Cine reels don’t last forever. They degrade in a number of ways that can cause their footage to become completely unwatchable, effectively causing you to lose precious video footage.
However, there are some ways that you can maximise the lifespan of your cine reels by creating the ideal environment to store them in. While this won’t stop them from deteriorating completely, you can slow down the process and keep your cine reels useable for as long as possible by storing your cine reels correctly.
How Do Cine Reels Degrade?
Cine reels degrade over time due to several factors. Light and sunlight can break down the chemicals that coat the film, which causes the picture to fade and become transparent, which can potentially cause the picture to be lost for good.
Vinegar syndrome is also a common cause of losing your cine footage. This is caused by a chemical reaction in the cellulose triacetate film. The base layer of the film degrades when the acetate ions react with moisture, and this causes it to decompose and give off a free acetic acid, which is released inside the film base and diffuses to the surface. It produces a vinegar smell, hence the name, and the syndrome is devastating to cine film. It causes it to become brittle and warped as the base shrinks, and even a 1% shrinkage can cause the footage to become unusable.
Aside from causing vinegar syndrome, moisture in general is terrible news for cine reels. Water damage can cause mould, fungi and mildew, causing damage to the emulsion of the film, resulting in spots and streaks on the images. Mould eats away at the image as it produces enzymes on the surface of the film.
Finally, the simple process of ageing can cause cine reels to become brittle, leading to breakage and tearing, which will show up as specks when the film is viewed on a projector.
Ideal Storage Conditions
Most people tend to store their cine reels in the likes of attics and garages, which very seldom offer the ideal storage conditions to prevent deterioration. Here’s how you can keep those cine reels in the best conditions:
- Don’t play the films on a projector. This can accelerate their deterioration.
- The ideal humidity for cine reels is between 20 to 30%. So keep them dry to prevent all the issues that excessive moisture can cause.
- Airtight containers might seem like a good idea, but these can actually accelerate vinegar syndrome. Vented reel cases can allow air to pass in and out, but the air needs to be filtered to protect the film from dust. A permeable cardboard enclosure allows for air movement but also filters out dust particles.
- Sunlight is very bad for cine reels, so never expose them to direct sunlight.
A good rule of thumb is to keep the reels cool and dry. So you can see why places like attics and garages are not ideal, as these rooms are often exposed to fluctuating temperatures and humidity.
How Long Does Cine Film Last?
It’s difficult to know precisely how long your cine film will last. With optimal storage conditions as listed above, you can expect that they could last for many decades. However, most people will not be equipped to ensure that their storage is always kept at the correct temperature and humidity, so you will likely be unable to completely prevent deterioration. And even if you do have optimal storage conditions, you can still expect deterioration to eventually occur.
Preserving Your Cine Films
Fortunately, there is something you can do to prevent losing your cine footage entirely. You can save that video footage by doing a cine film to DVD conversion with Cine2DVD.
We are experts in cine reel conversion. When you preserve your footage on a DVD, Blu-ray or MP4 file, you get the reassurance that your original footage has a more reliable backup. We will perform the conversion for you and then send you your DVD along with your original cine reels, so you can still have them and use them should you want to.
However, if one day you break out the projector and find that your cine reels are now unwatchable or completely deteriorated, you can rest assured that your footage isn’t lost for good and that it’s still available in a more reliable format for you to enjoy and share for years to come.