The Mortality of Media by RMIT University

We make films to capture moments in time, preserve memories and tell stories – yet nothing lasts forever.

This set of infographics for ACMI uses publicly available collection metadata to explore the allocation and lifespans of various media storage formats.

ACMI’s collection aims to preserve film, yet formats such as 35mm and 16mm film are at risk of vinegar syndrome, a chemical reaction that degrades the quality of the film depending on temperature and humidity conditions. Magnetic tape formats such as VHS, U-Matic and Beta also
degrades over time.

In order to save the collection, the original films much be duplicated and digitised, yet this is a monumental task for a 40,000 strong collection. Furthermore, as technology advances, no one can predict what formats we will use in the future, or what hardware, software or file formats will be come obsolete.

The narrative ‘the Mortality of Media’ is supported by additional research into the durability of various formats, provided by the National Film and Sound Archive, academic
journals, the National Film Preservation Foundation (USA), the Image Permanence Institute and commercial media transfer services.

Aesthetically, the infographics express the effects of time through gradients, with composition and shape taking precedence over traditional scientific graph formats, inviting the viewer to take a closer look. Inspired by the pink fade of vinegar syndrome, they also highlight the fuzzy, approximate nature of lifespan timelines with a gradual fadeout of colour.