Film handling, digitisation and restoration: Media Archive Trainees interview
Date posted: 28.03.2017
This month the most recent crop of trainees graduated from the Media Archive Traineeship.
This is the second year of the paid traineeships, which we run in partnership with Focal International and Creative Skillset. The traineeships are the only ones of their kind in the UK for this field, and include classroom training with leading industry speakers along with two 10-week industry placements.
We caught up with two of this year's trainees, Layla Snell and Abigail Dryburgh, to hear about their experiences on the programme, their industry placements, and their plans for their future in archive film.
Tell us about the industry placements you completed during the traineeship.
Layla Snell: My first placement was at the Associated Press in their archive. The majority of my time was spent working with the British Movietone collection and managing the social media accounts that represent the archive. It was great to get an understanding of how to engage an archive with the public through social media, and I had the opportunity to write an article about people who had found their friends or family in British Movietone clips on YouTube.
My second placement was at BBC Wales, in their stills and film archive. I spent time working on a Steenbeck where I was prepping and compiling film ahead of the digitisation process. These tasks involved handling film on a daily basis and using archiving equipment. It was nice to be working on this group project, with the aim to digitise as much content as possible ahead of the site move in 2019.
Abigail Dryburgh: I had a placement at ITV, where I divided my time between the Metadata and the Preservation & Access departments, and then Pinewood Studios' Restoration department. Both placements were within institutions that deal with current TV and film production as well as archival content, so I learned a lot about workflows of current projects that utilise archival source material and about production standards.
Until you've seen it for yourself I don't think you can really appreciate how thorough the quality checking process is for broadcast or a film restoration project.
Work at ITV involved lots of film handling, identification and detective work. Their store has over 1 million individual assets in it, mostly video tapes, so it was a good introduction into how you navigate and organise a collection of that size.
What was the highlight from the traineeship?
Layla: Our group trip to Sheffield Doc Fest was my first time at a film festival and I found it such an amazing experience. It was also really important to my learning as I was able to see how often documentary and film makers use archive footage in their productions. The festival highlighted how and why archive content is taken so seriously in the film industry and how it is being used in such innovative ways, despite being seen as 'from the past'.
Abigail: Accessioning and viewing rushes from The Tube of The Smiths performing at Barrowland Ballroom (where I went to my first gigs as a teenager) and managing to find and sync up the 'sepmag' sound from a massive box of random trims. The unused footage probably hasn't been viewed since it was cut in 1985. It's that kind of rummaging through the loft and striking gold feel that makes this work so appealing.
What skills have you learnt and developed?
Layla: I have learnt a wealth of new skills, some of which I didn't even know existed! This included film processing, telecine transfer and film digitisation techniques, how to use a Steenbeck and film joiner, identifying and dating film, using various Digital Asset Management and Media Asset Management systems, storing, cleaning and handling film in its physical format, copyright practice and ethics in archive content, understanding early colour and sound systems in film, and cataloguing and identifying different tape formats.
Abigail: I've learned a lot of practical skills, including film handling, identification, viewing and repair, that I could only say I had a passing knowledge of before.
What are your career plans for the future?
Layla: I now have a full time, permanent job at the Kinolibrary, which I am incredibly excited about.
Abigail: I studied at art school and would love to be able to combine my interest in art, in particular artists' moving image, with the skills I've learned on this course. Quite a specific aim but I'm hopeful!