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The Vacuum - Issue 18 - Waste spacer The Vacuum - Issue 18 - Waste
Preservation Society
by Stephen Hull
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Martin Scorcese has been championing the cause of film preservation for over a decade now. In 1990 he and some of his filmmaking friends set up the Film Foundation in an attempt to encourage those in the movie business to take a more pro-active approach to the Issue of film restoration and preservation. There are apparently hordes of old films which cannot even be removed from their canister at present for fear that the acetate-based film stock on which they have been shot will SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST upon exposure to the surrounding air, which is inconvenient and more than a little alarming.
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More recent movies however, need not fear for their longevity as the general consuming public have, in recent years, taken it upon themselves to shoulder much of the burden of this ongoing task of cinematic preservation. To witness this spectacle simply go into any branch of HMV, Our Price or Virgin Megastore and you will see many people buying DVDs. Indeed it is not unusual for many different people to all buy a copy of the same film, following which each of these copies will be spirited away to a different location for safe-keeping. In archival work of this nature a high level of redundancy is paramount.
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In the interest of maintaining as many examples as possible in pristine condition, the overwhelming majority of these copies will only be watched once or twice before being placed carefully on a shelf, WHERE THEY WILL STAY. In actual fact, a goodly share of the total number of copies bought by people will NEVER BE WATCHED AT ALL. This speaks of great dedication to the cause indeed.
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The role of the archivist is, first and foremost, one of preservation, judgement is something best left to the critic. In true archival spirit the general public do not discriminate against a film on the basis of artistic merit or quality of content. Even a film of no discernable worth whatsoever will be given its place in the grand archive. As we speak, literally thousands of copies of films of almost unutterable worthlessness are being preserved in this manner. In this way, films such as Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines will be preserved for posterity, LEST WE FORGET.
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This is not to say that it has all been plain sailing. The complex technological demands of this project have meant that the general public has had to rely heavily on its close ally LARGE CORPORATION. In the beginning said corporation developed the INNOVATIVE SOLUTION of Video Home System or VHS and declared that it was THE FUTURE and brilliant. The general public embraced Video Home System as the unequalled tool of cinematic preservation they believed it to be, purchasing cassettes and playback devices LIKE THERE WAS NO TOMORROW.
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In the meantime said corporation develops LASERDISC declaring that it is vastly superior to Video Home System, but that regrettably it is very expensive and therefore only for rich people. Rich people are largely too preoccupied with drinking champagne and sailing their yachts to be much bothered with LASERDISC, the format is however a big hit with financially reckless middle-class film enthusiasts who declare it to be the only true path to cinematic preservation. Unfortunately for them LASERDISC develops laser-rot: a progressive oxidisation of the disc's inner aluminium surface which renders part or all of the data contained on the disc unreadable. Oops, don't they feel silly. Being the size of an LP the resultant waste disc is too large to use as a novelty coaster.
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Some time passes and extensive research at LARGE CORPORATION produces startling new revelations leading them to declare that Video Home System is actually not brilliant at all and is in fact utter crap. Like an over ripe pear, the magnetic data contained on the tape is susceptible to corruption by anything generating a magnetic field such as the one generated by the earth itself and is thus in a continuous state of fetid degradation from the word go. The general public are understandably distraught but as luck would have it the discovery coincides with LARGE CORPORATION's unveiling of the INNOVATIVE SOLUTION of Digital Versatile Disc or DVD which is brilliant and is definitely THE FUTURE, this time. So great is the rejoicing that not much is said about the millions of miles of unwanted video tape set to ensnare wandering hedgehogs and seagulls alike in a QUAGMIRE OF BLACK SPAGHETTI DEATH.
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All that remains is for the general public to replace all their treacherous VHS cassettes with lovely shiny DVDs, which they set about doing with unparalleled abandon. But, OH NO! early in 2004 certain quarters of the internet reverberate to rumours that a 20 year old CD-ROM held by a library in Sweden was discovered to have just disintegrated! Everyone knows that the manufacturing process for CD-ROMS and DVDs is disturbingly similar. A wave of hysteria sweeps through the general public who are now racked with visions of their beloved though hugely under-utilised film archives being reduced to a pile of NEUROTOXIN LACED DUST, please refrain from inhaling sharply.
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Once again though LARGE CORPORATION rallies to the cause and develops the INNOVATIVE SOLUTION of recordable DVD and recommends that all DVD users make backup copies of their DVDs, just in case. Though confusingly three different and variously incompatible recordable DVD formats are created resulting in some unnecessary duplication of effort, zounds! Undeterred though, and following a now depressingly familiar pattern, the general public embrace recordable DVD as though it were their very own offspring and set about swaddling it in large banknotes.
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Finally though the future of modern day cinematic heritage may be assured, we believe. All it took was an astonishing and utterly unwarranted volume of VHS cassettes, DVDs and the attendant successive generations of backup copies, of which WE HAVE YET TO COUNT THE COST.
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