All posts by Sweetwater-admin

What’s happening with my film?

The most common kinds of wear are perforation damage, base scratches, emulsion scratches and breaks.  Perforation damage is usually caused by either a malfunctioning projector, a mistreated projector, or a projector that has lost its loop.  Base scratches appear as black lines and are on the side away from the emulsion.

Always keep the film path on your projector squeaky clean. The most common problem with long term storage of film is color fading.  With B&W film you only need to worry about base degradation.  Some film stocks fade very little, and others fade severely.  Generally, cyan (blue-green) goes first, followed by yellow, ultimately leaving only magenta.  Heat is the main accelerating factor.  The quality of processing also affects it, prints from some labs always fade severely, others hold up much better under the same storage conditions.

Keep film as cool as possible.  Never store film in an attic. Try to keep films below 60 deg. F as much as possible.  At the extreme, freezing film will preserve it almost indefinitely, but care must be taken to prevent condensation on the film.

Smelling vinegar indicates a breakdown of the acetate base.  When deterioration occurs, acetic acid vapors are produced, creating a distinctive vinegar aroma.  The acid produced accelerates the process.  Keeping the film in a sealed can traps the vapors, accelerating it further.  This causes the film to warp, shrink and become brittle.  High humidity and high temperature speed the process.  Never store films (especially acetate) above 50% Relitive Humidity.  Air conditioning units help reduce humidity, and stand-alone dehumidifiers are readily available.  Extremely low humidity isn’t good either, storage below 20% Relitive Humidity can make the film brittle.

Cleaning film: Never clean film with water or a water based cleaner.  It is best to use a cleaner made for film.  I usually use Filmrenew which is a cleaner with lubricant and conditioner.  It is relatively cheap and can help warped or brittle film.  Naphtha can also be used, as can pure alcohol, avoid rubbing alcohol as it often contains water.  All of these cleaners must be used under adequate ventilation, as the fumes are hazardous.  Film cleaner can be applied with a clean soft cloth such as an old T-shirt.

Try to digitize and convert your film to a DVD as soon as you can. It is possible to color correct, remove black areas, and add background music when you do convert your film.

How long will my video tapes last?

Video tapes including Betamax, VHS, 8mm and mini-DV,  have a shelf life. What you saw fifteen or twenty years ago was much sharper and smoother then they are now.

Although there have been many studies about tape longevity and stability that have produced valuable information, there is no accurate way of estimating the life expectancy of a video tape. As you might expect, it varies greatly depending on the brand, the way the tape is handled and stored.

Most video experts agree though the life span is between 8 to 12 years and they recommend transferring them into digital media within the first 5 years.

However with all the best intentions, life happens.  We are busy and often let our video tapes gather and collect dust. If you just can’t find the time now to digitize your tapes, follow these tips below on handling and storing your tapes to slow down that degradation process.

How to Handle Your Video Tapes

• Never touch the tape itself. Hold it by the side of the cassette
• Rewind the cassette before storing it.
• Keep cassettes away from magnetic fields
• Don’t leave a cassette in the car where it will be exposed to heat and cold
• Occasionally fast forward and rewind a tape that’s being stored a long time

Where to Store Your Video Tapes

• Store in conditions that are stable, cool and dry.
• Stay away from hot, humid and dusty.
• Store cassettes in the cassette case.
• Store your tapes vertically and not flat to distribute the gravity pull equally and stably.

Steps to transfer your film

Find all your home movie reels, in closets, drawers, hopefully not in attics.  Also, ask relatives if they have film of you growing up.

Put them in the order you think they should go and number them(1,2,3,…). In some cases you don’t know what is on a particular reel however still number the video reel.  I have helped customers by transferring the film in phase one, they take home a DVD and I title the reels on the DVD with the reel numbers.  After review at home they provide me a list of the proper order of the reels, I edit the order and then create the final product.

  • Decide if you want to have titles for each reel, or group of reels included on the video.
  • Decide what music you want with your film.
  • Decide if you want the video delivered as a DVD or on a hard drive supplied by you.
  • Decide what you want on the DVD label.
  • Decide how many DVD copies you would like.




To determine how much film you have, use the image above and count the number of 3″, 5″, and/or 7″ reels you have.

Don’t procrastinate! Your film is continuing to lose quality.

Contact us to discuss your fim transfer project.


Why Archive Your Family Memories

Three reasons to consider archiving

Over years of building a life for yourself and your family you have built up quite a collection of memento’s and legal documents.  You find them in this drawer or that drawer, some on high shelves…mostly forgotten.  The only time you look at them is when you move to a new home where they sit and are not looked at there.


The three reasons for archiving is first, in the event of a catastrophe Flooded Houseand you lose your possessions, you will have a back up copy of all your important documents, photos, slides, film, videotape, and audiotapes.


Popcorn-clapperSecond, these memories are meant to be shared, not sit on a shelf or a drawer.  You will be able to find that certain picture, re-live that family reunion video.


Third, your pictures, videotape, and film fade over timeBoy BadHow long depends on how they were stored over the years.  By digitizing them now you are helping leave your legacy.

Your pictures can be digitized, cleaned up and saved as files for you to view on your phone or computer or emailed to friends and family.  You could also take those pictures and create a photo montage video put to your favorite music.