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5 Cine Film Problems to Look Out For

Cine film has given the world the ability to capture treasured moments, special occasions, tragedies, and world changing events. Both amateurs and professionals in the movie industry have caught countless moments on 35mm, 16 mm, 9.5mm, 8 mm, and Super 8 mm film. Although these are all wonderful formats, cine film can succumb to several different conditions which can result in deterioration of the film.

With the proper precautions, cine film can be protected from these conditions, and if signs of deterioration are already showing, there are steps that can be taken to avoid further damage occurring. Here are some of the damaging conditions to watch out for in cine film:

Vinegar Syndrome

This condition is the result of a chemical reaction that takes place with cellulose triacetate film. Eventually, the cellulose triacetate begins to break down, or decompose creating acetate ions which react with moisture. This reaction forms acetic acid which can give off an odour of vinegar. If this is happening, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the film is ruined, but the reaction has started and you need to take action. The chemical reaction will continue and will eventually cause irreparable damage to the film. To slow down or control the deterioration, the cine film should be stored in a cool place until you can get it to a professional film restoration studio. They will advise you on the condition of your films and how best to move forward.

Reel cans that are fused shut

There are a few reasons why a cine film can start to rust and potentially lead to the can or container holding the film fusing shut. The most common reason for rust is moisture. A causes which is not so obvious to spot is when a chemical reaction, such as nitrate decay or vinegar syndrome occurs. This can cause the metal to rust and the eventual fusing together of the actual film can. It is highly recommended that if you spot these signs that you contact a professional who can establish the condition of your film and its suitability for transfer.

Water damage

Cine film is very vulnerable to water damage which can eventually lead to mould. The sooner you can remove the film from this environment the more chance there will be of reducing the damage that will have been caused.
The first step is to move the film to a cool dry area. In some instances the film can is enough to protect the film in side however; this is not always the case.

The moisture can also smear any printed or handwritten information about the contents of the film, so be sure to identify and log the film if you can for future reference. In cases like this it is advisable to contact a professional they can then discuss the options available to you and how best to move forward. If handling the films yourself do take safety measures to ensure you are not breathing in any mold spores or contaminated material on the film. Do not unwind the film or try to dry the film as you can cause more serious damage to it.

Mould

Cine film can be damaged by mould, mildew and fungi when film is not stored properly, such as in climates that are very warm and humid or in damp places like a cellar or garage. Mould can cause damage to the emulsion of the cine film; creating spots and streaks on the actual images. To avoid the growth of mould, cine film should be stored in a cool dry environment away from extremes of heat or cold.

Taking this all into account and the fact that your film is irreplaceable it is wise to take steps to preserve these precious memories so that they can be successfully transferred and seen for generations to come.

An undeveloped reel

If you do discover an undeveloped cine film it could be at risk of discolouring, overexposure, or deterioration. Old cine film that has been stored in a cool place is probably in better condition than that which was not. Undeveloped film can, in most cases, still be developed; however, the condition of the final picture cannot be predicted or guaranteed. The older the film, the higher the chance of fading may occur. Whilst a few companies still offer a processing service it is expensive and results cannot be guaranteed. Once the film is developed, you can then get it transferred to DVD or a digital format to preserve the memories forever.

If your precious film or home movie collection is stored in video format rather than on film reels, you might find this article useful How to store your home videos safely.