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History does not unfold - it piles up! Report on the Footage Training Week

1 June 2010

Before attending the FOCAL International Footage Training Week, I was aware that I would be far behind anyone else attending the course in terms of experience and awareness of the factors contributing to preservation, research and exploitation of archive material. This didn’t matter at all I was welcomed warmly by all course members and administrators. It was in fact a great opportunity to ask as many questions as possible. Everyone around me explained or taught me something regarding the industry from their perspective. My view on the industry is now so broad. Technically, we started with the capturing of light and birth of the moving image, coming up to date by looking at explosion of different codec’s and compressors, to which it appears there is still no universal standard. (Left: Andrew Hatten learning to lace up a Steenbeck at the IWM)

The Imperial War Museum was very welcoming and I enjoyed my time there immensely. The most sacred of all the archives we visited felt like the John Paul Getty National Film & Televison Archive, where men in white coats were genuinely excited by demonstrating the decay of film! The nature of the archive as a cultural bank made the place feel really special too. (Right: Delegates at the John Paul Getty NFTVA being shown decomposing film) 

"The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present’ and the importance of audiovisual archive preservation I think cannot be underestimated. This material is learned from, taught with or used to illustrate – it’s a powerful medium that should be made accessible to everybody. Grierson Award winning Filmmaker Taylor Dowling of Flashback TV, spoke with the group about using material to tell stories, and that the creative process can be sometimes led by what material is found when searching an archive. It is amazing the amount of work being done to make archives more accessible; I can only hope that the Chancellor shares my view and that public money, at this difficult time, finds its way in the direction of audiovisual preservation and presentation. How can archives become more affordable to young or independent filmmakers and artists? Do these images tell us as much about society now as they do our history? I have taken more ideas and questions from the course than I had ever anticipated. Thanks FOCAL! " Andrew Hatton, UK

FOCAL Internatuional's Footage Training Week offered a wide but coherent range of information about the availability and utilization of audiovisual materials conveyed by experts from various institutions or firms. The particular emphasis was on how the analogue (or traditional) and the digital media meet. Questions were diverse, such as how celluloid film can be converted using computer software or how audiovisuals can be integrated in web cataloguing. As a researcher I appreciated getting to know more about international rights and about the TV producer’s perspective of selecting archive material for documentaries. I can recommend this Training Week as a most valuable experience! Ulrike Schwab, Germany

My time at the FOCAL International Training Week was fascinating and thoroughly engaging, enabling a valuable mixture of training, networking and benchmarking of’s footage operations against others in the field, including the best. Not only did I learn a great deal in thought-provoking, challenging and useful dialogue with peers in the footage industry, I was also able to both validate the currency of’s footage management operations, as well as note areas of further innovation in relations to “best in class” operations (such as the British Film Institute, ITN Source representing Reuters, BBC Information and Archives and BBC Motion Gallery) elsewhere in the world. (Right: Lynn Johnson (centre) and colleague Zabelo Mbita (right) from, South Africa with Isabelle Fillon, IOC, Switzerland)

The Training Week itself was well organized with top-notch hosts keeping us engaged at each institution visited. I found the visit to ITN Source and BBC Information & Archives particularly relevant to my work area in terms of comparing archive operational workflows within the digital environment. I also deal directly with sales consultants from these institutions for footage and content sales, receiving deeper insight into how they prepare clips for archiving and online access. A particular treat for me was visiting Pinewood Studios, the “home of James Bond”, where we were shown their newly acquired archive holdings of Canal+ in the process of being restored and preserved for access with amazing technology. It was really extraordinary to walk through the massive facility knowing that there was a possibility (a very remote possibility) of bumping into the current James Bond himself!

FOCAL International is at the heart of driving networking and innovation in this area, so their value to as a facilitating and training organisation was immediately relevant – and the professional experience they delivered undoubtedly strengthened and deepened the theoretical and practical thinking of how we do what we do at archives. (Left: delegates with Simon Hill, Group Film Archive Account Manager, Pinewood Group)

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and found it valuable in expanding my knowledge about the footage industry. I will definitely recommend this workshop to all my peers in South Africa. So thank you to the organisers for this inspiring adventure – I learnt a great deal professionally and had great fun at the same time! Lynn Johnson, South Africa 

The Footage Training week was an unbelievable experience.  The course was really interesting because I learnt   things that I hadn´t learnt in other courses. For example, at the Imperial War Museum we were able to use a  moviola and learn how to join film together. I learnt how some  audiovisual archives work, like ITN source and BBC Motion Gallery.  Moreover I had the opportunity of hearing about the different issues relating to the use of library footage in documentary production from the point of view of both the film researchers and the producers. Iris Lopez, TVE, Spain

Thanks to the IWM, Pinewood Group, BBC Motion Gallery, BBC I&A, BFI, ITN Source, plus Hubert Best, Declan Smith, James Hunt and Taylor Downing who all volunteered their time.