Film Preservation

Film preservation is one of the core tasks of film museums and archives. In order for films to remain accessible for future generations, they have to be preserved. Within the Austrian Film Museum, preservation happens in different steps and on different levels. At one hand, the film elements are kept safe in temperature and humidity-controlled film vaults. This so-called passive form of preservation assures stability for film material and prevents or slows down material deterioration, mechanical damage, color fading, and biological threats such as mold infestation. At the other hand, the Film Museum takes active measures to safeguard and give access to its collections. This happens through digitization, restoration, and analogue duplication. For the complex technical realization of its projects, the Film Museum cooperates with a large network of archival partners and specialized service providers in Austria and abroad.


Analogue duplication of damaged, decomposing or unique film elements to new and more stable film material, is a form of active preservation. Creating new analogue master elements makes it possible to strike new film prints that can be screened, now and in the future. This method ensures the creation of preservation elements, as well as the continued access to film works in their original presentation format. Analogue duplication is becoming ever more complicated and difficult to execute. The number of film labs is diminishing and the choice of film stock is becoming smaller. Since 2016 there is no operating film laboratory in Austria and therefore the Film Museum seeks cooperation with labs abroad such as Portugal (ANIM - Cinemateca Portuguesa - Museu do Cinema), Germany (Andec Filmtechnik), the Netherlands (Haghefilm Digitaal), Hungary (Magyar Filmlabor) and Belgium (DeJonghe Film Postproduction).


Since 2008, the Film Museum has been using digital restoration techniques in addition to traditional photochemical reproduction methods. With ongoing funding from the Arts and Culture Division of the Austrian Federal Chancellery plus initial set-up grants from the state of Lower Austria, ecoplus and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Film Museum can operate its own facility with full digital restoration capabilities. A restoration project usually includes the scanning of the best possible element to be used as source element and the subsequent image processing including stabilization, restoration and color correction. In a final step, the original as well as the restored scans are preserved digitally on LTO tape and digital screening elements are created for public presentation. Within the Digital Film Restoration Policy a set of guidelines is described that can serve as a reference to others in their own work in this area. Taking digital film restoration into their own hands in this way allows the Film Museum a level of control and care over the projects that would not otherwise be possible. Next to carrying out its own restoration projects, the Film Museum cooperates with other archives and rights holders by loaning films from its collection for external preservation projects.


The Film Museum engages in the digitization or scanning of film elements from its own collection or those of affiliated organizations and film makers. Digitization is often the only way to give access to collections, because the film elements themselves are often too fragile to be viewed on a viewing table. Digitization is thus also a way to protect the original elements of further wear and tear. For high quality digitization, three film scanners are available for different formats and various digital outputs. The "MWA Choice" scanner is used to create high-definition scans 2K from small gauge formats (8mm, Super 8, 9.5mm, 16mm). The "Machina" scanner is used to digitize small gauge formats and 35mm up to 4K. The "ARRISCAN XT," a scanner shared with Filmarchiv Austria and located in Laxenburg (Lower Austria), is meant for archival scanning of 16mm and 35mm film, with the possibility of wet-gate scanning to reduce visible damage. Film scanning is labor-intensive and time-consuming. For this reason, the Film Museum does not undertake a mass digitization of its entire collections. Instead, digitization is mostly done in the framework of special projects, such as within the framework of a research project, for the purpose of an online curation and giving access, and for digital restoration projects.

The Film Museum's staff participates actively in the ongoing international discussion surrounding the ethical and practical principles of film preservation.

Featuring 17 essays by a number of leading international experts, the English-language book publication Work/s in Progress (2013) engages with both the theoretical principles and practical implementations of digital technology within the fields of audiovisual archiving and film restoration.

A year-by-year list of films restored, duplicated and digitized by the Film Museum since 2002 is included here on the website with links to further information, videos and short essays where applicable.

Claudio Santancini

+43 1 533 70 54 Ext 234