Tips to View Film as Film

We suggest you view your film at least once for the purpose of discovering its condition, its contents and then making a plan for its future. You'll need to be able to handle and view film as film as gently as possible.

We do NOT recommend viewing film in a movie projector except under certain extraordinary circumstances and only after you have examined its condition. (A detailed article on condition reporting is in the works.) Below you will find tips on restoring viewers, projectors, rewinds and splicers.

So, you'll need to find or borrow a movie film viewer, rewinds, a film splicer and a projector for each gauge of film you're likely to be dealing with. Virtually every piece of equipment you'll find will have seen years of use and/or shelf life.

The equipment may be grimy, corroded and bruised and have a power cord with cracked and peeling rubber.

To restore the equipment you will need (from a supermarket or hardware store)
a quart of denatured alcohol
Johnson's Lemon Pledge furniture wax (not oil)
Bounty Select-a-Size paper towels
300 cotton swab pack
Elmer's Slide-All Dry Spray Lubricant with Teflon
3-in-1 Oil
a can of compressed air
plastic electrical tape

To Restore a Movie Viewer

Wipe it with alcohol (It won't harm plastic or painted metal or the plastic or glass optical prism or condenser lens or screen) on a Bounty towel (the right size and little lint). Next scrub the rollers and sprocket with cotton swabs, until clean.

Now lubricate the rollers and swab the film path by applying Lemon Pledge generously with a swab. Be very careful not to get any Lemon Pledge on the prism or condenser lens. It is o.k. to wipe the viewing screen and case with Lemon Pledge on a Bounty towel to fill in fine scratches.

If the sprocket is not free-running try to work it free with an 18" length of film. Thread the film in the viewer and move it back and forth as you might a towel to dry your shoulders. It the sprocket still doesn't turn freely, put 3-in-1 oil on the head of a pin or fine sewing needle and apply it as close to the sprocket shaft as you can get. The less oil the better. Do not spray Dry Lubricant as this will leave a film on the adjacent prism. If you get too much oil on the sprocket shaft and it works its way onto the prism, clean it off with alcohol.

The bulb.

Fancy movie viewers use rare and expensive bulbs, most of which are still available. We find them through Wagon Photo (617-884-3738). Remove the bulb if you can. If you can't, apply some 3-in-1 Oil and wait a day. Clean the socket with alcohol, rub some Vaseline (generic is petroleum jelly is fine) into your thumb and forefinger, then wipe the bulb and replace it. If you get too much lubricant on the bulb base, it will stink when heated.

The bulb in modern design Super 8 and 8mm viewers is usually a 6 volt, 10 watt bayonnet based affair, similar to an automobile lamp (which are usually 12 volts and do not have a precisely aligned filament.) To adjust or replace this bult you will need a fine point Phillips screwdriver and a 1"" square of cardboard (cut it from the back of a paper pad). On the upper right side of the bulb is the locking screw. To adjust or replace the bulb plug in the viewer and turn on the lamp. Hold the cardboard over the bulb with your left thumb (it gets hot fast) while you loosen the locking screw. The bulb will want to pop out. Adjust a bulb by moving it in and out until the viewer screen is brightly and evenly illuminated, then tighten the locking screw. It may take a little practice as tightening the screw changes the position of the bulb.

Motor drive? If it works, you're lucky. If it doesn't it might be repairable.Or just get along without the motor drive.

Sound? If the viewer was made with a sound capability, you have to test it. Some sound heads were mounted outboard to the viewer and are removable. If the sound head is built in, when viewing film, the film must pass over the it, so be sure to clean it whne you work on the whole viewer. We use carnaba wax (such as Lemon Pledge) on all film paths and channels to clean to prevent the built up dirt from scratching film. (Never spray cleaner or wax into a unit. And never wax the lens or bulb.) Using wax on the sound head won't hurt the sound quality and may prevent your film from being scratched. Alternately, denatured alcohol will also clean the sound head. Listen carefully when you test the sound viewer's ability to read the audio tracks on any sound film you are viewing. Unless you work with test materials like sound from a ton generator, do not assume that the sound quality you are hearing is the best avaialble form that particular track. Better use the sound function simply to determine if there is sound at lall, and if the sound is one track or two. Be sure to mark dow your findings.

Sound recording? Many 1970's editor/ viewers offered a sound recording function, but sound film is no longer manufactured (except for the Fuji Single 8 system) so you probably won't need the recording function. Often it was not the best place to add sound as many viewers added hum. We suggest you don't spend money having the sound recording function repaired.

To Restore a Movie Projector

Remove the lens and any other optical parts, noting how you extracted them (don't laugh, the drive pin on Super 8 projector lenses can present a challenge). Spray Lemon Pledge on a paper towel and wipe away the grime. A few minutes later it should look better (this is for your morale, you'll need it). Spray some dry lubricant on all friction points, like spindles, motor shafts and belts (unscrew the covers and clean inside)..

Try moving the sprocket snubbers. Use more Dry Lubricant or a little 3-in-1 Oil. Some of the oldest projectors have oiling points (little holes, sometimes with spring caps) into which you should put 6 drops of 3-in-1 Oil. If the projector has belts on the reel arms, spray Dry Lubricant on them, too.

Clean the optical parts with a Bounty paper towel, moistening the glass with your breath. Always wipe in circular motions.
Repair any power cord cracks with electrical tape. You can replace it later (use the same gauge wire).

Now run the projector for fifteen minutes without film. Turn the lamp on and off a few times. Try focussing the aperture outline on the wall. If it isn't smooth around the edges, break the end off a cotton swab, moisten the cardboard stick with Lemon Pledge, turn the projector off and try to rub it clean of grime.

About Projector Lamps

Lamps used in movie projectors and viewers usually have a the letter code designation. Try to find it and write it down before turning on the lamp. If the projector has instructions with it, the code may be noted. Order a spare or two through Wagon Photo (617-884-3738).
With the projector running, turn the lamp on and with the clean lens in place focus the white outline of the frame on a white card, wall or screen. Is the light even? If not, there may be adjustments of the lamp to make it even. Same with a viewer.

About Take-up Reels

Regular 8mm and Super 8mm is best stored on 400' plastic reels. Super 8 projectors can take larger ones, but 400' is a convenient size. They come with a plastic center insert to make them usable on the smaller regular 8mm projector and viewer splindles. We like the Gepe self threading reels. They come in "library" plastic boxes with flip-down doors that shap shut and don't lose their snap as years go by (as the more expensive Bonum reel boxes do).

To Restore Movie Rewinds

Some film viewers have attached film rewind arms. 8mm and Super 8 mm viewers often have plastic arms which need special care. Douse them with Lemon Pledge and let it dry. This will lubricate the plastic gears and shafts and leave a protective coating on the reel spindles.

If the rewinds are metal, use 3-in-1 Oil to the above purpose, except use Lemon Pledge on the reel spindles and their spring-loaded reel-locking pins.

Really large rewinds often have a tensioning screw. Remove the screw and squeeze as much white lithium grease (from an auto supply store) as you can into the hole. Replace the screw and wipe away the residue. Crank away, then wipe off any grease that begins to ooz out along shafts.

To Restore a Film Splicer

A fearsome topic. But the word for today is virtually any splicer can be made to work well! We mean it. What is important is that you have a splicer for each gauge of film you are working with. A 16mm splicer will do for 8mm film but not for Super 8. Clean the splicer and keep it clean. Make sure the pins fit the film you are working on. This means that if you are working with shrunken film, find a splicer, like the Minette, with pins you can adjust or bend to fit the sprocket distance.

Splicing tape may be difficult to find. If you have a tape splicer you must use mylar or polyester tape in it; office tape can be easily torn and the gum will bleed out onto adjacent wraps of film. Kodak Presstapes, Fuji, Guillotine or Ciro splicing tape are all strong. For cement splicers Kodak Film Cement is easy to obtain.

Kodak Presstapes are excellent in 16mm, but unsightly (on the screen) in 8mm and Super 8 because they tend not to end on a frameline. You can trim them down; it's labor intensive. Apply them just to the film base (the inside on a reel in normal projection position). which prevents them from buckling at the loop during projection. After application rub them down on the film with a rounded implement pressing on a clean, hard surface.

by Bob Brodsky © 2001, ©2000, ©1999, ©1982


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