Film Threats

How to Save Your Film Collection

For year and years, film was considered to be an unassailable medium. It was thought that, once put on these carefully spin strips, that those under the camera's lens would forever be secured of their place in time.

But now, it has become rapidly apparent that these promises are not to be. Film collections across the world have begun to deteriorate rapidly. Through a combination of aging, cracking, and a dreadful disease know colloquially as “Vinegar Syndrome”, cherished family memories and works or art alike are at risk. Conscientious collectors are turning to digitization services, turning their amassed celluloid into neat, well organized collections of computer files.

Here's a look at some of the problems facing today's film buffs.

The Rapid Infection

If you crack open your film canisters and notice a strange smell, it's already too late. In fact, your entire film collection may now be contaminated.

Vinegar Syndrome is highly contagious, spreading rapidly through the air in and around the containers. Once this happens, you'll immediately need to charter the services of a film digitization company.

Sometimes, this dreaded disease can take effect without even the telltale scent. If you notice curling or rippling on your film, then things may have already begun to decay. There's no reversing the process once it starts, so the need for swift action is imperative.

Causes and Treatments

Paradoxically, the more tightly a film canister is sealed, the more likely it is to contract Vinegar Syndrome. The less a strip of film has been allowed to “breathe”, to interact with its environment, the longer it stews in its own vapors. The film itself actually produces gasses, which essentially marinate the reels. This creates the perfect conditions for Vinegar Syndrome. There's simply no way to avoid it. And, in fact, there's no real treatment. There have been a few rare instances in which certain stretches of infected film have been treated with chemicals such as camphor, which will allow it to be run through a projector one final time. The images will, unfortunately, be majorly distorted as a result of the process. Due to this fact, perhaps, there are only a few places in North America which perform the service. Really, there is no other way to go than digitization.

The Fate of Super 8

For many years, Super 8 film was thought to be immune to the Vinegar Syndrome. Now, however, it's begun to show up in alarming numbers. And though the buildup to the end is slower, the downhill slide is much more rapid. Once infected, Super 8 will deteriorate at an alarming rate. Once again, digitization is the only option.

Beyond the Blight: Other Aging Factors

There's much more to worry about than just a storage disease. Film itself is made of plastic tape (known as backing) underneath an organic film strip known as the gelatin emulsion. This forms the basis of all film, both color and black and white. Because of this universal structure, all film suffers from the same inherent age failures. The gelatin can crack and flex with age. Beyond this, improper storage can cause a mold that will chew up the organic material. You'll notice this as a blue and green discoloration, or even as a smattering of black specks. Even simple scratches on the film surface can serve as a breeding ground for this fungal foe. In fact, a great deal of the film currently in existence is probably already infected, to one degree or another.

There's also the tape to consider. As this dries out, it will eventually become brittle and prone to snap. Old movie projectors aren't exactly easy on the film as it runs through, which causes even more potential for disaster. So really, there's no good news in sight for the future of classic film.

Digitization: The Saving Grace

After all this talk about digitization, film collectors and keepers of family memories will be keen to know more about the process itself. The folks at are here to help. They've got several levels of service to choose from, each of which can be customized to suit the unique needs of the consumer. The software they use is top of the line and features many unique processes which can not only capture the images on the film, but also improve upon them. The effects of mold, scratches, and even fading can be reduced or eliminated.

So be sure to check out the offerings of The numerous choices allow for several different variations, any of which can save the most cherished films from the trash heap. Whether they're classic movies or cherished family memories, there's no reason to let your film collection deteriorate.

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