Film handling

The primary concern when handling a film is that no damage should occur to the film as a result of handling. To avoid damage:

  • Staff should be adequately trained in handling procedures
  • All work areas must be clean and free from obstructions that may interfere with any part of the handling operation (books, papers, etc)
  • Any equipment used should be clean and in good repair
  • The lighting level and quality should be appropriate to the task
  • The work room should be reasonably quiet, often it is the senses of touch and hearing that will pick up problems before the problem is visible

The overriding principle of film handling is to not allow the film to move against itself (risk of cinching) or to come in contact with other objects during handling. Gentle movements and close attention are essential at all times.

Cores and reels

A reel of film may contain hundreds or even thousands of feet of film. Usually film is held on a reel or on a core and stored inside a can of some sort. It is common to receive a film that has neither a reel or core and may even not have a can! Consequently, the first stage of any treatment is to ensure that the film can be handled safely and conveniently by placing it on a core or reel.

If the film is not on a core or a reel before it is examined, use some scrap film or cardboard to bush the centre of the film so that the film will fit tightly over the spindle of the winder. Support the film on both sides using winding plates. This will prevent the film from moving around and possibly cinching during the examination.

Fig 10.7 Inserting a protective leader into a film pack that has no core

Gloves and protective clothing

There are many issues around the wearing of gloves when handling films. There are two types of gloves most commonly used for film handling and examination.

Cotton gloves that are thin and open weave are very suitable for general handling of film. Problems can arise if the edges of the film are damaged. The sharp edges of the film can catch on the open weave of the glove and tear the film further especially if the film is being wound.

Surgical gloves are made from thin latex and allow a large degree of 'feel’. The drawback with this style is that after a while they are very hot to wear and can become uncomfortable.

One option is to wear surgical gloves when handling very dirty cans and films, especially decomposing films, and cotton when handling cleaner films.

Whether you are wearing gloves or not you must always keep your fingers away from the image part of the film. Acids and oils from your skin can leave permanent marks on the films surface and any dirt adhering to the gloves can scratch the emulsion.

Other items of protective clothing are outer garments such as laboratory white coats. Mostly these have long sleeves and open cuffs. Cuffs often catch on the handles of film winders and cause the winder to rotate, possibly damaging the film. For preference the cuffs should be tight enough so that they cannot catch, or the coat should have short sleeves. If nothing else is available then rolling up the sleeves can prevent a disaster.

Sturdy footwear is important — if a can of film falls from a bench it can cause injury.