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Old 16 mm projection

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Dear all, 

I hope not to be too much off-topic. I have recently purchased a Bauer P6 16mm projector, which I immediately gave to a technician for a revision, after many years of life. It works now very well with some recent movies which I bought, mainly some documentaries. Projection is smooth are relatively silent.

I have also acquired some beautiful copies of masterpieces like: "Strike!", "Potemkin" (S.M. Eisenstein), "Roma citta´ aperta" (Rossellini). I have carefully cleaned them with a dedicated film cleaner (purchased from Van Eck in NL), which is removing dirt, grease and evaporating fast. I have the impression that the film shall be also lubricated, because these films are very old and, when projected, they make more noise and sometimes the image is not perfectly stable. They look very "dry", I don´t know if anyone ever lubricated them in the past.

I am therefore searching for a suitable product to lubricate them, and I found the Filmguard cleaner. It is very expensive, I know, but I would not risk to lubricate my expensive and precious films with self-made recipies.

Can somebody tell me if mine is a good idea?

Your experiences?

Thanks a lot!!!


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I don't recommend lubricating the film with anything that isn't designed for archival. Any chemical that sits on the film, even only on the sprockets, will affect the preservation of the print. FilmGuard seems safe, however I can't speak for its archival capabilities (I've never used it). If the prints are valuable to you, I'd recommend spending the money on a lubricant designed for film.

I do recommend lubricating the tension bands of the projector. In the US, I used Tri-flow on our 35mm projectors when I was a projectionist for Harkins Theatres. A little goes a long way.

Do you clean your projector between prints? We would clean our projectors between each movie with q-tips (cotton swabs) and denatured alcohol. For really messy parts, like the tension bands, 409 cleaner worked really well. If we used 409 cleaner, we would then clean off the residue with denatured alcohol. 409 is great for removing emulsion from the projector, but it also leaves a residue. The denatured alcohol removes the left over 409. As a final step, I would use the dry end of the q-tip to dry everything off.

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Make sure to clean every roller and not just the tension band. It seems tedious, but necessary. I started at the platter and worked my way through the film path. In your case, start at the beginning and clean through the film path. Should only take you about 5-10 minutes.

Edited by AJ Young
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Surface coating films can cause difficulties. At a cinema in a remote town, I received a 35mm print of "Rocking Horse Winners". As a second-tier cinema we received the prints after they had done their time in the city cinemas. The print looked good with no scratches or signature scuffmarks of being fed off a platter system but went only through part of the first reel before it began to bind in the gate. Whatever was used to rehabiitate the print was coming off, cooking onto the gate and pressure plate and frying on hard and sticky. It was so bad that it stripped the holes then bent the pulldown sprocket off axis and walked off the sprocket. We had to abandon that reel. The next reel behaved just the same. It fouled both projectors for the night and the screening was over. It might have been okay on a Cinemeccanica with a "cold light" lamp system but with our carbon arcs on old C&Ws, the gate was probably too hot. To get a good throw onto a large outdooor screen we had to overdrive the arcs. Beautiful pure light came out of those things.

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I use Filmrenew, Edwal and some other film tonic. I mainly use them for cleaning, but they also offer lubrication except for Edwal.

The fast drying cleaners like Edwal are good for a quick clean and something that does not affect the tape splices. But fast cleaners leave dirt on the film that the slow drying cleaners loosen up. 

I can't say how archival they are. But they have all been around for many years. As was mentioned, cleaning the projector is also important. 

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The tonic I mentioned is Vitafilm.  The name escaped me and when I thought of it I ran out of edit time.

You can test slow dry / fast dry cleaning qualities by cleaning a dirty film with fast dry cleaner, then re-cleaning the same area with slow dry cleaner. 


Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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