What happens when films get old? Just like the people who made them, films actually age—and yes, they can die and decompose as well. There are plenty of lost films. An estimated 75% of American silent films are considered lost. But that's why we have to be much better about finding and preserving the movies we still have around. 

Some experts are dedicated to that work at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. Their team rescues old movies and restores them to glory.

The Eastman Museum runs one of the world's top film-preservation programs, with an archive of 28,000 films, including the personal collections of Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. The museum's preservation projects include the silent films of Cecil B. DeMille, Georges Méliès, and  Stanley Kubrick's first film, Fear and Desire.

Check out this video from Insider on how this team keeps old films alive. 

As we said up top, chemical decomp has destroyed 75% of silent movies made in America. While we mourn those that are lost, this team is doing its best to save films for a long time.

So how do you do it? For a film like an old silent movie, on a nitrate reel, first you have to see what's left.

Old nitrate smells like wet dog and sour milk. Fun!

Historians unspool reels to visually check the damage. While some parts are lost forever, they work to mark which sections can be mended. This includes scrubbing frames, adding teeth so they can be spooled in a machine, and even cutting out decomposing bits, so they don't contaminate other bits.  

Once the reel is ready, it's fed into an ultrasonic cleaner. They get off all the microbial gunk and dust we can't see.

Once clean, the film can be scanned digitally. A two-hour film goes through the scanner very slowly. It will take around two days to scan completely. And they don't just scan one print, they scan a few prints of the same movie if they are available. Then, they take the best quality portions from each print to form the best digital version on the other side. 

That's when the man-made work comes in. Restoring things in digital files, color correcting, and using contrast and color grade to make something whole by the end. As we compile digital copies of all these important movies, they are saved for generations to come.

Does this work fascinate you? What was your favorite part of the video? Let us know in the comments. 

Source: Insider