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Cine Film Preservation: How to Look After Old Reels

No one can doubt the importance of cine film and how it has entertained us, helped us archive history, and captured the most precious family moments. But it is also true that cine film is susceptible to damage. In the following paragraphs, you will learn about different types of recording film, and what you can do to preserve them.

Nitrate Cellulose Stock
Nitrate film base first became available at the end of the 19th century, when Eastman began to manufacture it for public sale. However, the material has some inherent problems. For instance, it is extremely flammable and deteriorates over decades. There were several reported incidents of fires in cinemas caused by auto-ignition. The problem is that cellulose nitrate contains oxygen, which makes fires difficult to extinguish.

Nitrate film also deteriorates over decades, first turning into flammable gas (less dangerous than the film itself), then into a sticky substance, and ultimately deteriorating completely. This is why many nitrate films have been transferred to acetate stock, also known as safety stock lately, and they are usually kept away from other cine film material.

Acetate Stock
Developed by Kodak in the early 1900’s, acetate became public 1910. Back then it was used for recording 22 mm film, but now acetate is usually associated with 8 mm and 16 mm formats. It was even used for most sub-35 mm formats to minimise risk to the general public. All motion picture camera negatives are now shot on acetate film because it is safer than nitrate. Moreover, acetate film does not burn under heat, but it can melt and damage the projection. Needless to say, acetate films do suffer degradation. Heat and moisture end up breaking up acetyl groups in acetate from their molecular bonds, and also releasing free acetic acid. Ultimately, the film begins to smell of vinegar, becomes brittle and shrinks, making it very hard to view or even transfer.

Video Tape 
Most people know about video tape. Not only were they the premium movie-watching medium a couple of decades of ago, but most people have personal video tape footage in their homes. As will all film formats, video tapes also become ineffective as they age.

Magnetic signals are lost, and quality and colour fades away due to the friction between the VCR head and tape. This also causes the tape to grow brittle and eventually break down completely. Not to mention, whenever videotapes are copied, the original quality decreases bit by bit.

Most people also don’t realize that even if you do not play the video and store it away, it will still deteriorate, mostly within 15 years.

Why Go for Digital Conversation?
Apart from all the problems of preserving different formats of cine films listed above, we also shouldn’t forget that these formats have essentially become obsolete in the face of digital formats like DVD and Blu-ray. These have the longevity factor that cine film doesn’t.

So in the ultimate analysis, if you want preserve your personal recordings, it is pertinent that you get them converted to a digital format.

Contact us to find out how we can help you to preserve your old cine film or other film formats. Alternatively feel free to browse our website.