The Vinegar Syndrome
Sounds like a spy novel, I know. And it could have to do with a little mystery… as in, what is on these 8mm films I just found in this box and are they still any good?
Believe it or not, giving the films a good sniff will oftentimes tell you everything you need to know. When film, whether it is 8mm, Super 8, or 16mm, begins to break down or deteriorate, there is no mistaking the pungent odor it emits – a very acrid smell that indicates the chemical decomposition taking place.
Once that telltale odor is detected, the clock is ticking. As more time goes by, the film will become more and more degraded. It will start to buckle; the emulsion will begin lifting off the celluloid; the film will become brittle and it will not be able to go through the process of digital capture.
If the decomposition is in the early stages, though the vinegar aroma is present, it may still be possible to lift the images from the film and transfer them to a digital media, thus preserving them for future generations. The key is catching it early on before the film becomes unworkable.
So if you’re wondering whether your old family movies can still be transferred to a DVD or DVA, trust your nose. It knows.