There are three parts to digital preservation: format, medium, and licensing. Film and television archives are struggling with all three.
Codecs—the software used to compress and decompress digital video files—keep changing, as do the hardware and software for playback.
As each new generation of LTO comes to market, an older generation of LTO becomes obsolete. LTO manufacturers guarantee at most two generations of backward compatibility. What that means for film archivists with perhaps tens of thousands of LTO tapes on hand is that every few years they must invest millions of dollars in the latest format of tapes and drives and then migrate all the data on their older tapes—or risk losing access to the information altogether.
Studios didn’t see any revenue potential in their past work. They made money by selling movie tickets; absent the kind of follow-on markets that exist today, long-term archiving didn’t make sense economically.
It adds up to a potential cultural disaster:
If technology companies don’t come through with a long-term solution, it’s possible that humanity could lose a generation’s worth of filmmaking, or more.