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From folk hero to video game character: “The Legend of Tianding”

In 2017, Chi Po-lin, the director of Beyond Beauty – TAIWAN FROM ABOVE, left the world, with many unfinished works. He left many invaluable image assets, including aerial images of Taiwan accumulated over 25 years, from the 1990s to 2017. The materials not only retain the beauty of Taiwan, but are also considered irreplaceable in terms of academic research. , advocacy for environmental protection. and environmental education. Thus, in order to appreciate the efforts of the director and to allow future generations to make the most of these priceless images which bear witness to the changes in nature, humanity and the landscape, the Chi Po-lin Foundation has designed a “digital archive” program that is better suited for the purpose after learning the ropes for two years. They digitize, categorize and archive Director Chi’s works, in addition to establishing an online photograph database to convey the mission of keeping Taiwan’s record.

According to statistics from the Chi Po-lin Foundation, director Chi Po-lin contributed aerial shots to 100,000 traditional films, 500,000 digital photos and about 1,000 hours of in-flight aerial footage for more than 2,500 hours. . Inevitably, the Foundation would consume a lot of money, time and manpower to classify and organize such a large amount of image data. However, only if people come together can the relay marathon for digital archive specialists and professional volunteers become a beautiful and inspiring journey.

What is a digital archive?

A digital archive is a digital storage location for the permanent preservation of valuable physical or non-physical information through digitization, such as photography, scanning, audio-visual shooting or text entry, combined with metadata containing attribute data.

There are three workflows for the Chi Po-lin Foundation to run the digital archiving program, as follows.

  • Traditional films: select films -> digitize them as digital files -> add attribute data -> archive
  • Digital photos: select photos -> add attribute data -> archive
  • Aerial footage: select videos -> add attribute data -> archive

In addition to digitizing and archiving director Chi’s images and footage, the digital archiving program also includes the establishment of an enhanced “iTaiwan8 Taiwan Aerial Photography Database.” It is a comprehensive online photography database where Director Chi’s works can be used more flexibly and shown to more people.

How does the Foundation organize the aerial images accumulated from 2500 flight hours?

  • Organizing Films/Digital Scanning

Chan Yu-wen, a specialist in digital archives, is responsible for organizing traditional films. There are around 100,000 raw movies. Some are slightly blurry due to helicopter vibrations, while others appear to be landscapes and compositions based on continuous, repeating flight paths. One of Chan Yu-wen’s tasks is to inspect and select them with a magnifying glass, mark the location, and correct the image information.

“The most common problem for film organization is manual errors. The data left behind was probably organized or written by Director Chi or other volunteers. They might attach the wrong tags or mark them incorrectly. Chan Yu- wen said from her experience that a photo of Taipei Main Station has been tagged for several years, she tried to search for clues and cross-check the temperature or stock price shown on the Pictured billboard information sticker for the correct year Although it sounds interesting, like a detective conducting an investigation, the process requires a high level of concentration and observation most of the time.

After selecting the films, she proceeds to scanning and digitizing. It’s not an easy step, however. As the oldest films left by director Chi Po-lin were produced at least 11 years ago, besides general quality control and file management, she also needs to color correct old washed out films, remove smudges in photos and save as high resolution digital images before moving on to the next one.


Photo Credit: TNL Brand Studio

When arranging traditional films, specialists must inspect and select them with a magnifying glass, mark the location and correct the image information.

“Add attribute data” is to add all kinds of descriptive information to images and sequences. Chen Syuan-ying, Deputy Director of Digital Archives, takes the images taken by Director Chi as an example. The scope of attribute data covers the theme and location of shooting and keywords to interpret the landscape. The most time-consuming part would be positioning and creating keywords.

“Positioning” means identifying the location and coordinates of the subject in the images. Sometimes this can be inferred from flight paths, while positioning must be done primarily based on specialist geographic knowledge and clues from photos in the absence of flight paths. If the images were taken a long time ago or the landscapes change drastically, specialists should refer to more historical maps or inferential evidence.

“We have to interpret the photographs one by one and add attribute data. The built-in positioning function is not available in traditional cameras, so it is normal that we only see a long mountain ridge line. This is when we need to map the photographs against historical data and satellite images, seeking to locate them as precisely as possible,” said Chen Syuan-ying.

“Keyword creation” sounds relatively easy, but actually deciding which keywords to use alone takes a lot of effort. The first step is to recognize the details of a photo or sequence, for example, the type of crop on a farm. This is when we need to collect other information to aid in judgment. Also, the scale of aerial photography is different. Rules must be discussed and defined accordingly to create keywords for the proportion that certain landscapes represent. Finally, specialists should also create keywords based on the search habits of users from their perspective.

Therefore, in the process of adding attribute data, the Chi Po-lin Foundation consulted with several experts to brainstorm and develop logic to create keywords for Taiwan aerial photography. Categorization, correction and revision would be done according to logic to ensure proper organization and use of images and footage.


Photo Credit: TNL Brand Studio

Specialists must compare images to many maps and add attribute data based on predefined rules to ensure consistency.

Compared to the organization of photographs, the process of archiving animated media is more diverse and complicated. First, the specialists must check the inventory of almost a thousand hours of aerial images, then proceed to convert the files to special formats and save them. The next step is to establish a logical programming and file management system for adding attribute data later.

“We encountered the following two challenges when organizing the sequences. On the one hand, the distance can be large in the sequences with the helicopter taking off in Taichung and landing in Pingtung for example, so we need to identify the landscape and the location of each sequence frame. On the other hand, a helicopter climbs a large vertical distance with a high level of vibration. It is possible to have distortion effects caused by rolling shutters1said Zheng Yu-cheng, an audiovisual production specialist. Since the file format, quality and length of footage produced at different times are distinct, the difficulty of archiving has improved significantly.


Photo Credit: TNL Brand Studio/

Archiving AV data involves reading a large number of files, revising each frame, adding attribute data in segments, color correction, and more.

Join the digital archiving marathon and pass on the beauty of Taiwan

The scope of the digital archiving program ranges from defining step-by-step operating procedures, unifying a color language and purchasing image processing equipment, to training volunteers and interns. , to securing human resource support to avoid manual errors from collaboratively managing huge amounts of data. Wang Li-wen, deputy director of Diverse Content Creativity, said a “digital archive” is easier said than done. The process is very detailed and complex, which involves everyone’s constant focus, patience, attention to detail and passion.

iTaiwan8 Taiwan Aerial Photography Database is one of the goals of the digital archive program conducted by the Chi Po-lin Foundation. Launching an improved version is only the first step. After completing the archiving of a massive amount of image data, the Foundation is aiming higher to continue recording Taiwan, so that the images and videos won’t stop in 2017.

“Speaking out for the environment through images” is what Director Chi had been committed to throughout his life, as well as what the Foundation will pursue. Director Chi’s life lives on with the digital archive program, and he also serves as the driving force behind the Foundation. It is not easy to build a photography database to preserve images showing the landscape changes of the whole of Taiwan. The Chi Po-lin Foundation is urgently appealing for support from all walks of life to jointly establish the most amazing photographic database for Taiwan. Let’s protect the images inherited from Chi Po-lin, passing on the precious images of our land through the generations and bringing more values ​​into play.

Donate to support the Chi Po-lin Foundation and defend the environment through images.

Note 1: The rolling shutter, which occurs with an integrated CMOS digital camera, is an image capture method in which fast-moving objects are captured by an electronic shutter. This produces predictable slopes or even distortions of vertical objects. (Source: Wikipedia)

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