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When too late really means too late...

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  • When too late really means too late...

    Last Saturday a new customer showed up with a box of mixed stuff, double8 films, audio cassettes, some VHS cassettes. Saying that they're from his late father. All films had been kept in the storage, never been out for at least a few decades ago.

    Although all seems well-organized/clearly labeled/taken care of, I immediately noticed that all films are already in advanced vinegar syndrome stage. I forewarned him that I may not be able to scan all of them. In the worst case there would be only about 10% that's still salvageable.
    Quite a letdown, but he seems to understand the situation.

    Upon further inspection that night my worst fear eventually came true - almost ALL films are way too deteriorated beyond recovery. Most were so brittle that it immediately broke off into pieces when unspooled. Some even welded itself into a solid mass, it can't be reeled off at all.

    In the end I found only one reel that's still (barely) pliable enough to be unspooled, and scanned. The result weren't be pretty of course but that's all I can do.

    Fortunately, although very disappointed but he still truly understands the end result - knowing that it would be due to improper storage condition. And since that would already have been like this for years in the storage, so nothing much can be done anyway.
    (I wish all customers would have this level of acknowledgement and understanding.)

    What I've gathered from years of doing this is that tropical climate is the worst enemy of film storage, no doubt about that. No matter how well-kept your film collection would likely turned VS sooner or later. The best option would be climate-controlled storage room. But that would not be the option in most cases.

    So pity, but I though I had made the right decision to sold off most of my film collection years ago. If I managed to have a cold storage in future I may consider restart my collection again.

    PS: all tapes (except for one VHS cassette) are still in perfectly playable condition. That problematic cassette did cause frequent head clogging at the very beginning and here and there mid-run. But eventually I still managed to run it through.

  • #2
    Our home movies are all slowly deteriorating, no matter what we do to try and stop it. My 46 year old footage looks in pretty good shape but I know it won't always be that way and I really need to get on with getting it all digitised.

    If any of my films were in the same state as the one's in your photos Nantawat, I think I would have a go at trying to recover short clips, even if only a second or so of footage, on a Wolverine, particularly if it was footage of departed family members. You could probably recover hundreds of very short snipets from just one of those reels and edit them all together and then slow them down to around 1/4 speed on a computer. It would be quite a long and intensive job but would be better than junking the whole film in my opinion.

    Another option would be to retrieve stills from the short sections of damaged film using a negative scanner. I have a Magnasonic neg scanner and this has an adaptor for 8mm film that allows you to scan a frame of film and save it as a positive. I've not tried it on 8mm film yet but it is an option to at least save some images from a precious film.


    • #3
      Great idea Gary! Thanks for that.

      I'll try capturing some still images from that already crumbled pieces first. They're already considered lost case, so anything that can be retrieved from this would be a plus.

      Next step - figuring out the rig for capturing still frames from these fragments. Would take some time & tinkering...