Cellulose acetate film, also known as safety film, is well-known for its tendency to chemically self-destruct. The cellulose acetate plastic film base deteriorates over time, releasing acetic acid, which leads to the embrittlement and shrinkage of the plastic base. The term, Vinegar Syndrome, is used to describe this chemical breakdown as the film starts to smell like vinegar. (Vinegar is a 5% acetic acid solution in water.)
The negatives above show the classic channeling and buckling associated with Vinegar Syndrome. Obviously, cellulose acetate negatives in this condition render the image very difficult to see and can result in losses to the emulsion.
Risky business: Stripping the emulsion
Emulsion stripping is a conservation treatment used to separate the gelatin pellicle or emulsion from the plastic film base. This is a risky treatment Continue reading