The history of amateurfilm

Heidi Fial

Filmarchiv Austria / Analog Restauration, Digitization, Amateurfilm Collections

Bio: Manual filmrestauration and digitization in the Filmarchiv Austria, silentfilmmusic composer, founder of the Archiv der Unterhaltung und des Wissens, cultural mediator and in first case longterm learning, curious person.

Heidi Fial is part of the technical department of the Filmarchiv Austria in the field of manual film restoration and digitization, with a special focus on small film gauges + amateurfilm, as well as early Nitrate film + austrian newsreels. Also self-employed active as a composer and instrumentalist with special focus on silentfilm music, and as a filmmaker and cultural mediator. Founder of the “Archiv der Unterhaltung und des Wissens”, a private archive and long-term research project about forgotten inventions, cultural micro-movements and short-time fads, bringing together various analog sources, including almanachs, magazines, amateurfilm, amateur sound recordings, voiceletters, newsreels and oral history.

Topic: The history of amateurfilm

The field of amateurfilm contains an immens ammount of aspects which are not only interesting, beautiful to explore and relevant for research and scinetific work, but also part of the responsibility we have as archivists.

To understand the relevance of our work of rescueing analog media and preserving cultural heritage, the knowledge about the history of amateurfilm is essencial. The story of narrow film gauges and home cinema starts already in the late 19th century and – in a way – is still ongoing. I will talk about different formats in historical and social contexts, including less known ones like 28mm, 22mm,17.5mm, 9.5mm, 4.75mm, polavision and some early colour processes in amateurfilm.

I will show examples of scans and also invite to a discussion about the questions beyond the technical aspects: Who are we as restaurators, operators, scientists? Which philosophic questions and divers emotions are upcoming while working with private lives of unknown people? What is the artistic value of amateurfilm? Why is it important to rescue analog material and keyword the content? Big questions, i know…