Recently a customer brought in a batch of films and unfortunately a number of them had suffered water damage and some had mould on them which, as you can imagine, has ruined the images. Whilst we were able to get some scanned images from them, the mould had left scars along the edges of some films making the film fade in and out and the water damage had meant most of the emulsion had disappeared from quite a lot of the film we were able to scan.
No matter how careful you are in taking care of your old cine films, eventually, they will deteriorate. Cine film was not built to last, and the longer you leave your home movies sat in a cupboard or the attic or heaven forbid in a garage or shed, the less likely it will be that it can be saved.
Cine Film Manufacture
Cine film refers to the 8 mm, Super 8 and 16 mm film formats used mostly for home movies. The film is made up of various chemical dyes such as polymer, nitrate conversely acetate, and these are then finally coated in gelatine.
Why Do Cine Films Degrade?
Cine films can degrade over time until eventually becoming unwatchable. Light and sunlight breaks down the chemicals cine film are coated in which causes fading, making the film footage transparent and potentially losing the images for good. Central Heating, Condensation and Damp conditions all take their toll.
Some of the ways that cine film displays damage include:
It is a condition that is the result of a chemical reaction that happens with cellulose triacetate film. Films were printed on an acetate base layer; eventually, this base layer degrades when the acetate reacts with moisture. As the acetate decomposes a byproduct is that it gives off free acetic acid. This gives off the smell of vinegar, consequently the name Vinegar Syndrome. Once the reaction commences it quickly spreads throughout the film. It can result in the film becoming crumbly and warped as the base shrinks faster than the remainder of the film. This shrinkage is sufficient to prevent you from saving your footage.
Cine film is highly defenceless when it comes to water damage as it can cause mould; cine reels should be removed from a moist environment as soon as possible to minimise the damage.
Cine film can be severely damaged by mould, fungi and mildew. Films stored away in cupboards, attics and garages are places that cause serious and non-repairable damage to the emulsion of cine film. It causes streaks, blisters, spots and running on your memories. Mould typically wastes the image as it gnaws away on the covering of the film.
Over time the typical ageing process causes cine film to become brittle and for the pictures to fade away and colours to change. Colours can appear further towards the blue or red hue and as the film becomes more fragile so it can tear and start to deteriorate.
Tips for preserving your films:
- No longer project your films with a projector
- Keep them dry – 20% to 30% RH
- Do not use airtight containers vented reel cases can be used to allow air to pass in and out
- Try not to expose the film to UV sunlight
- Ensure that your films transferred to DVD or MP4.