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At the moment, the exhibitions team at the Library are very busy setting up for the Dot Dot Dash Exhibition. The new exhibition will open on Saturday 3 November, and it will look at how welsh people have communicated over the past 100 years.

The exhibition will include a lot of audiovisual material, and will include items from the Screen and Sound Archive’s collection. These items include the radio lecture by Saunders Lewis, Tynged yr Iaith (The fate of our language), and there will also be examples of propaganda films from the second world war.

A corner of the exhibition will be decorated as a 80s living room, to commemorate and celebrate S4C’s 30th birthday. The visitor can sit back and choose which of the channel’s classic clip they want to view.

The exhibition will end with a new film by Andrew Griffiths, which has been commissioned by the Library. The film celebrated some of the most prominent landmarks in the history of communication over the past 100 years. The film can also be seen online here.

PS – for those of you thinking I’d chosen a strange title for this blog post, the name of the exhibition will be Dot Dot Dash. “..-” is a letter in the Morse code alphabet.

We look forward to welcoming you to the exhibition. It’ll be open until September 2013, so plenty of time for you to arrange a trip to Aberystwyth!

Taliesin Arts CentreLast Friday night, we traveled down from Aberystwyth to Swansea to show the 1950 comedy film, Valley of Song, at the Taliesin Arts Centre, as part of the National Library’s annual Outreach programme.

The film was preceded by a local archive film, Come With Me Swansea. Made in 1952, it gives viewers an insight into 1950s life in Swansea through the eyes of local people, including Leonard Bruton, a Foreman at the Tinplate works.

Swansea City Council leader, Cllr David Phillips officially welcomed the National Library of Wales to Swansea, before the audience sat back to enjoy the films. 225 people attended the screening, and it’s the largest Councillor David Phillips crowd that’s ever attended a public screening arranged by us.

The reaction of the crowd after the screening was very enthusiastic, with a lot of people showing a lot of interest in forthcoming events organised by the Library in Swansea.

The audience

If you’d like to own your own copy of the film, in early 2013, Studio Canal will be releasing Valley of Song on DVD.  They will also release the 1949 classic, The Last Days of Dolwyn on DVD. These releases are a collaboration between Studio Canal and The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.

This post follows on from a conversation that began on twitter.

I was asked whether the Archive’s film collection had all been scanned at a 4K resolution (4096×30722 pixels, horizontal screen resolution). Unfortunately, the answer is no. The majority of our film collection that has been inspected and transferred to video, exists on digital tapes such as digibeta or dvcam at a standard definition. However, thanks to Cymal and the Assembly Government, we can now transfer the following formats; 35, 16, 9.5, S8 & R8mm up to the resolution of high definition 1080 if requested. In the long term, we hope to do away with recording to tape where the video will then exist as a file on a server for keep sake and for access purposes. Currently, we do send clips out to individuals and tv companies via an ftp connection but are constrained by the size of files therefore tapes will exist for that purpose for a while.

Most cinemas have converted to digital projection by now, where the standard is a 2K projection (2048 x 1080 pixels), which is double the resolution of high definition. Having said this, a good quality 35mm print is closer to a 4K projection. The multiplex in Carmarthen for example, projects all their films at 4K and I think that’s the way it’s going in terms of cinema projection and great for us resolution geeks as it’s closer to an actual film projection image.

Before we transfer any of our films, we fully inspect each reel for damage whilst observing for mould, oil, weakening cement joins to name but a few conditions. The reel can then be hand cleaned or to speed up the process, it can be put through our ultrasonic film cleaning machine. The reel is run through a bath of warm perklene solvent and then dried by following a path through the ultrasonic blowers. After this point, we’d scan it in real time to our mac’s hard-drive. If the film title were to be restored, it would be sent out to an external company in order for it to be scanned at a higher resolution via a 2K/4K scanner which would output DPX files. These would then be painstakingly be worked on by a team, frame by frame, by using a restoration programme such as DaVinci revival in order to clean up the image. For example, an old silent film running at 16 frames per second would have 16 frames to work on for every second, where there’d be 960 frames for a minute’s worth of footage. A sound film running at 24fps would consist of 1,440 frames for every minute. So, you can see how much work it takes in order to do a full restoration of an hour long title. On completion of the work and the grading, the digital intermediate can then be recorded back onto film, or as things are going, converted into a file such as jpeg2000. This is the format that arrives at the cinema where it then gets downloaded off a drive, ready for projection.

In 2010, the bfi re-released a restored version of The Great White Silence which is a good example of a 2K restoration where they’e also scored an experimental soundtrack to accompany the film that was originally silent. This title can be bought on standard definition DVD or on Blu-ray, which is a high definition DVD.
Film restorations are unfortunately expensive, where scanning at HD, 2K or 4K just increases the cost in terms of storage as the higher resoluion digital files are multiple times larger. Keeping the 35mm print/negative in a temperature controlled space will always make sense as the format is 100 years old and will almost undoubtedly outlast quite a few digital formats!

On Wednesday evening, 13 June, a special reception was held at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff to mark the transfer of ITV Wales’ film and video Archive to the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales in Aberystwyth.

In the presence of Heritage Minister, Huw Lewis, President of the National Library, Sir Deian Hopkin, Phil Henfrey, Head of News at ITV Wales and Andrew Green, the Librarian, there was a very warm welcome to the idea extending public access to one of Europe’s most comprehensive television archives.

Read the Library’s official statement

One of the ‘perks of the job’ to me is my duties at the Drwm auditorium. The Drwm is a multi-media auditorium with enough seats for 98 happy people!  This week we have had two main events, on Tuesday Dr Rhidian Griffiths  in his talk ‘Aladdin’s Cave – The National Library of Wales in World War II’ was discussing the cave underneath the Library where some of the most prized arts collections from London were housed for a period during the second world war. As we have come to expect from Rhidian, an extremely interesting talk about the history and relatively unknown areas of the National Library building. Then on Wednesday we had one of the NLW’s lunchtime presentation with Proff Phillip Schofield and Dr Elizabeth Anne New discussing seals (seals as in the way of sealing letters/ documents, rather than the mammal!) in their talk ‘Seals and their Context in Medieval Wales and the Marches’.  Another interesting and highly informative talk! (a summing up of the event is on the NLW blog.

The Drwm has fast become one of the centre point of the National Library life, with all sorts of different events being held – from lunchtime lectures, to conferences, to film showings, book launches and gigs (with all Welsh speaking events being simultaneously translated). If you have missed out on these event, and maybe you are regretting not coming on Tuesday and/or Wednesday  or regretted not seeing the legendary Dr Meredydd Evans in song, or missed out on Jan Morris discussing the practice of travel or maybe you would like to see Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy in a poetry session, or even Elisabeth Luard discussing her book ‘A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse’ or missed the launch of Yann Fouéré translated ‘La Maison in Canemara: The History of a Breton’ – do not worry! In fact you have not missed them at all! Most of the events in the Drwm are recorded by the NSSAW and are available to watch at the NSSAW. We also upload some of the best clips on to the NLW YouTube site.

But as we all know it is always better to taste the atmosphere of a live event, so in the coming months we have plenty to look out for – we have live music -on the 27th of July, Gareth Bonello (The Gentle Good) the folk master and the BBC Radio Cymru Composer of the year 2011 will be playing a live set, Carwyn Tywyn will be here with his harp on the 26th of June. On the 28th of June we have a showing of the film ‘A Run For Your Money’ ( a 1949 comedy about the misadventures of two honest Welsh coal miners  on a weekend trip to see the Wales v England match in London – a must see!). Then on the 18th of July we will be showing the ‘Best of S4C Sports’ with the showing of ‘Orig’, a 1986 film about the legendary Welsh Wrestler – Orig Williams (‘El Bandito’) followed by ‘Dyrnau Celtaidd’ – a history of the Celtic nations contribution to boxing. These are just a handful of handpicked events! We have plenty more! All these events are advertised in the NLW program and on the NLW web site.

These days, the arrival at the Archive of any 1930s film is a bit of an event – but when that film turns out to be an Oscar winner, it’s really something!

Thanks to Mr Lynn Hughes of Drefach, the Archive is now the proud guardian of a 16mm copy of ‘The Private Life of the Gannets’ – a 15 minute documentary recording the life of a nesting colony on the small uninhabited island of Grassholm, off the Pembrokeshire coast. Made in 1934 with film giant Alexander Korda as Executive Producer, the film was inspired by the tireless work and research of Cardiff-born naturalist Ronald Lockley, who had been living on nearby Skokholm and was also the film’s Assistant Producer. (Half a century later in 1983 Lynn Hughes made a fascinating film about Lockley’s life and work – ‘Island Man’ – for S4C.)

‘The Private life of the Gannets’, which is written, shot and narrated by distinguished biologist Julian Huxley, won the Academy Award for best short subject in 1937 and was distributed widely. Critics of the wildlife film genre are not universal in their praise (see link to the ‘Screenonline’ piece below) – but the film most definitely helped to pave the way for later, more rigorously-produced wildlife films. The images of the egg hatching, but for being black and white, could be straight out of ‘Springwatch’!

The ‘The Private Life of the Gannets’ is also in the BFI National Archive collection, and you can view it, and read more, by clicking on

Last week 2 programmes were broadcasted on BBC 1 Wales – ‘Elizabeth’s Wales’. These programmes are leading up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next month.  We are lead through the programmes by clips obtained from archive films, these were shot in colour by various amateurs.

We follow Sian Williams, who many of you may know as one of the previous presenters on the BBC 1 programme ‘Breakfast’, as she travels across Wales to find the people who appear in these original films.  We have the opportunity to hear their unique stories from the period during the coronation of the Queen, and her first visit to Wales.

Many of the clips that appear in the programmes came from the National Screen and Sound Archive, where the original films are kept.  The Archive has been working with Barn Media, the production company, during the past year as they worked through the stages of research and producing the programmes.

There is still an opportunity to view these programmes, at the moment, on the iPlayer.

Last Thursday we took the classic Welsh comedy, ‘Valley of Song’ (Gilbert Gunn, 1953), back to the area where it was filmed, Capel Isaac and Llanfynydd in Carmarthenshire. There was a lot of interest in the film locally, and it was standing room only at St John’s church, Maesteilo, for a special screening which was attended by some of the (by now, somewhat older) faces on screen, notably those of the children in the school playground, enticed into all sorts of misdemeanours by the even worse antics of the adults of the valley, comically possessed by the ‘cythraul canu’ – ‘the devil in the music’,  an ever-present danger in the world of  choral singing, apparently.

The crowd waiting for the film to begin