Many museums, archives, businesses and institutes have inherited a modest or more extensive film collection as a complement to their core activity or collection that may be of an entirely different nature. Often, however, they lack the right equipment and know-how to screen the films, to store them under the right conditions, and to make them accessible to a wider public. Individual professional as well as amateur filmmakers or their descendants may possess a film collection but not the equipment or knowledge to do something with the films. All people in such a situation will wonder what to do with that pile, cabinet or cellar full of film cans. It would be nice to clear out that space, but how can you throw out those films if you don't even know what they contain? What are the films about, and do the cans contain image or sound, or both? Is it acetate or nitrate material? Are the contents worth saving? Can anything be seen or heard at all, or has the material decayed beyond that point?
The Film Atelier can offer help in various ways, regardless of whether it concerns a single film can or a pile of 500. The route that runs from a rusty film can collecting dust on a shelf to a fresh opportunity to be viewed by a new audience consists of several phases:
It starts with a visit to the museum, institute or individual person to see the film collection and the conditions under which it is kept. This will deliver a first rough estimate of the number of film cans per format and the length of the films.
Next, a detailed inspection is required to create an inventory. Films are examined on an inspection table (with magnifier and lamp), thus not yet viewed as moving images. An inspection form is drawn up per film roll, and a summary of that form is added to the inventory, listing information on the film format (35, 16 or 8mm), the type of element (image, sound, negative, positive), the generation (camera negative, duplicate negative, master copy, screening copy, etc.), the running time, any title information and credits, (estimate of) the production year, a general indication of the contents and of the material's technical state (e.g. shrinkage, discolouration, warping, ruptures, scratches, etc.).
The film is viewed and listened to on an editing table (Steenbeck table) to obtain a detailed description of the contents and of the quality of image and sound. A viewing report is compiled for each film roll and a summary is added to the inventory.
Readying for storage
To save the films for posterity, they are given a clean reel core, a clean can, clean leaders and a label listing the title and identification number.
Preparation for laboratory
Films that require active preservation (i.e. transferring them to a safe medium in a specialised laboratory) need to be prepared for the operation, for example by redoing poor splices and repairing any damages. This preparation is performed in consultation with the laboratory concerned. It is advisable to also perform repairs on films suitable for passive preservation (that is, storing the film under the most favourable circumstances). Film Atelier Den Haag does not digitise material; this is also performed by a specialised laboratory.
Material returned from the laboratory undergoes a final check.
Naturally, every step of the way is performed in consultation with the client, who is welcome at all times to attend the work. Suitable solutions can be found for restricted budgets.
Please don't hesitate to contact Film Atelier Den Haag if you have any questions or would like some advice, entirely obligation-free.