Knight Prototype Grant for MEP and Visual Learning Group!

Knight image

We are delighted to announce that the Knight Foundation has awarded a Prototype Grant for Media Innovation to The Media Ecology Project (MEP) and Prof. Lorenzo Torresani’s Visual Learning Group at Dartmouth, in conjunction with The Internet Archive and the VEMI Lab at The University of Maine.

“Unlocking Film Libraries for Discovery and Search” will apply existing software for algorithmic object, action, and speech recognition to a varied collection of 100 educational films held by the Internet Archive and Dartmouth Library. We will evaluate the resulting data to plan future multimodal metadata generation tools that improve video discovery and accessibility in libraries.

Delighted to be working with Prof. Torresani, Dimitrios Latsis at The Internet Archive, John Bell (architect of MEP) from Information Technology Services and The Academic Commons at Dartmouth, and Prof. Nicholas Giudice of the Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction Lab at The University of Maine.

Where the library of the 20th century focused on texts, the 21st century library will be a rich mix of media, fully accessible to library patrons in digital form. Yet the tools that allow people to easily search film and video in the same way that they can search through the full text of a document are still beyond the reach of most libraries. How can we make the rich troves of film/video housed in thousands of libraries searchable and discoverable for the next generation?

Dartmouth College’s Media Ecology Project and the Visual Learning Group will conduct a 6-month Prototype to apply tools for object, action, and speech recognition to a rich collection of one hundred educational films. Each of these tools generates annotations that describe one aspect of a particular film, but they have rarely been combined to create a larger contextual view of the contents of that film. What was once a roll of film, indexed only by its card catalog description, will instead soon be searchable scene-by-scene, adding immense value for library patrons, scholars and the visually impaired.

Most of the progress currently being made in utilizing computer vision and machine learning for moving image culture is delegated to very contemporary, hi-definition video formats such as videos taken via new cell phones. Part of the significance of this project will be enabling essential first steps in object and action recognition for more historical formats of film/video, thereby providing incentives for the field of computer vision and machine learning to develop new research capacities regarding film/video from prior eras. This capacity would be transformative for archives and libraries, and realize extraordinary new use value for historical moving images as essential resources of public memory — a central goal of the Media Ecology Project. We hope to eventually make available to many libraries and archives the potential to add immense value for library patrons, scholars, and the visually impaired via further development and full-scale integration of these tools.

Grateful to the Knight Foundation for this opportunity!

#newschallenge, #prototype, #knightfoundation, @knightfdn




Invited MEP Lecture at University of Basel in relation to new collaborations

Grateful to Prof. Dr. Heiko Schuldt (Computer Science) and Prof. Dr. Lukas Rosenthaler (Digital Humanities Lab) at The University of Basel for inviting and hosting Prof. Mark Williams (Dartmouth College) to present a lecture introducing MEP to Computer Science and Digital Humanities faculty and students in June, 2016.

We are excited to be working with the Databases and Information Systems Research (DBIS) Group that Heiko Schuldt directs, especially regarding the iMotion project that he co-directs, and look forward to future collaborations with The University of Basel’s impressive Digital Humanities Lab that Lukas Rosenthaler directs.

Thanks also to Dr. Claudiu-Ioan Tanase, a member of the Databases and Information Systems Research Group and iMotion team, who helped to organize the event.



DOMITOR 2016 Conference in Stockholm: Featured MEP Roundtable

Terrific response to our roundtable about developments in The Media Ecology Project as part of the fabulous DOMITOR conference in Stockholm (June 2016).  The roundtable especially focused on the pilot study of The Paper Print Collection at The Library of Congress, which involves many DOMITOR scholars.  The 2016 conference theme was “Viscera, Skin, and Physical Form: Corporeality and Early Cinema”.

Thanks to Prof. Tami Williams (The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee) and Ph.D. student Allain Daigle (UWM) for participating in the roundtable with Prof. Mark Williams (Dartmouth College).

Look for more MEP news later this summer about a new and historically important resource regarding The Paper Print Collection that was agreed to at DOMITOR 2016!

MEP Contribution to Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Pathé Archive

Thanks much to Stéphanie Salmon at Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Pathé for utilizing historic archival data that MEP helped to rescue.  Proud to have played a role in this important film history data recovery and implementation, a process that began at the DOMITOR conference in 2014.

The data recovered is the work of Paul Spehr and the his late wife Susan Dalton, legendary figures in the film archive world.  The rescued information includes significant details about Pathé’s pre-1914 film releases, the period when it was arguably the most prominent and powerful motion picture studio in the world.

Special thanks to Dan Rockmore and The Neukom Institute for their support, and especially Mark Boettcher and Bennett Vance for cracking two locked hard drives and performing the data rescue.  We are at work to make a fuller set of the rescued data available as a public resource.

Here is Paul’s detailed memo about the data, its rescue, and its implementation:

From: Paul C Spehr
Date: Sat, May 21, 2016

I’m pleased to let you know that data from Susan Dalton’s records of Pathe’s pre-1914 film entries have now been put online by Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Pathe. Stephanie Salmon, curator of historic collections for the Fondation sent an email to Mark Williams and myself yesterday to let us know that all but a few of the entries had been entered into their filmography. Susan and her staff at the National Center for Film and Video Preservation, AFI spent a great deal of time trying to identify silent films that they acquired for the American Archives so they created files that centralized the information they needed. Collections they acquired often had Pathe productions but with English, French, Dutch or other titles. Determining the uniqueness of the film could be a problem. The solution was to go to the published filmographies prepared by Henri Bousquet. But these had the original release title, not the title used for release in the U. S., U. K. or elsewhere. The solution was to create a computer entries from Bousquet’s filmographies and add the additional titles, as available.

A few months before her death Susan had contacted Ms. Salmon and asked if she was interested in the copy of this file that Susan had. They were to meet in Pordenone in 2013 but Susan’s arrival was delayed and they couldn’t meet. The following October I mentioned this to Sabine Link who thought Ms. Salmon would still be interested. She was so I sent Susan’s file to Sabine who passed it on to Ms. Salmon. Last Summer the Fondation used an intern to begin entering Susan’s data. By this time Mark Williams and the computer staff at Dartmouth had become involved. They had transferred all of the data files on Susan’s computer (she had worked with Quadra’s Star system) and Mark was studying the files to see how they would fit with the Media Ecology Project. In Pordenone last October Mark and I met with Ms. Salmon, Sabine, Frank Kessler and Celine Ruivo Collections Director, Cinematheque Francaise to discuss the Pathe data. It was a very successful meeting as it put Mark in contact with Ms. Salmon and, I believe, encouraged the Fondation to continue the project. Mark and Ms. Salmon have had information exchanges and Susan’s data is now accessible through the Fondation’s website.

I haven’t done a great deal of searching in the Fondation’s filmographic file, but the tests that I have done confirm that the data is accessible and the Fondation’s website is an online resource of great value to historians interested in early cinema.

In a related matter, Derek Long and Eric Hoyt, U. of Wisconsin and Media History Digital Library have had the data file which I prepared from Einar Lauritzen and Gunnar Lundquist’s American Film Index, 1908-1915 and 1916-1920 and have now massaged the data into a trial format. So the filmographic information for some 32,000 American productions are now online in a database called ECHO for Early Cinema History Online. Their interest in the Lauritzen files also resulted in a couple of academic papers.

This is progress, and it all began at Domitor 2014.



Invited Lecture to Introduce MEP at National Library of Singapore, hosted by The Asian Film Archive

Grateful for the invitation from The Asian Film Archive to introduce The Media Ecology Project at this event at The National Library of Singapore in May, 2016.

The enthusiastic and critically engaged audience included Karen Chan, Executive Director of The Asian Film Archive, librarians and technologists from the National Library of Singapore, faculty from The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, and Lai Tee Phang, Director of Audio Visual Archives at The National Archives of Singapore and a member of the National Library Board.

Special thanks to Prof. Kristy Kang (The School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University) for serving as respondent to the lecture by Prof. Mark Williams (Dartmouth College), and for helping to coordinate the event.

Invited Lecture introducing MEP at Hong Kong Baptist University

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Digital Humanities and the Historical Archive Symposium (May 2016)

Grateful to have been invited to deliver a keynote talk about The Media Ecology Project at this exciting Digital Humanities event at Hong Kong Baptist University!

Thanks to Prof. Ian Aitken (HKBU) for this opportunity.  Grateful also to Rebekah Wong of the HKBU Library for her work with MEP on the Films Division of India pilot, and especially to Dr. Camille Deprez for her written contributions to that pilot study.

Scorsese Adds Support to Kodak Film Rescue

Screenshot 2014-08-05 00.07.15“Last week Kodak revealed that it plans to continue to manufacture film following negotiations with the major studios — and urged by film proponents such as J.J. Abrams and Chris Nolan — that are helping the iconic director to create a viable model for film production.

Said Scorsese, who chairs The Film Foundation, in a statement: ‘We have many names for what we do — cinema, movies, motion pictures. And … film. We’re called directors, but more often we’re called filmmakers. Filmmakers.’

He also warned that film remains the only proven archival medium that can last a least a century without the need to migrate to new media. Scorsese said: ‘We have to remember that film is still the best and only time-proven way to preserve movies. We have no assurance that digital information will last, but we know that film will, if properly stored and cared for. … This news is a positive step toward preserving film, the art form we love.'”

See the full story from The Hollywood Reporter.

Orphan Film Symposium 2014

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Orphans 9, Amsterdam
(March 30 – April 2, 2014)

In the next few posts we will be recapping some of the exciting developments for The Media Ecology Project in the year since we held our opening symposium at Dartmouth College. This is the third of five installments focusing on conference presentations about MEP in 2013-2014..

The 9th Orphan Film Symposium, hosted by NYU Cinema Studies, the EYE Institute, and the University of Amsterdam focused on The Future of Obsolescence, which presented a perfect opportunity to present MEP to an international community of archivists, academics, and artists from more than 30 countries.  Orphanistas are committed to the discovery and preservation of what might otherwise be shunned and ignored historical media.

Mark Cooper (University of South Carolina), Karen Cariani (WGBH), and Mark Williams (Dartmouth) presented on a panel entitled “New Research Networks for Obsolete Media,” which was moderated by Scott Curtis (Northwestern University).  The panel had been proposed as one of the initiatives of the MEP Symposium at Dartmouth in May, 2013.

This was the first Orphans Symposium hosted outside the U.S., and featured many memorable events and screenings, including a keynote address entitled “The Poetics of Obsolesence” by Thomas Elsaesser (University of Amsterdam).

Thanks as always to Orphans founder and congenial spirit Dan Streible (NYU), part of the MEP Symposium, who deserves a MacArthur Fellowship for his inestimable work to transform a bad object–orphaned media–into a powerful and inspired international movement. We are also extremely grateful to our gracious host: head curator at EYE, Giovanna Fossati, who is Professor of Film Heritage and Digital Film Culture at University of Amsterdam.

FYI, here a post about The Eye Institute’s commitment to leadership in digitisation and restoration of film history.

Thanks to Mac Simonson for his help with this post!