How to store old films

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Erikht
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How to store old films

#1 Post by Erikht » Mon Jan 23, 2012 3:38 pm

As this might be something I have to look into shortly, whatr is the best conditions for storing old film? I am thinking in terms og temperature and humidity, as well as other factors I have not thought of myself. I guess different types of film will need different types of storage, so what would be the ideal conditions for the different types of film, and what would be decent conditions if I have to store them all in the same place?

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Matt
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Re: How to store old film?

#2 Post by Matt » Mon Jan 23, 2012 5:29 pm

Cool, dark, and dry (but not too dry) is the best overall environment for all types of film. But this guide (which you can download as a PDF) will give you authoritative details.

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hearthesilence
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Re: How to store old film?

#3 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:38 pm

Also, archival film cans. STiL (based in Canada) makes the best, imho, the designs are great, but shipping may be pricey and they may not sell individual cans, just crates of them.

There's a reputable place somewhere in Illinois (I think Mount Prospect) that does sell their own brand of individual archival cans, but I forgot the name. They've been around for decades though so it shouldn't be hard to figure out who.

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MichaelB
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Re: How to store old film?

#4 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:08 am

Are any of the films on nitrate stock? If so, I'd strongly advise against storing them yourself: you'll need professional help.

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Erikht
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Re: How to store old film?

#5 Post by Erikht » Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:34 am

MichaelB wrote:Are any of the films on nitrate stock? If so, I'd strongly advise against storing them yourself: you'll need professional help.
All of them are made after WW2.

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MichaelB
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Re: How to store old film?

#6 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:55 am

Erikht wrote:All of them are made after WW2.
Immediately after, or several years after? If they all date from the early 1950s and later, you should be OK.

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Erikht
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Re: How to store old film?

#7 Post by Erikht » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:25 am

Started in 1946.

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htshell
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Re: How to store old film?

#8 Post by htshell » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:36 am

It should say S A F E T Y in the codes on the sprocket holes. The NFPF guide is great, let me add two other resources:

Washington State Film Preservation Manual (Low Cost and No Cost Solutions), and AvSAP (Audiovisual Self-Assessment Program from the University of Illinois, creates a workflow for storage/preservation)

Can you tell us a little bit about the collection and how you are acquiring it? What type of films are they? What stock? Where are they kept currently? How many? I'm very interested in film preservation so it's great to see this kind of discussion on these boards!

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Erikht
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Re: How to store old film?

#9 Post by Erikht » Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:34 pm

Well, it is this collection, that I wrote of in another thread. I am leaving for Khartoum February 14, and will visit the studio during my stay, I leave February 19. I can update you more when I have seen the collection.

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Erikht
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Re: How to store old film?

#10 Post by Erikht » Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:26 am

Okay, I have returned from my trip to Sudan, and the news are not all bad. In the privately owned film collection, there are, as previously stated, about 300 films. 100 of these are in bad shape, and would probably need major restoration, but 200 of them are in a condition which would make it possible to digitize them without restoration first.

In the archives of TV Sudan, there is a pot of spaghetti, made up by thousands of 16 and 32 mm reels, 1- and 2 inch tapes, digicam-tapes and other formates I do not know. All in all about 70,000 tapes. Some were in reasonable good conditions, but in one of the rooms it reeked of vinegar. The temperature was in the low 20-ties Celsius.

An interesting note is that a whole shelf, probably a couple of hundred reels, are foreign cinematic films. I intend to go through the lot next time I am there. I have also located two possible places to find quite old cinematic films, both of them in old European ex-pat organizations. Sudan used to be under the Indian colonial administration, not the African one, so the class of foreigner was a bit better than in most African countries. They had cinemas, and got movies from the US and Europe, though at the very end of the reels life (which is good news). I have some careful hopes of finding something interesting.

Some good new. it seems like we might get a substansial grant from a source I am not yet allowed to reveal. If so, most of our financial problems will be history. All in all, this was an extremely helpful trip.

I will post pictures later, if you would like to see the state of the archives and the films.

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htshell
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Re: How to store old films

#11 Post by htshell » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:08 am

Please post some photos!

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Erikht
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Re: How to store old films

#12 Post by Erikht » Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:47 am

Okay, some pictures here.

Image 1:
Image

Part of the archive were in horrible condition, tough it should be said that this part of it had not deterioated much.

Image 2:
Image

This part of the archive was better organized (for a certain value of the word), but the air was acidic, and quite a few of the tapes smelled heavily of vinegar. Our photographer said that they were still in salvageble.

Image 3:
Image

Interrestingly all the tapes in the shelves are foreign cinematic films. I will absolutely take a look next time.

Image 4:
Image

Quite a few of the cans was in a horrible condition.

Image 5:
Image

If you live in the desert, you live in the desert.

Image 6:
Image

The newer stuff were on tapes.

Now, it might be possible that we will be able to digitize the privately owned film collection as a part of this project, in wich case we are fully financed.

Erik

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MichaelB
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Re: How to store old films

#13 Post by MichaelB » Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:26 am

Erikht wrote:Now, it might be possible that we will be able to digitize the privately owned film collection as a part of this project, in wich case we are fully financed.
That's great news - and do please keep posting updates.

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hearthesilence
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Re: How to store old films

#14 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:24 am

Yikes! There's a reason why they smell like vinegar - they need to get them out of those metal cans! They only need a little bit of air, but they're sealed tight in those things. Pretty much all archival cans are now made of plastic with little slits and raised impressions inside to allow air circulation.

I posted a while ago about the Sara Driver retrospective. The biggest "find" was an excellent print of her first, great film You Are Not I. The reason why it survived is because it was sitting in a cardboard box. Had it been "properly" stored in a metal can, it may not have lasted.

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Erikht
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Re: How to store old films

#15 Post by Erikht » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:19 am

The project will only pay for the digitazion of the material, not the archival treatment of the original material. Would be a new project. Where would we get good archival cans for a reasonable price?

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hearthesilence
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Re: How to store old films

#16 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:37 am

There should be plenty of vendors around the world, but I'm not sure what would be cheapest for you. Given the number of cans you have to buy, shipping will be a big factor.

One vendor I know that's worth trying is STIL, which is based in Canada. Credentials are impeccable, most people swear by them, and the design of their cans are better than any I've seen. The reels are handy too if you're dealing with a lot of reels that may slip around because they're too small/big for any of the can sizes they sell. I would skip the labels though, they're not worth the money - just write on the cans with a permanent marker if you're strapped for cash.

Talk to them, see if they're willing to deal regarding the price - it looks like you're going to need a lot of cans, so this might help as a bargaining chip.

Beyond STIL, you could try Tuscan and Bags Unlimited (a company that specializes in preservation of everything - I used to buy their bags for comic books and baseball cards when I collected those in grade school). They're both based in the U.S. and they are pretty solid, but I think they primarily deal with U.S. clients, so I'm not sure what they'll do with a large international order.

Ideally, there'll be a place not too far from Sudan that'll distribute archival cans. Again, I think shipping/delivery charges will be the biggest concern.

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Erikht
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Re: How to store old films

#17 Post by Erikht » Wed May 30, 2012 8:50 am

I got $ 2 mill (Well, 1,99) from the Norwegian Embassy, so the television archive will be digitized. We should have enough to digitize the film collection as well, and I am contacting the National Library to see if they will secure the reels (of the film collection, not the television archive).

All in all, a good day.

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Matt
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Re: How to store old films

#18 Post by Matt » Fri Jun 29, 2012 3:35 pm


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cdnchris
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Re: How to store old films

#19 Post by cdnchris » Fri Jun 29, 2012 3:52 pm

It sounds like they have fully functional video playback machines for all formats. Would that include a CED player? My dad has a bunch of those still but none of the machines he has works, at least that I could see. I also think it's cool that they preserve old video formats as well.

As a kid I used to swap the discs around on my dad, which drove him nuts. He'd throw in something like The Godfather and end up with Mighty Mouse cartoons. Good times.

EDIT: looking at the last picture it looks like the bottom machine might be a modified one.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: How to store old films

#20 Post by Roger Ryan » Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:05 pm

Not quite sure why the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY film reels have the year 1963 printed on all the labels...but the archive is an impressive one.

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Matt
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Re: How to store old films

#21 Post by Matt » Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:12 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:
Not quite sure why the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY film reels have the year 1963 printed on all the labels...but the archive is an impressive one.
I think they actually say (among several other numbers) 1953, but it's probably just some sort of accession or catalog number. Just like Library of Congress call numbers or ISBNs on books, the numbers don't mean much to the layperson, but someone who works there will understand every number on those labels. Unless they shelved films in order of the year of theatrical release (which would be a ridiculous thing for a film archive to do), there would be no use in putting that year on the outside of the film cans.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: How to store old films

#22 Post by Roger Ryan » Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:49 pm

Matt wrote:
Roger Ryan wrote:
Not quite sure why the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY film reels have the year 1963 printed on all the labels...but the archive is an impressive one.
I think they actually say (among several other numbers) 1953, but it's probably just some sort of accession or catalog number. Just like Library of Congress call numbers or ISBNs on books, the numbers don't mean much to the layperson, but someone who works there will understand every number on those labels. Unless they shelved films in order of the year of theatrical release (which would be a ridiculous thing for a film archive to do), there would be no use in putting that year on the outside of the film cans.
Yeah, I wasn't sure if it read "...53" or "...63", but convinced myself it couldn't have meant ten years earlier! I considered the number might just be for cataloging and not related to year of release, but the other film reels (for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, for example) didn't seem to have this number whereas similar code numbers can be found on other reels. It seems to me that acknowledging the release year on the label would be of some importance given that it's a historical archive, especially when dealing with remakes, although I agree that chronology should not be the first ordering choice.

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Matt
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Re: How to store old films

#23 Post by Matt » Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:08 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:I considered the number might just be for cataloging and not related to year of release, but the other film reels (for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, for example) didn't seem to have this number whereas similar code numbers can be found on other reels.
The Lawrence of Arabia cans have a similar sequence of numbers. It's barely visible, but near the bottom right of the label you can see what I think says 4776-5 of 9 or something like that. An accession or catalog number of some sort followed by the number of the reel out of total reels. It's also on the Spider-Man cans on the far right (but I can't make it out).

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MichaelB
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Re: How to store old films

#24 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jun 30, 2012 3:57 am

cdnchris wrote:It sounds like they have fully functional video playback machines for all formats. Would that include a CED player? My dad has a bunch of those still but none of the machines he has works, at least that I could see. I also think it's cool that they preserve old video formats as well.
This can be a major headache, though. As one of my former colleagues at the BFI National Archive put it, it's hard enough to get spare parts for a machine that's four years old, never mind forty.

Which is why they carry out such important projects as transferring the entirety of their old two-inch videotape collection to Digibeta, because of the very real risk that the old tapes might become unplayable when the machines finally gave up the ghost. It cost millions of pounds (since the collection was colossal) but the alternative was risking the loss of a hefty chunk of Britain's television heritage, far too much of which has already been lost for other reasons.

That's the great thing about good old-fashioned 35mm - even a hundred-year-old film will still be basically viewable and playable, whereas a digital file from the early 2000s might be in jeopardy.

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hearthesilence
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Re: How to store old films

#25 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:02 pm

It's ridiculous how often these concerns have to be repeated when they're the same issues that everyone in film and music have been facing for the last 30 odd years. Every time there's a media upgrade, these concerns aren't really effectively addressed.

L.A. Weekly did a nice article on this not too long ago.

The longevity of Digibeta seems pretty remarkable, not as a storage medium so much as a "quality" format institutions can still play. It entered the market in 1993, and a lot of popular formats have come and gone since then.

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