Slides, negatives, film, and even your photos, were created using chemicals, dyes and inks. These chemicals lose their properties over time. They fade and lose color information, structure. The underlying media, cellulose in the case of film, and paper in the case of photographs, becomes dry, brittle, warped and otherwise damaged.
Stored properly, your media can last a very long time. By “properly” I’m talking about archival, environmentally controlled storage, with no changes in temperature or humidity levels, and no exposure to light.
Shoe boxes and photo albums in your attic, garage or closet are not 'archival storage' methods.
Your media will not last forever. This is fact. But it’s not the real problem!
The technologies for preserving your media is already outdated. This is the real underlying issue. It’s becoming very hard to find the equipment to capture your 8mm home movies, for example. There are “Hollywood” style telecine systems that cost upwards of $100,000 – used. These are obviously cost prohibitive. Then, there are home-rigged systems to literally photograph each frame of your movie, with a digital camera, and combine them into a video afterwards. This is incredibly time-consuming and difficult. Again, it’s cost prohibitive due to the sheer amount of labor involved. This doesn’t capture your video’s sound, either! Lastly, we have telecine equipment that use old 8mm projectors. No one is making new 8mm video projectors – the industry is dead. These work, in general, by projecting your movie onto a white screen, while creating a new video with a simple video camera. They literally film the screen. Some work by projecting the movie onto a mirror, and a video camera is manually aligned to video the image. They use old light bulb technology, that creates heat that can further damage your films. In either case, these old projectors result in jerky images with poor resolution. They do work, and until recently, were the only way to cost effectively transfer your movies to digital formats.
My digital transfer gear is different. I use highly customized projectors with fixed-alignment, built-in HD video cameras, and I have the ability to stream your movies directly to my computers, bypassing “transitional media”. The projectors themselves are highly modernized with some very clever upgrades, allowing for adjustments in the film exposure, the film speed, and creating a very smooth image. They use modern LED light bulbs, removing the issues of color cast and white balance problems, and do not generate heat, keeping your film safe.
These machines, while very impressive, are still a problem. As I mentioned,these are highly customized 8mm projectors, and it’s quickly becoming very hard to find these old systems in working condition. No one is making new repair parts, and modifying projectors to work with existing belts, motors, drive gears and power supplies is very hard. It won’t be long before you won’t be able to find someone to convert your home movies efficiently and cost effectively.
That’s the current state for home movies on film. What about slides and negatives?35mm slides and negatives are a somewhat different issue. Only one company is building and marketing efficient slide scanning equipment. Every other service uses flatbed scanners that can scan 24 slides or negatives at once, or dedicated scanners that do one slide or negative frame at a time. My process can scan 100 slides in a single batch, making it faster and far more economical. I charge more for negatives, in general, because they are much more labor intensive.
The bottom line is this: Your media is deteriorating, and unless you can afford archival storage technologies, it simply will not last. The equipment required to properly transfer your media to digital formats, especially in the case of film media, is disappearing rapidly, or is prohibitively expensive. The time to transfer your media to digital is now.