To transfer nitrate film to video

By | April 11, 2021


Move the film to a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. Heat source – such as a light bulb, radiator or sunlight – can ignite nitrate film. Ideally, the film should be stored in a metal container with a loose lid away from anything that may catch fire.


Find a professional licensed transmission system. Contact a local archive list who can suggest a facility. The Library of Congress provides a list of commercial moving imaging services (see references below).

Contact the Post Office, UPS or FedEx Department of Hazardous Materials for delivery of nitrate film before sending the film to the transfer facility.


The transfer of nitrate film to digital video must be done using a cathode ray tube (CRT) or a scanning laser. A CRT scans the movie to capture the image. A projector may ignite or damage the film during transmission.


Ask a professional archivist in your area or the transfer staff to keep or dispose of the original film. If you are a private individual, you may be able to find a local archive that keeps the original film in its facility.


Deposition of the film requires local hazardous waste disposal guidelines to be followed. Contact your state’s waste disposal facility to find out how best to transfer and dispose of nitrate film.

Tips and warnings

  • Contact your local fire department if you decide to keep the film. Let it know where the movie is located and how it is stored.
  • Cellulose nitrate is a plastic that was commonly used in motion pictures between 1889 and 1951. It is extremely flammable and produces a toxic smoke. For that reason, polyester and safety film replaced nitrate in the early 1950s. If you find this type of film in your home or storage, talk to a professional archivist about having the film transferred to security film or digital video format and whether the original film should be preserved or disposed of.