For all the time, effort and emotion we put into our work, why is it that we so rarely address the archiving and restoration of our images?  With more than half of all films shot prior to 1950 lost to deterioration, misplacement or the trash bin, the situation demands immediate attention.  And if anyone happens to believe that our easy electronic access to so much material has solved the problem, they’re wrong.  If action isn’t taken soon, most of the images we create today will be not be with us in the future.

            To be clear, archiving (aka, preservation) refers to the saving of master elements or unique copies by storing them under environmental conditions that prevent deterioration and provide extended life to the materials.  Restoration is the process that returns the master elements to a condition as close to the original as possible.  Meta-data, which is often confused with archiving, is information that goes into a catalog; in no way does it imply a moving image or recorded sound.

            Until recently film has been the only effective medium for protecting and preserving the physical embodiment of what we do.  Its remarkable longevity is due to its standard of universal interoperability.  This means that the same processes can be used by everyone using the same tools and techniques which are accepted throughout the world.  The problem is, the support needed to preserve on film is disappearing just as quickly as film itself.

            Nonetheless, a future-proof solution exists.  ASC Associates Rob Hummel and Dan Rosen have developed the Digital Optical Technology System – DOTS™, for short.  All the requirements for long-term preservation are built-in: it has a more than one hundred year life expectancy, doesn’t deteriorate, is easier to store and protect than film, offers ready accessibility, shows a lossless quality of reproduction and is cheaper overall.  DOTS™ records data, visible text and images visually at microscopic density on a phase-change metal alloy tape.  It’s non-magnetic, chemically inert and immune to electromagnetic fields (including Electro Magnetic Pulses).  The temperature range of its storage is 16˚F to 150˚F, it’s tamper proof, cannot be erased and supports external compression and secure data encryption.  Best of all, it’s designed to ensure the saved information will be available and recoverable for as long as cameras and imaging devices are on hand, whatever their form.  It’s also cost effective since it eliminates the need for migrating digital assets every three to five years.

            I’ve always been careful when it comes to endorsements of products or services – and I’m not doing so with DOTS™.  But it’s important to spread the word and encourage innovations such as this.

            For more information, read The Digital Dilemma and The Digital Dilemma 2, both assembled by the Science and Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Learn about DOTS™ at



  1. Thank you Richard; it’s endorsements like your that keep Dan Rosen and I pursuing this; especially since no one says we’re wrong, just that existing stakeholders are worried that DOTS will disrupt their current business model. Dan’s invention of using DOTS for Bit Plane Image preservation is THE MOST compelling aspect of DOTS. It is the digital equal of B&W YCM Silver Separation masters. IF anyone’s curious, here isa. link to a video that explains it very clearly:

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