made by cameramen connected to local cinemas, or Official Government or NZEF cinematographers. There is no footage of action or fighting per se, which is what people often ask us for; the camera technology of the time was big and bulky and to aim a camera above a trench was an invitation to a sniper for a free shot. However, we do see trench conditions and scenes of no man’s land, and lots of troop inspections, drill and marching. While much of the action is staged, the shattered landscape isn’t fake, nor are the often exhausted soldiers — though it’s remarkable how they almost always perk up when a camera is nearby. From the late 1980s the archive has worked with the military historian Dr Christopher Pugsley to identify and closely catalogue this collection.

The Sights and Sounds of the Great War, project was planned in five phases: repatriation, research, preservation, digitization and access. Not only would we work with the collection outlined above, we would also work with archives overseas to repatriate material to Aotearoa.

The project commenced in 2013. At that time we had a good idea of what we had in the collection and what films were missing or lost. However, there was another, third, group of films: those featuring New Zealand or New Zealanders that survived in archives overseas. Christopher Pugsley has again been responsible for much of the detective work, tracking down films in archives such as the Imperial War Museum, as have other staff members at the Film Archive and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision over the past couple of decades. And of course online databases have made the job much easier recently. It’s this group of films that make up the repatriation side of the project.

So why are so many films held in archives elsewhere? In part it’s reflective of film as a form of mass media, and the way film moved throughout the world via various distribution networks and circuits. But it’s also the result of some particular historical circumstances. One is that all the films shot by the NZEF cameramen during the war were censored by the War Office Cinematograph Committee; the material which survived was later deposited at the Imperial War Museum. Continue reading

Otago

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage: Scanning WWI Films

World War One commemorations have provided the impetus for a number of projects at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. The UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, 27 October 2015, gives us a moment to celebrate this work undertaken to ensure the preservation of, and access to, audiovisual materials relating to New Zealand’s experience of World War One.

In this blog post the archive’s Standards department reflects on the opportunities the WWI commemorations have provided to digitise and improve the viewing experience of a set of 100-year-old films.

It’s become a given that with every decade comes new technologies to both preserve and view audiovisual records – most recently, everything from 2K or (4K or 8K) scanners to HDTV and streaming video have presented archives with difficult (yet exciting) challenges. As a field devoted to preserving titles to the highest possible standard for years to come, and making high-quality copies of material available to a wide audience, what this means is that our work is never done.

Given the volume of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s vast collection (over 800,000 items and counting!) and the time-consuming and costly nature of audiovisual preservation, unfortunately it isn’t realistic to think that we can immediately preserve and make available everything in our collection. Sometimes all we can do is conserve the items, keeping them in the best possible condition to allow future generations of archivists and conservators to do their work.

Occasionally, however, certain events come along that give us the chance to devote a large swath of attention to preserving a particular segment of the collection. With the WWI centenary upon us, we had just such an opportunity to address Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s unique collection of original film material from the period.

Take for example a 1914 film shot at Dunedin’s Tahuna Park, documenting the Otago Expeditionary Force’s departure for the front (reference #F1147). In its previous incarnation as the New Zealand Film Archive, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision had preserved the original nitrate print on 35mm safety film in 1984. This created a stable record of the artifact before any decomposition could occur, and as they were taken from the only surviving copy of the film, these elements were the highest quality film-to-film copies possible.

However, although they were preserved to the highest standard, outside of the occasional 35mm screening, the only copies available for public viewing were made using now out-of-date film-to-video transfer processes.

In 2014 the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision film preservation team revisited the original nitrate print (luckily still in good condition!) in order to create new high-resolution scans that both preserve as much detail as possible from the original element, and provide a high-quality source for new digital copies. This new version of the film is now available to view online here – and by comparison here are a few shots comparing the two generations:

Before.
Before: old copy, made using a now out-of-date film-to-video transfer process.
Otago - after
After: new scan from the original nitrate print.
Before.
Before: old copy, made using a now out-of-date film-to-video transfer process.
After.
After: new scan from the original nitrate print.
Before.
Before: old copy, made using a now out-of-date film-to-video transfer process.
After.
After: new scan from the original nitrate print.

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Digitally Future-proofing Aotearoa’s Stories

I really believe the digital era increases the possibilities for us to connect our material to current and future generations.”

-Richard Falkner, Moving Image Conservator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Falkner with the ARRISCAN.
Falkner with the ARRISCAN.

This year, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision became caretaker of a powerful piece of film restoration technology. A partnership with the New Zealand Film Commission and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage facilitated the arrival of the ARRISCAN, all the way from ARRI Motion Picture Company in Germany.

The ARRISCAN is the industry standard 16 and 35mm film scanner. In the past, its primary use was in post-production facilities to scan film negative to be edited and manipulated in an intermediate digital process, eventually being printed back out onto film negative for copying and distribution. Now considered the creme-de-la-creme for film digitisation, the ARRISCAN has a significant role to play in the protection of archival moving image footage and in turn, promises generational access to the stories this footage holds.

Screencaptured images showing ITV’s ‘Poirot’ (16mm, 1989)  before and after ARRISCAN treatment. <br />  Read the full article on POIROT's restoration on <a title="ARRI Group" href="http://www.arri.de/DE/news/news/little-grey-cells/">ARRI's website</a>, which also lays out the tech-specs. <br />  <i> ‘The development of the ARRISCAN film scanner enables high-resolution, high-dynamic range, pin-registered film scanning for use in the digital intermediate process.” Representing the first step in transferring film images into the digital realm, the ARRISCAN enables practically limitless creative possibilities in the DI. It utilises a specially designed CMOS area sensor mounted on a micro-positioning platform and a custom LED light source.'</i>
Screencaptured images showing ITV’s Poirot (16mm, 1989)  before and after ARRISCAN treatment.
Read the full article on POIROT’s restoration on ARRI’s website.
“The development of the ARRISCAN film scanner enables high-resolution, high-dynamic range, pin-registered film scanning for use in the digital intermediate process.” Representing the first step in transferring film images into the digital realm, the ARRISCAN enables practically limitless creative possibilities in the DI. It utilises a specially designed CMOS area sensor mounted on a micro-positioning platform and a custom LED light source.”

The significance of these tech-specs will be lost on laymen (e.g. yours truly), but clearly this beast has some pretty grunty technical ability. The moving image conservation team found that out first hand in February, when they went to Singapore for a crash course on what these kinds of incredible machines are capable of.

So let’s get real – what does the ARRISCAN mean for the moving image collection at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision? Continue reading

The Last Stand

Virginia Callanan (Film Archive Director of Systems Development) tells us about recent preservation work on Rudall Hayward’s The Last Stand.

 

Timeline:
1925 Release of silent film Rewi’s Last Stand 
1937 – 1939 Rudall Hayward works on a new sound film Rewi’s Last Stand
1940 New Zealand release of sound film Rewi’s Last Stand, 112 mins
1943 Ramai te Miha marries Rudall Hayward
1946 They depart to work in Britain
1949 British release of The Last Stand, 63 mins
1954 – 1955 The Last Stand theatrical release in New Zealand
1970 The Last Stand screens on New Zealand television

Film poster for "Rewi's Last Stand."
Film poster for “Rewi’s Last Stand” (1940).

The internal histories of different versions of the same story are as fascinating to archivists as the external histories of different prints. Together they provide us with the clues needed to uphold the film maker’s intentions. Ideally the version seen by initial audiences should coexist with, rather than be replaced by, a version seen by later audiences. Sadly, this was not the case with Rewi’s Last Stand / The Last Stand. Continue reading

The World According to Ward

- By Alex Porter (SANTK Preservation Archivist)

Whilst my colleagues hustled Christchurch crowds on April 14th to get their smart phone pics of the Royals in Latimer Square, I hit the arterial route to meet Vincent Ward for morning tea at Canterbury Uni. On first sight I found immediate empathy for the man who appeared a sort of overall dark and silver grey wrapped in woolly scarf and was most gratefully introduced to our Film School saviour trying to brush my insomnia, hormones and bad hair aside. Guests included Professor Simpson – Head of the School of Fine Arts in Ward’s day – whose eloquence and forthright engagement Ward acknowledged and still rather endearingly preceded him, and  Morris Askew – essentially founder and Head of Film School during Ward’s years at university and to whom he showed great respect, not to mention an array of lecturers, students, heads and bods from the Christchurch gallery (and archive) collective.

University of Canterbury

 

Post-quake Canterbury University has had to make some acute structural changes as they attempt to meet the expectations of the counting house. Ward’s welcome and reciprocal speech certainly served well to reframe and project a positive light on changing times. Ward applauded the University’s new umbrella, titled The School of Humanities and Creative Arts, a flagship for The School of Fine Arts, Music, Film Theory and Cultural Studies departments and a creative compilation that actively reflects current industry and enterprise, anchoring students in the real world. From where I was sitting Ward expressed a genuine enthusiasm to engage his skills, industry links and international connections in efforts to raise the university’s profile and in turn, student numbers.

To mark his Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts Ward gave a lecture titled “My Father’s Hands” later that evening, which was received with appropriate excitement and matched enthusiasm from a well attended audience. Beginning the talk with a wonderful black and white photograph and “That’s me and my dad” Ward explained how he used to constantly draw his father’s scarred, burnt hands – which were part of a major injury inflicted during his service in Syria during WWII. Ward told his father’s life story, a compelling and sad narrative of unrealised aspirations, a story he embodied in these scarred hands. Ward drew an analogy between them and the farm’s terrain, the isolated, burnt and roughed hilly landscape that was made beautiful through sheer sweat, grit and determination. Selected photographs, film stills, pre-production drawings and gallery installation documentation prompted discussion on fate, moments and cinematic motif, production tales and artistic insight into his multi-disciplinary work to date. Continue reading

Film Restoration School Asia

- By Richard Falkner, NZFA Film Handler

National Museum of Singapore.
National Museum of Singapore.

In late November my colleague Hepi Mita and I were lucky enough to attend the first Film Restoration School Asia, hosted by the National Museum of Singapore and tutored by staff from L’Immagine Ritrovata.  The program was based on a longer school run by L’Immagine Ritrovata, in their native Bologna, Italy, and included workshops on film comparison, film repair, scanning, digital restoration, colour correction, sounds restoration and history, and film mastering. Also lectures and presentations were made on the subjects of restoration workflow, film identification, film scanning strategies, and restoration strategies for 16mm film, among others. Continue reading