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Completed research project

Title / Titel DIASTOR Bridging the Gap Between Analog Film History and Digital Technology.
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Summary / Zusammenfassung

Research Project DIASTOR

Bridging the Gap Between Analog Film History and Digital Technology

The project is supported by the Swiss government’s Commission for Technology and Innovation which aims at providing academic research to companies with an economic focus: “Science to market”.

Project description

While film production has turned to digital formats several years ago, at the end of 2012, almost all film theatres had also converted to digital projection.

In Switzerland, as in other countries, this transition presents an economic challenge to service providers for the film industry such as film labs and post-production companies. At the end of September 2011, the film lab Schwarz Film in Ostermundigen closed down after more than 60 years in business and the last remaining film lab in Switzerland, EgliFilm, has recently been faced with significant downsizing. During this time of transition and necessary repositioning in the market, it is crucial to support these companies with innovations.

In the coming years, extensive digitization of archival holdings will be necessary both in Switzerland and abroad in order to manage and distribute the assets. Therefore, the digitization of archival film will be a very important economic factor for the survival of these service providers. Switzerland needs to secure a competitive position in this growing market.

DIASTOR is a collaborative project with the aim to bridge the gap between analogue film history and digital technology. It will support the economic partners with scientific knowledge to expand their expertise and thus to improve their economic position the field. The Institute of Film Studies at the University of Zurich, in collaboration with Disney Research Zurich and the Computer Graphics Lab at ETH Zurich have been successful in bringing together some of the most significant players in Switzerland for this project, namely the film lab and post-production house Cinegrell, the hardware developer Sondor Willy Hungerbühler as well as the national film archive Cinémathèque Suisse and SRF Swiss Radio and Television. The implementation partners, along with the academic research partners at University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, in collaboration with Disney Research Zurich as a worldwide operating partner, will be able to develop and offer custom-tailored solutions to urgent problems. A range of service providers, developers, researchers and users with complementary skills and technical resources are interconnected in DIASTOR. They can therefore quickly develop significant synergies and generate results. The co-operation will guarantee a successful implementation of the project and secure its visibility in an international context thanks to presentations at conferences and festivals in combination with scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.

With financial support of the Swiss government’s Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI, during the research period 2013-2015 customized solutions for the digitization of archival films will be developed. The project's unique selling point is the connection of extensive material knowledge of analogue film with IT solutions developed at the highest level, supported by an accomplished technical infrastructure of the business partners who complement the photochemical domain with a digital one. In contrast to currently available solutions on the market - hardware and software solutions supplemented with restoration software packages, which have mostly been developed in order to respond to problems for the digitization of new film material - the collaborative project offers the opportunity to connect different process components with sophisticated, interdisciplinary-based scientific know-how and thus to provide a complete work package from a single source.

In this project, the research team will develop workflows and specific work packages for the digitisation and restoration of historic film material, which focus specifically on the identified deficiencies in existing solutions. As such, DIASTOR pursues two complementary strategies: on the one hand, process automation, which reduces not only costly manual labor but also keeps manual verification to a minimum; on the other hand, high quality niche development of products for demanding film restoration and digitization scenarios. The developed standards and workflows will consistently follow a non-destructive and scalable approach, which takes the main ethical restoration requirements of transparency, documentation and reversibility into account, and will be able to respond to diverse demands of archival strategies with maximum flexibility.

Finally, it will be necessary to conceive these workflows in the light of asset management and collection exploitation. This last link in the chain is essential for not only the economic success of the project but also for access to digitized material and the study of archival collections. Another area of research is the long-term preservation of the digitized materials, because digital formats are subject to a dynamic development, and long-term access is currently not guaranteed. With the direct involvement in the project of the Cinémathèque Suisse, who is simultaneously a user as well as a potential customer, a comprehensive package of services that is directly tested on typical material requirements of archival film can be further developed and applied with a market oriented approach.

In this project, a targeted transfer of scientific knowledge will take place in the digitization practice. The transfer results from a comprehensive knowledge of aspects of film history, film technology and film restoration. The knowledge is the result of an extensive network in the international archive scene on the part of the team at the Institute of Film Studies at the University of Zurich, combined with IT research on a world-leading level as executed by the Computer Graphics Lab at ETH Zurich and Disney Research Zurich, with its connection to The Walt Disney Company, which is one of the most important companies in the international film production and commercially oriented film restoration.

A rapid development of solutions for the industry as well as for archives is not only created by economic aspects, but also by technological ones. The occurrence of a present so-called hybrid technology, in which analogue and digital processes are combined, is a typical transitional phenomenon. Well-known representatives of international research projects for film digitization have pointed out that action must be taken immediately in this area, because certain technologies will not be further developed on a commercial basis once film production has gone exclusively digital.

Research Partners

Department of Film Studies, University of Zurich, Leading House
  • Fields of activity: Research and teaching on the history and aesthetics of film with special emphasis on material and technical history of film and digitisation of archive films
  • Relevant expertise for the project: Excellent relationship to archives around the world, to curators and policy makers for efficient and focused project acquisition and marketing, in-depth know-how based on years of research activity in the field of digitisation and restoration of archive films, international publications and lectures
  • Project manager DIASTOR: Prof. Dr. Barbara Flückiger
  • DIASTOR Team: Dr. Claudy Op den Kamp,film scholar and restoration expert; Dr. David Pfluger, chemist and digital imaging expert; Dr. Franziska Heller, film scholar

Computer Graphics Lab, ETH Zurich

  • Fields of activity: Research and teaching in the areas of CGI, animation, performance capture, image processing
  • Relevant expertise for the project: Advanced, world-leading IT research, know-how in the field of image processing, CGI, compositing and software engineering, capture and display development, publishing and lecturing
  • Project Manager: Prof. Dr. Markus Gross
  • Research: Simone Croci

Implementation Partners

Disney Research Zurich (DRZ), a division of The Walt Disney Company (TWDC)
  • Fields of activity of the parent company (TWDC): Content development, production and distribution of films, archiving and management of assets, commercial restoration Activity of DRZ: IT research in the areas of CGI, image processing, displays, image capture, S3D, computer vision, video
  • Relevant expertise for the project: Best practices in archiving, restoration and dissemination of films, IT development of tools and workflows, asset management, practitioner
  • Director: Prof. Dr. Markus Gross
  • Co-Manager DIASTOR: Dr. Aljosha Smolic
  • Research: Tunç Aydın, PhD
cinegrell postproduction GmbH
  • Fields of activity: Photochemical film developing, digitisation, post-production
  • Relevant expertise for the project: Expertise in analogue and digital film industry, extensive and complete technical infrastructure for the development and processing of analogue and digital film and video in all formats
  • Managers: Richard Grell (CEO), Yvonne Marti, Michael Egli
  • DIASTOR Team: Timo Inderfurth, Nicole Allemann
Cinémathèque Suisse
  • Fields of activity: Archiving, preservation, distribution, restoration and digitisation of films and film-related materials (posters, photographs, scripts, production documents, media reports, etc.)
  • Relevant expertise for the project: Film archive with around 70,000 films and film-related units, projection rooms, expertise in analogue and digital archiving, preservation, digitisation and restoration, technical infrastructure for processing of analogue and digital film and video, communication with the public, distribution and presentation of films
  • Director: Frédéric Maire
  • DIASTOR Team: Caroline Fournier, film restorer; Dr. Pierre-Emanuel Jaques, film historian; Carole Delessert, film restorer; Vincent de Claparède, image processing expert; Michel Dind, head of film department
Swiss Radio and Television SRF
  • Fields of activity: Swiss Radio and Television SRF is the public broadcaster in the German part of Switzerland. With three television and six radio channels including online services, SRF provides a comprehensive program in the fields of information, culture, entertainment, and sports. SRF is a branch of SRG SSR, the Swiss Television Corporation.
  • Relevant expertise for the project: SRF owns a huge archive of in-house productions on 16 mm film and an extensive library of Swiss classics in 35 mm that are stored in the vaults of the Cinémathèque suisse. SRF’s specialists have many years of experience in archival and restoration of a variety of film and video stocks. The topic of long-term storage is of utmost relevance as well.
  • Director: Nathalie Wappler, Head of Cultural Department
  • DIASTOR Team at SRF: Project manager Heinz Schweizer, Head of Acquisitions Film and Series; Claudio Ricci, Editor and Technical Expert Film and Series
Sondor Willy Hungerbühler AG
  • Fields of activity: Development of hardware (image and sound digitisation equipment)
  • Relevant expertise for the project: Mechanical engineering, image and sound processing
  • Manager: William Hungerbühler (CEO)
  • DIASTOR Team: Dominik Hungerbühler, electronics development; Andy Braun, sales and service engineer

Weitere Informationen: Project website:
Publications / Publikationen Print Publications

Flueckiger, Barbara (2015): Color Analysis for the Digital Restoration of DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI. In: Joshua Yumibe (ed.): Moving Image, Bd. 15, Nr. 1, S. 22-43.

Trumpy, Giorgio; Flueckiger, Barbara (2015): Light Source Criteria for Digitizing Color Films. In: Proceedings of the Colour and Visual Computing Symposium 2015, CVCS, Gjøvik Norway, August 2015, IEEE 2015, in press.

Flueckiger, Barbara; Op den Kamp, Claudy; Pfluger, David (2016, in press): A Material-Based Approach to the Digitization of Early Film Colors. In: Giovanna Fossati, Victoria Jackson, Bregt Lameris, Elif Rongen, Sarah Street, and Joshua Yumibe (eds.): The Colour Fantastic. Chromatic Worlds of SIlent Cinema. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press (peer-reviewed, accepted).

Flueckiger, Barbara; Op den Kamp, Claudy; Heller, Franziska; Pfluger, David (2016, in press): Early Applied Colors in the Digital Realm. Testing ‘Digital Desmet’. In: Tami Williams (ed.): Moving Image, 16,1.

Conference Papers

Flueckiger, Barbara: Keynote “Bridging the Gap between Analogue Film History and Digital Technology”. First International Conference Colour in Film in London, GB

Flueckiger, Barbara: “Film Color Restoration Case Studies”. First International Conference Colour in Film in London, GB

Flueckiger, Barbara: “FilmColors. An Interdisciplinary Approach”. Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, GB

Flueckiger, Barbara: “DIASTOR Scannertests”. Conference of the AG Restaurierung des Deutschen Kinemathekenverbunds, Berlin, Germany

A Digital Humanities Approach to Film Colors an der Konferenz Moving Image Analytics: Research Infrastructure for Film Heritage in Stockholm 15.10.2015

Verschwindet unserer Filmgeschichte?an der Tagung der Initiative „Filmerbe in Gefahr“ Die Rettung des Filmerbes und die Fachwissenschaften in Frankfurt am Main: 11.10.2015

Films Were Always Colored am Collegium der Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: (in Zusammenarbeit mit Prof. Dr. Ulrich Ruedel, HTW Berlin) 6.10.2015

Vortrag an der Reel Thing Conference in Hollywood, Los Angeles: DIASTOR’s Approach to Restoring Film Colors 21.8.2015

DIASTOR Scanner Tests, Newsreel and Documentary Film Archive, Graduate Institute of Studies in Documentary and Film Archiving, Tainan National University of the Arts, Tainan, Taiwan am 7.10.2015

Creating a Color Reference an der Konferenz The Colour Fantastic: Chromatic Worlds of Silent Cinema am EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam am 31.3.2015.

A Material Approach to Film Restoration im British Film Institute National Archive, JP Getty Conservation Centre Berkhamsted am 17.3.2015.

Filmfarben und Filmrestaurierung, Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv in Hoppegarten am 12.2.2015.

Challenges and Opportunities in Restoring Technicolor an der Berlinale-Retrospektive Glorious Technicolor in Berlin am 9.2.2015.

Technicolor und Filmrestaurierung an der Jahrestagung der AG Restaurierung des Deutschen Kinemathekenverbunds in Berlin am 9.2.2015.

Paneldiskussion Droht dem Schweizer Film die digitale Enterbung? an den Solothurner Filmtagen, Mit Frédéric Maire, Direktor Cinémathèque suisse, Christoph Stuehn, Direktor Memoriav, Irène Challand, RTS, Fernand Melgar, Regisseur Climage, Gérard Ruey, CAB Production, SUISSIMAGE am 26.1.2015.

Vortrag Digitaler Roll-out. Wie die Digitalisierung unsere Wahrnehmung von Filmen verändert Internationale Vortragsreihe Mediale Erfahrungen des Fremden, mediale Konstruktionen des Eigenen, Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz am 4.11.2014

Chronology of Film Colors and DIASTOR FIAF Summer School im Rahmen von Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna am 2.7.2014

Eröffnungsvortrag Tagung Film im digitalen Zeitalter. Filme digitalisieren, sichern und bewirtschaften des Forschungsprojekts DIASTOR, Filmpodium Zürich, 5.6.2014

Vortrag am ARRI Archive Workshop in München: Bridging the Gap Between Film History and Technology. The Swiss Research Project DIASTOR, 3.6.2014

DIASTOR Scanner Tests, FIAF Technical Commission Workshop, FIAF Congress Skopje, Mazedonien am 7.5.2014

Research on Film Colors and Material/Scanner Interaction, British Film Institute, London am 12.3.2014 und Berkhamsted am 13.3.2014

Präsentation Timeline of Historical Film Colors, DIASTOR and Color Analysis for CALIGARI an der AMIA Reel Thing Conference in Richmond VA, USA, am 6.11.2013

Langzeitarchivierung von digitalen Filmen, Zürcher Filmtalk, 24.9.2013

DIASTOR und die Farbanalyse von "Caligari", AG Restaurierung des Deutschen Kinemathekenverbunds in Wiesbaden am 23.9.2013

KTI-Forschungsprojekt DIASTOR Bridging the Gap Between Analog Film History and Digital Technology, am Kolloquium Memoriav Meets Humanities – Die Digital Humanities und das Audiovisuelle Kulturgut in Neuchâtel, am 25.10.2013.

Weitere Informationen

Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof. Dr. Barbara Flückiger (Project Leader)
Dr. Claudy Op den Kamp
Dr. Franziska Heller
Dr. David Pfluger
Other links to external web pages Timeline of Historical Film Colors: a comprehensive web resource on historical color processes for film, from the predecessors in still photography of the 19th century to the late 20th century.
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
KTI, Private Sector (e.g. Industry)
In collaboration with /
In Zusammenarbeit mit
Disney Research Zurich
Prof. Dr. Markus Gross (director)
Dr. Aljoscha Smolic (co-project leader)
Computer Graphics Lab, ETH Zurich
Prof. Dr. Markus Gross (director)
Simone Croci
Cinémathèque Suisse, Lausanne
Frédéric Maire (director)
SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen
Nathalie Wappler
Heinz Schweizer
Duration of Project / Projektdauer May 2013 to Oct 2015