Prep Your Film Before You Digitize
Prep Your Film Before You Digitize
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Prep Your Film Before You Digitize

By Dillon Wallace

Tips & tricks to prep your media for a digital makeover

With every passing day, your beloved, old analog media just gets older. And as your film continues to deteriorate right under your nose, it’s important to take action – while there’s still time! After all, it’s not just the film that’s fading away, it’s your memories.


That’s why digitizing your old film is the perfect way to put an anti-aging hold your old media. After all, your film isn’t aging virtually while it’s chilling in the cloud. But before you start preserving your media with that 21st century makeover, there’s a few housekeeping items that you should do to prep your film prior to digitization.


Step 1: Bye-bye Dust

One of the first steps to prepping your old films for digitization is to get them clean. The best way to do this is to grab a canister of compressed air so that you’re not physically blowing on your film, getting your damaging (and kind of gross) saliva on the reel. You can also grab a lint-free cotton cloth to wipe away any oils or fingerprints. And speaking of oily fingerprints, it’s wise to perform step 1 with some rubber gloves.


If some compressed air and wipe down doesn’t do the trick, then it’s time for step 2.


Step 2: A Dab of Alcohol

If you’ve still got some smudges or spots on your film, then a little cotton swab of 98% Isopropyl alcohol can help. Using a lower percentage alcohol may leave streak marks and water might not evaporate as quickly on the film causing a reaction with the emulsion of your film.


Step 3: Ventilation is Key

Before you send off your old media for digitization, you want to make sure it’s getting the proper airflow after the cleaning process. That doesn’t mean storing them by a window or outside. That’s just an open invitation for dust to return. Keep them in a temperature neutral (maybe  slightly cool) zone so that the alcohol can evaporate naturally.


Step 4: Dry and Dust … Again

Once the alcohol has had time to evaporate and break down the oil and debris, you’ll want to wipe it down one last time with a clean lent-free cotton cloth. Now, you should be ready to roll … literally.


A Few Extras to Note:


  • When drying tapes of film, make sure the film is completely dry before rewinding. This may result in film sticking together or to the sides of the plastic reel, damaging the film.

  • If you’re working on cleaning an old and dirty VHS tape for digitization, your best bet may be finding an old electronic tape cleaner to run the film.

  • Also when cleaning a VHS tape, there might be more than meets the eye. Meaning, you may have to open the plastic casing to inspect the film for debris and mold. A simple

  • screwdriver can be used for this task and a Q-tip with Isopropyl alcohol can help remove the grime.


However dirty (or not dirty) your aging film may be, these simple prep and cleaning tips can make the digitization process of your old media a surefire success. After all, you saved these memories for a reason in the first place. It would be a shame if you lost them because you didn’t take care of them.



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