Comments on: Digital Preservation The latest news about the top pixel wrangling application on the planet. Thu, 29 Aug 2013 16:59:14 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jana Capello Jana Capello Mon, 05 Dec 2005 20:23:00 +0000 Blaine, is this you, the real you? The you that used to hang out with hippies in Alabama back in the 70′s??? Like Tom Floyd for one? If it is really you, then hello old friend…… It’s miraculous where you end up on the net sometimes. If it IS you and you survived Katrina, shoot me an e sometime. I’m in Atlanta now and loving it. Would love to hear from you and how you are doing.
Love, Jana

By: Blaine Dunlap Blaine Dunlap Mon, 01 Aug 2005 07:40:34 +0000 The large information institutions have actually not been that concerned with the actual preservation of information. Libraries happily sold their souls to Eastman Kodak in the late 30′s so that our most vital community media – newspapers, no longer exist in anything approaching thier original form.

Lest we forget, there are billions of color images rotting away in front of our eyes
because of the quick-buck film and print paper that our pals at Eastman, Agfa, and Fuji sold us.

Of course digital preservation is ridiculously difficult. But in ads from camera manufacturers, the emphasis is “erasing the pictures you don’t want.”
Ads that say the bride can see her photos before she has left the reception.

Because of the amazing breakthroughs in digital technology and the
lighting-fast industrial reorganization taking place, photography is suddenly crammed into a new universe: half-cell phone, half computer, and half palm pilot.
New cameras and formats are made as fast as r&d departments and marketing teams can get them to the minimum-wage sales associates who ask for our ID and inquire if we want to long-term maintanence plan.

The catch is, longevity and her hand-maidens: memory, art, craft, family, legacy, etc., have been overlooked.

On her wedding day, the bride isn’t really that interested seeing instant photos, trust me on this one, fellows. On her 25th anniversary, however, you can bet she will want to see every single shot she can find.

Photographs only have value if they last. The time to throw out photos is never.
The time to erase tapes, discs, flash cards, DVD-R’s, hard-drives, etc. is never.
The time for film to fade to stain yellow is never.

There is a time for shooting, a time for storing, and a time for viewing.
Sure, my high-school year book was a hoot on graduation day, but I’m glad that it was printed on paper and bound rather than being on whatever fabulous electronic format was available at that moment.

The other day I was shopping for a copy stand and was amazed to see how many of them were manufactured by Poloroid. And then I realized, of course, you had to re-shoot all those stupid little Poloroid photos, didn’t you? Those tiny, cracking, wierd Poloriod photos that we all got stuck with. Had to keep a copy stand at the ready if you wanted to amaze with instant image styling, AND have extras for unexpected cousins. What were we thinking?

I love shooting digital pictures, but don’t try and bamboozed me with this digital storage crapola. What the Library of Congress, or NASA, or the IRS, or Post Office thinks about digital image storage is important as far as it goes, but irrelevant to me and my pocket book.

I don’t want to worry about how to store my digital images. And I don’t have to.
The fact that this dialogue even exists is just part of the big con. First, the
PROBLEM has to be articulated and moaned and groaned over. Then
THE SOLUTION will be pulled from some hat.

There solution is the same as it always was: acid-free index prints and s
RGB color separations.

Once we get some simple, off-the-shelf technology, RGB negative burners installed in various retail outlets, we can get back to something real, like pictures.

I want to be able to go to the Walgreens and pick up a nice little roll of fine-grain black and white negatives, RGB separations, sealed in a plastic can, ready for
the fridge.

Or better yet, let the self-storage guys have a locker for me. But I really should
clear out all the stereo components, CRT monitors, cordless phones,
VHS tapes, LPS, and copy stands that are there already.

Blaine Dunlap
New Orleans Photo Restoration

By: Tom Elliott Tom Elliott Thu, 21 Jul 2005 10:48:59 +0000 The following idea, I hope, will be taken with a grain of salt and a chuckel or two.
Isn’t digital pictures made up of 0′s and 1′s?
So if a person is REALLY concerned about archival then a person should engrave the 0′s and 1′s on a sheet of gold so that at some point in the future a person could input that data, just like I am writting this e-mail, into what ever piece of hardware that is being used at the time that produces pictures.
It sure would be VERY tedious, but doable. Well on second thought not tedious for we already have opictal readers for text.
Then of course you will have the “grave robbers” melting down those sheets of engraved gold to make jewelry.
It’s always something.
Very interesting.

By: Rick De Coyte Rick De Coyte Sun, 17 Jul 2005 21:51:03 +0000 Sorry guys, I find this article and the various responses almost laughable.

1. The RAW format is NOT a suitable format to store an image. The RAW format is, as its name suggests, the form of the image before it has been adjusted and tweaked by the photographer—kind of like looking at a negative without the print. Only the processed final image is relevant and suitable for archiving and this has to be saved in a format suitable for printing or viewing such as TIFF, Adobe’s own PSD or the very popular JPEG for web based images—NOT RAW format

2. As a fine art printmaker with over 10,000 images archived on CD’s and DVD’s I find you reasoning on storage invalid. CD’s from Sony, Hewlett Packard and Verbatim claim a shelf life of 100 years. I have had mine stored for 10 years. Over the next couple of years I will transfer them to DVD archives and when DVD’s technology goes away I will use whatever media comes next. Each one will be faster, cheaper and more secure by by the time 100 years rolls by we will have CD’s, DVD’s and whatever has come next. When I started archiving a CD cost around $5 and took about 30 minutes to burn, now I can burn 5 times more for around $1 in less time on a DVD.

3. File formats may change in the next 100 years. Sure they will as they have over the last 10 years but I can still open a PCX file or an original PSD file. Most of my archive is in the rather obsolete SciTex SCT format which is what we use on our IRIS printers. Photoshop still supports this format and when they cease to I will simply use a batch command to convert all the files to a more current format. Will that be problematical, yes, impossible, not a bit.

What should be of concern is the archiving of the final prints or a means of reproducing them as they were intended to be seen. As anyone who has been involved in digital media will know, a print made from a CMYK file designed to print on an IRIS using a specific set of inks and papers, will look absolutely different on any modern ink jet printer.

Rick De Coyte
Silicon Gallery Fine Art Prints.

By: Jeff Mandell Jeff Mandell Tue, 12 Jul 2005 04:06:04 +0000 I have a slightly different take.
As valuable as it will undeniably be to have access to our RAW files as new technologies arrive to allow us to pull better data from them and thus make new interpretations of our older images, the history of film preservation shows us that this is a luxury worry we really shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about, as there are more pressing issues at hand.
The real worry is holding on to the images at all.
Not better versions, the current versions.
Many of us have already had the stunned experience of attempting to retrieve a 5-7 year old image from a CD only to find it no longer readable, when we expected digital to last forever.
I am most focused on:
1) What format should we be using now to archive existing images that will have the best chance of being readable in the distant future? Photoshop? (Adobe doesn’t look like it’s going anwhere); JPEG (certainly widespread); TIFF?
2) What media have the greatest chance of holding the image for an extended period AND still be accessible by future computers?
3) Since the answers to 1 and 2 are not going to be definitive, how many copies on how many media need we have?
4) Do we really need to have hard copy archival prints as the ultimate backups, just as Jeff Schewe describes in his article, stored in the dark, in a cold, dry place, and if so, printed on what, and if so, how did we get into this mess?
I am aware none of this addresses Jeff’s RAW issues, but then again, I’d settle for just having access to those files in ANY format for the moment. Once we’ve got that under control, we can turn to improving on them.

By: Ken Okawa Ken Okawa Thu, 02 Jun 2005 18:12:54 +0000 Hmmmmm. . . what is this Fear Factor for photographers???

Long term storage of digital media in my book is a concern. 90% of the world’s population doesn’t know how to properly handle a CD. The quality of CDs and DVD material varies greatly between both manufacturers and production runs. Hard drives fail. But houses are hit by tornados, fires burn collections every day . . . the risk of distruction to a collection will always be there. No different than in any other period – just the kind of risk will be associated with each new medium.

DNG format benefits Adobe not the camera makers. They have not incentative nor do they need one to adopt the DNG format. This scare tactic of “oh, you won’t be able to make photos from your files if we don’t convert to our new format” is rubbish. If Adobe on the other hand paid them to incorporate it into their product that might be a different story.

Can you still make copies from beta video tapes? Yes. But why? You can buy the same film on DVD online or at your local Blockbuster. The point is conversion of file will always be available just as time passes it may not be readibly so.

Oh, and I’m in the process of converting thousands of nitrate negatives to both current analog film and digital files.

I agree with Jamie statment -

“I do believe we will find technical ways to preserve the images we, as a culture, want to keep. We will lose the rest, as we always have, which may be unfortunate, or prudent, or merely interesting–depending on how we see ourselves in years to come. If we lose the ability to read all digital files, well, then I submit we probably won’t have the ability to color print from a negative either. We’ll also have other things to worry about than interpreting latent photographic images.”

So don’t panic folks everything will be just fine.

By: Jamie Roberts Jamie Roberts Thu, 26 May 2005 17:48:26 +0000 A very insteresting article. Like everyone else, I’m also concerned about the preservation of digital imagery.

I have to agree, though, with those that say this is not new. Only the medium has changed.

Another large flaw in this argument is the assumption that technology will be the same, or similarly disjointed, in the future as it is today.

Apart from nascent technology problems (like difference in form factors among disk drives), digital RAW files are already fairly easy to decode, from an archival perspective (don’t believe me on this, believe David Coffin, the author of DCRAW, who has easily interpreted the image portions of any RAW file he’s seen to date).

That discovering RAW data *may* not be legal in the US due to copyright concerns is another issue.

Not to belabour the point, but how many people or labs can work with glass plates these days? Or work safely with nitrate-based film, for that matter?

They recommend copying all original nitrates to another film base for preservation, due to inherent instabilty, and downright danger of nitrate film!

In other words, the important images and films have moved forward already to another medium due to conservation efforts or inherent interest (though some have tragically been lost). We’ve already lost effective access to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of early photographic and film images due to disinterest.

But IMO it’s bogus to suggest, for example, that a culturally important digital image would be lost due to a RAW format!

Digital in this sense is no different from film flavours. In a few years, if you have undeveloped Kodachrome, where will you get it processed.

Of course if the images on your roll of Kodachrome are important enough, someone would develop them even if Kodak completely stops their processing. We will invent what suits us. That’s the cultural responsibility we all bear.

So can you imagine people in the 1890s century worrying about the new “flexible film” and its longevity because they didn’t have refrigeration? Did they even know how to preserve it for the first 50 years of its existence?

So let’s be realistic about “proprietary” RAW files. A completely closed, proprietary and rights-managed (by the camera companies) RAW file wouldn’t even sell camera bodies in the market–unless the results were so far ahead of the market that there was a real benefit.

But in general, if some locked-down flavour like this did appear with no great advantage, then no professional I know would use it.

However, there should be room for that stunnng innovation, too, and guaranteeing the IP rights of the camera companies for a reasonable time (like, say, 15 or 20 years of a patent) wouldn’t hamper archival interpretation in any way. So let’s urge camera companies for disclosure after IP is over, or to work with other provider companies. But let’s not throw out the impetus for technical improvement here.

And yes, it’s up to the manufacture to strike that balance of open-ness and proprietary invention that will keep digital imaging moving forward.

I do believe we will find technical ways to preserve the images we, as a culture, want to keep. We will lose the rest, as we always have, which may be unfortunate, or prudent, or merely interesting–depending on how we see ourselves in years to come. If we lose the ability to read all digital files, well, then I submit we probably won’t have the ability to color print from a negative either. We’ll also have other things to worry about than interpreting latent photographic images.

Besides, even if something catastrophic happened to our technology, and we couldn’t make heads or tails of RAW formats, we should bear in mind that archiving is about the future. Temporarily losing the ability to intrepet the images is not the same as losing them completely. Hieroglyphics existed for millenia without any Western eye being able to interpret them. Aristotle’s works were virtually hidden in plain sight for years, till the right minds found them important again.

By: Greg Scott Greg Scott Thu, 26 May 2005 12:16:12 +0000 I personally love old photographs. What may have been mundane to the photographers of the 19th century I am secretly glad that many of them captured common everyday scenes of daily life of their times so that as historians and researchers we are able to look back at these times and actually see the ordinary people and get a rough approximation of the way they used common tools, etc.

How poorer will be the future if in 40 years time I am unable to donate my collection of images of daily life in the early 21st century to a public archive for the use of the researchers and historians of the future if the file format is no longer available?

We need to be thinking now how to preserve this data for the future.

By: igor t'serstevens igor t'serstevens Thu, 26 May 2005 08:20:34 +0000 i belive that even whit DNG the solution is not enough. what happen if in 50years theres is no more computer compatible whit nowdays CD DVD or HD…
like a friend of mine who start to wrote a book about 15 years ago and now try to find a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk drive to read it.

By: Bud Trenka Bud Trenka Thu, 26 May 2005 01:45:05 +0000 Nothing beats a fireproof file cabinet or safe for long term storage, cost, even used, is a bargin. Its not likely to go out of vogue. How about holding a floppy or CD to a window or light box, vs: a chrome or a neg?

By: Mark A. Martin Mark A. Martin Tue, 24 May 2005 14:50:19 +0000 The case for DNG is compelling and clearly stated by Jeff, et al as an equivalent to the analog negative. Personally having no knowledge of the mathematic comparisons of the various RAW formats I don’t even know enough to be dangerous. An ISO equivalent body would have to make that reasoned and informed decision.

However, an equivalent format for the preservation of the artist’s interpretation of the image would be just as necessary as the preservation of the RAW data. While this analog need is met in the form of archival pigment ink prints-what’s the problem with Tiff as it’s digital equivalent?

Further, the issue of JPEG capture and the need to convert to a lossless format such as Tiff would have to be addressed if this crusade is truly about sustainability factors.
Thanks Jeff and Adobe for advocating convergence and standardization.

By: James Drake James Drake Tue, 17 May 2005 10:02:50 +0000 This discussion of DNG versus Proprietary has an Environmentalists vs. Big business flavour…
What is important in this whole situation is that more information is available to consumers who are the eventual underwriters of Manufacturer’s decisions. However understand that it’s not consumers who make products and define their structure.. it’s Manufactureres using whay they “think” consumers will want, or worse, what they want consumers to want! Education is the key.. Make consumers aware, and create a mass backlash.. However, if Manufactureres band together in a “coalition of Proprietary”.. then there will be no choice but to push legislators to step in. If there is something that scares Manufacturers’ more than consumer activism, it has to be legislative intervention.

By: nunatak nunatak Mon, 16 May 2005 23:26:05 +0000 jeff ..

this is the best articulation of this issue i’ve read to date.the only thing missing is a universal standards body which would guide and protect the execution of common standards to the benefit of all parties–as opposed to just some.

By: Mel Lammers Mel Lammers Sat, 14 May 2005 14:25:30 +0000 At least the dialogue has started. Of course this has been a data problem since the middle ages when data storage was paint or ink on animal skin, paper, wood. The encryption/decryption engines were human. The data format was color/language. Some data has been lost. How much we may never know. Sort of like animal extinction. Thanks for starting and hosting a dialogue. One of many to come.

By: Sam Sam Fri, 13 May 2005 17:30:31 +0000 Other than issues with the inclusion of proprietary technologies or techniques (aka “secret sauce”), has anyone ever stated publicly why an open RAW format such as DNG would be a BAD idea?

By: carl corey carl corey Thu, 12 May 2005 22:33:49 +0000 as usual jeff provides an insightful and relevant discourse. keep em comin!

By: John M John M Thu, 12 May 2005 19:20:51 +0000 Nigel Pond asked if this issue wasn’t the digital equivalent of storing analog photographic negatives. I would argue that it is not. Even if we could devise a reliable means of preserving ‘digits’ for decades, if not centuries, the issue always seems to boil down to how to find the image and then how to retrieve and display it with the best technology then available. One doesn’t need much more that one’s eyes to look at a negative to form a preview of what is preserved there, and then a modern scanner and image editing program does the rest. But what can you tell from looking at a box of CD’s DVD’s or Hard Drives?

By: KVS Setty KVS Setty Thu, 12 May 2005 08:12:51 +0000 Jeff-Thanks for this informative article at a right time,but i feel it is the responsibilty of phtographic industry to develop standards for the RAW data not the camera makers alone,as you said.For this an industry consortium can be formed consisting of members from various related fields like proPhotographers,camera makers,software industry(IT industry),sensor makers and others,(just take a cue from how the color management problem was resolved to some extent by ICC, why con’t we do somethig like that?) OR approaching some standards making bodies like ISO,IEC,CIE etc., who have alredy established soo many standrds for photographic industry.

By: Robyn Witschey Robyn Witschey Thu, 12 May 2005 04:00:40 +0000 Jeff – Thanks so much for your efforts in this area. A well written informative piece. Being a Nikon D2X owner, this topic is also near and dear to my heart and wallet.

Having been through many de facto standard, national standard, international standard battles in the telecomm application industry…I wonder how long it’s going to take the industry to reach the boiling point. I see some leadership from disjointed groups, but overall don’t see a very cohesive photographic industry that can get the camera manufacturers to the table.

Thoughts anyone?

By: kieran kieran Wed, 11 May 2005 20:45:47 +0000 I agree with the broad argument in favour of DNG, but surely in the article, there’s a logical leap from the long-term archiving of images to the evils of proprietary raw files. For me RAW files are like the undeveloped negative, and not the developed negative/finished print.

I’m in little doubt that society is richer for the photos it has inherited, but I think photographers may prefer that their interpretation of the image is preserved rather than an adaptable version of it. After all, it is in the developing stage that some photographers (Ansel Adams for instance) will make integral changes. If photos are of purely historical value then perhaps it is true that we want to keep as much information as possible, but if the intention is artistic then this risks undermining the photographer’s decisions.

DNG is defintely the way forwards, and I speak as a D30 owner, but I wouldn’t argue for it on this basis.