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Chapter One - Film Practice in Transition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2021

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Summary

This chapter focuses on the transition and changes in the practice of film production and film archiving. For the updates to this chapter, which are added to the earlier edition following each topic, I chose to be brief and concise in highlighting the changes that have most impacted current practices. In the first part, focusing on the consequences of digitization in current film production and distribution, I look at the main changes and new trends, addressing in particular those aspects that have directly influenced film archiving. In the second part, I offer a detailed recount of how archival practice has changed in the past ten years, partly as a consequence of the changes in production and distribution, and partly due to the mastering of practices and improvement of techniques that were still somewhat experimental a decade ago.

As argued in the earlier edition, the interplay between film production and archival practice is still paramount — not only for restoration and exhibition practices but also, and even more so, for all born-digital films which are made following the new technological and infrastructural practices and preserved by film archives.

Ten years ago, I pointed out the high degree of hybridity in technology and practice. But can we still talk of a vastly hybrid practice today? I think we can. While some changes have been quite dramatic, in particular in digital cinematography and digital distribution and exhibition, and have greatly reduced the use of analog film in today's practice, I argue that the practice is still hybrid as it relies on a long tradition and expertise in analog filmmaking. Indeed, even for those new films or film restorations in which the entire workflow from shooting (in the case of new films) and digitization (in the case of archival films) to exhibition is fully digital, the entire workflow still relies on tools and expertise that were typical of the analog film past.

As mentioned in the new introduction to this revised volume, I maintain that the dynamics illustrated in the snapshot taken a decade ago for the first edition of this book are still at work in current practice and are still shaping the workflows which are being adopted by filmmakers, producers, post-production technicians, and distributors as well as by film archivists, restorers, and laboratories specialized in film restoration today.

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From Grain to Pixel
The Archival Life of Film in Transition, Third Revised Edition
, pp. 41 - 144
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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