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What really is the absolute best storage container?

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  • What really is the absolute best storage container?

    Would it be plain white cardboard boxes? Plastic boxes/cannisters? Metal cannisters? ...and, is one better or worse for specific film stocks?

  • #2
    Hi Osi. Probably the best thing in life is free air. I would say the open air would be best or a well ventilated cool room. Other than that I am a fan of a reasonably thin clean card box.

    Be interesting to hear others experiences over the decade's


    • #3

      Preparation for storage means that the film is packaged using archival materials for internal protection, and is structurally protected from the outside environment. Archival cans and cores made of an inert plastic that will not chemically react with the film. Archival metal cans are coated with an inert coating that is additionally rustproof.

      For 16mm and 35mm, it is better to store your film wound on cores than on reels, as reels can rust, bend or break and damage your film. 3" diameter cores are preferable to 2" cores, since the wind of the film at the core is not as tight, and not as prone to curling. You will need a split-reel and a rewind bench in order to use cores. The wind should be of an even tension - not too loose or too tight and should be consistent and flat so that edges don't stick out where they could be broken. A roll of film on a core should be wound tight enough so that it forms a solid disc. Be careful not to "pop" the core (detach the inner core from the outer roll of film), as this will result in a spiral mess of film. It is preferable to not handle the film at all, but instead to use either cans or split reels as platters to hold the disk of film. Before you put your important film on a core, practice a number of times with some junk film. Film on cores can be tough to handle, and you don’t want to find out the hard way that you needed more practice.

      If the film is one you will be accessing fairly often, you may wish to leave it on a reel. Make sure the wind is consistent and flat, so the edges will not be broken or bent. Make sure the reel is in perfect condition, not rusty, broken, or bent.

      Although there is no chemical or physical difference between 8mm/Super 8 and other film gauges, its smaller size gives it some storage problems of its own. Some archives make their own 8mm cores by using a band saw to slice 35mm cores. Because 8mm cores are so difficult to handle, however, it is a better idea to leave 8mm film on plastic reels. If you only have the original 50 ft. reels you should consider splicing them together onto larger reels for storage. There are several sizes of Super/8mm reels; 200 ft. and 400 ft. reels are recommended. The smaller the hub (solid center) of the storage reel, the more likely it is that the film will become curled. If you do build up several reels, be sure to either keep the original boxes or copy down any information that might have been written on them. Keep this information with the newly created reel. Also, you should splice leader between reels, labeling what each one is. Don’t use audiotape reels because they tend to be styrene, which is not stable for long-term storage. They are also generally not usable for projection.

      CANS & BOXES
      The film should be stored in clean archival plastic, archivally treated metal cans, or new archival cardboard boxes. It is important that the can or box is not airtight, and should not be sealed unless stored in freezer. A closed can is fine, and will not be airtight. However, a can that is taped shut is not fine. Cold storage is the best for the chemical stability of the film and is discussed in the following sections. Films should be stored tails-out so you will have to rewind them before projecting. You should always inspect the film before projecting.

      The cans should be stored flat (horizontally), with nothing heavy stacked on top that would weigh down the lids and not allow air to circulate into the cans. It is acceptable to stack the cans on each other, but store nitrate cans only 2 high.

      Dirty or damaged leaders should be removed and replaced. Plastic leader tends to shrink at a different rate than acetate film, so it is advisable to purchase acetate or polyester leader from FPC, a Kodak company. Be sure that both the head and the tail of the film have enough leader to wrap around the reel several times. This will protect it during storage, as well as during projection. The majority of the damage done to projected films occurs at the beginning and ends of reels.

      Labeling your film is very important. Each reel of each film needs to be labeled (on the leader) with the title, reel number, and whether it’s positive, negative, camera original, track only, etc. It is also a good idea to label leaders "HEAD" or "TAIL." Use archivally inked pens, which are available at art supply stores, and make sure you pick one that won’t rub off. If your film has special concerns (hand painted, for instance), note this on the film leader as well. Needless to say, the cans or boxes the film is stored in should also be labeled. It is always a good idea to label every film container and to document every change you make to a film. Keep track of what you have and where it is. A simple list (typed or on a computer) will come in handy. Retain paperwork that goes with your films (timing sheets, etc.). A coherent labeling system will be of benefit to anyone who comes into contact with your film, including you, labs, archivists, and later generations who inherit your film.

      The ideal conditions are in a controlled environment. Low temperatures and low humidity improve the chemical stability of motion picture film. Under normal conditions, i.e., room temperature (about 70F) and moderate humidity (50% RH), color dyes fade, and triacetate base film decays at an unacceptable rate for long-term preservation of the materials. Cold and dry are the best conditions for the storage of film. A home freezer is the best option for long-term storage where access to the film is not required on a frequent basis. Long-term is defined in this case as longer than several months. Freezers and refrigerators control the temperature, but don't adequately control the amount of water in the air. Therefore, moisture-proof packaging is required to control the humidity in the micro-environment.

      Fresh film stored at normal household conditions (70°F and 50% RH) will have an average lifespan of 40 to 50 years before significant signs of decay occur (e.g., vinegar syndrome and color dyes density loss). Reducing the temperature by 15 degrees Fahrenheit increases that number to 100-125 years.
      The recommended conditions for extended-term film storage are between 40-50 F and 20%-40% RH (relative humidity). [Preservation Calculator] Excessively dry air (below 20% RH) can lead to film becoming brittle, while damp conditions will compromise the benefits of cold temperature and invite mold growth. Good air circulation will help prevent mold growth, but mold is possible any time the RH remains above 70% for more than a few days.

      Rapid changes in either relative humidity or temperature should be avoided. Many people assume that freezing is dangerous for film, but tests have shown that film is not damaged by a freeze/thaw cycle in controlled settings. There is a great danger, however, in condensation accumulating on the film so film should be frozen in steps to avoid this.


      • #4
        That covers everything Ed. 😊Hope you wrote all that down Osi.🤪


        • #5
          As everyone knows, (my method) cardboard boxes suit the purpose via air circulation...Shorty


          • #6
            It's already written down! Which is the most "chemical free" alternative? I have read on here that metal is often flat out due to two obvious flaws. 1. Metal cans can deal shut, not allowing film to breathe, and 2. Metal can rust. Rust is bad for film.


            • #7
              Osi, Ask Clint Eastwood 🤠what he uses on himself. He pretty well reserved with no rust or visible vinegar syndrome


              • #8
                HAH! He continued to work out into his 80's, I don't know if he does now. Usually, fitness nuts tend to have good long lives. Maybe he has a lot of "plastic" in him? My idea of being "well preserved" is being "well embalmed", usually with a goodly portion of Irish cream liqour!


                • #9
                  Cardboard boxes are best, allowing the film to breathe a bit. Plus they are the lightest form of container
                  Plastic cans are acceptable if they have a breathing hole, or dessicant capsule. (Bonum/Posso)
                  Metal cans are the absolute worst, they seal very tightly suffocating the film, and they rust. Plus they are really heavy.


                  • #10
                    Strange how the industry still archive in metal cans.
                    I'll stick with thin clean card boxes


                    • #11
                      I've been a collector for a very long time since around 1978 with super 8 sound. I continue to use mostly plastic cans, some steel, and light weight food freezer bags inside rubber made plastic storage totes. For most of this time period it was in our cool dry basement in Massachusetts. Now I am in Florida and my house is naturally climate controlled. Many of the films I bought new are holding colors well. The films that came from Ebay sellers are a different story.

                      All of my product are on large reels, 800 to 2000 foot. I remain very active with the hobby already at 24 screenings in just these two months of the year. Everything so far has looked quite good and spooled with little effort or issues......


                      • #12
                        Reading this I realised how many times the same subject has come up, and each time the same comments come up which is understandable. This creates far too much repetition on the forum, perhaps Doug could create an area on the database solely for the issues that keep returning to store the definitive answers to these queries.

                        1. Best film storage solutions
                        2. Best film cleaners
                        3. Best reels
                        4. Elmo projector problems and fixes etc

                        its certainly worth thinking about.

                        Happy Screenings


                        • #13
                          I'd agree about the first three, but feel there is always something else that could go wrong with any projector (including Elmos) other than what has already been covered.


                          • #14
                            It's good to refresh discussions, as folks may well have fresh insights concerning any given subject. Quite frankly, if we only posted about things undiscussed about film, this would be a very quiet and close to dead forum.


                            • #15
                              I am sure I have read about this subject before but can't remember where and when, its back there somewhere. But as Osi states above, its nice to refresh discussions, eg "Ed" input above I found to be a interesting read. I guess its up to you guys to decide what you want to do, but I am quite happy to see and read any old subjects getting a refresh as above.