‘Forever' doesn't mean it, after all

A study by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says movies shot digitally – the future of Hollywood camerawork – and stored digitally aren't going to last for all time.

As Film Journal magazine reports, the hardware on which digital film is encoded is less durable than film. If you don't operate the hard drives occasionally, they'll freeze up in as little as two years. Even if you do use them, data may degrade. Contrast that with film, which can be popped into a salt or limestone mine (where many originals are stored) and kept unused for years.

Even worse, the article reported the cost of maintaining a traditional film master at $1,050 a year. A studio must spend 10 times that much to store a digital master, partly because data must be “migrated” constantly to new storage.

The efficient solution has been to transfer digital work to old-fashioned film for storage. But as George Lucas and James Cameron and other powerful directors insist on shooting digitally, the demand for film stock will drop. Someday, companies may not make it.

Meanwhile, technology continues to change. So studios have to spend millions attempting to keep up with technology that may not preserve data well AND may be obsolete within a few years.

Megastudios such as Sony and Disney can pay for “migration” to archive classics, but small distributors lack money. So digital treasures will get lost to time, while “antiquated” films rest in vaults, awaiting our eyes.