The BFI National Archive, the national collection of film and television, recently
installed DFT’s Scanity HDR, an advanced film scanner at its Conservation Centre in
Berkhampsted, to assist in the digitisation of the UK’s rich screen heritage for
everyone to enjoy.
Established in 1935, the BFI National Archive holds one of the largest film and
television collections in the world. The archive includes material from the earliest
days of film to current television content – which includes around of 60 000 fiction
films, including features, on all gauges of film and formats of videotape, 120 000
non-fiction films, and around 770 000 television titles – as well as millions of other
items – such as scripts, posters, still images, books, journals, articles and
newspaper cuttings relating to Britain’s cultural heritage.
Scanity was purchased as a part of a Lottery-funded programme to “unlock film
heritage’ by investing in the digitisation, preservation and interpretation of film,
providing access to the UK’s screen heritage to the public. The programme ensures
that the people can access and enjoy the full range of British filmmaking, regardless
of where they live or where that film heritage is held. In total, 10 000 titles will be
digitised and made available online in a project that runs through to March 2017.
Heather Stewart, BFI creative director, Programme comments: “Our Unlocking Film
Heritage programme has changed public access to the UK national collection of film
and television through the launch of Britain on Film. Many of the 10 000 titles due to
be digitised by the end of 2017 have been unknown and unseen for decades.’
The Scanity film scanner was chosen after extensive testing to ensure the
technology was able to safely handle delicate or damaged film materials from a
variety of film gauges and formats, some of which date to 1895 and are in formats
that are now obsolete. The digitisation process takes a “snap shot’ of the original
“master’ film. Once scanned, the “master’ is either returned to the BFI’s Master Film
Store facility in Warwickshire, or returned to the lender.
Once digitised, the scanned images are enhanced using Scanity’s in-built software
tools to remove scratches and dust, in conjunction with other post production tools
to enhance the images prior to becoming available to view via the online “BFI
Charles Fairall, head of Conservation, Collections and Information, BFI comments:
“Scanity is the ideal film scanner for the “Unlocking Film Heritage’ programme
because it combines very careful handling of film with the capability of scanning at
relatively high speeds. This is particularly important given the scope of the project,
which is aimed at providing high volume digital access to these most fragile and
historically valuable film collections preserved by the BFI National Archive.