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How to Look After Your Cine Film Reels

Whether you’re a vintage film reel enthusiast working or an owner of an old home video, it is important to know how you can preserve your old film reels and make sure to extend their life as much as possible.

Today’s digital medium of recording and storage has made us careless with the hardware that we own. Since it allows us so much flexibility and durability we forgo along the way just how delicate the hardware devices used to be and how susceptible the film reels were to light and dust. The three most popular film reels included the 8mm, 16mm and the 35mm. Three types of film bases that were used in vintage film reels were acetate, nitrate and polyester. Not all bases however were compatible with the available reels. Acetate and polyester were flexible and could be used for all three whereas nitrate was only usable for the 35mm.

Nitrate film was highly combustible so it would be important to make sure that you do not own an inflammatory vintage film reel. In case you do consider a film transfer from cine to DVD for your own safety. The film transfer, although highly stressed becomes less important when it comes to acetate based film.

Each film reel should be kept in a moisture proof container where it can be free from corrosion. Although very commonly found there, the attic is definitely not the place where you would want to store your vintage film reel. The accumulated heat would increase the rate of decomposition. Since decomposition, no matter what the rate is inevitable, it is advisable to digitize the data and keep it as backup. The most common method is to convert from cine to DVD.

Films are highly sensitive to chemicals since they contain so many of their own. Keep them away from spaces where chemicals or oils may be stored such as the garage. Exhaust fumes from the car may also increase the rate of decomposition.

Another effect that the film may be susceptible to is the ‘vinegar syndrome’. The vinegar syndrome refers to the reaction of the film to the acid that is emitted by the cellulose triacetate within the film as a result of aging. This causes the vintage film reel to shrink and shrivel corrupting the data contained therein. This corruption is caused by the separation of the emulsion and the base.

This phenomenon got its name from the smell it emits which is similar to that of vinegar. For film that is in the beginning stages of the ‘vinegar syndrome’, immediately move it to a cooler location.

Make sure you don’t expose it to sunlight too often and handle it delicately. Keep it away from the reach of children who would definitely consider it as a plaything, much as we did when we were young. The vintage film reel was a delicate medium to begin with and can only grow weaker by age due to corrosion and decomposition which is why it’s very important to create backups of the data by converting your cine film to DVD.