Superman: The Movie can add another accomplishment to its already truly impressive legacy. Microsoft and Warner Bros. have partnered to preserve the iconic superhero movie on a piece of glass roughly the size of a coaster. Yes, a piece of glass. The idea, hopefully, is that this type of storage technology could help to preserve classic movies for decades to come, which has been a concern for major studios such as Warner Bros., as mediums such as film degrade over time.

According to Microsoft, the company recently stored the entirety of 1978's Superman: The Movie and subsequently retrieved the data on a piece of glass that is 75 by 75 millimeters and 2 millimeters thick. This was used as the first proof of concept test for what the company calls for Project Silica. Utilizing recent discoveries in ultrafast laser optics and artificial intelligence, they store data in quartz glass and a laser encodes the data in the glass by "creating layers of three-dimensional nanoscale gratings and deformations at various depths and angles."

Machine learning algorithms can then read the data by decoding images and patterns that are created as polarized light that shines through the glass. Microsoft Azure is behind the project and its goal is to invest in technology for the age of cloud computing. Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure's chief technology officer, had this to say.

"Storing the whole Superman movie in glass and being able to read it out successfully is a major milestone. I'm not saying all of the questions have been fully answered, but it looks like we're now in a phase where we're working on refinement and experimentation, rather asking the question 'can we do it?'"

The advantage here is that the glass used for this method of storage can withstand being boiled in hot water, baked in an oven, microwaved, getting caught in a flood or being demagnetized, amongst other threats. Through all of that, the information would still be readable. Film, or even digital storage mediums ultimately housed on a physical computer somewhere, couldn't handle even a small percentage of that punishment. Warner Bros. Chief Technology Officer Vicky Colf had this to say.

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"That had always been our beacon of hope for what we believed would be possible one day, so when we learned that Microsoft had developed this glass-based technology, we wanted to prove it out."

Should this technology prove financially viable down the road, it could help studios like Warner Bros. and others preserve classic movies for generations to come in pristine condition. Modern movies, which are shot digitally and essentially have unlimited copies available, aren't in as much danger of being forgotten to time. But now people 100 years from now can experience Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel in Richard Donner's seminal superhero classic. This news comes to us directly from the official Microsoft page.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott