Apr 10, 2015

Footage Access Archive Portal: new online resource for video

I've been enjoying the recent postings in response the cinephilia and appropriation readings. Keep 'em coming. Same for the reports on screenings and other moving image events.

Today I learned about a new consortial venture of interest to anyone wanting access to digitized archival film and video (which is most of us, right?). Initially I was going to send an e-mail to class member Susanna, who is working on a compilation video using Web-harvestable video sources. But this new venture is also relevant to our upcoming session on found footage and access generally. So I'm sharing it here.

First, a prelude: On Wednesday, April 29, a group called the Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors is hosting something called ACSIL Footage EXPO 2015, which will convene at a place called Midtown Loft and Terrace (29th & Fifth Avenue). You can read more about it here , where the association describes the event this way:

The ACSIL FOOTAGE EXPO 2015 is anchored by the major sources of footage: news archives, contemporary HD cinematographers, natural science & behavioral specialists, historical motion picture archives dating back to 1895, pop- and high-culture rights holders, animation and graphic artists, celebrity footage, dash-cam operators, time-lapse specialists, international shooters, etc. etc. etc. . . . We will be hosting a variety of conferences on today’s footage dynamic in creative, commercial, and educational media.

And the About section adds this immodest note.
ACSIL is the trade association for the global footage industry, and its members control the essential motion imagery of our time. Some of us are really big with high end digital workflows and offices worldwide; some are specialists with expertly crafted motion experiences; some are units of the globe’s major news and media companies; some are governmental departments; some nonprofit; some hand-crafted collections of rare and esoteric cinematic experiences. . . .

And we own rights to the most celebrated moving imagery ever produced on earth. [!! -- ed.]

This gives you an idea of the "players," collections, and scale -- of what ACSIL represents. It's a relatively new association, but is obviously now reaching out to the world beyond the traditional uses of stock footage libraries (media producers, TV networks, documentary makers). Part of their outreach now includes connecting with nonprofits sectors, especially in higher education, and more especially via university libraries.

Which leads to part two: an initiative called "Footage Access Archive Portal."

As it happens, the two leading pilot partners are the University of Maryland and NYU Libraries. This week, UMD rolled out (kicked off?) its participation with an on-campus event. The potentially game-changing feature of this new portal is that it makes video downloadable and reusable for noncommercial purposes.

Many sites and digital humanities projects are trying to make large collections of video available, with the Internet Archive having been the pioneer at making moving-image material downloadable and free for reuse. Most others provide only streaming access. There are some powerful new research tools available through libraries that use a subscription service.  NYU Libraries, for example, subscribes to Alexander Street Press, which (despite its name) makes hundreds of hours of archival video available for streaming. It delivers impressive access to newsreel films, including the entire run of The March of Time (1935-1951) and a  potpourri of newsfilm footage it calls "World Newsreels Online, 1929-1966," with complete transcriptions of the soundtracks. 

But what if "the most celebrated moving imagery ever produced on earth" were downloadable via subscribing libraries?  Will it work? Why are the major rights holders now willing to make this happen?  

NYU Libraries has not yet drawn attention to its role in piloting Footage Access. But you can now try it out. It took some asking around, but here's what a reference librarian reported in an e-mail:
The record [for Footage Access] was suppressed somehow and it has been fixed.  The database will be appeared on Arch within 12 hours under https://arch.library.nyu.edu/databases/alphabetical?alpha=A or https://arch.library.nyu.edu/databases/subject/trial-databases.  
In the meantime, you can try the following link: http://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu:2048/login?url=http://nyu.footageaccess.com.  
The builders of the portal say they are adding regularly to the available video, with "2 million records" from 30 archives said to be available now. The sources include some of the big stock footage companies (Corbis, Conus, WPA Film Library) as well as Smithsonian, BBC, and National Geographic. It will soon be adding less well known and less establishmentarian collections, such as the Media Burn Independent Video Archive. 

What found footage do you find? 

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