The chronicle of man started with cave paintings thousands of years ago, and as written languages developed, people began to chart their ancestry through family trees. Then the 19th century saw the birth of photographic film and cameras for the consumer marketplace, followed by the advent of motion pictures. And in short order, the average person had a way to preserve their memories for later review and for future generations. But film is not a medium designed to last forever. However, if you care for it properly it can last a good long while. Heck, there are movies made a century ago that can still run through a projector. But longevity hinges on the treatment of your family videos, and your parents and grandparents may not have taken especially good care of home movies. Luckily, there are ways to prevent and even reverse damage in some cases, as well as preserve your family’s precious recorded history. Here are some helpful hints to consider.
- Controlled environment. Film and video tape are both sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which is why film archives are both temperature and humidity controlled. Although it might not be easy to arrange, depending on the amount of tape stock you’re dealing with, you can create an environment that is conducive to preserving your tape stock, including the memories housed therein. Cool temperatures and moderate humidity are ideal, which is why some people opt to store film in the refrigerator. But so long as the temperature is less than 75? Fahrenheit in your home, this probably isn’t necessary. Regulating the humidity at 20-50% is the more difficult part of the equation.
- Dark storage. Light, and especially sunlight, is the worst enemy of film and video tape. It can not only cause fading, but it can also lead to other types of deterioration that will ultimately render your family videos unwatchable and virtually useless. At the very least you need to put your reels and tapes into a box that will keep the light out. But you might consider storing them in a closet where even the heat of the sun can’t get to the box.
- Fire safe. One thing you should know about old film is that it is extremely flammable. So if you want to protect it from going up in a blaze should you experience a house fire, you might want to get a fire safe to store your home movies, not to mention other valuables.
- Restoration. Over time, even your best efforts won’t be enough to keep your family films looking as good as the day they were shot. But with modern restoration processes you can restore old film and make it look even better than before. Just look what the pros were able to do with the 1927 film ‘Metropolis’ – after discovering a full-length copy in a museum in Argentina, the film was almost completely restored, and many sections of footage were cleaned up to improve the image and increase clarity.
- Transfer to digital. These days, the best thing you can do to preserve your family memories is transfer them to a digital format. While you can still save copies in the original medium, there’s just no reason not to dub them to digital files for a shelf life that is anticipated to be limitless. As storage goes, you may be able to put your entire collection onto a single Blu-Ray or external hard drive. And with companies like Kodak and Just8mm.com to do the heavy lifting for you, all you really have to do is send in your home movies or drop them off at an appropriate vendor for conversion.