Motion picture film has been an important part of our lives for over a hundred years – beginning in the 1890’s with the invention of the first motion-picture cameras and the establishment of the first film production companies and cinemas.

Over time there has been a constant evolution of film stocks, formats and techniques. From the early silent movies taken in ‘one shot’, motion pictures have become ever more sophisticated, including sound, film editing, animations and special effects.

However, a great majority of films made in the silent era have been lost forever – many were filmed on an unstable, highly flammable cellulose nitrate film stock, which was expensive to keep and felt to have little or no commercial value after the advent of sound films. Often, they were thrown away or recycled for their silver content. Those that were stored were often destroyed in vault fires or crumbled into powder or dust over time.

Film production moved to the more stable cellulose acetate film, but this too has been found to decay through ‘vinegar syndrome’ and colour films have been found at risk to fading.

Film archives are of great historical importance and require long-term preservation for future generations, and in 1980, UNESCO gave a recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images, encouraging nations to officially recognise and preserve their moving image heritage.

dft has been working with motion picture film for over 75 years. Our specialist archive solutions enable the safe and gentle handling of badly damaged, sensitive and fragile film, enabling users to scan, save and restore films for future generations. Our solutions are used by independent and national archives worldwide.