14 November 2012

Documenting music in Nepal

Seto Machindranath festival, Nepal 1955-56

At the British Library we have been digitising some of our film and video collection. It’s a collection that has been built up not with an overall moving image resource in mind, but rather as a reflection of the interest of particular curators. So the collection does not cover all subjects, instead specialising in certain areas, often relating to sound because the videos were traditionally collected by the Library’s sound archive. So it is that highlights of the collection include experimental theatre recordings, oral history intervies, a large number of pop videos, and ethnomusicological recordings collected by our World and Traditional Music section.

Films from the latter are among the first batch of films that we have digitised, and four extracts have just gone up on YouTube, on a new British Library playlist, Sound and moving image collections. They are films taken by the celebrated Dutch ethnomusicologist Arnold Adriaan Bake (1899-1963). Bake documented music and dance in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka from the 1920s to the 1950s, primarily in audio format (reel-to-reel tapes, wax cylinders and Tefiphone recordings on 35mm film) but occasionally on 16mm film as well. He served as Lecturer in Indian Music at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and wrote widely on Indian music. His advocates and acolytes are scattered across the globe; likewise his sound and film collections. At the BL we have many sound recordings he made on field trips in 1925-1928, 1931-1934, and 1939-1941, and the greater part of his film legacy, with 16mm material from the 1930s and 1950s.

Indra Jaatra Festival Kathmandu, 1931

It has to be said that Bake was probably happier with an audio recorder than with a camera. The films are erratically shot and sometimes clumsily composed, with many of the flaws in production and technique associated with the amateur. The footage is unedited, and little information survives on what was shot, when, and where. Consequently the identification and coherent presentation of the films has been quite an undertaking. We’re still working on the collection, but we have released four preview edited extracts that bring together Bake’s films (which were shot silent) with some of his sound recordings (which were made around the same time but not intended as synchronous accompaniments to the films).

We’re not interested in such films as art (though it’s always welcome when one encounters a little artistry) – we’re interested in the content, in what the film documents, and in this case its mean for a particular community. Each video is accompanied by this important message on the respect due to works that document traditional practices:

The British Library has made these recordings available purely for the purposes of non-commercial research, study and private enjoyment. These recordings should not be altered or used in ways that might be derogatory to the indigenous and local communities who are traditional custodians of the traditional music, lyrics, knowledge, stories, performances and other creative materials embodied in the recordings.

An important aspect of the preservation and digitisation of the films has been a repatriation project with the Music Museum of Nepal (half of the films were shot in that country). We sent the digitised films to the museum, they supplied us with detailed documentation, which we have incorporated in our catalogue records and which helped inform the further preservation work and production of edited extracts (more of which will follow in due course).

Matayaa festival, 1955-56

I know nothing of the music of Nepal, and I’m very much aware that what I see in the films is purely surface, while for others they are rich in meaning and significance. It’s a marvellous experience to sit with those who do have that knowledge and to learn from them what what can be seen (and heard) by those who have the eyes (and ears) to see (and hear). We hope that in publishing these short extracts that we will attract those with expert knowledge to help us document the films that much more accurately. We will be publishing further extracts, as well as other examples from our collections, on the YouTube playlist, ahead of making greater amount of archive film and video available in our reading rooms in 2013.

Even if I don;t know much about the music of Nepal, I think the films have an unpretentious beauty about them. I am enthralled by the shot of vertiginous crowds attending the Indra Jaatra festival in Kathmandu in 1931, intrigued by the chariot that needs to be taller than the buildings around it so as not to displease the God in the colour film of the Seto Machindranath festival, and it is such a delight to see the young boy so earnestly playing his drum along with the Newar musicians in 1955-56. As even these short extracts make clear, Bake had a most sympathetic eye.


Matayaa festival, Nepal 1955-56

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01 October 2012

New moving image service at the British Library

Bbcpilot_frontpage

Today, 1 October 2012, sees the piloting of the British Library's moving image services. We've provided access to our specialist moving image collections as an appointment service before now, but from today we are offering two new, instant access services for anyone researching in one of our Reading Rooms (at St Pancras, Colindale or Boston Spa) and special access to a huge television and radio database. In combination with our existing sound collections we can provide instant access to nearly a million sound and moving image items onsite, supported by data for over 20 million sound and moving image recordings.

The three services are:

BBC Pilot Service

This is a trial service produced by the BBC in collaboration with the British Library. It brings together the BBC's programme catalogue, Radio Times data and BBC television and radio programmes recorded off-air from mid-2007 to the end of 2011. There are approximately 2.2 million catalogue records and 190,000 playable programmes, both television and radio. The Pilot Service is being made available in the Library's Reading Rooms on a trial basis between October 2012 and March 2013, and users should look on the catalogue as a platform on which we hope to build further services in the future.

Broadcast News

This service provides access to daily television and radio news programmes from seventeen channels (fifteen TV, two radio) broadcast in the UK since May 2010, recorded off-air by the British Library. The programmes will be almost instantly available, with new programmes available in our Reading Rooms within hours of broadcast. We currently record forty-six hours per day, including BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News, Al-Jazeera English, NHK World, CNN, France 24, Bloomberg, Russia Today and China's CCTV News. Many of the programmes come with subtitles, which we have made word-searchable, greatly enhancing Broadcast News as a research resource.

TRILT (Television & Radio Index for Learning & Teaching)

TRILT is a database of all UK television and radio broadcasts since 2001 (and selectively back to 1995). It covers every channel, every broadcast and every repeat, some 15 million records so far and growing by a million per year. Produced by the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) it is regularly used by many universities but has never before been available to general users.

Broadcast News - Front page

 

For reasons of copyright and licence, the three services can only be made available in our Reading Rooms for registered British Library users. The sound and moving image items can be accessed at dedicated multimedia terminals (equipped with non-sound leakage headphones) of which there will be at least one in every Reading Room. We're starting with twenty-five terminals and will soon raise this to sixty. Eventually - if things develop as we hope they will - every terminal that we provide for users in our Reading Rooms should be equipped for multimedia access.

To find the services, just follow the link to Sound and Moving services from the front page of any Reading Room terminal - but remember you'll need to pick one equipped with headphones to hear any of it (you can't plug in your own headphones, please note).

We are keen to have feedback from users, and you will find a link to a survey at each of the multimedia terminals. Do fill it in and let us know your thoughts on the services and how you think we can be developing things further.

We have more in the pipeline, not least the first fruits of our film and video digitisation projects, but that you'll be seing in the new year, when we will formally launch the new sound and moving image services. For now we're putting them out for a test drive - and we'd love to know what you think.

There's more information on all our moving image holdings and services on the Library's Help for Researchers pages.

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29 July 2012

Pandaemonium and the Isles of Wonder

Pandaemonium

Pandaemonium is the Palace of All the Devils. Its building began c.1660. It will never be finished – it has to be transformed into Jerusalem. The building of Pandaemonium is the real history of Britain for the last three hundred years.

Frank Cottrell Boyce, the writer behind ‘Isles of Wonder', the extraordinary and widely acclaimed opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games, has revealed in a Guardian article that a major inspiration for the work was Humphrey Jennings’ Pandaemonium.  Of the creative process with director Danny Boyle he writes:

We shared the things we loved about Britain – the Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution, the NHS, pop music, children's literature, genius engineers. I bought Danny a copy of Humphrey Jennings's astonishing book Pandemonium for Christmas and soon everyone seemed to have it. The show's opening section ended up named "Pandemonium".

'Pandaemonium', as the BBC commentary noted on the night, was the name that John Milton gave to the capital of Hell in his epic poem 'Paradise Lost'. It is also the title of Humphrey Jennings’ posthumously published book which is a collection of nearly 400 contemporary texts dating 1660-1886 that, as the book’s subtitle puts it, illustrate ‘the coming of the machine as seen by contemporary observers’.

Humphrey Jennings (1907-1950) is generally recognised to be among the greatest of all British documentary filmmakers. In films such as London Can Take It! (1940, co-directed with Harry Watt), Listen to Britain (1942, co-directed with Stewart McAllister), Fires Were Started (1943) and A Diary for Timothy (1946), Jennings documented the relevance of the British experience of war to history, art, society and culture. Often described as a poet among filmmakers, he applied a poet’s synthetic vision to the British condition at a time of national crisis. If you have not knowingly seen one of his films, you will have undoubtedly come across sequences from them, because they have been ceaselessly plundered by television for footage illustrating the impact of the war on Britain. For example, Andrew Marr’s piece on the history of London that featured as part of the BBC’s build-up programme ahead of the opening ceremony used several shots from London Can Take It!

That poet’s synthetic vision was also applied to Pandaemonium, a collection of texts (or Images, as Jennings described them) which he worked on between 1937 and his accidental death in 1950, without ever shaping the material into a finished manuscript or finding a publisher. It was not until 1985 that his daughter Mary-Lou Jennings and Charles Madge (like Jennings a co-founder of the social investigation organisation Mass-Observation) edited a version of the work that was close as could be hoped to Jennings’ conception.

Pandaemonium comprises texts from poets, diarists, scientists, industrialists, politicians, novelists and social commentators who wittingly or unwittingly document the great changes wrought in British society by the industrial revolution. It begins with Milton’s description (written c.1660) of the building of Pandaemonium, and anyone who saw Boyle and Boyce’ vision of Glastonbury Tor, from which burst forth fire as the tree at its top was uprooted, ushering in the industrial revolution will recognise its inspiration in Milton’s opening words:

There stood a Hill not far whose grisly top
Belch’d fire and rowling smoak; the rest entire
Shon with a glossie scurff, undoubted sign
That in his womb was hid metallic Ore,
The work of Sulphur. Thither wing’d with speed
A numerous Brigad hastens. As when bands
Of Pioners with Spade and Pickaxe arm’d
Forerun the Royal Camp, to trench a Field,
Or cast a Rampart. Mammon led them on,
Mammon, the least erectd Spirit that fell
From heav’n, for eve’n his looks and thoughts
Were always downwards bent, admiring ore
The riches of Heav’ns pavements, trod’n Gold ...

The quotation at the head of this post comes from notes Jennings wrote for an introduction to the work, and it confirms the influence Pandaemonium had on Danny Boyle and his creative team (not least in their sly critique of the corporately-sponsored Olympics themselves, with the Olympic rings being forged in the furnaces of the dark Satanic mills). Pandaemonium has been built, and continues to be built – the task is to transform it into Jerusalem. So Boyle and Boyce do not look for a return to that green and pleasant land portrayed at the start of ‘Isles of Wonder’. Instead they look with hopes toward what has and can still be built out of it, to fulfil the vision expressed in William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’.

Vision is the operative word. In his introduction (as reconstructed by Charles Madge), Jennings says that his Images, whose construction he likens to 'an unrolling film', illustrate ‘the Means of Vision and the Means of Production’. The Industrial Revolution he sees as the victory of Production over Vision, of materialism over poetry, which has failed to keep up with, or to master, the changes brought about by industrialisation:

It would take a large work on its own to show, in the great period of English poets 1570-1750, the desperate struggle that poets had to keep poetry’s head into the wind: to keep it facing life. But by 1750 the struggle – like that of the peasants – was over. In other words poetry has been expropriated.

Boyle and Boyce were inspired by Jennings, but they also sought to show how the argument has moved on since Jennings’ time, to show that there could be a greater balance between production and vision. ‘Isles of Wonder’ was divided into three main sections (with comic interludes featuring the Queen and Mr Bean). The first, 'Pandaemonium', showed the march of industrial society over the green and pleasant land, but also the changes in society that the process unwittingly led to – women’s suffrage, Jarrow marchers, the Empire Windrush, the Beatles. The second, ‘Second Star on the Right and Straight on Till Morning’ took children’s literature as its theme, pitting its villains (Cruella De Vil, Lord Voldemort) again the forces of collective good, represented by the NHS and a host of Mary Poppinses. It can also be seen as representing the revival of poetic sensibility and responsibility, the human urge towards the greater good, defeating the forces of Mammon. From thesis to antithesis to synthesis, and the third part, 'Frankie & June say …Thanks Tim' finds great hope in another revolution, the digital revolution (Tim being Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web). Here an interconnected society, themes from which we had seen prefigured in the earlier parts, overrides the forces that have divided it in the past, moving forward to – perhaps – Jerusalem.

 

Extract from Listen to Britain

Humphrey Jennings could never have conceived of such a spectacle as ‘Isles of Wonder’, but he might have understood the technique, not least with reference to his own documentary films. Listen to Britain (which could almost have been a subtitle for ‘Isles of Wonder’) is a portrait of national unity illustrated through the songs and sounds of a country at war. There is no narration, only images of the different corners of the land and different strata of society, bound together by effort and by sound (factories, Myra Hess playing piano at the National Gallery, variety entertainers Flanagan and Allen). Spare Time (1939), a film closest in conception to Jennings’ brief involvement with Mass-Observation, shows how Britain’s working class enjoys its leisure time, from pubs to wrestling matches, from allotments to marching kazoo bands. Such films succeed through a subtle association of ideas, one image illuminating the next by association. As with his films, so it was with the unrolling film of Images in Pandaemonium, and now with ‘Isles of Wonder’

If you're trying to celebrate a nation's identity, you have to take things that are familiar parts of the landscape and make them wonderful.

So writes Frank Cotterell Boyce, and they are words to explain the art of Humphrey Jennings as well. It is what a great documentary filmmaker can do: capture images of common stuff, and transmute them into something wonderful. To do so, it is necessary not just to photograph your subject well, or to edit with a satisfying rhythm. You must have a governing idea to give those images meaning. Humphrey Jennings wanted to see Jerusalem built once more; Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce have encouraged us all to dream of the same.

‘Isles of Wonder’ and the full  London 2012 opening ceremony were recorded by the British Library as part of its off-air television news service, Broadcast News, which we are planning to make available to onsite Library users from the end of September 2012. More news of this, and other moving image and sound services currently in development, will follow soon.

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18 July 2012

Sound and moving image user survey

Users

 

We're working away behind the scenes on assorted projects here at the British Library which have the overall aim of increasing the amount of moving image and sound content that we can make available to our users, and integrating this with everything else that the Library offers to researchers. It'll be good, when we get there.

As part of this process, we want to know how researchers are using moving images and sound in research now (if they do so at all): what sources they use, what subject areas they are working in, and what sort of audiovisual services they would expect to see from the British Library. Have you made use of the Library's huge sound collections? Do you expect to find everything on YouTube? What do you think of an institution like the British Library engaging with moving images?

So we're launching a survey today, which we urge you to complete, whether you use either medium in your research a great deal or hardly at all, and whether you are a British Library user or not. It'll take no more than 5-10 minute to complete, it's on a single web page, and there's an invitation maybe to join us in testing some of the new tools and services we may be developing. And the results will be a huge help to us in determining the direction of our future services.

Do please fill out the survey, and tell others about it. It runs until the end of July.

http://www.bl.uk/surveys/soundandmovingimage

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17 May 2012

How men love

Howmenlove

What a wonderful image this is. It features in the British Library's new Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands exhibition, on the relationship between British writers and British landscape, but in truth it stands alone. It shows, from left to right, Lord Howard de Walden (author and philanthropist), the drama critic William Archer, J.M. Barrie, G.K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw. They are dressed as cowboys, having paused for a while  during the making of a film, later entitled How Men Love. The director was the playwright and theatre producer Harley Granville-Barker, the year 1914.

There's so much to see. Firstly there's the sheer oddity of seeing members of the British (and Irish) literary pantheon dressed as cowboys. There's the collision of cultures, British and American (the idea of the Wild West brought to Britain first by Buffalo Bill Cody's shows and then by the early cinema). There's the coming together of (supposedly) low and (equally supposedly) high culture in the marriage of cinema and literature. It's an image that tells of a point where intellectualism met mass culture (so acutely documented by John Carey in The Intellectuals and the Masses), and found itself confronted by a new world where it no longer understood the rules of the game. The joke, they hoped, was on the cinema, but the joke ended up being on them. I could even read it as a metaphor for our slowly emerging plans to introduce moving images into the august temple to the written word that is the British Library.

I've written about the production of How Men in Love in detail on my Bioscope blog (on early and silent cinema). So, briefly, the film was part of an experiment in stage presentation by J.M. Barrie, who was intrigued by the inter-relationship between film and theatre. He set up an event in July 1914 entitled 'The Cinema Supper', to which many of London's great and good were invited, and in the middle of it staged a argument between Shaw, de Walden, Chesterton and Archer, the later three ending up chasing Shaw off-stage while bearing swords. The second part of the entertainment was to be a cowboy film, into which the men would have been transported from their live presence on the stage. Chesterton writes about its production - which took place the following day - in his autobiography:

We went down to the waste land in Essex and found our Wild West equipment. But considerable indignation was felt against William Archer; who, with true Scottish foresight, arrived there first and put on the best pair of trousers … We … were rolled in barrels, roped over fake precipices and eventually turned loose in a field to lasso wild ponies, which were so tame that they ran after us instead of our running after them, and nosed in our pockets for pieces of sugar. Whatever may be the strain on credulity, it is also a fact that we all got on the same motor-bicycle; the wheels of which were spun round under us to produce the illusion of hurtling like a thunderbolt down the mountain-pass. When the rest finally vanished over the cliffs, clinging to the rope, they left me behind as a necessary weight to secure it; and Granville-Barker kept on calling out to me to Register Self-Sacrifice and Register Resignation, which I did with such wild and sweeping gestures as occurred to me; not, I am proud to say, without general applause. And all this time Barrie, with his little figure behind his large pipe, was standing about in an impenetrable manner; and nothing could extract from him the faintest indication of why we were being put through these ordeals.

The full stage-and-film fantasy was never completed, because some of those featured in the Cinema Supper (including prime minister Herbert Asquith) objected to having been filmed without their permission. Chesteron says that the cowboy film was never shown, but two years later it was screened, as part of a war hospital charity event at the London Coliseum on 10 June 1916, where it was given the glorious title How Men Love. How glorious it would be if it still survived, but alas the last record we have of it still existing was in 1941. But maybe, in some attic or basement somewhere...

Writing Britain has more to lure you in than just this one image. It is a poetically-composed analysis of how place influences art, and it is full of surprising and imaginative choices of publication to illustrate its thesis. The exhibition also makes quite interesting use of film, with Pathé newsreel footage projected onto wavy white cloths and accompanied by a haunting soundscape giving a suitably atmospheric background to the section of the influence of wetlands and the seaside.

Writing Britain runs from 11 May until 25 September 2012, and there are booking details, events information, a mapping game and exhibition blog on the website.

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05 March 2012

Words into words

 

 

This British Library event on 'The Future of Text', held 22 September 2011, includes a talk by me on the opportunities provided by subtitle and speech-to-text searching (at 1:25:10, and you'll need to turn the volume up...)

The key term when considering what we need to do with moving images at the British is 'integration'. It turns up on every strategy document, every PowerPoint presentation, every funding application. We are not interested (primarily) in the medium for its own sake, but as it supports research in other subjects. We want researchers to search for the topic that interests them and to be able to offer them, in the one place, books, journals, newspapers, photographs, maps, websites, sound recordings ... and moving images. There should be no hierachy among the media, and the more varied and integrated an offering we can provide for researchers, the more chances there are of them finding something that surprises them, that takes their research into corners they hadn't considered.

To achieve this noble vision, we need to do two things. The first, of course, is to have the moving images. We have a growing collection of these (around 55,000 at the last count), many of them music-related since they were collected by our Sound Archive, though the collection is starting to increase in breadth. We hope to extend the number of moving image items we offer considerably through partnerships, more of which at another time.

Second is to have the tools to enable researchers to find these different media in the one place. The Library has already made a big step forward here with its new Explore the British Library catalogue, which brings a large part of our collection, including  some of the moving image collection, in the one place. Searches can be filtered by any medium, including moving image, and we'll be adding more films and video records to the catalogue over the next few months.

But having films, books, manuscripts etc. all in the one place doesn't necessarily make for equality of searching. Unless you have equally rich metadata, or catalogue records, for each medium, then - simply put - those media with more words will get more attention. As the Library delves all the more into offering full-text searching, then the moving image has to be there too, or it will get put to the sidelines once again.

We were aware of this need when we started our television and radio news recording programme, which is due to become a reading room service quite soon (more on that innovation in a later post). The service, which we are calling Broadcast News, captures subtitles from television news programmes where these are available, then translates these into word-searchable text (a considerable technical challenge, because the subtitles on your TV programmes are graphics, not text, and need to be read through a process not unlike OCR). So you can search across thousands of television news programmes through the words spoken on the screen.

This is exciting, but not all television channels come with subtitles, particularly satellite channels. Other tools are required, and this is why we are looking at speech-to-text software. Voice recognition and speech-to-text are starting to become familiar. Mobile phone apps now offer voice command features and the ability to translates voice messages into text. Speech-to-text applications are used by medical services, legal services, and the military. The great challenge is to scale such technology up to the demands of large archives. The problems are considerable. Most voice recognition packages rely on recognising one voice - your own. They struggle with alien voices, multiple speakers, unfamiliar accents, and so on. Here at the Library we have television news programmes, radio broadcasts, oral history recordings and other speech-based archives access to which would be revolutionised by an effective, and affordable, speech-to-text capability, enabling these media to be word-searchable in seconds rather than the hours it currently takes to get through some recordings.

The right solution is not going to become available overnight. Last year we successfully trialled Microsoft's MAVIS speech-to-text programme as part of our Growing Knowledge exhibition, indexing 1,000 hours of interview material and 100 hours of video news. We are now going to build on that initial experiment as part of a one-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of its Digital Transformations in Arts and Humanities theme.

The project is not about finding a technical solution per se (they already exist). Although we hope to generate up to 6,000 hours of indexed, word-searchable content (3,000 of video news, 3,000 of radio), the chief aim of the project will be to determine the value to researchers. We will be asking three main questions:

  1. How useful are the results to researchers in the arts and humanities? Speech-to-text systems cannot deliver perfect transcripts, but they are now at a stage of accuracy where they can offer a reliable, indeed liberating word-searching capability. The value of this will need to be explored with researchers in the arts and humanities. We will establish user groups working with postgraduate students in radio studies and journalism studies, testing research scenarios that focus both on the audio-visual media alone and integrated with other, text-based media.
  2. We need to understand the methodological and interpretative issues involved. Imperfect indexing by speech-to-text systems can lead to misleading results (for example, a television news programme with the words ‘new tax breaks for married couples’ was indexed by MAVIS as ‘no tax breaks for married couples’). The project will need to explore such pitfalls, to consider how best to quote and cite such recordings, how to evaluate results from audio-visual media alongside other text-based media (what is the correlation between a speech transcription and the text of a newspaper article?), and other issues.
  3. How can speech-to-text technology be adopted in UK research in a form that is readily accessible and affordable? The project will look at the various systems available and provide guidelines as to usability, affordability and sustainability.

So we are not just interested in our own needs, but in how such technologies can support research in the arts and humanities overall. We will be publishing and promoting the results of our findings at the end of the project. We are keen to hear from anyone with an interest in this area, so if this something that you know about, or have an opinion about, do get in touch. The email address is movingimage@bl.uk.

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19 August 2011

Raiders of the lost archive

Miguelmera 

Miguel Mera

Well, I don't know - this blog publishes nothing in over three months, and then we get three posts in the space of three hours. Where might all this giddiness end? Here's news of an event taking place at the end of September, one of the regular series of 'Sound Cases' talks that we hold throughout the year:

Raiders of the Lost Archive: revealing process in film composition

When: Thu 29 Sep 2011, 13.00 – 14.00

Where: Centre for Conservation, British Library

Price: Free, booking essential

As early as 1989 Stephen Wright suggested that the lack of availability of source materials was the largest obstacle to the widespread advancement of film music scholarship. This presentation will suggest ways in which a variety of source materials, especially digital sources, might impact on our understanding of film music. As a film composer himself, the speaker is uniquely able to comment on the practical, collaborative and creative interactions that take place during the creation of a film score, thus providing an insight into soundtracks both artistically and within their production contexts.

Miguel Mera is a composer of music for the moving image and a musicologist. He has composed music for feature films and numerous television dramas and documentaries. Miguel is the Head of the Centre for Music Studies at City University.

Do come if you can. It promises to be quite a special event.

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Film, copyright and the internet: a guide for producers

More filmy things going on at the British Library in September, with this event taking place in our business and IP Centre:

Film, copyright and the internet: a guide for producers

Wed 07 September 2011, 14.00 - 16.30

Who should attend? Film and TV makers
Place: British Library Business & IP Centre
Cost: £25.00 + VAT
How to Book: Book your place online

As a film maker, you need to understand how copyright works: who owns the rights, what forms of protection against infringement are given and how the rights are transferred and traded. Copyright law has to a large extent been harmonised around the world, but variations still exist, particularly on dealing with infringement.

The Internet has dramatically changed the way in which films are viewed or purchased and has expanded the market, not just for new films but back-catalogue movies and TV shows which formerly disappeared at the end of their DVD life. However, the problem of Internet piracy undermines the normal system of film distribution, and the borderless nature of the Internet confounds copyright law and frequently makes it impossible for film-makers to control the exploitation of their films.

What about the wider impact on creativity? Copyright law developed to enable the creator of a work to benefit financially from its exploitation, and thereby to encourage creative endeavour in general. Does the Internet undermine this basic principle? When a producer sees the potential box office revenues diminished significantly because their film has been leaked onto the Internet prior to its theatrical release, will they go to the same lengths a second time to get a film produced?

In this workshop we will analyse the impact of Internet piracy on the film world and discuss whether anything effective is being done to address the problem.

The event will cover:

  • General background on copyright in the UK, including what constitutes infringement of copyright and the remedies available to copyright owners.
  • General background on the film industry and how copyright relates to filmed entertainment.
  • The impact of the Internet on the film industry, with case studies of Internet piracy.
  • Reaction to the problem of Internet piracy from both industry and government, both internationally and in the UK.
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Sheffield Doc/Fest Meet-up

It's been a little on the quiet side here at the Moving Image blog of late, but that's not to say that things are quiet at the British Library. Our moving image plans are pressing ahead in all sorts of interesting ways, which I hope to be able to report on soon, as this blog creeps back into life a little more.

Meanwhile, we have other stuff happening in September, with three film-related events which you might like to take note of. Here's the first of them:

Sheffield Doc/Fest Meet-up

Mon 05 September 2011, 16.00 - 18.00

Who should attend? Documentary film makers
Place: British Library Business & IP Centre
Cost: Free
How to Book: View our events calendar and book online

Come along to the British Library in London to carry on your conversations from this year’s Doc/Fest in June, meet new people and learn more about the free resources available to documentary makers and digital media practitioners in the Business & IP Centre.

Join us for drinks at this great networking opportunity for documentary lovers, Doc/Fest veterans, and those completely new to Doc/Fest and curious about the industry. Find out how the British Library can help you realise projects, assist in research and how you can access their world-renowned resources.

Charlie Phillips, Doc/Fest’s Marketplace Director will also be in attendance to advise on documentary project financing and development.

About Sheffield Doc/Fest

Sheffield Doc/Fest brings the international documentary family together to celebrate the art and business of documentary making for five intense days in June every year. Find out more at http://sheffdocfest.com 

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13 April 2011

The BFI and the British Library

I'm delighted to be able to report the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the British Film Institute and the British Library.

The objective of the MoU is to increase public, professional and research access to audiovisual and broadcast content and integrating it with other knowledge collections. Integrating moving images with other media to enhance the research experience is central to the British Library's moving image plans. We don't need to build a new moving image archive for ourselves if there are constructive and mutually supportive ways in which we can work with existing moving image collections, and although we do have a modest moving image collection and plans to increase our moving image capabilities through a particular focus on news, the main target is to work with external collections. To this end we signed an MoU with the BBC in 2009 (as did the BFI earlier that year), the fruits of which we hope to be able to demonstrate to researchers in the not too distant future.

The MoU has been signed by BFI Director, Amanda Nevill and British Library CEO, Dame Lynne Brindley. It outlines key areas for joint strategic thinking, including public access, rights management and digitisation. Through a joint steering committee we will be exploring such areas as:

  • collecting policies;
  • contributing to IPR (intellectual property rights) and copyright discussions;
  • metadata and resource discovery;
  • how new digital technologies and enhanced physical spaces can improve access to film and television content;
  • digital and paper conservation;
  • exhibitions and public programmes;
  • and how both institutions can offer services for the creative industries.

It takes time to develop successful relationships between such organisations, and any fruits from such an understanding may take a while to grow. However, we will not be starting from square one. Over the past year, our two organisations have been collaborating as members of the UK Sound & Vision Collections group, convened in 2010 by the BFI to look at national audio-visual collection policy. A letter from the group announcing its formation was recently sent to Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. Other group members comprise the BBC, the National Archives, the Imperial War Museum, the National Media Museum, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and National Museums Northern Ireland.

To have these bodies all sitting around the same table discussing how best to collect, care for and make accessible the UK audio-visual heritage (sound and moving image, please note) is not insignificant. Researchers of any kind have a right to expect good things from such a coming together, and it is our duty to live up to such expectations. Having the BFI and the British Library sign up to their own understanding is an important stage in what promises to be an exciting process.

Keep watching the screens.

British Library press release

British Film institute press release

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