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Advice On Vintage Boeing 16mm Film Degrading

Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:48 am

I stumbled across a vintage film reel in 16mm black and white format titled "Tomorrow's Airplane Today: The Story of the Stratocruiser"
I believe it is from the 1940s. I would like to find out anything about the film itself- it's use, date of release, etc. All I know is what is in the film titles, that it was presented by Boeing, produced by Jerry Fairbanks, narrated by Wayne Whitman, music by Edward Paul, written by George Brandt, edited by Reg Brown.

I was surprised to find it is not on IMDb.

Also, the film seems to have deteriorated slightly. It is extremely difficult to load into a projector due to warping, which I have found online from a general search tends to indicate shrinkage. Does anyone have any experience in film transfers to digital? I know it can be done with the right equipment and without the use of a projector. I'm curious as to cost and any opinions anyone has on whether or not this would be worth doing.

This is a bit outside my expertise. I'm guessing it's probably expensive, and if the film is of little interest to the aviation community, is this even worth hanging onto in this condition?
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Joined: Thu Sep 16, 1999 3:53 am

RE: Advice On Vintage Boeing 16mm Film Degrading

Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:03 am

I suggest you repeat your post here, where you will find many folk who can help you as to the technical issues you raise. Including copyright issues, which are far more complex than you may imagine. Boeing presumably still holds copyright, and may have better quality versions of this.

The Imdb is unlikely to ever list most trade or commercial films, especially those issued only in "substandard " formats, such as 16mm.

Making a digital copy of a 16mm film is easy, especially using the services of specialised firms equipped to handle this type of work, and as it is relatively short may not be too expensive. You could also make a more primitive arrangement, at home, using a 16mm projector and video camera setup to create a less perfect copy.
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Joined: Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:31 am

RE: Advice On Vintage Boeing 16mm Film Degrading

Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:05 pm

Thanks for the advice. I will check out that forum and see what the experts there say!

On the contrary, IMDb does list commercial films, which are often categorized as "documentary". In fact there is a long filmography on the producer of this film with dozens of credits to other similar films, many of them for Popular Mechanics, and IMDb also has 3 other listings for Boeing films. The producer of this Boeing film had a long, distinguished career in commercial documentary. All the more reason I was surprised not to find this particular film among the listings, as it is much, much longer than the other listings concerning Boeing.

The film is not short by any stretch. It may be as long as 50 minutes and is on a large size 15-inch diameter reel. That's 2000 feet of film, 50 minutes. It's not a typical "short".

It cannot be played on a regular projector in order to make a copy of it, because of the shrinkage issue. I already tried, and I probably should not have. The leader was destroyed in the process, it was so fragile. But luckily I did not damage the film itself in trying. What I was able to see however, there is too much distortion of the image, and trying to play it on a machine with sprockets could result in further deterioration if I try it again. There's no way this can be played on a projector and simply recorded. It needs a professional. I was hoping perhaps someone here had some experience with having a deteriorating film with shrinkage "restored" by a modern machine without sprockets.

It's good to know that Boeing still holds copyright. I will keep that in mind going forward and perhaps contact them.
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RE: Advice On Vintage Boeing 16mm Film Degrading

Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:29 pm

Not sure what part of the US you're in but I used these folks to convert some old 8mm home movies to digital:

The results were excellent, and they list 16mm as a format they work with. They also were apparently entrusted to convert some of the old NFL Superbowls from the original film stock, into digital. Maybe you want to throw these questions their way

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