Tag Archives: nitrate

Motion Picture Preservation!

With the 2014 Oscars at a close, we here at INeedStorage wondered, where do we store all of those great films? We searched the depths of time and space (Google) to find out!

Nitrate Film Storage At The Packard Campus

One of 124 individual vaults for the more flammable nitrate film.

To understand the great lengths that Universal Studios, MGM, and many other motion pictures studios go to in order to preserve their investments we need to take a look at the lessons learned.  Film preservation was not of deep concern up until the past 20 years. Movies recorded on cellulose nitrate from the late 1800’s up until the 1950’s as well as cellulose acetate (plastic) films from the 1950’s on, were found to be deteriorating at rapid levels. As a result it is said the upwards of 90 percent of silent films and 50 percent of sound films made in America have been lost to decomposition.

Thanks to research performed by companies such as Kodak and, The Image Permanence Institute, it has been found that the remaining nitrate and cellulose films as well as more modern day polyester are best preserved in vaults that control temperature as well as humidity. With this information many motion picture companies have installed their own vaults that keep the film roughly in the area of 57 degrees with a humidity level of 50 percent. The UCLA Film and Television Archive is even said to have a vault within a vault that keeps extremely rare negatives at 46.8 degrees. The largest of all these you ask, The Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. The Campus houses the world’s largest collection of film, television programs, radio broadcasts, and sound recordings all within a 415,000 square foot building containing 95 miles of shelving, 35 climate controlled vaults, and 124 specialty vaults for the flammable nitrate film. Now that’s what we call storage!

Photo of the Packard Campus

The Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. Photo by Bob Bieberdorf

With the switch from 35mm to digital in the film industry, storage has once again become a major issue. With storage costs for digital being upwards of 1100% more costly than storing regular film and the fact that there is not yet a reliable media for storing digital copies for hundreds of years, many in the industry are questioning and criticizing the use of digital film. One strong example, of how un-reliable technology in cinematography can be, The Pixar film Toy Story 2 had almost been completely lost due to a delete command accidentally entered on one of the companies computers containing the film. To make things worse, the backups that they had were faulty. The only thing that saved their $245,852,179 domestic box office take was the fact that an employee had made her own backups to show her kids on a family vacation. Talk about a close one right?

Scene from toy story 2

For the film industry, choosing the right storage means saving money as well as preserving the past. Pore Leo might not have his golden statue to pass down through the generations but his family will be able to see his accomplishments for years to come.

 

Sources:

http://www.filmpreservation.org/preservation-basics/the-film-preservation-guide

http://www.laweekly.com/2012-04-12/film-tv/35-mm-film-digital-Hollywood/?storyPage=6

http://www.loc.gov/film/storage.html

http://www.loc.gov/avconservation/packard/

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=toystory2.htm