The majority of film (movie & still)
produced between 1911 and 1980 is dissolving into a goo of acetic acid. Eventually
it all will break down rendering the priceless visual record of our past “LOST”.
I have been
working for over 25 years to preserve our visual history to insure the
remarkable events from our past will be around for future generations. The method
of transferring film to a digital medium is not a perfect solution due to the
fragile nature of digital files but it is a good step towards saving our visual
I own a
collection of movies that were found buried deep in a pile of crumbling boxes
in a warehouse located in Houston Texas. Over 30 films were discovered with three (3)
of them dealing with the annual Mari Gras celebration and the other 27 dealing
with Texas subjects.
Untouched for almost 80 years these black
& white 35 mm nitrate films of the 1928 – 1931 Mardi Gras in New Orleans were
in remarkably good condition considering the warehouse was not climate
controlled. At least one of the New Orleans movies was produced by Shopcraft
films, a branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad promoting tourism for the region.
The content of two films deals with the traditional Mardi Gras parade route and
the people who participated dressed in full costume. The third film deals exclusively
with the black street performers like the “Excelsior Brass Band” and “Baby Doll”
dancers. As far as I know the film showcasing the black street performers is
the only one in existence. It is a very rare part of early southern black
history. Dr. Kim Vaz just completed her
book “The Baby Dolls” that showcases these extraordinary women.
of these three films is estimated at around 16 minutes. It could be more or
less depending on the overall condition of the films. Nitrate movie film is
very unstable and very flammable. It tends to shrink over time requiring a very
labor intensive recovery process. The restoration steps are outlined below
provided by “Film Technology Company, Inc” out of Hollywood California:
Film to Film Preservation & Video Transfer
Labor- Film Prep & Repair
35mm Optical Duplicate Negatives
35mm Film Transfer to Video
Digital Betacam Videotape
Conversion to Quicktime Files
Digital File editing & creation of a master copy
All donors will receive a
copy of the restored film on DVD. All major sponsors will receive a copy of the
restored films on DVD plus a set of 11 x 14 inch printed copies of selected
film still frames. Examples displayed below….
Risks and challenges
Once this project is complete the goal will be to find a museum or educational institution that can obtain and house the original movie film. Since the film medium (nitrate film) is very flammable special consideration must be given to keep the original film away from any heat source. Optimum storage would place the original films in a sub freezing environment or in a storage facility that has climate control to keep the temperature around 45 degrees…
History Lover: $100.00 level
All contributors at this level will receive an edited copy of the restored Mardi Gras films on DVD plus a special mention in credits on DVD. Donors will also receive a set of (3) 11 x 14 inch reproductions of selected single frame stills from the movie.
History Saver: $500.00 level
All contributors at this level will receive an edited copy of the restored Mardi Gras films on DVD plus a special mention in credits on DVD. Donors will also receive a set of (6) 11 x 14 inch reproductions of selected single frame stills from the movie.
History Champion: $1000.00 level
All contributors at this level will receive an edited copy of the restored Mardi Gras films on DVD plus a special mention in credits on DVD. Donors will also receive a set of (10) 11 x 14 inch reproductions of selected single frame stills from the movies.