80.3 F
San Fernando
Friday, Jun 21, 2024

Hollywood’s Film Freezer

Thousand Oaks consistently ranks among the nation’s safest cities, so it makes sense that it will house many of Hollywood’s movie treasures. “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “The Godfather” series, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the Indiana Jones films are just a few of the classic titles by Paramount Pictures that will be preserved in a new, state-of-the-art giant freezer under construction now by Pro-Tek Vaults, the film services division of LAC Group in Los Angeles. Pro-Tek, headquartered in Burbank, is building a pair of 7,000-square-foot vaults at its Conejo Valley facility to safeguard 500,000 rolls of original negatives – every shot, outtake, behind-the-scenes footage and final cut – of films that Paramount has produced since the early 1950s. Under the five-year, multimillion dollar contract with Paramount, Pro-Tek will store the films at below-freezing temperature to stop almost all image deterioration. Additionally, the company will begin a multi-year effort to scan Paramount’s film collection onto digital formats and do other services, such as catalogue films, inspect and repair them and prepare and send out digital copies. A movie’s original negatives have value, so preserving them is the first step in monetizing them. Movies continue to be a lucrative business for production companies long after their release, said Tom Regal, Pro-Tek’s vice president. “For studios, once they made a film, it’s a big business to continue making money,” Regal said. “All studios are actively engaged in that.” Keeping cold In the same way a home freezer preserves food and prevents spoiling, Pro-Tek’s vaults will conserve Paramount’s films. Rob Corrao, president of LAC Group, said while cold temperatures slow the damaging effects of “vinegar syndrome” – a chemical hardening and shrinkage of the emulsion on certain types of film – and color fading, below-freezing conditions almost stop them altogether. Other film preservation institutions have cold vaults; for example, UCLA Film & Television Archive has a facility in Santa Clarita. But Pro-Tek’s vaults will be kept at 29 degrees Fahrenheit, and only one or two facilities with sub-freezing temperatures exist around the globe, Corrao said. “Part of the reason you don’t see freezing vaults all over the place is it’s very challenging to build them and keep them at freezing,” he said. Paramount’s archives will be active vaults – a working library, Regal said, with the staff accessing the vaults frequently to retrieve and return canisters of negatives. So Pro-Tek’s biggest challenge will be keeping that 29 degrees stable during activity, and developing processes that minimize water condensation on the films. Inside Pro-Tek’s 125,000-square-foot facility, where it has other vaults for other studio clients, two refrigeration units will pump in the freezing air that will be sustained by wool core insulation within the steel construction. Outside the vaults, staff will use acclimation rooms to slowly warm up the film so it is not quickly exposed to warmer air, which causes condensation and therefore damage, Regal said. Staffers will repair film inside new cleanrooms. “The key is maintaining the temperature, because as you get colder it becomes more critical, especially as you take things in and out,” he added, with colder temperatures increasing chances for condensation. “That’s probably the most critical stage – maintaining that (cold temperature), and then trying to bring the films in and out without creating condensation.” Construction of the facility should finish around June, Regal said. Pro-Tek is also developing processes to keep work moving efficiently while accounting for acclimation time, and a schedule that will keep vault access at a minimum. Building opportunities The additional services Pro-Tek will perform under the Paramount contract, one of its largest, will generate recurring revenue rather than just the one-time fee for film storage. Scanning, or digitizing, Paramount’s films onto digital media will take Pro-Tek five to 10 years. That includes inspecting negatives, repairing any damage, cataloguing those conditions and the film’s location, and then verifying that information against existing catalogue entries. To handle the additional services for Paramount, Pro-Tek expects to hire up to 20 people beyond its existing payroll of 10, Regal said. Paramount makes money from its original negatives in several ways. Old movies are re-released on new digital formats for home entertainment; copies get sold to image libraries and can appear in posters or commercials; and digitized films get sold to other production companies to appear as clips in new movies or TV shows. Paramount may also sell streaming media subscriptions for its movies. The value of that revenue stream depends on the original negatives, Corrao said, because all digitizing is done from the source. Making copies of copies will significantly reduce image quality. “Technology evolves; film is always the same, and we always can scan it,” he said. “But if the file format is no longer valid, or becomes corrupt, (that’s why) you have to keep the original camera negative.” A successful delivery of the Paramount contract will open more doors for Pro-Tek, Corrao said. “It will demonstrate our ability to bring a suite of services to a particular client in a unique way,” he said. “We’re very enthusiastic.”

Featured Articles

Related Articles