Paul Slocum has an interesting post up about archival issues and art DVDs. We sold two DVDs out of my show at And/Or Gallery, the space he and Lauren Gray run in Dallas (go, us!) and now business details are being attended to. First Paul's post and then my thoughts follow:
With our first show at And/Or I was really surprised to learn that video does sometimes sell — we sold both of Tom’s videos.Both DVDs I sent Paul were editions of five. (They didn't actually have Sharpie writing but nice printed labels.) There are trust issues that go each way between buyer and seller with the sale of multiples, the more so when both parties essentially own the means of production. I remember an artist friend of mine got a detailed contract from a prospective purchaser who was an attorney, trying to limit my friend's rights with regard to future production of a digital print. My friend refused to sign it and the attorney said "Oh, OK" and bought it anyway. I haven't investigated the costs of using the professional replicating houses, but I can't say Paul's way--selling a CD-ROM that allows the (tech-minded) buyer to make replacements--is any less acceptable than having a "pro" burn your DVD and then and then adopting an "all sales final" approach. I don't know what kinds of arrangements the big galleries make for such sales, and would welcome thoughts from anyone who doesn't think this is a taboo subject.
It's definitely not a taboo subject for me. I've been thinking a lot about it lately, its even trickier when I incorporate specific equipment into the installation, what if that breaks down? I don't like the "all sales final" approach because I want my work to continue to exist. One way to handle DVD rot is to contract to exchange a new copy for a bad copy, if you are working with editions.
give them a mini-dv
under no circumstances trust DVD media.
The standard, consumer-model burners (superdrive etc) are, from my experience, completely unstable. multiple burns of the same project produce multiple versions of fucked-up burns, dependent on variables i cannot fathom. Cheaper DVD media, of course, will lead to unstable burns, but there are weirder factors that I've guessed to be related to processor-related "time-outs" that cause a bad track of data to be written.
Two anecdotes: an art collector friend showed me a disc he had purchased of a sort-of architectural study - an endless 3D animated loop cruising around a circular sci-fi corrider (kind of like Solaris.) After a few loops, beautiful, if unintended, glitches started to creep in. My friend said: "damn, I paid $20,000 for that!" (beat) 'Do you think he'll make me another one?"
Second - I've had horrifying problems with some corporate work I've done, where a project had to be shown at an event (one in particular was for a well known and singularly snotty video game company) and their DVD just wouldn't play on ANY dvd players. This one had been burned on an AVID adreniline system, which is pretty damn top-notch. DVDs willl usually play on the burner that actually burned the disc itself, but there's no real standardization. The general rule of thumb is the crappier the DVD player (think $40 range) the more likely it is to play the most formats. Ask a technician why, but I'd image it has to do with a more "forgiving" laser, which probably has something to do with a crapier component.
As for the cost of burning "professionaly," glass masters (a literal mold of the orginal disk is made, and typically that original disk is made at the dupe house via DLT tape) are very expensive ($500-$2000.) For a home-made/hand-made run, out of reach.
As for the shelf-life of disks, I've had early-gen superdrive stuff (5 years old) become completely unreadable. Luckily, I keep multiple digital copies on multiple hardrives, and transfer the bulk of my digital masters onto each new harddrive I purchase. I also have, at this point, filled nearly 2 terrabytes of hard drive space spread of 15 harddrives (at least.) And much of that info is redundant.
More ominously, digital archiving as a whole is not terribly reliable. I've had DV files go to complete, psychedelic digital snow. Files that were sitting on harddrives. I save them all, because they're quite pretty, but not when an hour of your raw footage transforms into useless data.
So, to reiterate, store everything on some sort of analog tape media. If you're putting it on a DVD, then you can store your digital files.
it's worth it!
final note: As they get cheaper, (or your work gets more expensive!) the solid-state P2 cards, or even harddrives, are the best way to go. Even video IPODS. For now, expect to make multiple copies.
final final note: they should have invented cheap "holders" for dvds. Like those VHS-C step-up-to-regular-VHS sized thingies. Or even the "shell" of the floppy disk.
DVDs are you without your skin doing the Iron Man on Mars during a sandstorm.
You're gonna get nicked.
how long until walmart doesn't sell dvd players anymore? or computers don't ship with dvd burners? do you jump formats for posterity? it seems like a lot of work to maintain your own legacy (or to keep a contract with a collector, which i guess could be a little like a subscription service with the same product every time).
I have been thinking about those equipment dating issues, as well, I obsess about storage and archiving source files. I even have written instructions of how to rebuild certain digital video files (but that's more for me, since I have a really bad memory).
I've been hearing about miniDVs as an alternative to DVDs. I don't use them myself, my computers don't have recorders or software for them. I know nothing about them. Why are they less susceptible to the problems of obsolescence, etc., we're discussing here? Curious to hear why.
Thanks, and thanks to Justin for the high tech horror stories. It's actually very comforting to know that the higher you go up the tech and $$ scale, it only gets worse.
The problem is that stuff becomes obsolete so fast. If an artist wants to provide a DV tape with their work, I'd be happy to do it. But what does a collector do in 15 years when their DVD goes bad, and they have a DV tape and computers don't have Firewire anymore? With work they could find somebody to read the tape and burn it to whatever current format, but with an ISO file on their computer, most of the work is already done. When DVD players are hard to find and whatever HD DVD format is the current deal, you know there will be some freeware tool to convert your ISO file to HD and burn it. Or you can just play it off a PC.
While individual disks may decay, I predict that CD and DVD formats will have some degree of longevity. The current optical disk form factor is friendly (as opposed to the Laser Disc). Industry associations take pains to specify backward compatibility with previous formats. And the semi-software based nature of current media processing chips allows some degree of portability of codecs. So I would expect a optical disk gizmo purchased in 2015 to have support for CD, VCD, DVD, MP3 CD, HD DVD, etc.
What's fascinating about all of this is that the formats most likely to survive the longest are probably paint on canvas and ink on paper. With each new generation of recording technology, archivists make the decision of what deserves to be transcoded into the new format. Not all wax cylinders were copied to 78 discs, nor were all 78 discs copied to 45s. The cycle will repeat as long as new technologies are invented.
Why not just make each piece of digital art accessible through a password protected URI and then just sell those?
If you want your work to last, being fire proof and water proof goes a long way. War zones and dictators make for bad conservation too. OK, I'm teasing you now. Anything material requires that a lot of other people care about its preservation as much as the artist does.
Jim, the internet actually creates more questions than answers with regards to this sort of thing. In the short term (5 years or so) you can probably do exactly what you just described. Longer than that, though, and all sorts of questions pop up. Who pays for the storage and keeps the servers up-to-date? Who transcodes the art into new formats when mp3/mpeg/flash/wma goes obsolete and no one has the players for it anymore?
G.K. Wicker, the cost is very minimal (assuming you have already committed to keeping servers up full time.) I'd say the concerns you raised are equivalent to the same concerns for art in the physical world: where do you store your works? Who pays for this space? Do you need fire insurance? Who pays for that? Etc...
If longevity was why an artist made work, I'd put my money on digital media over paper or canvas. This is the subject for another post, but I'd argue that the GIFs are "purer" in Internet form than scrunched onto DVDs--because I made them for this medium--and more people already have them on hard drives than would ever have possession of one my original drawings. It's just a matter of increasing the odds something will survive. If someone values something, they find a way to preserve it. But to me present-day interaction (there's that word "present" again) is more important than creating a self-monument. I've never had much interest in people who work in bronze because they want their work to "last."
I wrote that last comment before reading the 3 that preceded it.
I make fun of artists who need archival Kleenex every time they sneeze, but I also admit that I'm not intentionally making disposable work. But the work comes first, and the materials fit the logic of the work not its permanence. Keeping it in decent condition, if I really like it, is something I worry about afterwards.
Space is cheaper in the digital world every day. What's not cheaper is the work required to keep track of all of these files and to make sure they play on whatever players everyone is using. Will browsers still play animated GIFs in 20 years? MP3s? Who knows. My guess is that some of these formats will have shorter lives than cassette tape or eight-track did, since corporations have a vested interest in making us chase after new, incompatible gewgaws.
Sorry Jim, I see that I proposed exactly your same idea... That'll teach me to stop reading posts halfway through!
What separates MP3 and GIF from 8-track and cassette tape is that no special machinery is involved. It's all just software, and portable software at that. Some of the more obscure, proprietary formats may die, but certain ones (MP3, JPEG, GIF, MPEG-2, AAC, etc.) are safe bets for the next several decades. I'd take a long bet on any of those formats.
mark said "So I would expect a optical disk gizmo purchased in 2015 to have support for CD, VCD, DVD, MP3 CD, HD DVD, etc." So that's 10 years, if not 20. (Oy--I wrote this before mark posted again. Agree with the drift.)
I'm bumping into this now too, and it seems like the standard is to sell a DVD and a digibeta, and have a contract that allows a new DVD to be burned only if the original dies. Also you'd want to include that if they want to move thier digibeta data onto a new format they can but must desrtoy the old one when they're done.
I'm pretty sure this is how eai handles it.
I like Paul's way better--ISO on CD-ROM with data transferable to a hard drive, with similar replacement terms. I really don't want to buy a Betamax or whatever.
I am curious Tom, why, in your original post, did you speculate on the possibility that some people may think this is a taboo subject.
I have general question, joester's comment makes it obvious that we are concerned with controlling copies, so the reproduction rights stay with the artist or the artist's estate. Is there a default agreement about broadcast rights? Is there an assumption that broadcast rights remain with the artist, or is that contracted, as well, in a purchase agreement.
Mark, I agree with you in the 10-50 year time frame, but I wouldn't count on those formats being around in 200 years. Remember that software is machinery; it's just not physical machinery. Imagine for a moment that there are no more 8-track players remaining to play the last copy of the Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night". As long as plans to build an 8-track tape player could be found and someone could interpret them, this timeless classic could be transferred safely to a new format, assuming someone was willing to foot the bill to construct a player. As long as companies continue porting MP3/WMA/AAC/MPEG playback software into their systems and as long as engineers stay versed in these standards, our files will play fine. As new and improved formats are introduced, however, these older formats will become less and less important in the marketplace, which means fewer companies will include them, which means fewer universities will include them in their engineering coursework, which means that fewer engineers will take the time to understand them. It is true that as long as the plans to create players remain available, someone who can read the plans can rebuild a player if he's not busy doing something else, and if he can still read the plans (computer languages get old and crusty and no one wants to use them anymore so they invent new ones -- it's more fun that way).
"no more 8-track players remaining to play the last copy of the Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night"."
wow, an exciting post string!
a haiku-inspired poem:
John Belushi never had thes kinds of problems.
Ampex VR-1000, 1956
Marius Watz links to this thread and offers:
C.E.B. Reas sells his Process pieces as uniques, complete with the computer hardware to run them.
Another approach mentioned to me was providing the buyer with a DVD (display copy) and a hard drive with the original file on it (e.g., a .mov file--the "archival" copy). The idea is the buyer could see, and own, the "real," underlying file, shorn of all of the DVD- making compromises we make regarding quality, clarity, color, etc. I guess my off the cuff response to that is "never give the viewer a choice"--you make your compromises and live with them. Or alternatively, make it clear from the outset that you are involving the consumer in your process, like musicians selling alternate takes on a CD (something rarely done before you sell out a stadium). My version of that is, the Internet is for original files and alternate takes, the product is that messy compromised thing I'm selling. I bought a CRT TV for the first time in years, so I could view the worst case display scenario and actually try to compose for it proactively.
All that could be true by putting it on digibeta, and it won't be on a fragile crash prone HD. Plus it'll be cheaper for the artist.
OK, so what piece of equipment do I need to buy now for my "complete studio"?
about electrical failure regardless, an expensive Dan Flavin comes with a paper the collector must treasure. A deed. Indeed the small art world will venture to replace the florescent tube if something is a miss. Like insurance companies that last a long time, there's trust and a belief system.
Long-term archiving of tape discussed at TV Technology
Recovering recorded information is especially daunting. For a long time, broadcasters have been faced with the videotape “format-of-the-month” challenge. Two-inch or quad video recordings were the mainstay of the industry for about two decades. This changed in the 1970s with the advent of 3/4-inch, one-inch and 1/2-inch format variants. Then came digital. Acquiring and maintaining devices to play back all of these formats is a nightmarish proposition.I think the problem of long-term availability of equipment for later tape formats may be less of an issue, as the number of units manufactured is much, much higher. It's much easier to restore a '59 bug than a '31 Bugatti.
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