Film Preservation Studies


The postgraduate in Film Preservation Studies forces students to confront the (theoretical, technical and ethical) dilemmas generated by film as part of our tangible and intangible heritage

In addition to addressing all aspects linked to the identification of images and sounds in photochemical, magnetic and digital format, the course also deals with the tools required for managing existing collections and creating new ones.

It introduces students to audiovisual material review, preservation and restoration protocols and procedures, through both mechanical and digital tools, enabling them to gain real practical experience in the lab.

The labyrinth of images of our time

The structure of the Film Preservation Studies master’s degree course approaches cinema through its material nature and technological genealogy. The first two modules explore the photochemical origin of film images, and the subsequent ones focus on the peculiarities of the magnetic and digital formats. These branches together form a common set of specific knowledge: each image and each sound poses unique questions about its identification, degradation, preservation and cataloguing, but also about aesthetic and ethical issues, about the future of cinema, its sense of history and the profession of the archivist.

The content systematisation and working methods proposed by the course do not, however, lead to a simple and/or simplified understanding of the material under study. Quite the opposite, in fact; at the end of their journey, students are invited to explore the ‘grand memory of images’ from a complex and paradoxical perspective. And this is just as it should be, because even when the path to follow is perfectly defined, the journey of an archivist always leads eventually to the labyrinth of images of our era. The greatest treasure we could ever inherit.

344 /  / Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola

The Film Preservation Studies course is in constant dialogue with the work carried out by the Basque Film Archives, which enables students to experience first-hand what it is like to work in an FIAF-approved film archive.

The coordinator of the Film Preservation Studies course is Clara Sánchez-Dehesa Galán, a specialist in the preservation and restoration of audiovisual material and a graduate of the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, New York.

The art of aberration. Concepts of aesthetics and the theory of cinema

Carlos Muguiro
Module: 1, 3

This is a subject that analyses aesthetics focused on the specific forms of cinema. The aim is to provide an introductory approach to fundamental questions about the theory of cinema, from a non-diachronic perspective and with an intentionally relational gaze, searching for connections and links with other art forms and philosophical questions. The subject aims to lay the groundwork for certain concepts that will be developed, explored in more complex depth and/or contradicted in other core subjects. We will study questions such as the difference between imaginal and imaginary, notions of realism and representation, the dichotomy between tongue and language, and approaches based on phenomenology and reception theories. From a methodological perspective, the aim is for all issues to emanate from the formal operations of cinema itself at the limit of its own existence. In the context of the subject, this search is identified as ‘the art of aberration’. The term is used with the meaning given by theorist Jurgis Baltrušaitis in his discussion of the peculiar and specific legend of forms, their deformations, their masks and their monsters.

The map of the (three) archives

Sonia García López
Module: 1, 3

This subject offers EQZE students the opportunity of taking on an exploratory role (creative, researcher, curator) within archive-related film and audio-visual practice, bearing the three tenses of cinema in mind: the past, linked to memory; the present, linked to action; and the future, linked to planning and foresight. This philosophical proposal aims to prompt students to think about historical and contemporary cultural and political problems from the perspective of the conceptual framework offered by the concepts of profanation (Giorgio Agamben) and the creative act (Gilles Deleuze).

Unfinished cinema. Political drifts of film culture

Pablo La Parra
Module: 4, 5

This course poses a series of historical, methodological, and theoretical reflections to interrogate the political dimension of film culture. It takes as a central case study a heterogeneous set of radical practices developed in the Sixties and Seventies of the twentieth century, which we will approach under the concept of "militant cinema", understood in an expanded sense. At this period, film culture experienced one of its most convulsive periods of radicalization on a global scale: in the heat of the struggles of the "long '68" and a series of crucial technical developments, the ways of making, thinking, and sharing moving images were transformed. The course proposes to critically revisit the archive of militant cinema and interrogate how these images of the past continue to reverberate in the present and how we relate to them through the tools of research, archiving, curating, and creation. The course does not aim to present a chapter in the history of cinema, but rather to become an exercise in methodology and thought that overflows its case study to delve into the interrelations between theory and practice, aesthetics, and politics, past and present.

Thinking historically about film. Opening up images, writing a story.

Module: 4, 5

Opening up images means making them talk in the present tense through an appropriate act of reading that adheres to their complex singularity in order to build, patiently, a meaning that combines seeing with knowing. We will reflect on the performative dimension of cinema images in relation to the construction and understanding of a story about the past, along with its ethical, aesthetic, and political consequences.  Secondly, we will explore some of the instances involved in the writing and transmission of a history of cinema: from the politics of the canon to programming, paying special attention to the fundamental role played by film and cinema archives in ensuring the recognition of films as works of art and part of our heritage. For some decades now, museums have also been another key element for ensuring their existence as a field for experimentation, a reciprocal and complementary movement between cinema and museum, in which the former has found an alternative to traditional production and exhibition channels, and the latter has discovered the opportunity to rethink itself through this interruption. We will evoke that movement linked to the contemporary cinematographic experience and will end up asking ourselves about the forms of a cinema that is separate from its traditional technological device.

History and aesthetics of Basque cinema

Joxean Fernández
Module: 2

This course suggests an approach to Basque film. Beginning with an historical contextualization in order to provide the background of the birth and development of Basque film up to the present time, it will carry out a chronological and thematic review of the history of Basque film and will present the most notable Basque filmmakers from its origins to the present day, with particularly close attention to the three (or more) generations of Basque filmmakers who are currently active.

On the Materiality of Audio-Visual Heritage

Reto Kromer
Module: 1

How has sound and image been recorded and reproduced? We will explore the various approaches that have been undertaken during the one a half past centuries and discuss why some succeeded and others did not. Understanding the original processes is the foundation for successful modern restorations. This class is a technical history of both the sound and the moving image record and their reproduction. The acoustic, electrical, magnetic and digital era are considered for sound; the photographic, magnetic and digital era for moving images. Not only the current archival media (radio, film, television and video) are explored, but also computers, video games and even… space exploration.

Media archaeology

Clara Sánchez-Dehesa
Module: 1

The technology of each period gives rise to a specific type of document. It is essential to understand the evolution of cinema and the moving image, as well as to read the contents correctly. The goal is to know the historical and technological environment in which an audio-visual work is created and how it affects the work, and to give tools to the students to obtain this information.

The photochemical image I. Black & White and colour development

Luis Macías
Module: 1, 2

The subject offers a basic introduction to the procedures involved in developing black-and-white and colour film by hand. Through theory and practice in developing different types of film and processes, the subject looks at the photochemical material during processing in the dark room. Students will learn about the chemical treatments and the alterations suffered by this type of material, in order to understand its qualities, its physical and aesthetic performance and its deterioration. We will process material shot in the school.

Film identification

Carolina Cappa
Module: 2

Research on the histories of film technology and its relationship with the identification of film documents within an archive. Technical characteristics of the elements. Link between discourses and techniques. Critical examination of the material. Cataloging levels by element and by work. Methodologies for inspection, inventory and evaluation of collections.

Degradation processes in audio-visual material

Oskar González Mendia
Module: 2

On this course we will study audio-visual supports from a physical-chemical perspective. Students will analyse materials such as polymers, metals, tints and emulsions, in order to gain a greater understanding of the properties of different film formats. We will also explore different chemical reactions linked to processes of degradation and will see how these processes may be affected by environmental factors.

Digital processing of images I: Da Vinci

Bárbara Mateos
Module: 3

The aim of this course is to help students understand and become familiar with film restoration tools using the DaVinci Resolve 16 software package. It also aims to teach them, using real examples, how to apply techniques for facilitating the restoration of cinematographic materials, as well as how to resolve any technical doubts that may arise.

From the grain to the pixel. Digitisation processes

José Luis Sanz
Module: 3

Study of the digitisation of material on photochemical supports. This is a well-established process nowadays, although workflows vary considerably from one institution to another. Students will learn the basics of digitisation and the objectives sought in the case of archives. When the image has been digitised, they will have treatment practicals to adjust optical qualities to the requirements of each project.

Film preservation and restoration

Carolina Cappa
Module: 3

Study on the filmic elements focused on the research for the restoration of the work. Analysis of material specificity, deterioration, injury and degradation. Relationship between the integrity of the elements and the work: problems for a film restoration. Ethics, technique and technologies of restoration. Brief introduction to the criteria of digital restoration.

Cataloguing and documentation of audio-visual files

Santiago Aguilar
Module: 4

Since film was first invented at the close of the 19th century, right up until the emergence of video at the beginning of the nineteen-seventies, all audio-visual works were shot on photochemical format and it was on the basis of this same format that audio-visual production, distribution and conservation developed and evolved. Digital technologies offer new ways of creating, storing and accessing works, but technological changes have destroyed some materials and rendered others inaccessible due to the obsolete nature of the devices required to reproduce and conserve them. From this perspective, the definition of new standards poses unprecedented challenges for conservation, while at the same time facilitating documentation and cataloguing processes, which are an indispensable requirement for guaranteeing access to audio-visual works.

Identification and management of video materials.

Gema Grueso
Module: 4

Investigation into the history of video formats, their technical characteristics and use, risk factors, and principles and tasks for collection management. The course will cover both analog and digital materials stored on magnetic tape, ranging from professional and broadcast formats to those used for independent production and home videos. Collection management topics include identification and inspection, the creation of inventories, standards for collection care and handling, and conservation/preservation planning.

From line to pixel. Video digitisation

Pamela Vizner
Module: 4

Material stored on magnetic media is at imminent risk of destruction. By the end of the next decade, we will have lost much of the content stored in this format. The only means of ensuring that valuable contents survive is to transfer them to digital media. This course centres on the assessment and digitisation of magnetically stored video material. We will examine the physical and chemical description of the material in order to understand and mitigate the effects of deterioration and the best way of treating it, with particular stress on digitisation processes. Students will learn how to assess deterioration in magnetic media, plan for digitisation and to understand the conservation requirements. By the end of the course, they will know how to digitise magnetically stored video material using the rack in the laboratory.

Cinema’s digital corpus. Identification and preservation of digital files

Peter Bubestinger
Module: 5

General understanding of digital documents: from outside (file system level) to inside (formats, codecs, encoding, etc). Focus is on audio-visual use cases. Students will learn how to find, understand and even manipulate technical properties of media files and how to apply this for quality tuning and long-term preservation. It also includes an introduction to quality-control of media files and should enable them to comprehend and handle capture- and export-options of any digital media application. Besides, it will analyse digital documents and the infrastructure needed to lay down a digital preservation strategy. Students will learn the theories and modern practices, and the access and conservation policies operated by various institutions.

Management of audio-visual collections

Silvia Casagrande
Module: 5

The environmental conditions that surround any type of material are crucial for their long-term preservation. Audio-visual documents use a wide variety of materials as formats. Knowledge of the needs of each material and the management of storage conditions are essential for extending the life of collections. This course discusses standards and debates on the handling of audio-visual material in all its complexity, and analyses various case studies that consider the heterogeneity of such material in terms of context and budget, comparing work with collections held privately, domestically and at historical associations. It seeks to provide key points to help students adapt to different circumstances in the work of archiving and learn how to set up and use a strategic plan for the conservation of audio-visual collections.

Sound history and restoration

Franco Bosco
Module: 5

The classes will try to present the basics concepts of the conservation and restoration of sound elements in a film archive, representing the best practices and common strategies applied to film collections.

Permanent observatory of sound

Xabier Erkizia
Module: 1, 3

The Observatory is involved throughout the first semester of the academic year, providing a space for training, practice and research in sound. In addition to pre-established themes, it can also adapt to the specific needs of group members at any time, linking into practical work and projects under development.

Starting Point

Michel Gaztambide
Module: 1, 4

This course, which takes place throughout the academic year, seeks to confront students with the nature of their film and the methodology of approach. Where does your film come from? What is it about? What emotion is it trying to arouse? Can it be told in images? How does the author want the spectator to feel at the end of the screening?

From these and other issues, the course is intended to initiate – or get back to, in some cases – the processes of reflection and development of the work process that will culminate in the film. The course basically foucses on three points: first, working with the Starting Point or origin of the film as the soul of the creative journey; second, the need to expand the scope of this journey from concrete elements capable of adding complexity and depth to the film and, finally, the concreteness of the project from the writing stage.

Film and video in the space of contemporary art

Rachael Rakes
Module: 2

An in-depth look at the exhibition of film and video in contemporary art spaces. A journey through different institutional or organisational contexts, both local and international, reflecting the cultural impact and political implications of the diverse displays over the decades. In addition to the historical approximation, it will address aesthetics, circulation of works, spectators, blind spots and practical issues of film and video exhibition today in museums, galleries, biennials or other unconventional spaces.

The art of Primitive Emulsions

Esther Urlus
Module: 3

This workshop looks at the production of home-made photochemical emulsions. Although it is based on film archaeology, it explores many contemporary creative questions. It is a workshop for those interested in the history of materiality, although it will also appeal to filmmakers curious about film not just as a means of storing their ideas, images and soundtracks, but rather as a material that actively forms and distorts these ideas, images and sounds.

Filmmakers Thinking

Adrian Martin
Module: 3

This course begins from a simple but radical proposition: to take seriously what filmmakers themselves say, write and reflect upon when they talk about films. Not as explanations of their own work, but as general propositions or theories about cinema itself. In summarising the positions of many, diverse filmmakers, I will survey notions of art and craft, the creative process, ‘statements of intention’, and the vocation or destiny of the medium.

The other film camera

Asier Armental
Module: 3, 5

In the origins of film, the cameras used to record images were also used to project them. The operator who worked the crank to capture the moment was also the person in charge of making the gear turn so that, once developed, the images could be projected onto a screen. At what point did these two functions (and these two cameras) separate? And, above all, what were the consequences of this? Why is it that the profession of projectionist is now (and has been practically since the mechanisation of the reel drive and the creation of distribution circuits) so far removed from that of camera operator? The statement made by Henri Langlois, founder of Cinématèque Française, that his film camera was his projection camera, highlights the importance of reclaiming the art of projecting.

On/Off performance

Itziar Okariz
Module: 3, 5

The subject aims to prompt a reflection on language, performance and action, both in their specificity and in relation to the limits that define them. Special attention will be paid to the meeting points between different knowledge areas of artistic practice, the exploration of register and performance, action, the indicial quality of the performative register and its transformation into other languages, from drawing to sculpture, text, documents and video, etc.

The starting point for our work will be students’ processes in relation to their own work. This will enable the definition of a landscape that will allow us to become aware of the body as a sign, as well as the positional value of language and its performative dimension. The embodiment of corporal signs, sounds, words and their transformative and political potential. 

Contacts: cinema, video, and art in the Basque context

Peio Aguirre
Module: 4

This subject focuses on the audio-visual of artist in the context of the Basque Country. It takes as its starting point the fluid relationships of the moving image and the displacements between cinema and artistic practices, especially those that take places in the art system: museums, art centres and galleries, or in the outskirts of the cinema itself. Based on a series of case studies, viewings, outings and guests, the subject examines the local landscape of audio-visual creation.

Open digital sources for audio-visual archives

Reto Kromer
Module: 5

The class begins with an introduction on file formats. Building on this the students will practically explore free and open-source software, such as FFmpeg (for in-depth file transformation), QCTools (for quality control), AEO-Light (sound extraction from optical tracks) and DCP-o-matic (DCP encoding), as well as various media players. Resources on infrastructure and workflows for film and video digitisation will be presented and discussed, taking account especially of solutions which can be implemented in difficult environments at little expense. An overview on data preservation and migration, as well as disaster planning and recovery, will round off this class.

Tinting and toning

Esther Urlus
Module: 5

Right from the very beginning, cinema has always been a colour medium, and many different processes have been developed to add a touch of colour to black and white images. From chemical tints and tones to manual painting, the development of Technicolor and modern emulsions, film has always used colour as a means of artistic expression. In this workshop we explore the original colour of film and the aesthetic possibilities that these techniques offer to filmmakers and artists.

Construction of (audio and visual) universes

Takashi Makino
Module: 5

This subject specifically addresses all phases of the design and construction of audio universes: ideation, work criteria, relations with images, gestation of projects based on sound, mixing etc. The multisensory power of images and sound. The synaesthetic sensory stimulation of images and sounds and the articulation of their paradoxical power in film.

EQZELab. Professional film laboratory

Yolanda Cáceres
Module: 5

The last stage in the gradual acquisition of knowledge, skills and abilities linked to the processing of photochemical films. The subject introduces students to the techniques and workflows of a professional laboratory through the practical handling of specific technologies for developing (16 mm colour and black and white), colour correction and copying. By acquiring these practical skills, students also help maintain inter-generational knowledge of the film culture and industry that would otherwise be lost. Furthermore, those on the course can assume responsibility for processing the film materials generated at the school, thereby keeping the EQZELab service active.

Digital processing of images II: Diamant

Lorena Bordigoni
Module: 5

The DIAMANT film restoration software is a professional solution for film restoration, cleaning and repair. The workshop, which is run by the digital manager of the Catalonia Film Library, teaches students how to optimise their workflow in the digital restoration process.

Conservation and preservation of complex media

Mona Jiménez
Module: 5

This course introduces students to the primary issues and emerging strategies for the conservation/preservation of new media and digital artworks. These artworks go beyond single video or film projections; contemporary artists use a wide variety of audio-visual formats and technologies to create complex installations that are fascinating to study. Examples range from older artworks using obsolete components like TVs (cathode ray tubes) to multi-channel synchronized works, works using game engines or custom code, or works that pull data from the Internet. Complex artworks typically contain many interrelated parts that must be deciphered and documented to ensure the artwork will function in the future in a manner that is faithful to the artist's vision. Students will learn analyse the artworks and to identify potential risks by studying several artworks in the collection of a local cultural institution. They will research exhibition histories, consult institutional files, examine an artwork's actual component parts, and discuss the artworks with museum staff. In the process, a great deal will be learned about the care and conservation of artworks in museums and archives.