Launched in 2004 on the initiative of Film Archive Austria and the Austrian Film Gallery in collaboration with the Austrian Film Museum, the strategic pilot project Digital Film Restoration was set up with the aim of preserving the cinematic heritage to the most exacting technical standards. In 2013, the project, which was originally based in Krems and Laxenburg, relocated to Vienna. The pièce de résistance of our digital-film-restoration department is a film scanner that digitizes original materials in high resolution (up to 6 K). The films are restored frame by frame with the help of a software for digital image processing. Image stabilization, removal of dust particles and scratches, color grading and the reconstruction of missing sequences are just some of the significant improvements that can be achieved in this process. For a feature film with an average running time, 130,000 frames have to be treated individually. Finally, a new print is struck from the digitally restored data.
This integrated work process is a guarantor of high quality and ensures that there is full technical and artistic control over the restoration. Film Archive Austria thus has at its disposal an in-house competence that comprises the whole spectrum of methods currently used in film restoration. With this infrastructure, every year between 200 and 250 minutes of archival material are digitally restored and preserved for the public, with priority given to material that is either exceptionally interesting or particularly at risk.
For over a century, analog film laboratories formed an integral part of the basic infrastructure of film production, distribution and preservation. As analog formats were supplanted by digital ones, the traditional market for analog film labs rapidly shrank and eventually vanished. Their core competence, i.e. producing analog copies for movie theaters, was no longer in demand. The last commercially run film laboratories in Austria had to shutter in 2015 (Listo-Film) and 2016 (Synchro Film). Yet for the time being, analog safety copies are still our best bet when it comes to preserving the cinematic heritage for future generations. Supposedly obsolete analog technologies can moreover be used to increase the lifespan of digital productions, e.g. by the color separation method, where the digital data are copied to three color separations. At the moment, the FAA, in collaboration with the Austrian Film Museum and with the support of the Ministry for Culture, endeavours to build up an infrastructure for the production of analog safety copies in order to ensure that Austria’s cinematic heritage can preserved in the original formats.