The Americas Film Conservancy is dedicated to the preservation
of historic film for future generations. Film is a fragile
medium that is subject to deterioration. Fewer than 10 percent
of Latin American films produced before the 1920s survive
and of Latin American films produced before 1950, less than
30 percent survive today. Most deterioration results from
the decomposition of a film’s particular composite materials.
Deterioration can be combated with adequate preservation techniques,
proper storage and appropriate restoration procedures.
Film consists of a clear plastic base, a much thinner layer
of gelatin emulsion, and an image composed of either color
dyes or in the case of black-and-white film, very small particles
of silver. The goal of preservation is to avoid deterioration
in any of these components. The main types of film decay are
Nitrate Degradation, Color Dye Fading, Vinegar Syndrome, and
Preservation Basics The goal of film preservation is to extend the useful
life of collection materials. The key to effective preservation
is to slow down and prevent decay through proper film “storage”
of film elements such as negatives, interpositives (IPs),
internegatives (INs), and separation masters. Storage alternatives
range from million-dollar film vaults to household freezers.
Film can be restored through both analog and digital techniques.
A restored film can then be archived for preservation and/or
made available for viewing. Restoring a degraded film can
be costly. Most film restoration is done using photochemical
techniques. Digital techniques are only employed when necessary
because of the high costs, time, and effort involved. Digital
restoration is typically performed on selective sections of
a damaged film, though there are some cases where an entire
film has been digitally restored.