The trials and tribulations of managing a 8mm & 16mm film archive.

Article Dedication

in Memory of

Lewis Hine  &  Harold Edgerton


With Special Honors to

Jacob 'Jack' Allalouf DP-Director of Photography Local 600 (2)

 Jacob ‘Jack’ Allalouf  

DP-Director of Photography Local 600


Not knowing much about movie stock I had to learn on the job when the Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection expanded its scope from still photos to include small gauge movies.

Dealing with films from the 1920’s to 1960’s can be tough if you are on a budget.  Just finding a working editor can be very hard nowadays. Here is a crop of editors I first bought that didn’t work out…

8mm film editors Daniel D. Teoli Jr. m

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

For one reason or another all these editors ended up not working. The editor far left had stripped film transport gears that would jam the film up ever foot or so. Even if it did work, the very dim viewing screen that made the image hard to see. Second from right was a good prospect for working but a lens that came loose during shipment that broke the mirror inside the unit. Another one was sold as 16mm, which I thought I was buying and ended up being Super 8.

The editor in the middle blew the bulb out as soon as I plugged it in…no new bulbs for it are to be found. You would think that buying replacement bulbs for the editors would not be a problem, but it is. Same with projectors. You have to go to mail order specialists and even then it may be a no-go.

The people that are selling old film equipment are generally not the original owners. Most of the sellers are pickers that buy them at yard sales for a couple bucks then sell them online for $30 to $60 each. Since they don’t know a thing about them they are usually sold as-is

Broken Yashica 8mm film editor D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

This Yashica 8mm editor was a hopeful prospect. I paid a lot for it because it was advertised as near new. It had a like new box, the instructions and the proverbial whole ball of wax. Well, the problem with it was, it had a very complex folding, chain and gear driven advance that broke almost immediately.

The Yashica had a decent view, so I decided to give the Yashica a second try and bought another one to see if the defect was just a fluke. Nope, second Yashica’s transport broke in short order.

Vernon 101 film editor D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

The Vernon editor above blew out the bulb immediately when plugged in. But, even if the bulb was good, the film sprocket transport squealed and jammed up.

Minette 8mm editor D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

This Minette editor was a little beauty. But during the shipment the mirror inside came loose and broke.

Goko 8mm film editor D.D. Teoli Jr.

This Goko’s frame shutter didn’t work.      Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

16mm film on core D.D. Teoli Jr (2)

 16mm editor with splicer                  Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

16mm equipment generally is better built than 8mm equipment. Still they can suffer from all the same problems that I’ve covered with 8mm equipment. This old Craig editor had a bent spindle on one side and would rewind films lopsided. The other issue with 16mm is; the editors are tough to find.

Zeiss used to make a Moviscop which was an outstanding viewer in its day. If a Moviscop has had lot of dirty film run though it, it can have a worn film guide which will make the picture on the editor’s screen fuzzy. Over the last 2 years I’ve bought a total of 6 Moviscops…3 out of 6 were bad. And finding bulbs for the Moviscops are a problem.

8mm film splicer D. D. Teoli Jr.

 Tape Splicer                       Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Managing a film archive may requires film leaders to be installed and splices to be done. When it comes to splicing, a glued spice if preferable to a taped splice. A glue splice can be done between frames, whereas a taped splice degrades a couple of frames. Glue splices generally hold up to chemical cleanings and treatments. Taped splices can soften and come loose.

Craig glue splicer D. D. Teoli Jr (1)

Glue Splicer                        Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Sometimes the films are mis-marked or have debris stuck on it. So having the option to view, repair and clean the film before projection or digital transfer is important. Kodak seems to be the only one making splicing cement any more.

I’ve talked with film experts and they told me the cement is not the same as the old stuff. They also said they are surprised Kodak keeps making it and it’s days may be numbered. Once the cement supply is gone it is tape slicing from now on.

Over time, these tape splices didn’t hold up at all.

Baia film splices decomposed D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C (2)

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

This package said ‘permanent and invisible,’ but Baia’s 8mm film splices proved to be neither.

Baia film splices decomposed D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C (1)

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

While the DuPont Mylar did hold up, the adhesive turned brown, lost all its adhesive qualities and flaked off.

Baia film splices decomposed D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C (3)

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Well, it is a good testament to the archival qualities of Mylar.

dirt on 5 feet of movie film D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

This is the dirt on 5 feet of 8mm film using no film cleaner. As I run the film through the editor, cranking with one hand, I lightly hold a soft cotton hankie on the film and keep using new clean patches as the film advances.

cleaning dirt from 16mm film D. D. Teoli Jr (1)

This is film cleaned with film cleaner.          Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.



Disposable pads are a good option to use with chemical cleaners. Be careful what cleaning agents you use. Chemical cleaners introduce things which may affect the archival qualities of film. Edwal Anit-Static Film Cleaner seems to have a good reputation and long history of use.

Here are some tips for cleaning film with liquid film cleaners:

Rusty 16mm film reel Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Colletion

You can use old projectors instead of editors to view your films. But buying used projectors always carries the risk of the projector eating up your film. The projector bulbs have a limited life of 25 to 40 hours on average and can be hard to find.

Always run some disposable test films through your projector with the light off before using it for your archival footage. Even if your projector works fine, every time you project a film it has a ‘wear and tear’ effect on the film stock.

Broken 16mm Film D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C.

The Radio Man 1931            D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C.

My preference is to digitize a film and project it digitally thereafter. To try and repair this film just to project it is to invite further damage.

bug eggs on 8mm film,

Bug egg infestation on 8mm film.         Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

An old film may be loaded with gunk and problems that could ruin a hard to find, good projector. I’d much rather take a look at the films under controlled conditions of the hand-cranked editor before using a projector.

gibbs 01 011

Vintage Bell & Howell Projector

Sure is purdy…isn’t it.  I didn’t shoot it, too anal for me. No name on the file either. A good reminder to use your name on digital files so you can get credit for your pix.

Projectors have the same issues as editors. Generally they are sold as ‘motor runs and bulb lights up.’ While that is encouraging, there are still many hidden problems with old projectors.

Lens B &amp; H 8mm projector D.D. Teoli Jr.

  Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

The lens looked good on the outside, but was cloudy on the inside. Many projectors have been stored in damp basements for decades. This projector stunk of mold and had lots of corrosion damage.

B&amp;H projector w frozen spindle D.D. Teoli Jr. lr

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

The spindles on this projector were frozen from corrosion damage. (Circled in red.) Even with weeks of penetrating oil treatment, they remained frozen.

B&amp;H Director's series 8mm D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

The Bell & Howell Directors Series above was one of the top of the line projectors of it’s day. It even had a remote control with it. (Missing with this one.) This projector motored up and the light was bright. But the spindles and sprockets were frozen.

B&amp;H Regent 122 L 8mm D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

The Bell & Howell Regent 144L ran OK, but had a cloudy lens. It amazes me that something from 1941 still works!

B&amp;H Filmo wide lens D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

I was able to find a clean lens replacement for it, albeit it a wide angle. Before zoom projector lenses were invented, if you moved your projector to different projection distances, you had to stock 3 projection lenses to cover the proverbial waterfront.

B&amp;H Filmo plug D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

The plug for the Bell & Howell projectors is tough to find a replacement for. It fits very snugly in a tight recess in the projector. Take good care of it!

B&amp;H Regent 122 L 8mm D.D. Teoli Jr. .

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Things were a lot simpler back in the day!

B&amp;H Filmo Master D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

The Bell & Howell Filmo-Master shown above came with the original oil can and instructions. The oil can was wrapped up in tissue paper and stuffed in a recess. (See top left of photo)

Oil can B&amp;H projector 1941 D.D. Teoli Jr.

          Original oil can from Bell & Howell Filmo Master projector.     Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Unless you are very fortunate, you will soon build up a collection of 8mm and 16mm projectors that have all sort of problems. If you have the room (which I don’t) save everything! The projectors can always be cannibalized for parts, some replacements bulbs for projectors cost $75!

8mm projectors D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Films should always have a leader installed at the beginning and end. That is generally where the most wear and tear can come from when projecting a film.

A trick you can do to help old films load smoothly is to taper the leader.

Tapered 8mm film leader D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

16mm test leader D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Whenever you are testing an old projector, run myalr / estar white leader through it. The plastic leader, as opposed to acetate leader will pick up dirt, grease, rubber residue or show sprocket damage. When you are using leader on your films, make sure you use acetate leader. The mylar / estar leader is a dust magnet due to its static electric properties. Yes, it is a lot cheaper than acetate leader, but what a mess you will have with dirt.

Here is a mylar test leader ran though an Elmo CL-16 projector with decomposing rubber rollers. Even relatively modern projectors can be nightmares.

16mm test leader damaged by projector D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.


16mm projector damage to film D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Look at the sprocket holes and the test leader for damage before running good film through the projector.

Just because you have a good running projector don’t get too cocky. It is not a DVD player. Take care when handling your film. Rewind does not always rewind and sometimes it can shred your film…

16mm projector shredded film D.D. Teoli Jr.

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.


Digital transfer of film can be a big problem unless you have lots of $$.  While movie film is related to still photography, it is a whole different thing when it comes to $$. A Wolverine scanner is affordable for $300, but the quality of the output is poor when compared to the high-end, frame-by frame scanners. It has a CMOS image sensor that is 3.53 mega pixels and produces 720P resolution. The Wolverine may not hold up over the long haul, so think of it as a disposable. Mine first Wolverine lasted about 21 reels before it broke.

wolverine movie scanner 8mm

Once the Wolverine starts squealing, I’d caution you to stop using it. It may still crank out a couple more films, but the third film I did after the squeal attack got destroyed. The Wolverine kept jamming up and broke the sprocket holes.

The Wolverine scanner has a warranty of 200 reels of films – a built in counter keeps track of the number of scanned reels. Be advised, every time you start and stop the machine, even for 1 frame, it counts as a 1 reel of film. If you make a mistake opening the film gate and use the nearby 8mm / Super 8mm lever while the machine is in pause, it can also raise the film counter by 1.

I’ve learned not to fool around with the machine while it is on, as I’ve hit the wrong button or switch a number of  times and raised the reel count by mistake working to chip away at my warranty. As soon as I finish a scan I turn the machine off. Then I unload the film and rewind on an editor.

The Wolverine produces tiny MP4 video files. It is very slow, taking 2 hours on average to scan a 5 inch reel of film. On the plus side, is it is easy to use. Just realize that your scans will not be of the same quality as you get from HD pro scans. And you may only get 15 or 20 scans out of it before it breaks.

I returned my first Wolverine that broke within a few weeks of use for an exchange. The replacement Wolverine was defective right out of the box and would not produce a steady image. I returned it for a refund and have given up on the Wolverine. If you can find a Wolverine that works, it is a nice little concept for $300.

Here is an example of the image quality a Wolverine produces:


My film ‘Gone…Up in Smoke’ was scanned with a professional film transfer unit that produces individual TIFF files of each frame. (The link is to the low res version.) The TIFF file size for the movie was over 50gb. The Wolverine produced a file of about 325mb for the same film. That is 325mb versus 50gb of information.

A professional telecine or film scanner does an excellent job. But they are very expensive.

Telecine film scanner D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C.

One thing not to buy is this…Wolverine film scanner

The film has to be advanced by hand, frame by frame and the image quality is very poor. Wolverine’s $300 ‘reel to reel’ model is much better. But if you need individual scans of a few frames of film, this unit may be for you. The Wolverine $300 unit wont give you individual scans of the movie frames


If you know anything about my archive, you know I collect unusual and strong material.  Many of the films in my Archive contain sensitive or objectionable material and some are very rare and irreplaceable. Because of the content, a lot of commercial scanning companies won’t scan my films.

Girl Peeing in Pisspots Collage 1910 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection

Selection from Before Photoshop (Unabridged 2 volume edition) artist’s book
by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. / Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection

8mm Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

If you do hire someone to scan your film realize that by the time the film cleaning, noise reduction, HD scanning and bells and whistles are all added up, each little 8mm film can cost $200 to $300 to get it scanned commercially. And if you want the individual TIFF files returned to you, that cost another $150 or so.



Blackmagic Cintel Film Scanner

Blackmagic Cintel Film Scanner

Archives with lots of $ can afford a dedicated film scanning lab of their own and don’t have to send the films off to be scanned.  If you have deep pockets, the Blackmagic Cintel film scanner is an example of a high grade 16mm scanner for $30,000+.

But, in the big picture, the Blackmagic Cintel scanner is nothing compared to Laser Graphics $100,000+ ScanStation scanner. If you can afford a ScanStation then you wont mind spending another $7,500 for set up and 2 day training.

16mm film on core D.D. Teoli Jr (1)

Photo by D.D. Teoli Jr.

Paying $150 to $300 for a hi-res scan and processing of an 8mm film is just the beginning of the process. If you have an important film and a big budget, each of the movies tens of thousands of 8mm or 16mm TIFF files can be post processed individually to remove dust, defects and to improve exposure and IQ.

Here is a professional scan from Gone…Up in Smoke to give you an idea of what you can expect from 8mm.  It shows before and after noise reduction.

Noise Reduction Barbara Lemay - Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

All things considered, if your content is not too extreme, your best bet may be to have the movie scans done commercially by a top quality lab. They are experts at their work and it is hard to beat their quality.

Here is an example price listing from a ‘cottage’ scanning lab for basic services:

SD Scan .16 foot

HD 1080 Scan .25 foot

2K Scan .39 foot

4k Scan .59 foot

Color correction .15 foot

Grain elimination .15 foot

Stabilization .15 foot

If you go to a big pro lab you can get wet gate scanning done. It works proverbial wonders for films with lots of defects…

A pro lab will charge a lot more for scans. For instance, 16mm scanned at 4K at the pro lab is $1.50 a foot with a $300 minimum.

Here is an example of a professional 2K scan:

It is always best to hand deliver and pick up if that is a viable option for you.  If you have to mail your films out, it is a good insurance policy to try to scan them yourself before you send them out. If something does happen to the film, at least you will have something for your archives.


For storing film it is pretty much all plastic nowadays. Whether metal or plastic reels, it is good practice to store the reels in cases or film cans for protection . If the reel gets bent or warped (yes, plastic reels can warp) the film will not feed properly. So, protect your reels!

8mm film storage reel and can

If you are doing film cleaning and restoration with chemicals, you will need metal reels and cans, as the chemicals can melt plastic film reels and cans. Be careful if you are using vintage painted metal reels. I had some of the paint come off the reel with the chemical treatment.

vented 8mm film storage can

Acetate film can have a tendency to take on a vinegar, acidic smell if it is not stored in a container that can breath. Look for vented cases if you want your film to have an air exchange. Don’t store film in sealed plastic bags.

super 8mm archival reel and vented case

Archival, vented cases and reels are another option. Generally the difference between archival cases and non archival cases is this: the archival cases are vented.

But…when it comes to archival plastic, it can be a crapshoot…

The film fanatics claim film beats digital for permanence. Well, you can see that is not always the case…



Vinegar Syndrome is a time bomb that can destroy our film archives by causing the film base to break down into it’s original components of cellulose acetate and acetic acid, the later of which gives off the vinegar smell.

Here is some information on vinegar syndrome:

Some information of proper film storage:

movie film reel case for cans

Before VHS video tape and DVD’s…this is how we stored our movies!

Brumberger Co. from Brooklyn, NY was the king of the smaller format film can makers!


But, just like the buggy whip, things change.


I’m very lucky to be satisfied with collecting the most basic type of movies there are…silent films.  Editing sound movies was a whole different world. The higher up you would go in film editing – the better and more complex the equipment.

Moviola D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C.

Moviola editor

Magnasync Moviola D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C

Magnasync Moviola

Magnasync Moviola D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C. 2

Magnasync Moviola controls

In our digital age, does anyone even know how to thread this thing anymore??

Steenbeck flatbed editor D. D. Teoli Jr. A.C.

Steenbeck Flatbed Editor

Well, apparently so, Steenbeck is still in biz and film is still being shot. Plus we have all the work done with archival film collections.

Steenbeck 16mm flatbed editor D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C.

Editing room

Steenbeck editor 3 D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C. porn for Steven Spielberg!


Unless marked otherwise, product photos shown in this post are from internet and used under the auspices of fair use.


Selection from The Americans 60 years after Frank D.D. Teoli Jr.

Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

A complete listing of artist’s books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.


Weegee Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection end