So, there is a film to be released in 100 years, and it is supposed to be a sort of sci-fi time capsule.

The film was placed in a safe that was specially made not to be opened for exactly 100 years. It would seem to me that any medium the film was saved on would deteriorate over that time. Would this be the case, or are there media that can last that long under the correct storage conditions? What medium did they actually use for the film and what considerations of preservation, if any, were put into this endeavor?

My theory would be that there must be other copies of the film.

migrated from scifi.stackexchange.com Sep 30 '16 at 17:17

This question came from our site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts.

  • 1
    @Radhil Um, re-read the question. It has nothing to do with the actual content of the film. It's about the limitations of current storage technology. If it were stored digitally, then it would certainly fit with serverfault and superuser, since both of those sites cover HDDs/SSDs and other storage hardware. Hardware/technical questions are specifically off-topic at Movies & TV. That's what the Video site is for. – Lèse majesté Sep 30 '16 at 16:32
  • 1
    I do hope they put a projector in there too, with speakers & a comprehensive note on exactly what 120/240v is & how to generate it at just the right frequency of AC. The cognac, btw, will not be any older than it was when it went in the bottle. Can I call "gimmick"? – disassociated Sep 30 '16 at 18:28
  • @Tetsujin yes, the bottle must have already been aged, hence its color. It will be interesting if all the components to make the film watched by a large audience will still be in place. – Skooba Sep 30 '16 at 18:30
  • 1
    What medium should be used for long term, high volume, data storage (archival)? Alas, there's no talk about using film (other than: "Silver-based negatives last hundreds of years if stored correctly."). IMO, if they used developed film, they made a big booboo. Other than etching diamonds, there is no "guaranteed" long term storage system. There most certainly should be other copies of the film, or they're taking an easily avoidable risk. – Mazura Oct 1 '16 at 1:11
  • 4
    It's a John Malkovich film, and you have questions? ◔_◔ – Mazura Oct 1 '16 at 1:13

It's on actual film, not digital, according to this article:

The finished movie (which was shot on film and will require an old-school projector to exhibit) has been put in a bulletproof safe with a 100-year countdown timer, along with a bottle of Louis XIII.

Film can survive that long in a canister under good conditions, see for example the films of Mitchell and Kenyon from the turn of the 20th century which were found in 1994 and restored (available on DVD).


Early film used various cellulose derived plastics for the basic medium, these (especially cellulose nitrate, which can be used as an explosive) are inherently unstable and can break down very quickly in poor conditions.

However modern film stock is based on polyester which is a lot more stable and even under normal storage conditions should last 100 years without too much trouble.

Furthermore, if the film is locked in a sealed safe it should be a lot better protected than just keeping it on a shelf in a can. For example it could be filled with inert gas and oxygen/moisture scavenging materials. Indeed if these inert dry conditions can be maintained you can preserve many things well for a century.

Also just the fact of being in a safe will protect against ultraviolet radiation which is one of the main things which causes plastics to degrade. Plus being untouched for this time it shouldn't be subject to mechanical damage form handling etc.

For something like this analogue transparent film stock has the advantage that it is essentially a series of real images and so even if film projectors are entirely obsolete by the time it is opened the images will still be there to see and even if all knowledge of films projectors was lost it would still be fairly easy to scan and digitise the content as there is no need to reverse engineer digital codecs.

Really 100 years isn't that long to preserve anything if you set out to do it under controlled conditions. There are still plenty of original photographs from the first world war around and many of them weren't specially archived for a most of their life.


There are many media that would last long enough.

A metal "father" of the blu-ray version kept away from oxydation (e.g. in oil) can last basically forever, and produce as many new copies as you need after your 100 years.


It'll most probably be a flash drive. As they're solid state, their life is dependent on read/write cycles.

Life of a Flash Disk

I don't see what else could last.

  • 6
    Part of the problem, though, is how to make the format readable a hundred years into the future. Within a hundred years, we might be able to list a set of steps. But one of the reasons that actual film is so valuable, is that all it takes to "decode" it is to shine a light on it. – Sean Duggan Sep 30 '16 at 15:23
  • Could be a flip-book I guess. I suppose they're thinking that 100 years is hardly going to be long enough for us to evolve into posthumans and know nothing about the past. USB has been standard for 15 years or so, it'll last a while longer. – Pete Sep 30 '16 at 15:27
  • 4
    Flash isn't a good archival format because it's not useful for long-term cold storage. If you don't occasionally power on the SSD, the data retention span is shorter than magnetic tape—or even HDDs if stored at a higher temperature than when it was written to (you'd start losing data in just 1-2 weeks). They could potentially overcome this problem by powering on the SSD every once in a while, but it's easier to just use tape. Intel has specified reliable retention rates of 52 weeks (1 year) for client (non-enterprise) SSDs at typical powered/unpowered temperatures. – Lèse majesté Sep 30 '16 at 16:48
  • @Pete: The odds of any device that can read data via even USB3 in 100 years being readibly available are extremely remote. Then you have to decode and display the video file. Meh. Also you've not really considered any impact age will have on the disk. – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 1 '16 at 13:19
  • 1
    Flash drives are subject to charge leakage -- you don't see it in ordinary use, but MLC/TLC drives lose their data over the course of a decade or two; SLC drives are good for a century at best. – Mark Oct 1 '16 at 17:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .