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Fire incapacitates the digital restoration centre for Slovak audiovisual heritage


- No such audiovisual material has perished; however, two-thirds of the technological equipment in the Slovak Film Institute’s Digital Audiovisual Department needs to be replaced

Fire incapacitates the digital restoration centre for Slovak audiovisual heritage
The Lumiere cinema in Bratislava, the basement of which houses the digital restoration centre

After a fire broke out on the premises of the Slovak Film Institute’s Digital Audiovisual Department in September, the main workplace for the digitisation and digital restoration of Slovak audiovisual heritage has been seriously damaged. “The affected technologies are currently being assessed by experts, but owing to the aggressive nature of the fire, it is very unlikely that they will be technically fit for purpose,” explained the director of the Slovak Film Institute (SFI), Peter Dubecký.

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“These are special technologies, and there are not many companies in Slovakia that are able to provide them. The Digital Audiovisual Department was a highly professional workplace for digitisation and digital restoration, and the state the technology is in after the fire suggests that it will be impossible to return to this activity. The digitisation process will not be easy to rebuild and will require huge investments,” added the SFI director. The services of the Slovak Digital Audiovisual Department have been used by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and the archive in Bologna.

As a result of the fire, soot has infiltrated all of the equipment in the workplace, including the image scanners and sound scanners, as well as the workstations. In Dubecký’s opinion, they will most likely need to be replaced. Additionally, 35 mm materials from dozens of films stored on the premises were also damaged during the blaze. According to the SFI director, he has no information to say that the missing components of the film materials cannot be replaced. Fortunately, there was no irrecoverable damage to Slovak audiovisual heritage. The follow-up works in the wake of the fire will be carried out in the Czech film laboratories in Zlín.

Also damaged was the Lumiere cinema, which is located within the same building. As a result of the damage, the SFI had to close the cinema. “The contaminated premises cannot be cleaned in a regular way, using water, as this would cause irreversible damage to the property. It is necessary to remediate the damage by employing professional chemical processes, which will be carried out by a professional company specialised in the remediation of damage after large fires,” said Dubecký.

In addition to theatrical screenings, Lumiere hosts domestic film events, including an educational cycle on cinema and the Febiofest Bratislava International Film Festival (see the news). The SFI is currently seeking an alternative space in the city of Bratislava to continue screenings.

Refurbishment works in the cinema had been planned prior to the fire. However, since remediation work must be completed before the theatre can be modernised, the SFI director estimates that the cinema will most likely open in time for the 60th anniversary of the institute on 1 April 2023.

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