How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

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Aaron_M
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How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by Aaron_M » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:09 am

Hello!

I bought an old 35mm movie camera awhile ago, and it came with two 100' daylight reels of film. The camera dated to the 1930's, so I'm guessing that film on the reels is nitrate. Any ideas on how I can safely confirm this?

Thanks!

Aaron

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boblipton
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Re: How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by boblipton » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:19 am

Cut a very small piece off it and see if it will burn. Be very careful. Do this outdoors, using andiron tongs, because if it is Nitrate.... well, it burns fast.

Better yet, have some one you don't like see if it will burn.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Thu Oct 11, 2018 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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s.w.a.c.
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Re: How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by s.w.a.c. » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:47 am

Or check the edge codes. Which isn't nearly as fun as setting stuff on fire, but it's an option.

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silentfilm
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Re: How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by silentfilm » Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:15 am

Unless the film is really old, like pre-1910, it will say "NITRATE" or "SAFETY" on the edge. 16mm film is never nitrate.

Aaron_M
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Re: How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by Aaron_M » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:29 pm

It's not a film print - pretty sure it's unexposed camera negative...

martinola
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Re: How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by martinola » Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:42 pm

Aaron_M wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:09 am
I bought an old 35mm movie camera awhile ago, and it came with two 100' daylight reels of film. The camera dated to the 1930's, so I'm guessing that film on the reels is nitrate. Any ideas on how I can safely confirm this?
Unless the camera was put away and never used past 1952, I'd say it's pretty likely that it is safety film. Things like cameras back then tended to get used for longer periods of time (unlike today). Do the snip/burn test - it's the easiest and unless you do something really dumb like trying it in a room full of gasoline fumes, you'll be fine.

Try this outside: Take a 1" piece, hold it in a pair of pliers, light it with a match or lighter. If it's Safety film it will just smolder and melt. If it's Nitrate the flame will burn enthusiastically. Try not to breathe in the fumes.

If you get a chance, I'd love to see a picture of the camera and film.

Regards,
Martin

Bor Enots
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Re: How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by Bor Enots » Fri Oct 12, 2018 4:21 am

16mm is usually not nitrate, it is almost never nitrate. 99.9999% of 16mm is safety film..... but not always. In my 20+ years holding the keys to the two largest film collections in the country and having handled probably over a billion feet of 16mm I have come across a single roll of 16mm nitrate. Had “nitrate” on the edge and it wasn’t print through...... and the bit that was burned proved it was nitrate.

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silentfilm
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Re: How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by silentfilm » Fri Oct 12, 2018 11:18 am

Bor Enots wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 4:21 am
16mm is usually not nitrate, it is almost never nitrate. 99.9999% of 16mm is safety film..... but not always. In my 20+ years holding the keys to the two largest film collections in the country and having handled probably over a billion feet of 16mm I have come across a single roll of 16mm nitrate. Had “nitrate” on the edge and it wasn’t print through...... and the bit that was burned proved it was nitrate.
So what kind of subject was on 16mm nitrate? Hopefully it wasn't something that was supposed to be screened in schools or at home.

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Re: How Do I Know If It's Nitrate?

Unread post by Bor Enots » Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:12 pm

I don’t recall.... might even had been negative. Was one of the oddest things I have seen.

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