Outlook: Post production in the age of archiving
Clive Kingston
Issue: November/December 2023

Outlook: Post production in the age of archiving

While post production processes have long been completely digital, content archives have lagged behind. A need to rely on older analogue technologies, or an inability to access media at all because of the carrier it’s stored on, meant preserved content couldn’t be used to its fullest extent by storytellers. Fortunately, in recent years, more and more content owners have recognized the urgent need to preserve and facilitate access to their legacy archives through a proper digitization approach. Having assets accessible on file-based formats is not only safeguarding valuable content, but also unlocks a wealth of creative and revenue-generating opportunities.

Driven by the unprecedented demand for content, Memnon has seen a rush to make those archives more discoverable, whether it’s old film reels, legacy tape formats, rare audio recordings or digital formats that aren’t compatible with today’s post production workflows. These previously inaccessible archives are now opening up a vast universe of source material for filmmakers, producers and content creators. 

With the digitization of legacy archives, storytellers are no longer constrained by limited stock footage. They can now seamlessly integrate unique and historically-significant material into their productions, breathing new life into forgotten stories and enriching the viewing experience for audiences worldwide.

The recent release of a new single by The Beatles, accompanied by a short film featuring decades-old archive footage, exemplifies the transformative power of digitization. This project not only preserved and shared a piece of musical history, but it also demonstrated the immense creative potential that lies untouched within vast libraries of legacy content.

This trend is also evident in the surge of archive-based content on television, streaming and social platforms. For instance, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their iconic show Doctor Who, archivists from the BBC brought together television, images, documents, music and radio archive collections to give fans an inside look at the groundbreaking series.

As archive footage plays a more prominent role in storytelling, the lines between production and post production will become increasingly blurred in 2024. Post production is no longer just about polishing a finished piece – it's about integrating the authenticity that comes with archive material into the narrative. While this shift may present its own challenges, for example, blending high-end sound design or VFX with archive content is inevitably tricky or might seem out of place, it also opens up new avenues for creativity, allowing filmmakers to craft compelling stories that link the past and present.

Clive Kingston is the Director of Production & Operations at Memnon (https://memnon.com), a provider of content preparation, management and delivery services.