The ideal conditions
are in a controlled environment. Low temperatures and low humidity improve
the chemical stability of motion picture film. Under normal conditions,
i.e., room temperature (about 70F) and moderate humidity (50% RH), color
dyes fade, and triacetate base film decays at an unacceptable rate for
long-term preservation of the materials. Cold and dry are the best conditions
for the storage of film. A home freezer is the best option for long-term
storage where access to the film is not required on a frequent basis.
Long-term is defined in this case as longer than several months. Freezers
and refrigerators control the temperature, but don't adequately control
the amount of water in the air. Therefore, moisture-proof packaging is
required to control the humidity in the microenvironment.
& RELATIVE HUMIDITY
Rapid changes in
either relative humidity or temperature should be avoided. Many people
assume that freezing is dangerous for film, but tests have shown that
film is not damaged by a freeze/thaw cycle in controlled settings. There
is a great danger, however, in condensation accumulating on the film so
film should be frozen in steps to avoid this.
YOUR FILM: FIVE EASY STEPS
This may be done
by keeping the film in a can with the lid off in a room where the RH does
not exceed 50-60% at room temperature. These conditions are necessary
for the room in which you will prepare your film for freezing. Do not
prepare film for freezer storage on a hot and humid day, or moisture will
be trapped with the film in the bag and can.
If you have the space
and the funds, you should consider buying a freezer just for your film.
Depending on the size of your collection several options could be considered—e.g.,
a household freezer or industrial freezer.
YOUR FILM: STAGING
The length of staging
time needed depends on the mass of the film; a single small roll will
reach its equilibrium point faster than a large reel or a stack of small
reels. Six 400 ft. rolls of 16mm film will reach a usable point in 25
minutes and will be fully acclimatized in about three hours. When moisture-proof
bags are used, the minimum usable point will be slightly less because
the condensation will occur on the outside of the bag, not on the film.
Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to leave films out for at least
an hour before using them.
When it is necessary to remove the film from cold storage for use, it should be allowed to come to room temperature before any attempt is made to open the outer bag.
Many independent filmmakers leave their original materials in storage in film laboratories. Before doing this, question the lab about their storage facilities and keep tabs on the lab, as there are countless stories about films being lost after a lab has moved, been sold, or gone out of business.