Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Negative Restoration

I am a DoP from India. I had shot a film about one and a half years back, which was very successful commercially and critically. It has been invited to various festivals around the world and has been quite popular.

The production decided to strike around 250 prints with the mother negative itself due to which the negative has faded a bit.we in India generally print with the mother negative itself and do not go for the dupes as it is an expensive process.To make the negative last longer the lab has given it a silicon coat of 3M.

Repeated running in the printer has resulted in some scratches on the negative and at one of the places there is a tear in the frame.

the production has decided to preserve it now and they got in touch with me for the same.I would like to know whether this negative can be restored as and would anyone be able to tell us the places in the US or Europe where it can be done.Also can anyone help in providing links to find more about negative restoration. I read an article about the restoration done for 'Apocalypse Now' but I do not exactly recall where and how it was done.

Anil M.

DoP India

I forwarded Anil's request to the AMIA list, and got several useful responses, below -- divided into two posts to get by Lyris...

Jeff "passer of info" Kreines

It is difficult to make a diagnosis on the current condition of this original film production negative. But knowing that 250 prints have been made off it, and that it has been scratched badly twice, and has been treated with 3M Photogard (a polymerized silane) tell me enough to state the following:

(1) Making release prints directly from the camera original is an unsound and very risky practice, particularly if you leave it with a bunch of film butchers!. The 'savings' from not making an interpositive and internegativenormally required for any volume of printing in a professional motion picture laboratory, goes at the risk of being unable to salvage your work and with it an inability to profit from its widespread distribution. Most professional laboratories refuse to print release prints from the original negative, and so they should! But that misjudgment cannot be reversed at this time.

(2) 3M Photogard film coating according to their promotional literature (1979) 'is a unique coating system that applies an optically clear protective coating to processed motion picture films. Coating thickness is 2.5 microns (.1 mil) and is normally applied to both sides of the film. In 1981, it cost US $ .01/ft to ultra-sonically clean the film and for 35mm negative, $ .20 /ft, for the coating that was not inexpensive. Photogard claimed that "coated films feature extremely high resistance to abrasion, static electricity, fingerprints and a wide variety of solvents". (..."resistant to water, alcohols, ketones, gasoline, film cleaners" etc.) It was promoted as a means to fill film base scratches and emulsion scratches where the emulsion had not been penetrated yet. They warn that it "can be damaged or stripped off the film by strong alkalis". The real clincher of all this is expressed well by Henry Wilhelm in his book, The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs:, Publ. Preservation Publishing Company, 1993, p. 647, "Photogard is impossible to remove without destroying the film; for this reason, Photogard is not recommended for valuable original slides".

What Anil states is, that this supposedly unscratchable Photogard-treated negative, actually got scratched badly twice in its short 1.5 years existence after only 250 printer passes. I am not ready to buy this story. I would question whether the lab actually applied Photogard or some lacquer. If is is proven to be lacquer, printing it in a solvent will cause more damage, so get an independent evaluation made! Also, this laboratory is highly incompetent and dangerous to film negatives and the purse of filmmakers!

(3) Getting so many scratches on a negative before it has made 250 passes on a contact printer as to cause one to get a negative 'treated' with a corrective coating, well.... The coating is supposed to be difficult to scratch (I have tried it many times). And then to scratch this coating badly enough to call for 'restoration' after 250 prints, and to encounter broken perforations is an indication that the lab does not handle the customer's valuable negative with the necessary level of care that one might expect. In fact, what have they been doing with the negative? It makes me angry that such people are handling people's production materials and that they exploit their customers' ignorance, causing loss of revenue! Now let's assume that his negative was treated by an authorized 3M Photogard laboratory. Add the above risky lab behavior to 3M Photogard's in the light of this experience's absurd claims and the film negative should have made many more scratch-free passes! In their 1980 pamphlet (PE-PGPL-1(60.2)R1, 3M stated blatantly under the heading: "Abrasion Resistance" - Photogard films have outstanding resistance to physical abrasion. Release positive films will retain "answer print" projection quality after hundreds and even thousands of showings. Negatives protected with Photogard will last significantly longer than uncoated negatives and will yield prints of better uniformity and quality". Not only an irresponsible lab, but unsupportable claims from 3M as well!

(4) Another claim made by 3M was that it 'Protects against Color Fading'. They stated in their pamphlet entitled: "At Last! Fade-and-scratch Resistant, Washable Pictures with New 3M Photogard Photo Protective Coating: "We exposed each picture (showing two slides side by side) to a fading test (no indication here on how they tested, for how long etc.). The unprotected print faded considerably. No fading on the protected print! Most kinds of light fades color prints, but 3M Photo gard coated prints last far longer".

Henry Wilhelm did a bit of research and found that the test shown in their pamphlet was of '3M High Speed Color Paper, a now-obsolete paper that had exceedingly poor dark fading stability'(ibid. p.156). The test applied to It appears to have been made with 'direct sunlight and a xenon-arc Atlas Fadeometer'. In 1982, Wilhelm states, "One professionally oriented lab that installed Photogard sheet-coating equipment was Duggal Color Projects, Inc. of New York City. Baldev Duggal, president of the firm, said at the inauguration of the Photogard services in 1982, "The 3m Photogard coating is one of the landmarks in the history of photography. It gives a lasting image quality to a piece of photo art, and this will add a whole new dimension to our business". According to Wilhelm, Duggal intended to market this service to well-known photographers and institutions such as the Museum of Modern art, "to permanently preserve their color prints". Duggal based his claims about Photogard on information supplied to him by 3M company. Duggal's Photogard service was an immediate market failure and was discontinued shortly after it was announced. In June 1983, Duggal filed suit against 3M Company, claiming $207,500 in damages. (Duggal Color projects, Inc. (Plaintiff), against Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (Defendant). Case Index No. 4911-84, filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in June 1983. A transcript of the case may be obtained from: Supreme Court of the State of New York, County Clerk's Office, 60 Center street, New York, New York, 10007; telephone: +1-212-374-8300. The case was settled out of court and never went to trial. According to Duggal: "I wanted to take 3M to the cleaners, but they offered us a damn good settlement so we accepted it". (Telephone discussion with Wilhelm on December 11, 1986).

(5)Because prints are not expected to remain very long in circulation, color dyes used are known to fade more quickly than those of camera negatives and intermediates. So testing a coating with prints is a critical test. But Anil M, DoP in India reported that his negative 'has faded a bit', well it should not have, if the 3M Photogard claim was true! After a year and a half even a bit of fading is more than is acceptable. Why? Well, again Henry Wilhelm discovered that (p.147): "3M Photogard offers no worthwhile protection against color print fading...tests have shown that prints coated with Photogard may fade more rapidly than uncoated prints".

(6)Unfortunately, not only can Photogard not be removed without destroying the film, it also limits the ability of the film to outgas and is likely to shorten the time to 'vinegar syndrome' as well. The only option at this time is to make an immersion (wetgate) interpositive and internegative and a check print. And please, choose a professional laboratory and get away from the butchers! Yes it costs money, but the price of ignorance is usually high! The cost is no more than the correction of an inappropriate short-cut, the only reminders will be uncorrectable deep emulsion scratches made through the supposedly impenetrable Photogard. At least all the filmmakers' work is not totally lost, which it will be if left as is. Now, if the filmmaker finds the scratches still objectionable, get a professional quality digital scan done of the negative and have the scratches made invisible, but it won't be cheap, they don't fix it with shoepolish!

(7)I have encountered more than my share of valuable customer materials that had inadvisably been treated with various types of lacquer coatings to make scratches invisible, until the stuff itself started to turn yellow and

come off in pieces. Removal was a nightmare and usually not successful, while it cost the customer an arm and a leg, meticulous frame by frame cleaning with fancy chemical compounds. My advise is to be very skeptical when anyone offers you a product that fills scratches (I saw one such product at the AMIA exhibits, called "Scratchfill". It supposedly is "easy to remove and reapplied to the film base". No mention of what happens when applied to the emulsion, which I am sure will be done. No independent verification of such claims. Its claim to fame is that "you can perform repeated wet printing without extracting plasticisers from the film base and that you can 'eliminate health hazards due to the use of chlorinated solvents or IBB'. Learned-sounding words, but actually a mess of totally meaningless soundbites, there is no relation between a coating and pollution. Cleaning is always required as plastics attract dust when they become charged during transport. It should make anyone suspicious about its effect on valuable film materials.

That was my contribution, I hope this lesson will avoid the damage and loss of more film productions as users will ask vendors to support their claims by qualification tests that enable verification by others.

Ed H. Zwaneveld,


Technological Research and Development

National Film Board of Canada,

From: John P Pytlak

Here's a link to the Kodak site with listings of worldwide motion picture labs and video transfer facilities:

I agree that a good lab should be able to repair the negative, and make an interpositive. Wet printing would hide surface defects, but would NOT be recommended if the film had a coating that would be softened ordissolved by the wet-printing solvent (e.g., tetrachloroethylene/perchloroethylene).

A "Digital Intermediate" made with a Spririt DataCine could be considered, since the diffuse light source used will greatly help conceal surface defects, and digital restoration methods could also be employed.

John Pytlak

EI Worldwide Technical Services

Eastman Kodak Company

Rochester, New York 14650-1922 USA

Association of Moving Image Archivists

Ed's response is extremely thorough, and certainly covers the problems leading to the questioner's film damage. It doesn't really cover the basic

question, though "We now want to preserve this film". Even though is it Photoguarded, and has some damage, an interpostive can be made. It would need to be printed dry (because of the Photoguard), and will reproduce the scratches and any ground-in dirt. In spite of this, at least the producer will get an element that can prevent complete loss of his movie from continued use of the original negative. If more prints are needed, an internegative (still showing the damage) can be made from the interpositive. After printing of the I.P., the original should be put into cold storage, and never used again for release printing. Check Kodak's website for a listing of labs in the U.S. who can do this kind of work.

Response :

If the negative has been Photogarded, it can be printed wetgate, as solvents don't affect it. Any deep emulsion scratches will not be improved by wet printing at any time, but basescratches will be made invisible by the process. If it has been lacquered, then I would as I stated, have reservations about wetgate printing, as lacquer may be partially removed and wetgating it would do more harm than good. In that case I would ask for a test made on a printer with a diffuse lightsource, which tends to reduce the reproducibility of most base scratches.

I concur whole-heartedly with Richard about the desirability of storing the damaged original film element, after its duplication. Being always hopeful and in expectation of further creativity, the damaged material may yet be scanned and 'fixed' in the digital domain in ten years from now at less cost than it can be today!

Ed H. Zwaneveld

Well, I've read the replies from John Pytlak and Ed Zwanefeld. You couldn't hope for more eminently qualified respondents (what a list this CML is!, and AMIA as well!).

I understand that the practice of release printing off original negative is common in India although it strikes deep against common practice or sensibility for most of us. Perhaps the lesson of this film could serve to persuade producers _at least_ to make a master interpos for protection purposes in future: minimum extra cost, but it's an untouched master to dupe from in case of disaster.

In this instance, I'm inclined to ask whether a production company that won't pay for an interpos or dupe negative even for a 250 print order, will be prepared to spend the sort of money that's involved in attempting any sort of restoration, let alone a digital restoration. It's not just the scanning and recording, it's the painstaking hours of removing scratches on each frame.

3M Photogarding IS scratchable, if you try hard enough, although of course it is a lot tougher than uncoated negative. Don't forget that this is a fully spliced negative, and with all those splices running through a printer 250 times, one of them could easily have persuaded the film to jump off a roller or somesuch, to cause the scratching, and of course the torn frame. Incidentally, the application of 3M around splices isn't always perfectly smooth, and blemishes may show up.

Not sure if a wetgate process would be entirely successful. If the scratches are in the 3M coating, then there is an issue of what the refractive index of the coating is. I don't know that, but if it's different from the wetgate liquid then scratch removal won't work so well.

Meanwhile, I think it's highly unlikely that the negative has faded as a direct result of 250 passes. More possible to be as a result of the 3M coating on top of a negative that may have been incompletely washed, trapping chemical residues in the emulsion. If the fading is bad, then colour restoration would either have to be digital, or by making triseps at controlled gammas to compensate for each layer's different fade. Neither of these processes are to be undertaken lightly.

Dominic Case

The Atlab Group

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