The assessment of
the film's condition is key to predicting the remaining useful life of
the film. Already degraded or damaged films require even more stringent
climate conditions than new film to achieve the same life span. Determination
of shrinkage and damage is necessary for the prevention of further damage.
In cases of serious damage or deterioration, contact the nearest film
archive, or consult one of the professional organizations listed in the
Materials list for
film handling and repair:
When handling film,
wear cotton gloves and wash your hands often. Gloves may be problematic
if the film has many tape splices (they may leave fuzz on the tape) or
damaged edges (they may tear the film). Handle film only by the edges.
If you need to touch the image or soundtrack area, put on gloves. Your
skin produces oils that you don't want to get on the film. If you do touch
the film, you will leave fingerprints. Always remember that film is easy
to tear, and you should take care when working with it.
It is a good idea
to clean the edge of the film, even if it isn't moldy, before winding
through it and to remove all the dirt you can before it gets on the picture
In the case of vinegar
syndrome, the film can be hand cleaned as described previously and stored
with molecular sieves or silica gel. Molecular sieves are similar to packing
desiccants. The packets are stored along the outside circumference of
the film reel (inside sealed film cans) to absorb moisture, acetic acid
and other contaminants.
about molecular sieves can be found in the Kodak publication Molecular
Sieve Acid Scavenger from Kodak for Moisture Free Film Storage and Extended
Dye Images, which is available
If the film is stored
under normal room conditions, providing colder storage temperature should
be considered. Colder and dryer storage conditions would efficiently postpone
further decay such as vinegar syndrome and color dye fading.
If a mag track film
has been stored in a damp environment, when you wind through it, do so
VERY slowly. The mag stripe can peel off and stick to the opposite round
of the reel. If you wind through too quickly, you can split the film right
down the middle. If this happens, use splice tape lengthwise to repair
the damage. Don't tape over the sprocket holes except at the point where
they are torn. Tape both sides of the film. Store the film tails-out.
Check all old splices for strength by rotating the splice in opposite directions to see if both sides of the splice hold. Old cement splices can remade without losing any frames, but if you are not sure you can do this, tape splicing is acceptable.
remove old splice and tape residue, film cleaner can be applied using
a lint-free cotton cloth or cotton swabs. Torn frames may be repaired
with splicing tape. Lining the pieces up on a light table and taping them
down, punching out the sprocket holes on a splicer later, may be the best
way to avoid seeing the tear on screen, but it is difficult.
Sprocket hole ("perf")
damage may be repaired with small pieces of splicing tape, on just the
edge of the film (don't tape over the image if you don't need to), and
punched out with a splicer. You may also use perforated tape, which only
goes on the perforated edges of the film. Pre-punched perforation repair
tape is available for 16mm and 35mm film. Tapering the breaks with a new
cut in the edge of the film is also a good way to avoid further damage.
Visually inspect the
image for signs of color fading. This is irreversible and due to improper
storage conditions, inferior film stock, or poor processing. Color film
manufactured in the 1970s is notoriously prone to fading and may not be
a sign of storage problems or deterioration. It is wise to consider all
chromogenic color films, including the apparently most chemically stable,
as fast decaying materials. Poor storage conditions will ultimately lead
to color fading at an unacceptable rate. Providing proper storage should
be a priority to preserve film.
Organic film base
often shrinks with age and deterioration. It is not always easy to
by looking at it whether or not it is shrunken (although severely warped
and curled film is a tip-off). One indicator of shrinkage is that
perforations will not match properly with the registration pins of a
splicer. To get a more accurate measurement of a film’s shrinkage,
compare some new leader in the gauge of your film with the original
film. If the
holes do not line up perfectly, your film is shrunken. For 8mm film it
is easy to use a strip of 100 frames--if the original film is short
one entire frame, the film is shrunken by 1%. Film shrunken by more than
1% should not be projected, as the projector’s sprockets or
claw will damage it. Shrinkage gauges are available, but they are
If your film is too
deteriorated or shrunken to project, you will probably want to save it
for copying. If you don't have the money to get it printed soon, consider
freezing it (see section 8.2)
to slow down the decomposition process quite a bit, giving you time.
Hand-painted or artfully scratched films should be treated with extreme delicacy and labeled clearly to ensure that no film cleaner will ever be used on them. This is very important if the film is to be sent to a lab for copying. If the lab doesn’t know what they’re dealing with, they could inadvertently destroy the film.
(only after a full inspection)