Another kind of film ‘clip’

Posted by on Mar 23 2010 | Motion Pictures

When we send film material to the lab to create new copies, it is important to create a faithful representation of the original. Each scene in a movie is different, and there can be many lighting changes. In order to produce an acceptable print, different scenes must be adjusted for different light exposures. How do we know when these changes need to happen? They are cued right on the film.  There are many ways to cue a film for printing. One of the oldest methods is Lawley clips.

In Restoration of Motion Picture Film by Paul Read and Mark-Paul Meyer, Lawley clips are described as “small metallic clips inserted between two perforations of the negative.  The disadvantages of this method were that there was a risk of perforation damage in the original and also there was a lot of intensive preparation work.  This method has not been used for many years.  Many archives and film collections have negatives with these clips and to ensure the safety of the film and also of another printer they have to be removed before the film can be printed.  Removing Lawley clips can be a tedious and risky exercise as the film can be damaged around the perforations during the removal.”

How true this is.  Part of our nitrate inspection is to identify and remove these little pieces of silver-nickel metal wrapped around the perforations of these films.  These clips— once helpful in making new prints— are now obsolete in modern printing and should be removed before causing damage to the film.

Using a pen knife, we can gently separate the metal clips from the film.  Each reel of film can have dozens of these metal clips attached, and it takes several hours to remove.

Removed Lawley clips

Once the work is completed, we have a film that fits better in the can, and free from any physical damage caused by these clips.  Each step we take helps prolong the life of our amazing collection!

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    Deborah Stoiber is the Nitrate Vault Manager at The Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center. She graduated from The L. Jeffrey Selznick School in 1998. After graduation, she spent time at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY working on their 16mm collection.

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