Monday
Jan042010

Introduction:

This week, in a good and auspicious time, I received my US visa and I was able to formally accept the position of managing the archival restoration of the life and times of the Rebbe of Lubavitch.

Five months ago Rabbi Elkanah Shmotkin provided me with the opportunity to come to New York to be a part of this immense project. Today after five months of research and study into the technical and spiritual world of the project, I am beginning my new life in New York managing this project.

In reference to this project:

When Elkanah first approached me regarding this project I recall wondering about his great enthusiasm for what initially seemed rather too technical to warrant such significance and power. I now realize that the more I learn about the project the greater my understanding as to where all this enthusiasm comes from. Today, I not only believe in this but am extremely privileged to be a part of this.

So what are we actually doing?

The project, JEM, under the directorship of Elkanah Shmotkin,  holds a vast collection of video's, audio and photo's of the Rebbe of Lubavitch. This collection documents every moment from when the 1940's when the previous Rebbe arrived in Brooklyn, New York. In addition, JEM holds materials that documents the activities of the Chabad worldwide movement, and they continue to produce material to this day. Essentially, it comprises a historical collection of the Rebbe and the organization. I think this explains a little about his feelings of enthusiasm and high regard for this project.

So far it all seems relatively simple…….the point is that almost the entire collection is comprised of old analog formats (3/4" Umatic, 1", 2" etc..) which are slowly disappearing from the world scene. I know this sounds over dramatic, however, to my dismay, this is in fact the truth, and with the further passage of time the chance of preserving the material, or to the technical minded amongst you, these formats, recedes.

Our mission is to digitize the whole collection. Sounds simple? I thought so too!

During the course of the past few months I have learnt and studied the field, and the more I learned the more I began to understand the complexity of the project, how much responsibility lies in our hands, and how any wrong move of ours today may compromise the transfer of important historical information to future generations…. Does this still sound over dramatic? I will present you with one small example: Let us say we take one of the films and transfer the content to a digital file, today there is a vast selection of formats of different quality with many different settings which give each format its own uniqueness. So if for example we choose a format and transfer the film to it, but it is then realized that in doing so we reduced the quality of the source film. The source film no longer exists and we would have a major problem…… Now if this complexity still remains unconvincing, let us multiply this with a collection containing more than 10,000 hours of video containing many different formats, each of different quality taken with different cameras of many different events. Surely you can understand that this changes the whole project to one of a very intricate nature.

So how do we go about doing all this? How do we go about making these crucial decisions?

We learn, we test and then we choose.