Re: Proper Film Storage

From: Mark Toscano (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Dec 02 2007 - 10:45:35 PST

First of all, here are two resources that might be of
interest to folks on this list:

The National Film Preservation Foundation published a
great basic guide to film preservation which you cna
obtain by going here:

Also, Anthology Film Archives published a book by Bill
Brand and Toni Treadway called the Self-Preservation
Guide for Artists. I believe you would get this book
from Anthology.


I'll try to give some answers in the meantime, though:

Cool and dry is definitely agreed upon in the archival
world, though actual numbers will vary from vault to
vault. At a larger film archive, you would likely
find their vaults are at something like 40-50 degrees
fahrenheit and 30-40% relative humidity. Of course
most people can't manage this in their homes,
libraries, etc., but as long as films are kept in a
relatively cool and not too humid environment, that's
not bad at all.

I would also add that climate stability is important,
i.e. recurring up-and-down changes in temperature
and/or humidity over time seem to greatly accelerate
deterioration. And sudden changes in humidity have
been known, not surprisingly, to allow condensation to
form on the film, which can lead to water damage.
This happened at a certain commercial storage space
and I know some filmmakers whose originals were
damaged as a result.

The molecular sieves are desiccants, designed to suck
up fumes, moisture, etc. The deterioration of acetate
film ("vinegar syndrome") is an auto-catalytic
process, so the build-up of gases in a can of
deteriorating film will help "feed" and accelerate its
own deterioration. Molecular sieves seem to help
retard the process somewhat by sucking up some of that
off-gassing, but they need to be changed every so

They can't *stop* vinegar syndrome, because nothing
can truly stop vinegar syndrome. Freezing film is
probably the best way to slow it down enough to not
make it as urgent an issue. But film should only be
frozen if you have the proper equipment and freezer,
i.e. I wouldn't recommend doing it with your home

Lower temperature and humidity will slow down the
process as well, and it's my opinion that it helps
quite a bit in many cases.

For what it's worth, a couple of preservation-oriented
sound houses here in L.A. have developed lubricants
for use specifically on vinegared mag stock that seem
to get pretty amazing results in replasticizing it and
rendering even really badly deteriorated mag
transferable. I can pass along info if anyone wants,
just email me offlist. I've seen very positive
results of this firsthand.

Vented cans are often used by archives because it has
been observed that the onset of deterioration may be
delayed if the film is able to "breathe" reasonably
well. This is also why it's probably not a good idea
to use airtight cans, or store film in bags, or
anything like that. Going even further, if you can
wind through your acetate film once or twice a year,
that's a great way to help it breathe. Some archives
regularly do this with their nitrate film as well.

Some bottom lines:

-Ideally, keep your film in a cool, dry, stable

-Keep film in inert plastic cans if possible, not in
bags, not in lab boxes. Most paper has a high acid
content, and can help accelerate decomposition too, so
I'd recommend removing paper from the cans (including
printing paperwork). You can always stick in in an
envelope and tape it to the can or file it with some
sort of identifying number or designation (as we do at
the Academy). Coated metal cans (like Kodak stock
cans) seem OK too.

-if you have older work, especially early '80s and
older, it might be a good idea to isolate fullcoat
mags in their own cans. Acetate mag is known to
deteriorate much faster than photographic acetate
film, and if your mag is starting to turn, and stored
with your original picture as is done by many, the
vinegar syndrome will potentially spread easily to
your original. (Mag stock has pretty commonly been on
much more inert polyester base since the late
'70s/early '80s, but I've encountered acetate mag
later than this). (By the way, another thing I've
never totally figured out is why so many filmmakers
I've encountered seem to value the optical tracks
higher than the mags - maybe because it's the optical
that's actually used to make the soundtrack on the
print? Anyway, the mag is usually the most valuable
sound element, as an optical track is a pretty big
step down in quality, and can always be reshot from
the mag anyway.)

-That reminds me, there is evidence to suggest that
vinegar syndrome is contagious, so it has been common
practice in archives for some time to try to isolate
vinegared film away from nonvinegared film. Although
lately some people are questioning whether this is
really the case, why risk it?

Hope this helps. Sorry if this info is a little
disorganized, I was just typing off the top of my
head. Feel free to post any questions if you have
'em, I'll try to answer 'em.

Mark T

--- Ed Inman <email suppressed> wrote:

> There are a lot of conflicting claims and products
> out there, although "cool" and "dry" storage seems
> to be universally agreed upon.
> Kodak recommends the use of molecular sieves:
> I tried using them on a print that was starting to
> vinegar but they didn't seem to do any good--the
> print only got worse.
> Ed
> -----Original Message-----
> >From: Robert Schaller <email suppressed>
> >I was looking through the Frameworks archive for
> tips on proper film
> >storage, and came across this statement from Jeff
> Kreines:
> >
> >"... note that proper storage (low humidity, low
> temperature,
> >vented can) will preserve your color negative for
> many many years."
> >
> >Could anyone out there elaborate in more detail
> what exactly is meant by
> >these terms?
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at
> <email suppressed>.

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For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.