The British Film Institute

The British Film Institute preserves UK film history with Spectra data solution for digital archiving and long-term storage

Spectra T950 Tape Library and Spectra BlackPearl


Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by a Royal Charter. It combines cultural, creative and industrial roles, bringing together the BFI Na­tional Archive and BFI Reuben Library; film distribution, exhibition and education at BFI Southbank and BFI IMAX; publishing and festivals. This UK-wide organisation works with partners to develop and support original UK filmmakers and films, advancing the position of film in the UK.

Our Spectra Logic solution has helped us create a content strategy to preserve the BFI National Archive digital collection longterm. BlackPearl integrates seamlessly into our workflow applications and allows us to easily store and quickly access our files on tape libraries. The non-proprietary format of the system and its genetic diversity gives us confidence in our system’s future roadmap.

— Stephen McConnachie, Head of Data and Digital Preservation, BFI

The Challenge

The BFI National Archive holds one of the largest film and television collections in the world. Dating from the earliest days of film to the live capture of current television content, the collection contains over a million titles. In 2012, the BFI launched its Unlocking Film Heritage project as part of BFI’s Film Forever strategy. A core objective was to digitise 10,000 films from the BFI and UK regional and national film archives, by the end of 2017, and to provide safe and secure long-term storage and access of heritage film in a new Digital Preservation Infrastructure.

The new digital repository needed to integrate with existing workflow applications, be flexible with future applications, and accommodate predicted data growth. The BFI team was also concerned about being locked into a single vendor’s technology drive and media roadmap. They relied on the trusted expertise of OvationData, worldwide provider of sophisticated and scalable data management solutions, to determine the best strategy. OvationData selected a digital tape solution as the best choice for BFI’s unique storage requirements.

The Solution

Several tape-based market options were in consideration for this new digital preservation infrastructure. The preferred solution was a Spectra Logic architecture with two expanded Spectra® T950 Tape Libraries and two Spectra® BlackPearl® Hybrid Storage Platforms. Spectra Logic technology is non-proprietary and integrated easily with the BFI’s Imagen media asset management. BFI configured its four-frame T950 with LTO-6 drives and media, and its dual-frame T950 with IBM® TS1150 tape technology, creating both genetic diversity and eliminating future roadmap worries associated with implementing a single technology. The digital archive solution operates flawlessly, enables quick, easy public access, and has proven to be the best-inclass, long-term digital preservation for the nation’s cultural assets.

Environment Snapshot

  • Two Spectra BlackPearl Hybrid Storage Platforms
  • Four-frame T950 with LTO-6 drives and media
  • Dual-frame T950 with IBM® TS1150 drives and media
  • Isilon disk arrays
  • Imagen MAM

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