Sanchai Chotirosseranee is Deputy Director of the Film Archive (Public Organization) in Thailand

When it comes to the digital age, most people believed that there is no need to preserve original materials, once they are digitized. When we had a funding campaign for a film storage a decade ago, Dome Sukvong, the founder of the Thai Film Archive, used the motto inspired by a famous Thai saying that the “Digital is an Illusion, but Film is a Reality” to champion an awareness about the importance of preserving analogue prints in the digital world.

Undeniably, the relentless development of technology for digital preservation is troublesome. We do not have 100% confidence about what kind of technology will be the most reliable for the future. As a governmental archive in Thailand, this situation is a nightmare. Normally, when we want to acquire any costly machines, we need to submit the specification and quotation to Bureau of Budget a year in advance. If lucky enough, that budget will be approved the following year. But the one year gap for the digital world means technology has been updated. With each allocated budget, we are already outdated.

Having said that, steadily developing digital technology is not all bad. On the contrary, the more technology is developed, the more beneficial are its uses. Digital technologies can restore film much better than analogue methods in the past. Nowadays, digital restoration has become a widespread trend for preserving classic films. Our film archive also uses such digital restoration to emphasize the importance of the film preservation of original materials. Without the original print, digital restoration cannot be achieved. Moreover, the better films are preserved and conditioned, the better the quality of the restoration.

At present, there are still some bad condition films such as reddish, too shrinkage, vinegar syndrome etc. which cannot be restored by the present digital technology. I think if we will continue to support the development of digital technology in order to fix these problems. There must be a game changer, if we are to digitally restore these “incurable” film and make it appear like the original released version.

Last but not least, such possibilities will raise the public consciousness so that we know that - without preserving the original film materials, digital preservation and restoration cannot be possible. Analogue and digital are not incompatible foes, on the contrary, they are supportive comrades.  

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