Blog, business, graphic design, post production for film and video

Goodbye, Kodachrome

Scott Simmons recently posted a farewell note to Kodachrome, Kodak’s brilliant film stock. As unforgiving as it was (bright sunlight was its favorite playground at 64ASA), the brightness, richness, and crispness of the photos were unmistakeable. Oh, and, by the way, the developed film lasts forever. You think I’m kidding you? Go over and look at my lightbox at iStockphoto. All of these were shot at least 25 years ago, and some of them date back to the 1950s. Over 50 years old! How many things last that long nowadays? I mean, look at a few of these:

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And we are saying goodbye to the film stock.

Honestly, this brings up a larger issue that I have discussed previously on the blog. Storage. Archiving. Longevity. I am pulling up a video project that I haven’t touched for a few months today, and the hard drive is screaming at me. It took a few tries to even get it to spin up. So I am spending this afternoon dumping the entire drive onto another, newer drive so that I can go back to working on the project.

I am fastidious about backups and archives (borne of experience). All material that is on a hard drive in my office is redundant. As soon as a project is finished, it is backed up to DVD or another hard drive. But I have no expectation that those hard drives are going to last longer than 5 years. So I guess I was not surprised to be losing another hard drive.

But here I am, pulling 50 year old Kodachrome photos out of a closet and scanning them and they look like they were taken yesterday.

Once I get all of those slides scanned, I was planning on throwing the slides away; I have the scans — why would I need the original slides? But I’m not sure anymore: I’m learning that, if you have a hard copy, that might be better than having a digital copy! Even for all the miniDV work that I have done, I have carefully labelled and stored each tape in fireproof boxes. Those are my “hard copy” from those projects. Once I switch to solid state (P2, hard drive, etc.) what is my primary “hard copy” of the original media?

Additionally, the beauty of that Kodachrome film can not be overstated. It is simply gorgeous. I wonder whether a still camera like the Canon EOS 1D Mark III or a video camera like the new RED cameras will ever show us the depth and clarity of that film. I’m sure they will achieve it, but will anyone be able to pull that data off in another 50 years to admire it like we admire Kodachrome today?