“Vinegaring” in film and animation cels
Late in 2013 I received a phone call asking about an odd vinegar-like aroma coming, strangely enough, from some cels. While the matter seemed strange to the caller, the issue wasn’t new to us. This was far from the first similar inquiry we’d had. Vinegaring syndrome is a serious matter for animation art collectors and film companies world wide. It’s not new. It was first brought to the attention of the Eastman Kodak Company in 1958, some 55 years ago, as I write. Later, in 1980, a great deal of attention was paid to the issue because of the vast amount of creative works at risk, to say nothing of the animation cels used up until that time. Remember, this has been, up until now, a film issue, not an animation cel issue. I spent time in my early career at Consolidated Film Industries. CFI, the largest motion picture lab and the largest consumer of motion picture film in the world, became part of Technicolor in 2000. I am also co-author of the Complete Kodak Animation Book and worked with Dr. Charles Selwitz at Getty Conservation Research Institute on a study involving the aging of nitrate films. To say I’ve have great resources is an understatement, in addition to working with highly respected people along the way. I am today a member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers as well. SMPTE is also at the forefront of this issue. In the quest to help collectors understand and cope with an anomaly that can potentially endanger important works in any collection, we have established some important guidelines and treatments for vinegaring syndrome. IF you smell a vinegar-like fragrance on or near your artwork or see small grease-like droplets on the surface or between your cels, you have no time to wait. PLEASE call us here at S/R Labs as soon as possible. Your artwork can be cleaned and its surface sealed, helping prevent further loss of its plasticizers and maintain the art’s chemical balance. Our treatments cannot reverse any degradation, but we can prevent future loss.