hether it’s stacks of tape rushes lining your office shelving or film reels licensed from a broadcaster, archive footage can provide the missing piece to your production. However, whilst the world is struggling to find its new normal, archive footage can also offer an innovative solution to the new challenges that production companies face every day.
Here we look at what, in our opinion, are the five top reasons you should consider including archive footage in your next production, and the benefits that it can bring.
1. The challenge of filming during Covid-19
With productions on hold, release dates delayed, and work forces stuck at home, the global pandemic has presented a huge range of unforeseen challenges for production companies. Even when some filming has been able to go ahead, providing Covid-secure workplaces and adhering to social distancing can present companies with rising production costs.
So how can companies keep up the pace with continuing to produce content in this new environment?
For many, the answer comes in the form of archive footage. Since the start of the outbreak Nulight has seen a rapid growth in the number of productions opting to use archive as film crews remain grounded.
In fact, in response to the surge of interest in archival footage, some commissioners have relaxed some restrictions on the amount of archive permitted in a production so long as picture standards can be maintained. As the creative industry navigates through the coming year or more of uncertainty, opportunities are emerging for producers who can rapidly adapt to this new reality.
2. Archive footage can be remastered to UHD
Key to the success of using archive footage is remastering it so it can convincingly intercut with your contemporary rushes, even when shot at a different resolution or colour-space.
At Nulight, we employ a mix of in-house and leading A.I.-based software tools to deliver a range of image enhancements including noise-reduction, smooth frame-rate interpolation, sharpening, artifact removal and super-resolution (aka upscaling).
Choosing the right upscaling process is key to successfully enhancing your footage. Most upscaling software relies on bicubic or nearest-neighbour methods, producing lack lustre results as they struggle to understand objects greater than a few pixels in size. By contrast, more recent computer vision techniques can identify eyes, hair, foliage and other macro features in order to produce vivid and more natural looking enhancements.
This process makes upscaling possible for up to 600% the films original size, which opens a treasure trove of HD material for broadcast in UHD or even 8K. Similar techniques we use can also rescue contemporary rushes, for example, by allowing more extreme cropping and zooming of details, cleaning up grainy night shots and selectively sharpening out-of-focus subjects. Whether, archive or rushes the options for enhancement and re-use are greater now than ever.
3. Save time and money spent re-filming
The cost to acquire, digitise, enhance and license archive footage is often significantly less than filming the same material again. Managed well, this can translate into big savings for a production.
When budgeting your archive spend here are a few tips to remember. In general, digital video tape media costs less to transcode to file, however, older material will have a lower resolution and so likely need more upscaling and enhancement to match with your rushes.
In contrast, scanning analogue film can be more expensive but can be scanned directly to UHD meaning it won’t require upscaling, but depending on its condition, may still need to be restored or enhancement.
In either case, it is worth investing into high quality upscaling and image enhancement. As tempting as it is to use the tools offered in your editing software, these won’t cut it for a high-end production and usually result in QAR failures and expensive last-minute fixes.
A bespoke approach by an image enhancement specialist like Nulight Studios will save money in the long run and guarantee the best-looking result.
4. Immense variety of spectacular footage
With over 80 years of television archive available to be digitised and remastered in full 4K there’s never been a better opportunity to repackage this content for a brand-new audience.
There are currently around 100 national film archives in Europe and many more hundreds of regional and specialist archives together containing several millions of feet of film and thousands of hours of video.
At Nulight we work with many of these as well as with the main film and television archives including BBC Archive, ITV Archive and the British Film Institute. As trusted partners we have access to original negatives and master copies often not available to other facilities, giving you even more material to choose from.
Every day new content is being digitised and made available offering filmmakers a huge resource that can be tapped into on almost any subject imaginable.
5. Reducing your carbon footprint
According to Albert, BAFTA’s industry-backed sustainability project, the production of just one hour’s worth of TV content now produces 13 tonnes of carbon dioxide. By re-using footage, archive material can play a key part in helping any company to become more sustainable and responsible in their production process.
Natural history filmmaking companies have been among the first to recognise the importance of reducing the potential for harm their productions can have on the environments they film. In particular, reducing the number of flights is a priority. It’s not uncommon for film crews on different productions fly to the same location to film the same animals multiple times.
Identifying where similar footage already exists may not always eliminate the need to fly to a location, but could at least reduce the time needed and therefore the size of crew and equipment that needs to be flown. This not only saves money and time, but also reduces the environmental impact.
Many other examples exist where re-use of archive film can play a part as we all strive to move towards more sustainable and responsible film and television production.
Where any of the reasons we suggested helpful? Are there others you think we missed? If you are considering how you can use archive footage in your next production, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with our team of experts to for free advice or an estimate.