tech

History in all it’s 640×480 glory…

Google has announced today on their official blog that they are starting a pilot program to digitize the National Archives’ video content. They posted a few example links including the first Apollo Moon landing.

I was impressed to see that the quality of the footage was better than most of the other videos I have seen in Google Video. Unfortunately, due to the copy protection, I can’t just load the video up in a normal player and get it’s dimensions but it looks like it’s about a 640×480 image.

What would be really impressive is if Google is actually digitizing the film footage at 2k or higher and then generating lores proxies for streaming over today’s web. That would be some real preservation of history. Of course, for video material like the moon landings, 640×480 can preserve the entire detail in the original footage if it’s not compressed aggressively.

In terms of preserving history, it’s interesting to note the kind of things that aren’t digitized and preserved yet. I recently did some work with IMAX on The Polar Express and was talking with Hugh Murray who just completed “Magnificent Desolation” over lunch about his recent project. For the backgrounds on the film, they actually borrowed from NASA the original photographs shot with large format Hasselblad cameras on the moon. The astronauts took a series of large format pictures to create 360 degree panoramas in 50 meter increments to create an organized survey of the landing area. After being digitized on a very high quality scanner, these photos worked perfectly for Hugh since he could use the parallax between the various survey sites to recontruct a 3d version of the moon for the film and re-project the photographs onto the 3d model to provide an accurate texture.

After Hugh was done with the photos, he returned them to NASA and offered to give them a copy of the digitized scans in case they were needed in the future. Apparently, NASA wasn’t really interested since they didn’t have a good way to file that kind of thing for future reference.

Maybe NASA should think about sending their photos to Google…as long as Google promises to archive them at greater than 640×480 resolution.

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