"Perma Film. The Safe Film Preserver."

Technically-oriented discussion of classic films on everything from 35mm to Blu-Ray
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Darren Nemeth
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"Perma Film. The Safe Film Preserver."

Unread post by Darren Nemeth » Wed Oct 17, 2012 2:59 am

"Perma Film. The Safe Film Preserver."

I have a 16mm film print that was treated with Perman Film.

Anyone know what type of film preserver this was? Is it damaging my print?

The print is a 1950s Milton Berle kinescope.


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sethb
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Re: "Perma Film. The Safe Film Preserver."

Unread post by sethb » Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:46 pm

Well, I gotta say that I haven't heard of PermaFilm. But it certainly sounds like a close cousin of VitaFilm, which was that oily, fragrant stuff that we all know and love.

I have no idea if VitaFlim ever actually preserved anything or really helped to prevent vinegar syndrome. But I do know that it did wonders for helping "green" (newly processed prints) get through the projection gate. When I first began collecting 16mm prints in the 1970's, I shredded up the first hundred feet of several new Blackhawk 16mm prints before somebody put a bug in my ear about the stuff. It also did a pretty good job of cleaning film, too. SETH
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DShepFilm
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Re: "Perma Film. The Safe Film Preserver."

Unread post by DShepFilm » Sat Oct 27, 2012 11:55 pm

Perma was a lacquer process. After the film was cleaned, the base was coated with a clear lacquer that has the same refractive index as the film base and renders most scratches invisible. I believe it is reversable and that some archives remove the lacquer from prints they regard as preservation material. No doubt Peter Williamson at MoMA could tell you more.

Perma also had some kind of chemical/vacuum process that was supposed to retard nitrate decomposition and I can remember many libraries sending reels to Perma when the film began to develop that distinctive fragrance of deterioriation. Needless to say it was only a modest postponement of the inevitable.

David Shepard

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Darren Nemeth
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Re: "Perma Film. The Safe Film Preserver."

Unread post by Darren Nemeth » Sun Oct 28, 2012 12:03 am

Thanks, David. My fears were true then.

It has a slight vinegar smell and this will be the next print I soak in Vitafilm as soon as I am moved in the new house.
"How to Film Moving Pictures in the 1910's" by Darren Nemeth
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sethb
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Re: "Perma Film. The Safe Film Preserver."

Unread post by sethb » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:04 am

From what little I have learned about film preservation, the problem with both nitrate and safety film is twofold. First, the film base is inherently chemically unstable. Next, the "sandwich" that is created when the emulsion is attached to the base is also fairly fragile, so that if the base warps, shrinks or decomposes, the emulsion suffers accordingly.

So putting a lacquer over the base/emulsion only prevents wear and tear of those surfaces; it doesn't address any of these underlying issues. In fact, by sealing those surfaces (and sealing in any gases released by the nitrate film), it could conceivably hasten decomposition. Vitafilm accomplished essentially the same "wear and tear" thing by lubricating those surfaces, although possibly some of the product may have been absorbed into the base, helping to keep it from drying out. But as far as actually preventing chemical decomposition, I doubt it. SETH
"Novelty is always welcome, but talking pictures are just a fad." -- Irving Thalberg
"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk ?" -- Harry Warner

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