Autochromes...

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by htmlguru4242, Sep 10, 2005.

  1. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    I have recently discovered the fascinating autochrome process, but I have not been able to find any relatively current examples of it. Has anyone tried to re-create the autochrome process since the plates were discontinued in hte 1930s?
     
  2. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I know of one person who has tried it and has read extensively on the subject. I have heard of another who is contemplating making a stab at it. It will be a difficult task from what I have heard and read.

    I personally would never try that approach. A dye bleach material is much more feasible with hobbyist technology.

    PE
     
  3. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    I certianly know that this is a difficult task, though it sounds [deceptively] simple. It would be interesting to see how the person who tried the process got it to turn out. Do you have any information as to who he is?

    You mention a dye bleach process, and you're proably correct that it would be easier, although, i'd imagine that the required materials are quite expensive...
     
  4. Photo Engineer

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    I would have to check with the individuals concerned to see if they are willing to join this discussion. I have not personally met either, but only exchanged information via e-mail or a 3rd party.

    Autochromes are difficult to make, and there are articles about Polaroid's attempts to use something similar for a color system years ago. It just didn't work well. For hobbyists, coating all of those layers in any color system becomes a pain in total darkness.

    As for dye bleach, the dyes are surprisingly inexpensive, it is again the coating that is difficult and getting the right emulsions. It requires up to 6 layers coated in total darkness, or infra red. It also requires exact matches in dyes and emulsions to achieve a balanced neutral. I have done it one time. That was enough!

    As a photographic engineer, I can say this "he who claims to be a qualified photo systems engineer and has never hand coated a color multilayer is a fool, but he who does it twice is twice the fool". That is a joke BTW and not to be taken seriously as calling any good photo engineer a fool. You can be a good one without ever having made a hand coating. It did seem to be appropriate to remark on it here though given the difficulties you will face making an Autochrome.

    PE
     
  5. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  6. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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  7. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    The quality of thos WWI autochromes are amazing ... I love the look of the soft, pastel colors. It's odd that on the ones on the website, the grain is so visible, the ones i have seen before have been much clearer ... still amazing, though...

    Would making an autochrome plate / film necessarily involve all of that coating? I was thinking that it would be possible to remove the anti-halo layer from a piece of b&w film (or find film withough one), and put a separatealy prepared screen onto the back of the film, thereby eliminating total-darkness coating...
     
  8. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The Kodacolor Lenticular film did what you describe, and Dufay color did much the same thing. The problem would be the resolution.

    All three of these produces (Dufay, Kodacolor Lenticluar and Autochrome as well as a host of others) had a 'digital' look before there even was such a thing.

    I have no argument about the beauty of these films. I saw that site quite a while back and was suitably amazed by how well they depicted the color even then, but coating that would be very hard. It involved dyed starch grains and coal dust suspended in honey or amber and then coated and hardened by some appropriate means.

    This caused a large speed loss and required a very even neutral coating of grains at an exact coverage per square meter. The manufacturing notebooks on this product exist in the French Archives and are available for reading, from what I hear.

    PE
     
  9. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I wouldn't doubt for a second any of what you say. On the flip side, I would bet at a minimum, I wouldn't care and more likely I would enjoy the artifacts as much as the colour.

    One of the beautys, in my mind, of 'natural' media is that often the warts often integrate to make for a greater whole.

    Hmmm I wonder if that only makes sense to me
     
  10. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I thought I said it above.

    I agree that the look of those pictures is great. I have no argument with them, and I fully understand the pain that the makers of the film went through to produce a quality product back then.

    In fact, from many aspects, I can appreciate the difficulty and dedication more than many here, having done it myself in the darkroom. I just spent most of my day making coatings and processing prints as a matter of fact, so it is still part of my life today. Nothing would please me more than to make a color film, but alas I feel that I am limited to B&W due to the rarity of some of the chemicals I need, the cost, and the difficulty of working in the dark. But, I am drooling over IR goggles, so someday.......

    The first time I found that site of WWI pix, I spent an evening in awe at the results. Belive me, it was and still is a real achievment from both the manufacturing and the taking side of the process.

    PE
     
  11. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Polaroid instant process slide films also used an additive color system similar to autochrome, though they used color stripes (like on a Trinitron color CRT) instead of random filter granules.

    With today's technology, it might/should be possible to apply color transmission dyes to a film's emulsion gelatin, in darkness, with an inkjet printer mechanism (or maybe just a plain printer with the status lights blacked out); if the dyes could be kept from washing out (perhaps by using water-insoluble dyes carried in a gelatin solution?), then "all" that would be required is reversal processing the resulting film to obtain slides that work like autochromes. The resolution capability of Epson and HP print heads is such that these slides would probably even look okay for projection with mild magnification (say, from 3x4 or larger lantern slides, as opposed to 35 mm).

    Nope, don't know anyone who's tried it, but I also lack the resources to patent the idea, so have at it. Let history remember me if I'm responsible for preserving color analog photography after the last commercial color film is gone... :wink:
     
  12. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Donald, FYI, I have tried coating emulsion on ink jet paper and am going to try to coat on ink jet film to test your hypothesis. The same idea has not escaped me.

    GMTA!

    Anyhow, the coatings on baryta / mordant work well, but on micro ceramic the results are crappy. Some mordants develop a dark orange stain as well. So, what you describe is theoretically possible, but may be difficult due to the sensitivity of the emulsion to the 'digital' chemistry.

    I'm working on the idea though. Keep in touch. Maybe there is a viable route to Autochromes by another methodology - a fusion of techniques unavailable 100 years ago.

    PE
     
  13. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    About ten years ago I read an article in the Pinhole Journal about a Mexican (?) photographer who was using pinhole cameras and doing handmade autochromes using dyed rice starch. The images were very crude both optically and regard to the emulsion, but that worked together.

    Try contacting Eric Renner at The Pinhole Resource about which issue featured the article. (PR has a website.)

    Joe
     
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  15. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    Donald - that's an excellent idea - i was originally thinking along somewhat the same lines, except I wanted to print onto a separate sheet which would then be glued onto the film.

    I just took an old 120 negative, and taped it onto a sheet of 8.5x11 paper, so as to let my printer feed it. The gelatine emulsion accepts the ink quite readily, althouhg a whole lot of it will be needed to make a print of sufficient density to filter.

    Well, now I'm going to find some of hte cheapest sheet film that i can get my hands on and try this out for real...

    Does anyone know af a super cheap souce of sheet film that i could test this on?
     
  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    if you go to your local drug store you might be able to buy a bottle of "flexible colodion" . if you pour it out onto a sheet of glass, and let it dry out, you can take a pin, pry up a corner and remove it from the glass. i have done this many times, and used ink (india), paints and other things which were readily accepted by the coloidion.

    you might be able to feed it into a printer too, but i am not sure ...
     
  17. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    There is absolutely no sheet film cheaper than miscut 4x5 J&C Pro 100, if they still have any. Pro 100 is good film, too; the miscut won't fit most 4x5 film holders, but it's the same base and emulsion, so you could test things like color fastness, reaction to fixers, bleaches and developers, etc. Last I looked, it was just over $5 for a bag of 25 sheets miscut, about three times that for the correctly sized. BTW, it doesn't come in a box; it's in a red plastic/foil/paper envelope with (I think) a black bag inside. I haven't opened mine yet, no camera to put it in, but I expect to store it in a cookie tin once I open it.

    Actually, you might even be able to use ortho copy film for initial experiments -- it's not panchromatic, and very slow, but would react to blue and green just like panchromatic film; you'd see *some* color (with a strong cyan cast, since all red grains would be left black after reversal) if things are working right, plus you can work with it under red safelight.

    Another possibility, if you can get the registration just right, would be offset print onto the film with colored gelatin in place of regular printing ink. Offset presses are a little dangerous, though -- you'd want to set everything up, then dead last turn off the lights and bring out the film to load into the press supply, and you'd likely lose the whole box if you had a jam. The advantage I see here is that an offset press seems more likely to take hot colored gelatin in place of ink than an inkjet.

    BTW, I don't think you'll need all that much ink to do the job; the photomicrographs I've seen of the starch grains in autochrome didn't show them as terribly saturated, while photo quality printer inks are pretty strong. The main key is you'd need to make up a print pattern that doesn't overlap the different ink colors, to avoid unnecessary neutral density added, while minimizing uncoated area, or framing the color spots in a black matrix like the bitumen in an original autochrome.
     
  18. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Unfortunately, collodion is essentialy impervious to water (spar varnish and glider dope are cellulose nitrate, same as collodion, only with a little more nitration), so if it were laid over emulsion, you couldn't develop the film afterward; this is also why dry plate collodion took so long to be worked out that dry gelatin overtook it. However, flexible collodion does make just about the finest method of cleaning first surface mirrors -- paint it on, let dry, then peel off, and it takes all the junk with it without scratching or ablating the aluminum or silver layer.
     
  19. jon koss

    jon koss Subscriber

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  20. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    Offset presses need a water repelling ink to function, so hot gelatin would not work.

    Simply take a close look at your monitor screen and you can get a good idea of the direction to take.
     
  21. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    Ok - I think theat we're all really getting somewhere here ...

    The only real problem that I can see with this isea is getting inks that are non - soluable in. Although inkjet inks to not immediately wash out of gelatine in water, after the large amount of time spent in developers, fixers and bleach in aqueous solution, i suspect that moost if not all of the ink will be washed out. This is not to say, though, that a non-soluable ink couldn't be fed into an inkjet; so long as its not too thick, anyhting could be fed through.

    J & C seems to be out of the miscut 4 x 5, but that doesn't affect me as hte largest format camera i have is 6 x 9 cm 120.

    I'll run a sheet of film that's been printed on through the developing process next time I do a developing run to see how the inkjet dyes hold up, but it doesn't seem hopeful.

    Does anyone have any ideas for producing non soluable dyes that will be of a good consistency to run through an inkjet?
     
  22. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    One article I'd read on the process a long time ago gave me the impression that the color filter matrix was on a sheet of glass in front of the film and was not put through the developers with the film or glass plate with the image on it. It was then reregistered after the image was processed and dried. Potential problems are dimensional stability of the film, which tends to change size a bit with humidity levels.A glass plate would work best with such a process with an Estar base film second.
     
  23. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    Another thought, if the color filter matrix was printed on the base side of a film without antihalation and exposed through the base you would eliminate the problem of trapping the emulsion under a waterproof layer of pigment. There would still be problems from dimensional distortions from the angle of view from the lens to the film but with LF I think it would be minimised. If you were using a panchromatic liquid emulsion you could coat over the matrix and expose through the base with none of the distortions.
     
  24. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    My reading on the process is this.
    1. The glass plate is coated with dyed potato starch (one listing had it as rgb the other orange, green violet)
    2. this layer is varnished
    3. On top of this is a layer of panchromatic emulsion
    4. the film is exposed through the glass
    5. the developed plate is viewed through a second plate that has a matching dyed potato starch layer

    The fact that they required the addition of the second plate to view limited their public exposure. The advent of digital technology (the ability to scan and digitally filter the image without the viewing plate) has brought them back into the public eye.

    I read this on the web take it for what it is worth.
     
  25. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think you're wrong about step 5 - the starch grains were completely random and impossible to reproduce. You got one original, and that was that. Rather like slide film, in fact....
     
  26. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Ole is correct, there is no step 5.

    1. Coat dyed starch grains + coal dust in a varnish and / or honey mixture and harden. This was on a glass plate.

    2. Coat a panchromatic emulsion over this - losing a huge amount of speed.

    3. Expose through the glass plate.

    4. Reversal process in a normal B&W process.

    5. View.

    This complete process is described in detail in "History of Color Photography" by Friedman. It includes optimum grain size based on expected magnification and also describes Dufay and other similar processes.

    Step 5 could be used in some lenticular processes where the lenticules were reproducible and could therefore be interchanged. It did take manipulation of the lenticular 'mask' in order to register the color separations properly, and so there was some adjustment necessary for each image if this method was used. It was not very popular, and integral lenticular screens were the main choice.

    PE