ISC Conference 2012, Day 1—Indexing National Film Board of Canada images

NFB librarian Katherine Kasirer showed ISC conference attendees what’s involved in indexing the National Film Board’s collection, particularly its Stock Shot library.

We all know the National Film Board as a Canadian institution. It was established in 1939 and has about 13,000 titles in its catalogue, including feature-length documentaries and short animated films. Only 2,500 are available through the website, and these are the result of the NFB’s ongoing project to digitize all films and make them available for streaming.

The NFB also has what it calls the Stock Shot library (or the “Images” database), which is a collection of discarded footage (outtakes) that can be used in other productions. The database also includes

  • the Canadian Army Film and Photo Units (CAPFU) collection, deposited in 1946
  • the Associated Screen News collection
  • captured materials from World War II (German war propaganda)
  • the Canadian Government Motion Picture collection

Users might be, say, music video or commercial producers, researchers, or documentary and feature filmmakers. The database has very fine subject indexing to allow users to find exactly what they need. Since filmmakers often have to convey a particular mood or show a specific object or event, the indexing must include a number of elements of information to help users retrieve the desired footage, including

  • subject
  • location
  • shooting conditions (e.g., foggy, sunny)
  • time of day, season
  • camera angles (e.g., close-up, aerial shot)
  • year of production
  • special effects (e.g., underwater, time-lapse)
  • camera operator
  • film (title of film that produced the outtakes)
  • technical details

The search is, of course, bilingual, and will bring up images and clips, not just a written description. Kasirer’s presentation really drove home how specific and often how nuanced image and footage indexing can be.

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