Nitrate Film Combustion Test

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Stephen Frizza, Apr 24, 2009.

  1. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    I have recently obtained a huge cache of 1930/40 Eastman Kodak Company Nitrate Film. I have had it lectured into me about how extremely flammable this film is and how this film is able to self ignite. well curiosity got the better of me and so i took a square cm and tried to light it with an ember stick. it didn't ignite, Disappointment. So I took another square cm and this time applied raw flame it took a fraction of a second and the material ignited briefly in a lemon yellow and then the flame produced by the film went out leaving nothing but a brittle ash. so i took 4 inches of the film and lit one end of it on a gauze. the film only burnt about 3 inches before self extinguishing. Disappointment.

    I conducted one final test by rolling 30cm (1foot) of the film and tying it with a wire. I then lit this roll of the film. the result was stunning it lit really well burning at a good speed in a bright yellow until all the film was consumed.

    But it has led me to ask questions. It took me exposing the film to a naked flame to get it to ignite, and it didn't burn with explosive force like say a balloon full of hydrogen does, it wasn't a flame as vicious as say that of magnesium ribbon when you burn it. is the whole fear of this film type simply a film library driven fear when you have hundreds of reels sitting in a room?

    These reports I read of the film self igniting is it possible its just one reel every couple of million? like human spontaneous combustion?

    has anyone else here actually experimented with the combustibility of this material?
     
  2. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    No, I don't think it's one in a million. Ask some film conservators and they can tell you some horror stories. I've spoken to one at NY MoMA, which has a very extensive library of historic films. The problem is real. Chances are you don't have what you think you have.
     
  3. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    I'd heard that the gassing of the stored film in large amounts in a hot room was a real problem.

    mike c.
     
  4. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    i am about to scan the least graphic segment of the film i can find to show the rebate stating it as kodak NITRATE film
     
  5. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Steve;

    The biggest danger, as you saw, is in the rolled up film. Second, once started burning, water will not extinguish it and this is the biggie! It keeps on going.

    PE
     
  6. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    Thanks pe I thought this was the case that rolled up it was a danger. but unrolled when u light one end it didnt seem a drama.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    stephen

    i have done the same test with collodion, it burned white and hot
    and fast, just like it is "supposed to."
    not sure if have heard of the cleveland clinic or the fire that was there
    but in 1929 a light bulb's heat and xray film ( non safety film ) started a
    huge fire and a lot of people died.

    http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=490

    be careful with your tests ...
     
  8. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I am wondering if your "Nitrate" in the rebate is a print through from the negative? This is movie film correct? The tests you conducted indicate that the film you have is not Nitrate, but "slow burning stock" or Safety film.
    Nitrate will ignite easily and self-burn quickly if in good condition. Deteriorated nitrate even easier. Oh I see once you tried burning a small roll, it burned well. You probably have Nitrate. But..the Nitrate in the rebate can also be a print through from a camera negative if this is movie film. The key fact to know is that Nitrate based film stocks are unstable, and do deteriorate, and in the deteriorated state can be more dangerous.
     
  9. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    If it's a positive print, might it be a nitrate negative printed onto safety stock, and the edge printing has come through from the original neg?

    I had a few inches of old worthless nitrate film a while back, and it burned very quickly and brightly, quite different to present-day film.
     
  10. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    There is no segment on the films indicating it as saftey films. This film only has Kodak Nitrate printed on the rebate and occasionally some numbers.

    The EKC rusted Tins have kodak labels for Kodak nitrate film on them and film enclosed says Kodak Nitrate Film on the rebate. I have scanned a sample of thew film. This is the least graphic segment on the film i could find. i have 7 tins of these films all about 25cm across.
     

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  11. gordrob

    gordrob Subscriber

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    I was concerned about some older B&W negatives I had from family pictures in the early 1900s and checked out some sites for information. There seems to be more data on motion picture film and the attached sites will give you a good idea about the dangers related to the nitrate film and what not to do when you try a burn test.

    http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/cellulose.pdf
    http://www.movieeditor.com/2005/nitrate.fire.html
    http://www.amianet.org/groups/interest/nitrate/documents/NitrateIGNov08.pdf

    Gord
     
  12. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    the movie editor link is awesome his first two tests are large scale results of what i did.
     
  13. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    Nitrate film is not likely to spontaneously self-ignite. Keep it cool and dry. Metal cans are not ideal for storage. Plastic is better, but seeing that you have historic artifacts, I'd keep the cans to help with identification. Just keep them cool and dry until you can turn them over to a knowledgeable restorer.

    Peter Gomena
     
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  15. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Loose fitting cans, well ventilated, in a cool, dry (no more than 50% humidity) room.

    Let it breathe. Don't smoke around it.

    Don't eat it or smoke it...

    Filling your car with gasoline is far more dangerous than handling nitrate.
     
  16. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    Stephen, you said you had to find the "least graphic" segment of the film to provide a scan. What are the films of?
     
  17. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    See Stephen's other thread from today.
     
  18. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    The motion films are a 1930's collection of people being tortured and murdered in a variety of very brutal ways. From acts of being shot through the head at close range to being beheaded or gutted or to having their neck broken and then buried alive with only the bare ass remaining out of the ground...
    and a list of other revoltingly disturbing acts.
     
  19. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Any idea who shot it? Is it special effects, or real?
     
  20. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    its one hundred percent real, there are defiantly not special effects.
     
  21. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    These appear to be standard 35mm motion picture film. Are they positives?-or Negatives? There is no soundtrack present, but the camera aperture mask allowed for a soundtrack as there is a dark stripe between one edge of the image and the sprocket holes. Standard SMPTE format.

    If they are positives, then that means they were printed from negatives somewhere, and that may help indicate their intended use. Do you think they were from World War 2??
     
  22. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    Im sorry I don't know their origin. and on one in the images is wearing army uniforms nor are they using what I imagine army weapons would have been.
     
  23. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    *********
    Such things happened, I am told, during the Japanese war on China. Somewhat earlier, late 1920s, the Koumintang "suppression" of the communists was awfully brutal. Both were filmed.
     
  24. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Use the edge codes to tell the age:

    http://www.sabucat.com/?pg=datecodechart

    What appear to be the nationality of the people?


    *************

    OK, I went back in the thread and looked at the low rez image you posted. You may have Japanese atrocity footage from Japanese invasion of China in WWII.

    I'd contact Screensound Australia (now the National Film and Sound Archive) if you want it identified and/or preserved; it may be unique footage.

    http://www.nfsa.gov.au/about_us/contact_us.html

    Here's a good resource for handling it...

    http://www.nfsa.gov.au/preservation/film_handbook/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2009
  25. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    thanks so much for this code info

    according to that table and the codes on these films they are from two dates

    Rochester USA as the tins the film are also indicating (double circle 1939)
    and the second lot (circle Square 1942)
     
  26. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Bet it is footage of the Japanese subjugation of Formosa (Taiwan).

    BTW: your footage was shot with camera with an academy aperture, so it was intended to be integrated into a sound production -- for what it is worth.

    A lot of the early WWII footage is Full Aperture and shot with cameras of the Silent Era, so the maker was well-heeled.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2009