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‘Lost’ historical footage now available in HD

Media production professionals looking for unique and historically relevant moving images that provide different perspectives on past events from the 1960s and 1970s have a new source.

A significant collection of newsreel footage, stored in General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s former World War II headquarters, has been given new life by The Associated Press (AP) as part of a major restoration project. The AP’s stock footage business, AP Archive, is now making the footage available to stations and video producers in HD.

Twenty-thousand film cans containing 3500 hours of international news footage have been lying dormant for decades deep underground in the Central London bunker from which Eisenhower directed the D-Day landings. Although the films themselves have been well preserved, the numerous pieces of text that accompanied them were scattered across various locations in the UK and United States. The text catalogue is essential as it identifies what footage is held in each film can, and without it the archive has been virtually inaccessible since the day the films were first produced.

As part of the restoration process, the 16mm films were shipped to Laboratoires Éclair (located on the outskirts of Paris), where they were cleaned, restored and transferred to high-definition HDCam SR videotape. The tapes were then shipped back to AP Archive’s specialist cataloguers in London, who viewed the footage and created online text descriptions and rights information. The footage has been digitized in both browse and broadcast resolutions and stored on AP Archive’s video servers. Both the text catalogue and the digitized files were then published on the AP Archive Web site to allow users to instantly search for and view the newly restored footage online.

AP Archive has completed the first phase of the project, which represents half of the collection. More than 17,000 stories from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s have been restored and digitized, with 700 stories being added each week.

The collection includes color footage of key political figures: such as a young Yasser Arafat; Libya’s Colonel Gadhafi immediately after taking power; Richard Nixon with Nicolae Ceausescu; Fidel Castro meeting Latin American and Eastern European leaders; and a young Saddam Hussein in Paris. A variety of celebrities are also among the footage restored.

This lost archive is the legacy of United Press International Television News (UPITN), which was a major television news agency from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. UPITN went through several changes of ownership before being renamed WTN (World Television News). Its holdings were purchased by the AP in 1998.