President's Message
September 2001

0. Mostly for Boston area members: To ensure reliability comparable (?) to postal meeting notices, we decided to set up a dual email meeting notice system. Alvin Foster sends #1 first; I send #2 shortly before the meeting with any last minute additions or corrections. If you are receiving one and would like to receive two, email either Alvin (for #1) at or me (for #2) at

00. By mistake, the mailed notice and #1 email message for July were repeated from June. #2 was correct. The August message was only emailed since there was no meeting. All are on our website.

1. There is an enhanced version of MP3 encoding, said to give the same quality at 64 kbps as regular MP3 at 128 kbps. It is called mp3PRO.

2. A recent PBS show "The Russian Trinity" provided a fascinating look at the old Soviet Union and the relationship between Stalin, the secret police, and the Bolshoi Theater; and a cautionary tale for those that want more government support of the arts. After the revolution the Bolsheviks wanted to close the theater and raze the building as a symbol of the decadent Tzarist regime, but Lenin pushed to save it. He had no interest in the arts, but needed the Bolshoi to legitimize the communists and provide a showplace for visiting dignitaries. One story: The conductor Samosud was leading an orchestral performance and at intermission Stalin called him into his box. Stalin said he liked the performance, but thought it needed more music in the minor mode. Samosud said "Can we extend the intermission 15 minutes? I will ask the musicians to write in some music in the minor mode."

3. Frank Beacham writes in TV Tech about preserving the video legacy. CNN is embarking on a $20 million project to digitize its videotape library. Curiously the article doesn't say what the medium is. He says "Unlike optical motion picture film--which can last for decades--videotape is not a good archival medium." If that were true we would be archiving video on magfilm. Cellulose acetate film doesn't last as long as video polyester tape-- it's how the information is stored that's the difference. Optical on film is analog and can withstand considerable degradation without losing the image. Video is more like digital in that after a point the image is lost entirely. If film is damaged at one spot, one frame is lost, whereas with videotape there will be picture distortion for 10 seconds or more because a frame is spread over several inches of tape. (In 1950 Swedish Radio archived an historic performance of the German Requiem, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, by copying the magnetic tapes onto acetate discs. Unfortunately they then erased and reused the tapes. However, at that time, the life expectancy of magnetic tape was unknown, whereas with reasonable care, discs were known to last indefinitely).

Sony stated 10 years ago that the life of videotape was 15 years when "stored properly," meaning 59 to 77 degrees F and 40 to 60% relative humidity.

In "Saving Film History", Eric Rudolph writes that Universal is now storing its film masters at 34 degrees F and 25% humidity, saying that higher numbers used in the past were a mistake. He quotes the American Film Institute as saying that 90% of films made before 1950 have been lost. But in many cases "the studios killed them" by simply getting rid of their oldest films when the storage vaults were declared full. [American Cinematographer, Ja01]


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updated 11/11/04