The archives of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum, of EYE in Amsterdam, and of the National Archive in The Hague contain the Dutch visual history of the past 100 years. Films, documentaries, radio broadcasts, and television programmes comprise more than 700.000 hours worth of material. The production costs of this oeuvre have run into the billions, but of course the educational, cultural, and economical value of this material is unprecedented.
The project began on 1st July 2007. Over a seven-year period, the FES (Fund for the reinforcement of Economic Structure) is providing a budget of 154 million Euros for the digitisation of the Netherlands' audiovisual memory. The digitised material will be made accessible to the general public and to is meant to support educational purposes. With it, the imminent threat of decay and loss of vulnerable films and video- and audiotapes is subsiding. During the project, a total of 137.200 hours of video, 22.510 hours of film, 123.900 hours of audio, and 2.9 million photos from these archives will be restored, preserved, digitised, and made public. The main goal of the project is to ensure that the targeted user groups have optimum accessibility to the audiovisual material (educational institutions, the general public, and the creative sector). To reach this goal, Images for the Future is developing and offering innovative services and applications.
Picturae's role in this project was to digitise negatives. This process started in November 2009 in Heiloo. In order to digitise more than 1 million negatives, a four-year period was estimated and reserved. Picturae, however, finished the job at the beginning of 2011, only two years after having started! The negatives were of different sizes and formats: 57.000 glass negatives, 394.000 full-frame and 8x10 inch negatives, and 550.000 6x6 negatives. In a second project for Images for the Future, Picturae digitised another 500.000 negatives. The diversity of material and the size of the project stimulated the active search for creative and comprehensive solutions.
Many large-format acetate negatives are damaged by acid. In order to stop further decline, these negatives had been frozen. Consequently, Picturae set up a digitising studio in The Hague that used new innovative techniques. In order to process a collection of negatives efficiently, Picturae has developed a digitising method based on transparent folders, the 'contact sheet method'. The negatives or slides are inserted into one or more folders, after which the entire folder is digitised at once. This speeds up the process and makes it possible to reproduce large collections at a low cost. It also makes it easier to select negatives that require an even higher standard of digitising.
Dust is a big problem when digitising transparents. Picturae has developed a process in which dust is removed without contact from brushes, cloths or liquids. This involves two separate procedures: firstly dust is extracted using specially filtered air and secondly the negatives are made antistatic. In order to do this, the negative is placed in a device developed by Picturae. This blows ionized air above and under the negative, consequently expelling all dust.
Web-based selection tool
In 2011 Picturae won a second tender from the project Images for the Future. For this, 31.000 contact sheets and 500.000 negatives had to be digitised for the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. To speed up the process, Picturae developed a unique web-based selection tool. With this tool, the employees of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision could make an online selection from a collection of nine million negatives. Thereafter, the selection was digitised in high resolution.