How to Care For Home Movies

Before You Watch Your Movie

We know you're pretty psyched to have found the footage from your first trip to Disney World, but hang on: You should examine the film or videotape first to see if it's even playable. If it's in bad shape, you could damage it even further by shoving it into an ancient projector or player. You can fix some film problems -- like broken splices and torn side perforations -- but it's often more difficult to repair a videotape without destroying the case. If you're dealing with 8- or 16-mm film, here are a few signs that it might need professional help (or be beyond repair):

  • a vinegary odor (caused by decomposition of the acetate film)
  • shrinkage (even 1 percent shrinkage could cause damage in a projector or splicer)
  • cupping
  • cracking
  • mold

If you find out that your film is viewable -- and your projector is in working order -- by all means, go ahead and enjoy the footage of your 2-year-old self meeting Mickey and Minnie. But how do you store it when you're done?