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  1. #1
    chuck94022's Avatar
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    So just how hard can it be to make film?

    I was reading blaughn's thread about the future of the LF market. Of course, the lynchpin of our continued existence is the availability of film, and to a lesser degree, paper. (Paper supported emulsions being easier to produce by individuals, if push came to shove.)

    Jim Chinn commented on micro-manufacturing of film by some to-be-identified creative entrepreneur.

    So I'll bite. How hard can this be? What is involved in making film?

    Are Kodak's and, say, Ilford's, recipes for some traditional films be sufficiently known that someone could duplicate them if they could assemble the manufacturing capability?

    Can film be produced with sufficiently affordable equipment that one could start with a small operation and then grow it over time if demand required?

    Where would one start?
    Last edited by chuck94022; 05-04-2005 at 02:08 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2
    bobfowler's Avatar
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    If you want to give it a go, try coating glass plates
    Bob Fowler
    fowler@verizon.net
    Some people are like Slinkies. They're really good for nothing, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.

  3. #3
    chuck94022's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobfowler
    If you want to give it a go, try coating glass plates
    That might work for my Wista 4x5, but it would be really hard to wind a roll of glass plate onto my Mamiya 6!

  4. #4

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    Think of making a car, now think of making one in total darkness.

    David.

  5. #5
    mikewhi's Avatar
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    I hope I never have to find out how hard it is! It's all I can do to find time to go photograph. It's hard enough to find time to coat my own paper! I'm sure I would try glass plates before I'd try polyester. I'd think that if film went away, plate holders\backs would start popping up in the marketplace pretty soon.

    I wonder if the currnet liquid emulsions on the market are any good? If film went away, I wonder if other liquid pre-mixed emulsions might start showing up, too?

    -Mike

  6. #6

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    Making an orthochromatic film should not be very hard, it is making a fast speed (100 asa and above) panchromatic film with consistency that it is difficult.

    The dyes used to give film panchromatic properties are difficult to obtain and I imagine in small quantities probably very expensive. Sadly I think neither Kodak or Ilford would release their formulations even if they decided to quit making film altogether, so in essence you would have to re invent the wheel.....seems to me we will have to be happy with glass plates, but heck, if it was good enough for G. Eastman, it might just be good enough for us...

  7. #7
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    Probably the greatest difficulty in film manufacturing would be the correct layering of the emulsion. That step has to be pretty exact to gain full reproducibility and quality control. Another problem is controlling the various steps in emulsion production considering the various sensitization steps and materials. Who knows the exact kind and quantity of these chemicals used to produce the various effects we see in modern (and classic) films? Trade secrets! Even the times and temperatures used in processing emulsions are closely guarded secrets even today. Unless one wants to wing it as a hobby there are EPA ad OSHA requirements. Film manufacturing involves a lot of solvents and some by-products that could be problematic. Yes, one can do it but I’d rather pay more to get a quality product ready for use.

    I believe that someone somewhere will continue to make at least b&w films for ever. The cost may be high and the quality control less than that of the present BIG BOYS, but as there will always be a need, there will be a supply.
    I love the smell of fixer in the morning. It smells like...creativity!
    Truly, dr bob.

  8. #8
    BradS's Avatar
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    Having worked two summers in a coating plant, I'd say Wolliscroft is the closest so far.

  9. #9

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    i think jorge and dr.bob hit the nail on the head. while panochromatic emulsions could probably be made by the small manufacturer or home chemist, the dyes are very expensive, and the process is a pollution-nightmare.

    hasn't kodak been listed for years as harsh polluter?

    i guess that might be one of the harsh realities of photo-emulsion manufacturing, and probably one of the reasons why the eastern european + chinese film industry is gaining such ground.

    ortho emulsions ( like black magic or liquid light ) are not too too hard to make on your own. ryuji suzuki and others do this sort of thing, quite sucessfully. while black magic and liquid light are very slow ( asa 1 - 6 depending ) it is my understanding from conversations with one of the chemists who works / worked for luminos, that silverprint is very fast - close to asa 100!. it is still available at the calumet website and i imagine it is so expensive because of its relative speed (34$ USD / 8oz).

    i've coated thin plastics ( like food wrap + nitrocellulose ) with liquid emulsions before, while it can be done, the non-rigid aspect of the backing/substrate does not make it very easy, and i couldn't imagine coating a whole roll of "film" like this. the emulsion binds well, but the bending/curling causes cracks in the emulsion ( food wrap). if that is the kind of look you are going for ... i also tried to make a "roll" of collodion to put the liquid emulsion onto. it isn't too hard to pour collodion on a sheet of glass, use a pin to pry it off, and carefully cut it into strips. i say carefully, because it isn't safety film, but explosive film. the emulsion didn't bind with the collodion, and i can't imagine sticking an explosive like that into my enlarger head ( B-O-O-M ) ----- >> i'll stick to using dry plates

  10. #10
    chuck94022's Avatar
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    From a purely business standpoint then, perhaps contracting manufacturing of film to China or eastern Europe, based upon a desired film type, could be a way to build a film production business. If plants already exist in those countries, they might be willing to do OEM manufacturing, and probably already have a selection of films formulas from which to start.

    Since over the next year I'm going to be traveling to Shanghai frequently on business (unrelated to photography, unfortunately) perhaps I'll ask around and find out what the state of film manufacturing in China is today.

    Is this what J and C does?

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