Cinematography Mailing List - CML

How Long Does Film Last Frozen?


Hi All,

Can anyone tell me some actual facts about how long a brand new roll of say 7218 will last frozen in a freezer before you actually see a noticeable grain difference between the frozen film and a fresh new roll of the same stock? I used a roll that was frozen for 4 years straight and then shot it and edited it with some new stock and there was a huge difference. The frozen stuff was very grainy. So I know you see a difference after 4 years, but when does that noticeable difference kick in?

Also, does it affect the film negatively if you have it frozen, take it out on a shoot for 3 or 4 days, and then refreeze the unused film, that is still sealed in the can and had never opened? Will it grain up quicker now that it has been thawed out and refrozen? Thanks for any help in this area.

Carlo Besasie
Milwaukee, WI

I'm glad someone asked this one...I had been told from someone I thought I trusted that you could freeze film... until a 2nd AC berated me for doing so. I was brought to believe previously that if you thaw it for a couple of days that there is no harm/no foul, but then informed that you should only refrigerate it. Is it worth me shooting the film that I have yet to shoot but was frozen for a year until I transferred it to a fridge last month?

I suppose I could always shoot some blown out/grainy music video or B-horror flick if that's the case...

Sean Smith
Indie cinematographer, etc
Calgary, Alberta

Sean Smith asked :

>>I'm glad someone asked this one...I had been told from someone I thought I trusted that you could freeze >>film... until a 2nd AC berated me for doing so...

Yes, you can freeze film successfully. In fact, when our fridge needed replacement we opted for a freezer. All of our stock is kept at approx. 10 deg. F., from 7218 to B&W reversal. We often have stock go "out of date" (i.e., more than 1 year since purchase) because of the somewhat unpredictable nature of our operation. I sell outdated stock to students at a discount. One student bought some 7246 that was 3 years old (frozen the entire time) for a project. The lab panicked, since they could tell its age by the numbers. The base density was up, but grain was good and colour and speed okay (I had her shoot it +2/3 stop, about EI 160). The transfer looked good.

But the problem always is this: Cosmic rays affect the film no matter how cold it is. Slow stocks (less than EI 200, by John Pytlak's judgment) keep indefinitely. Faster stocks will deteriorate noticeably, higher base density, increased graininess (or you could wrap your freezer with lead)!. I generally don't recommend my students try to use 7218 that is more than 1-1/2 years old (frozen) unless they test it and like it. One student bought several rolls of 4 year old 7248 and had no problem with it, exposed normally.

And our short ends get refrozen after downloading from magazines, canned and taped in a normal air conditioned atmosphere. No problem with them at all.

(BTW, we do major film productions here, not just student projects, and our production stock is frozen also.)

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614

So now that I have my film OUT OF THE FREEZER and in a cool place...can I refreeze it until I have the cash to shoot and develop it? What's the difference between freezing and keeping it cool and dark?

Sean Smith
guy who froze film
Calgary Alberta

Hmmm, I find that odd that you shouldn't freeze film, I had won several rolls of film from Mike Brown of Kodak and he told me that I could freeze them. I gave them to my director of the moment as a present, and didn't say anything and he stuck them in his freezer....but then yet again we live in a very humid place of South Florida, he also had several rolls in his refrigerator that he was defrosting.

Debra Hurd
Studio: 954-981-3510Cell: 954-980-6596

I recall John Pytlak mentioned on that in his opinion the possibility of condensation after freezing made refrigeration a better option, even for as long as 12-18 months.

I'd track down that thread but seems to be down currently. However, 4 years is a crazy long time to store raw stock.

At any rate, I think freezing is common enough practice that nobody should be 'berated' for doing so...

David Sweetman
Los Angeles

David Sweetman wrote:

As I mentioned in my other post, we've been freezing film for years (actually, 12 years) since we bought the freezer, both new stock and short ends. No problems with that, nor with condensation. But of course, we warm up the film for a couple of hours before opening the cans. In many cases, so long as we are inside the temp.-controlled studio, even an hour is sufficient for 16mm.

Another little side benefit: If we are packing a number of rolls of stock to take on location in hot weather, we take them right from the freezer and carry them in a big drink cooler and they'll stay cool for quite a while (assuming, of course, that you have enough mags loaded that you don't have to dip into the cooler for several hours).

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University


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