Forty Some Odd Years Ago
made two types of color film
stocks, they were Kodachrome and Ektachrome.
The Kodachrome was considered to be an amateur film because it was quite
high contrast and generally over saturated with color.
The grass would look greener than green and the sky would be bluer that
blue, but that was what people wanted. On
the other hand the professionals wanted something more real to life, so
Ektachrome had less contrast and had less color saturation.
At Quality Film Labs, we processed the Ektachrome type films.
Kodachrome was mostly left to Kodak to process as it was a much more
color dye was put into the emulsion from the processing chemicals, where
Ektachrome already contained the color dyes in the emulsion.
This made for a simpler process.
processing (developing) of Ektachrome consisted the following steps
(to harden the emulsion to withstand the high temperatures of the chemicals)
2 Neutralizer (to neutralize the pre-hardener)
3 First developer (to develop the
4 Stop Bath (to stop the developing)
5 Water rinse
6 Color Developer (to develop the
color positive image)
7 Stop Bath (to stop the developing)
8 Water Rinse
9 Bleach (to bleach out the B&W
10 Water rinse
11 Fixer (to harden the image and remove
12 Water rinse
13 Stabilizer (to hold the color intact)
14 drier (to dry
I said simpler.
of these steps required the temperature to be within ˝ of one degree.
With the temperatures ranging from 95 degrees to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
The time the film remained in each tank of chemicals was very critical,
especially in the first developer.
film traveled through the processor in one continuous length, to enable this all
of the 100ft.rolls were spliced together using acid proof staples and wound onto
a 1200ft. reel. This was done in
total darkness of course. That reel
was put into a light tight magazine which was placed onto the feed end of the
processing machine. The film end,
which exited the light tight magazine via a light trap, was stapled to a machine
leader which was much like film itself but a lot stronger and was already
threaded throughout the entire
processing machine. The film would
follow the leader through the various tanks of chemicals.
processing machine ran at 30 feet per minute and it took approximately 30minutes
to get the first frame of film onto the take up reel and then of course 30
feet each minute thereafter. Everything
ran perfect until you happened to have a film break which would happen
occasionally. Usually a break would occur because there was a small tear in
one of the customers rolls of film
that managed to get by our efforts to find such tears in the dark.
checked for tears by allowing the film to pass through your fingers that were
held lightly on the apposing edges
of the film. Doing this however
could cause it’s own set of problems. If
the film was wound onto the reel to quickly it could cause static electricity to
build up and then discharge to a ground. A
very small spark would travel across the film.
Even though this spark was quite dim, because it happened right on the
emulsion it would create an exposure! A
static electricity exposure would almost always look like a tree limb with a
heavy line extending across the frame and smaller line branching out from it.
No matter what it looked like, it was a definite no no in the processing
in the motion picture film processing business got blamed for a lot of things,
everything from the film is too dark you must have under developed it to
the film is too light you must have over developed it, but the static
thing… most people had no idea what it was or where it came from!
matter how much you did to prevent it, from time to time a break would occur and
film would get ruined. The sad part
is that in many cases the film that got ruined was NOT the film that caused the
problem. We were keenly aware that
every day we were processing original films that in almost every case could
never be re-shot or replaced. That
was a lot of pressure you put yourself under every day and it could do you in
if you let it. Luckily, the monetary consequences were limited as the labs were only
obligated to replace the film stock and could not be made to pay the cost of
shooting the images that supposedly were on it.
recall the time when one of our customers who also had processing done at a big
Lab in New York, came in and was telling us that on two different occasions he
got back a
400ft. roll of film that was completely blank (unexposed).
note came along with the blank film stating that he should have his camera
checked as it may have a shutter problem. He
could not figure out what was going wrong.
asked him if he kept a record of the emulsion numbers of the stock he used so he
could check those numbers against the numbers on the mysterious blank film.
At first he asked why, then as if a light bulb lit over his head he said
“They ruined my roll and sent back a blank roll to hide what happened!
He quit sending his film to that big New York lab which is now long gone
as they should be. If you have to
operate that way, you should not be in the business.
We always were right up front with your customers and knew that they
fully appreciated that fact.
one particular occasion we processed a 400ft. roll of ECO that was completely
blank with absolutely no exposure. That
roll belonged to a local production company that had been in business for years.
Between us we tossed around every possible reason we could conceive with
no concrete answer. The next day, I
received a phone call from the cameraman. He
said “We know what happened, our
assistant cameraman loaded the 400ft. roll which was a core wind in the
film magazine in the dark room, then placed the magazine on the camera with the
film stock going from the supply side to the take up side but not threaded in
the film gate, leaving that for the cameraman to do.”
(the cameraman) came along and thought he (the assistant) threaded
the film through the gate so I just started to shoot.
All along the film just traveled from one side of the magazine to the
other and never got a image to expose it!”
brought that situation up with the other producer, but he said that did not
happen in their situation as only one person loads and shoots the film.
mentioned a core wind in that story and should explain what that is.
in this book I told you about the film being loaded on a daylight spool.
This was primarily done with 100ft. rolls.
With the larger rolls, Kodak would supply them on either daylight spools
or on a film core. Unlike a
daylight spool, a core has no sides and offers no protection from being exposed
if handled in the light. Most film
magazines were designed to use a core.
This meant that the film must be removed from the film can and put in the
magazine in total darkness. After
the film is placed in the supply side a empty core is placed in the take-up side
of the magazine and the film end attached to it.
Then the lid is placed on the magazine leaving only a small loop of film
sticking out the bottom that is exposed to light
When the magazine was placed on top of the camera this small loop of film
was manually pulled down and the film was threaded through the feed sprocket
drives and the film gate. The light
tight lid was then secured to the camera a the shooting could begin.
loaded on a core had to be handled very carefully as there nothing to keep it in
place. If not handled properly the
film would just fall off into a jumbled mess.
Winding the film off the core in the dark room onto our processing
machine reel could be tricky. For
the weak at heart we had split reels. These
reels could be split open by turning one side in the opposite direction to the
other side. This would un-screw the two sides.
With the two sides separated the film including the core could be placed
on one side and the other side screwed back together.
to the processing machine, as I
said the film would travel through a series of rollers submerged in a chemical
and then exit that tank and go into the next tank of chemicals.
After all of the chemical steps were complete
the film would pass through a air wipe.
This was a device that allowed high pressure air to blow the remaining
water or chemical off the film. The
film then entered the dry box where warm air was blown over it until dry.
The film then was collected on the take up reel.
machine was designed to allow for changing both the supply magazine and the take
up reel without stopping the machine which would be disastrous to any film in
the chemical tanks. This reel
changed was accomplished by having elevators at each end.
These elevators either raised to continue to supply film or lower to take
up film during reel changes.
this ability to continually feed more film into the processor coupled with a
replenishment system for the chemistry we were able to develop an unlimited
amount of motion picture film.