How to archive a 16mm film of an RCA 501

Tony Duell ard at
Sat Feb 3 18:31:37 CST 2007

> I have access to a 16mm film reel with sound of an RCA 501 
> demonstration. It's not in very good shape though. It has curled some 
> and smells like vinegar. Is there any way to transfer it without 

First thought. 16mm film is alomost certain to be 'safety film' [1] and 
thus have a sellulose acetate (not cellulose nitrate) base. Vinegar == 
acetic acit. I wonder if, alas, the film base is breaking down.

Second thought. Tread carefully. You have what is probably an 
irreplaceable artefact there. Don't do anything if you're not sure...

[1] 16mm was originally an amateur format, and from the start it was 
regarded as a Bad Thing to let amateurs use the very inflammable 
cellulose nitrate film. In fact the 16mm gauge was chosen to make it 
uneconomical to slit down from 35mm film stock to prevent offcuts of 
professional (and thus possibly cellulose nitrate) film ending up on 
amaetur spools

Somebody else suggested scanning each frame sepatately. Now sound film 
normally runs at 24 frames per scond, so even if it's only a 5 minute 
film, that's still 7200 frames to scan. Rather a lot of work.

If uou do manage to get it into a projectable state, I'd make at least 2 
simulatanous recordings of the sound track. For example, if you're 
trasnfering to to a computer, that will do as one eecording, but I'd also 
make an analouge tape recording of the sound, and maybe some other 
recording too. Then if something goes wrong you've still got _a_ version 
of the soundtrack. It may not be very good, but it's a lot better than 


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