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AEO-Light Overview

Background: Film preservationists and archivists have recognized the compelling need to develop new strategies for accessing our film heritage. Photochemical preservation may produce outstanding archival film copies, but the process remains expensive and the resulting film elements still require traditional film projection equipment in order to be viewed.

Digitizing film as a means of access and preservation has become an increasingly important alternative to traditional photochemical preservation. Procedures for converting optical sound tracks, however, have not kept pace with the development of image scanning techniques in part because technological advancements tend to be driven by the needs of the commercial film industry, not archives.

Commercial film production separates image and audio content into two distinct workflows married only at the time of the final product. Digital film scanners now in production are designed with this segregated workflow in mind. As a result, digitally scanned sound film results in only the image content of the celluloid record being converted into a digital surrogate. No sound information is converted to digital audio. When optical sound tracks are digitized, the standard procedure requires the tracks to be processed separately on aging analog equipment that is expensive to maintain and operate.

Unless alternatives to current expensive approaches to digitizing sound films are found, access to most of this important material will effectively end as the commercial sector abandons support for traditional film screening equipment.

Optical Sound Recovery Tool (AEO-Light): AEO-Light software imports existing digital media files (e.g., dpx, avi, mov, etc.) created by film scanners and output a synchronous digital picture and sound file in a variety of formats depending on user preference. It also allows for the output of a freestanding digital audio file. The software works with either positive or negative images of color or black & white film stock.

AEO-Light works with any scanner meeting three basic criteria, thus maximizing its usefulness. The tool is designed to process all scans that:

  1. contain an optical sound track and image,
  2. have stable frame integrity with a minimal overscan, and
  3. are of sufficient scan resolution to allow for quality decoding of the optical sound information.

More Information

For more information about the AEO-Light project, contact Greg Wilsbacher at

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