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CEN Standards for Metadata about Cinematographic Works

Report on the Prague workshop, May 25-27 2011 by Erwin Verbruggen

While Prague was hosting the annual ELAG conference, where librarians gather to talk about linking and upgrading existing data models (“MARC must die!” was among the most popular tweets during the event), the Bohemian city was host to a parallel metadata gathering of film archivists. In the cosy screening room Ponrepo of the Czech National Film Archive, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN)’s standard models for film EN 15907 and its sibling EN 15744 were presented to an international gathering.

The audience consisted of a mix of institutions that care for audio-visual heritage ranging from television, media art and video to film historical collections. Some of them had already been experimenting with the standard in their daily operations (such as EYE Film Institute Netherlands and the British Film Institute). Others were undecided yet as to what model to use or had previously made that decision for themselves.

The model itself can be seen as a variant on the FRBR model, though with a few important differences. It is built up by a top level (the Cinematographic Work), a Variant level for the different versions, a Manifestation level, which separates the different media types and an Item level to describe the particular technicalities. All these different levels have in their turn Agents who influence, instigate or collaborate on them and Events that make them happen.

The group dynamic of the workshop resulted in lively discussions which caused the model’s developer, Detlev Balzer, to invite each and all to point out their needs and clarifications by collaborating on the project’s film standards wiki. The content of the workshop and a great deal of background information can be found on this wiki space.

A separate topic for debate was brought in by Murnau Stiftung’s restorer Anke Wilkeninck’s talk about the film elements of Fritz Lang’s Spione. She rebutted the assumption that when talking about the variants of a film, we need to look for a single Original. As silent pictures could come out in different colour or local versions with drastic differences in both montage and narrative, restorers can find themselves looking at several equivalent versions of a film that has no singular origin. The EN 15907 model is interoperable and thus capable of clarifying the multiplicity of such versions and, linking the different nodes that add up a film production to information bases within or amongst institutions and on the web.

In order to obtain the full reach of this standard’s goals, it wi’ll be key for some pioneering institutions to share their interpretations of the model. One example of how it can be used in a real life database is to be found at the Flemish toolbox for cultural heritage institutions, CEST, which wrote a guideline for its implementation (in Dutch) in the AdLib software. A second example will be highlighted in Paris, during the fourth workshop in this series (June 22-24,) where the BFI will perform a special session about their vision on and upcoming implementation of the standard. The next step is now for standardization bodies (such as the FIAF Cataloguing and Documentation Commission) to define some ground rules for cataloguing and for all interested parties to further evaluate and collaborate on the model.

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