In the darkness of cinema, the difference between watching a movie digitally and seeing it projected on film can only be noticed by subtle clues. You may notice small dots and tiny lines on an image, or perhaps inconsistencies in color or general discoloration.
These imperfections trigger a unique form of analog magic. They remind us of the materiality of the work – and that no two projections of the same print are exactly the same.
Fragile films are subject to wear and tear: scratches, burns and tears can occur in the hands of a projectionist or a faulty projector
But there is also a downside. Unless archivists and curators intervene, the physical film will be increasingly damaged with each screening: the scratches will get larger, the specks of dust will become denser, and the film will eventually fade until that the original colors are unrecognizable.
In a world where most viewers are increasingly discovering movies online and fewer and fewer directors are choosing to shoot analog, it’s also becoming increasingly difficult to deal with movies that already exist on film. . Fragile films are subject to wear and tear: scratches, burns and tears can occur in the hands of a projectionist, in a defective projector or during transport. Even when the film is handled with care in the room itself, it still needs to be preserved and stored under special conditions. Older footage from the silent era was taken on cellulose nitrate, a highly flammable material (remember the end of Inglourious Basterds?). New films made from cellulose acetate pose fewer safety risks, but still require temperature and humidity control so they do not begin to degrade in a condition known as vinegar syndrome.