Dear Movies Silently, Why do silent films have such poor picture quality?

When people think of silent movies, they often think of jittery, scratched images flickering across their screen. But why does the image quality of silent films tend to be so poor? We are going to briefly discuss the topic in this video.

Of course, the topic of film preservation is vast so please excuse me if I oversimplify. I try to keep these videos under 5 minutes.

Do you have a question you would like answered in a future video? Be sure to let me know!


How to find a good edition of a silent film on home video (article)

What to do if you end up with a dog (article)

Lost Films: Important Movies That Disappeared by Frank T. Thompson (book)

Saving Cinema: The Politics of Preservation by Caroline Frick (book)

Nitrate Won’t Wait: A History of Film Preservation in the United States by Anthony Slide (book)

The pristine edition of The Mark of Zorro is available as part of Flicker Alley’s Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer box set. It’s pricy but highly recommended.

4 Replies to “Dear Movies Silently, Why do silent films have such poor picture quality?”

    1. Depends on which video. I list my songs chronologically in the credits so the first one on the credit roll is the first on the video.

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