Building the Digital Collection

The motion pictures chosen for digitization in America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915 are all black-and-white and silent, and are taken from the Paper Print Collection and the George Kleine Collection in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. (More information about these collections can be found in About the Collection.)

The films taken from the Library's Paper Print Collection were deposited for copyright from 1894 to 1912. These films were printed on paper as positive pictures frame by frame. In recent years, in order to serve the goals of access and preservation, the Library of Congress has copied the paper rolls onto 35mm motion picture negative film at its laboratory in Dayton, Ohio. A positive film print is made from the 35mm negative and this is transferred to Betacam SP videotape to produce the master for digitization. In order to present an authentic record of the paper prints as artifacts, some of the edging and perforations evident on the originals have been left in the digital frame. Likewise, original labels, titles, and other tagging documentation found on the paper print itself have been retained, as well as other imperfections from the original.

The original films in the George Kleine Collection are in either 35mm or 16mm format.

The selected films are copied to Betacam SP videotape at Roland House in Arlington, Virginia. The original motion pictures were shot at varying frame rates; therefore, in the video mastering process, the playback speeds are adjusted to present the appearance of natural motion to the greatest degree possible. Main title frames for each film are added during the editing process.

Digitization of the films on videotape is performed at Bell Atlantic in Reston, Virginia. MPEG, QuickTime, and RealMedia digital versions of the films are available on the American Memory Web site. The MPEG and QuickTime versions of titles with running times greater than four minutes have been divided into segments to reduce the file sizes to 40MB or less. A typical 28.8 Internet connection achieves a theoretical maximum download rate of approximately 3.5 KB/sec (210 K/min) under ideal conditions. Therefore, a file of 40 MB would take approximately 190 minutes (3 hours, 10 minutes) in optimal conditions and possibly much longer than that (up to two to three times longer depending on Internet traffic load).

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