At Action Video Service, we’re asked this question a lot in regards to Super 8, Regular 8 and 16mm film…”Is my film reel too old to transfer to DVD or digital files?” We’ve transferred reels as early as 1923 without issue and have seen film shot in the 1980’s that didn’t fair so well. So the real answer is that it really just depends on the physical characteristics of the film.
HEAT is the enemy of film! Most of the reels (we’ve seen) that have issues are the larger 200-400′ reels which were stored in metal cans in either a hot attic or garage. If it’s not too late, bring those precious items indoors and store them in a dark dry closet.
To examine your film, pull out a foot or so of film from the reel. Is it flexible or does is simply crumble in your hands? If it’s reasonably flexible then it’s most likely just fine. However, if the film appears to be warped or breaks off in pieces or seems to be stuck together then there is a strong likelihood that it might be too late for a transfer. The obvious sign of deterioration is if the film smells like vinegar or you feel like you need a gas mask just to breath around the reels. The smell is unmistakeable and is incredibly unpleasant (trust us on this!) 😉 The vinegar smell is the first thing that alerts us, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a lost cause. The more worrisome issue is when the film both smells bad AND the film is congealed to together. In 99% of those cases, it’s unfortunately too late for a transfer.
Either way, you can ALWAYS feel free to stop by our Richardson studio and one of our team of experts will be happy to take a look and can give you an idea if the film can be transferred. Call us at 972-437-2021 or email us through the form on this site if you have any questions.