Challenging restoration and telecine transfer of small format films

Hiroyuki Yoshioka

In the beginning

"I want to preserve on film traditional entertainers that no longer can be seen in the city.",
"I want to see the images my great grandfather took."
"I want to see the images of my mother while she was alive.", and so on.
This year as well I am engaged in restoring film . Finally, I feel there is a movement to archieve film that has been stored in houses, company offices, administrative offices, museums, etc.

Our business is a telecine-transfering film to video media-workshop based on 8mm, 9.5mm, and 16mm film.I and a small number of staff restore and telecine many films per day with a method I originally developed eight years ago.

When I started this workshop, I thought if I were involved in film for ten years I would be able to compile a great amount of data on the preservation and restoration of film. It has been a little less than ten years, but the number of damaged films I am restoring is increasing day by day, I think maybe film is deteriorating at a greater rate now. While the motion picture media has evolved to high tech digital media, our technique of restoring-super analogue, has evolved in the opposite direction?that of a handiwork. Everyday we repeat the fusing of these two extremes. I will look back at the process now.

Everybody yearns to watch family film histories.

After the invention of motion picture technology, it took about 30 years before motion pictures could be introduced into Japanese society as katudo-shasin; during that period cameras and projectors were developed that could be used by amateurs.
I speculate that the first problem was the material of which the film was made.In those days, films shown in theaters were almost all made of cellulose nitrate, therefore they were highly flammable, so the projection room walls were fireproofed and the projectionist who rewound the films on the reels was in always peril.

We have to avoid the dangers inherent to taking and projecting motion pictures that amateur film buffs are now exposed to, the study of film material has begun, so non-flammable film based on acetate was developed. In 1920, the French company, Pathé announced the availability of small 9.5mm cameras and projectors targeted at the amateur film buff market.

Motion picture equipment and film called Pathé Baby, manufactured by the Pathé company was first sold in Japan after the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 (In the year 12 of the Taisho reign), these products were sold in the toy corner of Ginza Matsuya Kimono Store; now called the Matsuya department store in Ginza, Tokyo. Because of the availability of film and film equipment, Japanese families became able to take motion pictures; they got great enjoyment from filming their children's growth and other special family occasions, which could be seen again and again at home.

Into the Showa era, system 16mm film was developed by the Kodak company in the U.S.A., but it was too expensive for the average consumer.

As a result of costs, a procedure called W-8 came into use in which the left half of the 16mm film was exposed first and returned on the right half, and developed. The film was cut in half vertically and then joined end to end. It was widely used by amateur film makers around the year 11 of the Showa reign. Soon Japan went into war, and there was a prohibition placed on the import of film the U.S.A., Film developing laboratories were shut down. So the motion picture industry faded.

After the war, 30 years of the Showa reign had passed, domestic film, cameras and projectors were developed, there were beginning to be signs of 8mm film revival.

After the year 40 of the Showa reign, new system called super 8 and single 8 appeared, and was promoted through tv commercial in which a well-known Japanese actress says,
"Film magazine click! Even I can do it."

After that, in Showa 45(1970), the world exposition that took place in Japan was inundated with Japanese families using 8mm film to take pictures.

Considering the deterioration of film overtime.

Overtime in storage, the nature of the material used to produce the base of the film is such that these base materials when combined with ambient moisture result in a hydorolysis which in turn result in the film base melting and emitting acetic acid gas. This is called the Vinegar Syndrome. In essence film has good qualities of preservation, but many films taken at the beginning of the Showa reign, 60 or 70 years passed were already affected by some kind of damages as a result of the age and the high-humidity in Japan. In general scientists say that film begins to deteriorate rapidly 30 years after its initial production.

To be continued...