Warner Bros. and Microsoft have joined forces to archive a copy of “Superman: The Movie” on a small glass disc as a first test case for a new storage technology.
According to Variety, the coaster sized glass disc, which will be unveiled at Microsoft’s Ignite 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida, could eventually safeguard Hollywood’s films and television shows (as well as many other forms of data) for centuries to come.
Why was “Superman: The Movie” chosen as the first test case for this new technology? Brad Collar, who is leading these efforts at Warner Bros. as the studio’s senior vice president of global archives and media engineering, explains that he was intrigued upon hearing about Microsoft’s technology as it sounded much like old audio recordings in Warner’s archives which were being stored on glass discs slightly larger than regular vinyl records.
His team had to first find special players to access the recordings, but was then able to digitize them, unlocking a “Superman” radio play from the 1940s. So when the Warner started talking to Microsoft about collaborating on Project Silica, it was immediately clear that “Superman” was the right film to store on glass. Said Collar: “It’s a beautiful full circle.”
Microsoft’s approach is based on very different technology than what was used by 1940s-era archivists. Project Silica relies on lasers similar to those used for Lasik eye surgeries to burn small geometrical shapes, also known as voxels, into the glass. “We can encode multiple bits in each voxel,” explained Rowstron. And unlike traditional optical media like CDs or DVDs, Project Silica actually encodes data in multiple layers. Microsoft used 74 such layers to capture “Superman” in glass, but has since advanced the technology to add many more layers.