Digital Movies Are More Expensive to Store Than Film

Illustration for article titled Digital Movies Are More Expensive to Store Than Film

Hollywood may seem like the largest benefactor of digital technologies of anyone. While their classic movies were fading away on celluloid, computers came around and offered a means to import the images, make them beautiful again and save them for years to come.


Along the same lines, digital cameras allow for instant editing of acquired material and cheaper materials to capture images (tape as opposed to film). But digital isn't an end- all solution for Hollywood's media preservation, according to a recent study by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—it's hugely imperfect while costing far more than traditional storage methods. Check out these crazy totals:

Yearly cost of saving film master

Yearly cost of saving digital master, converted from film

Yearly cost of saving a digital master, born from digital

One of the biggest factors is not just changing digital technologies, but that hard drives storing old media need to be operated annually to stop the heads from freezing up. And where degradation of an analog signal equals a bad recording, degradation of a digital signal equals no recording.


Not so long ago I wrote a piece over on our video game sister site Kotaku regarding the LoC's preservation of old video games. Unfortunately, there's no great digital solution out there at this time to preserve any media stone tablets of yesteryear plenty of credence in my mind. [theinquirer]

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It "only" took 700 TB to store the James Bond films digitally @ about 3000P resolution:


Overestimating, let's say that's 70 TB per movie. Say that a TB costs $500, plus operating expense of $1000 per year per TB, then yeah it's like $100K per year per film. It theortically could take a FTE for just a few films if you think about it. With film, you just put the can in good, safe storage and that was it.

So we need a way to put a digital archive "in the can" (off-line) with a very long shelf life and low maintenance costs. A desktop 50 TB drive or an optical 5.25" disc capable of such storage would be perfect.

Moore's law will probably, probably is already, keep the costs coming down.