Making B&W Slides Without Too Much Fuss
Through the generosity of APUG member Kino, I got my hands on quite a good stash of cine B&W positive film, and it allowed me to work easily on the process of making Black and White slides. The following articles documents where I got so far, and opens up towards further control of the process. Anybody with relevant experience, or simply some intuition is welcome to contribute their knowledge.
Why B&W Slides?
For some reason I can't fathom yet, I feel no sense of wonder before a digital projector showing pictures on a screen, whereas a nice slide from a crappy projector still excites me. At home we used to have slide shows every once in a while, depending on the output of my father's production, and they were one of my favourite home entertainment. Though I was born in the early eighties, we were living in the country, and the black and white TV could only get one channel. That gives me the memories of an old man, I guess!
As much as I like projecting my own colour slides, I don't have the will or the space to develop E6 in my apartment. I like "owning" the B&W process, and I wanted to have a way to project positives whose assembly chain I controlled. I obviously skipped reversal kits, due to my fear of bleach contaminating my shared apartment kitchen, and only had moderate success with re-photographing my negatives. I don't own a proper light table, so my first attempts with macro bellows and Tech Pan were a failure. Given TP's rarity (although APUG member Mike Kennedy has provided me with a useable amount of it), I preferred keeping it for pictorial use. My setup was this: I had a wooden box in which I put a flash. The top of the box has a window made out of translucent acrylic to act as a diffuser. The negative to copy was laying on top of it in a holder, and the camera was setup on a tripod above it, shooting with a macro bellows. Exposure could only be determined by trial and error; it was all error in the end.
A solution is found
Enters Kino, professional worker from the movie industry and of countless other talents with his stash of cine film: Kodak 2302 Black and White Print Film (35mm). This is the film that people rely on to make prints that will go through projectors. It is equivalent to better-known 5302 Fine Grain Release Positive, but it has a tougher ESTAR base (5302 uses acetate), which has better archival properties and resistance to tear.
2302 is a film whose purpose is to turn an in-camera negative into a projectable positive. When you have 1000ft reels of it, it's called a movie. When you have a 1 inch strip of it, it's called a slide. Consider it the equivalent of a contact paper, but on a polyester support rather than on a paper support. In fact, my whole exposing and developing procedure is no different in principle from making contacts on paper. I use no exotic material, or chemistry, and the level of maths I needed is the ability to count seconds.
This film must be developed to a high contrast in order to give the best final result, and the recommended formula is Kodak D-97 to bring the film to a gamma of 2.4 to 2.6. I worked with development by inspection in a paper developer, due to my limited time and means, and had satisfying results for my purpose. D-97 is a very high energy developer designed for cinema, and could prove more suitable than paper developers to exploit the full capabilities of 2302 to the seasoned darkroom amateur. Kodak also has special formulas for stop and fix baths, in order to ensure precise processing and quality control of a level beyond my needs. The formulas are publicly available from Kodak's website (see the links below).
2302 is blue-sensitive only, like a graded paper. Kodak recommends an OA greenish yellow safelight; I worked under a Zone VI graded/VC safelight in graded paper mode, and experienced no fogging whatsoever, while enjoying a bright and crisp yellowish light.
I developed in trays, using the standard sequence: developer, stop, fix, rinse, hypo-clear, and wash. I used Polymax 1+9 print developer, 1+3 vinegar stop bath, Ilford Rapid Fixer 1+9, Kodak Hypo-Clearing Agent 1+4, and tap water everywhere. I calculated fixing time by doubling the time necessary for clearing a piece of film, and hypo-clearing helped remove the anti-halation yellow dye from the emulsion.
My light source was a Zone VI cold light head for graded paper mounted in a Beseler 23c. No filtration was added to the light. I put a 6x7 negative holder in the enlarger to project a rectangular shape in focus on the baseboard. This area is about 6in wide and ensures I use the zone of even illumination for my exposure.
Exposure and development
The hardest things to figure out with my limited means were: how to expose properly and how to develop properly. I had no densitometer, no step wedge, just my eyes and a timer. My guiding principle was this: because the film is meant to be projected, blacks should be as dense as possible, in order to mask light sufficiently to give a "true" black. I would see how the rest of the densities fell, and adjust in consequence. I eventually found out that using Dmax for the blacks was a good rule of thumb, and all the other tones fell where they should. This is similar to calculating the minimal time for reaching Dmax through the unexposed negative edge when you make a contact on paper.
To figure out what Dmax I could get out of my film/developer combo, I took a piece of 2302, and threw it in the developer bath with white lights on to fog it. I agitated constantly by gently rocking the tray until I could see no more development happening, which took about a minute in my case. After stop, fix, I let the film sit in water and turned on the safelights.
My goal was to figure minimal exposure for reaching Dmax, so I taped a 6in piece on the enlarger board, and made a test strip. After development, I held my test strip besides my reference strip before a light bulb. I could clearly see what section of the strip had the same density as my reference point, and used this time as a starting point for my first slide. I suppose I should have used a strip of unexposed and processed negative on top of it to take film base+fog into consideration.
I took one of my favourite 35mm negatives, and sandwiched it emulsion to emulsion with a small piece of 2302. I held the two films together by using the 35mm negative carrier of the enlarger. Filed holders could have been useful here, but the crop didn't affect my composition too much. I had refocused the light beam on the surface of the negative carrier, but I wonder if it makes any difference here (the carrier must be 3-5mm thick).
I exposed the sandwich through the negative for the Dmax time I calculated, and did the complete development procedure. The slide was flawless.
Of course, if you look at your film in the developer bath under the safelight, you are tempted to snatch it before it becomes "too dark," the first error of anyone developing by inspection. You can only assess the proper density of your slide by holding it before a strong source light, because that is how it will be projected. For instance, a colour slide looks too dark until you see it by transparency. If your slide shows clear details when looked at with reflected light, it is too thin.
Making a batch, drying, and mounting
In no time I was producing a good dozen slides from my favourite negatives. With my light source at a height of 19 inches, using a 80mm f5.6 El-Nikkor enlarger lens at full aperture, my exposure times were 10 seconds for dense negatives, and 5 seconds for properly exposed negatives.
Everything was hanged on clips and left to dry overnight. I mounted the slides in Gepe anti-newton glass slide holders and projected them with the same projector that my family has been using for years. I was thrilled and ready to be critical.
Observations and future directions
Besides seeing my picture filling up the wall, the first satisfaction I had was to see my density calculations to prove accurate. The blacks were blacks, and the whites were white. Everything in between was grey, as should be.
However, the first shortcoming I noticed was that the slides looked like prints on a grade 1. They don't look as flat, because they are seen by projection, but they don't have the same punch that a nice contrasty print can have. Of course, this depends on the negative: I had some very contrasty negatives that were the result of push processing or flash exposure, and the longer scale of print film worked to their advantage.
In my print developer, 2302 behaved more or less like RC paper: you throw it in, and it will develop to completion, regardless of how you agitate it. It made calculations easier, but also limits creative control. Some more testing would help finding a way to manipulate its contrast, either by changing concentration, or by using a cinema formula like D-97.
The monochrome slide also revealed a flaw in our family projector: its light has become slightly yellow, perhaps due to age or atmospheric crap cooking on its surface. My slides had therefore a little less contrast than they would have had with a clear light beam.
I also need to find a better way to wash my strips together. All of them were in the same bucket of flowing water for final wash, and the agitation created collisions between them that scratched the emulsion of some strips.
Finally, this procedure is not practical if one wants to copy a 120 negative. You need a way to project a reduced version of your original onto the copy film, either by using a very long enlarger lens, or by working with a macro bellows and using the copy film in-camera. Neither option is practical for me, and I will limit myself to 35mm negatives for the foreseeable future.
I was frightened by the endless list of caveats at the beginning of my tests, but 2302 is very easy to work with. I would even consider using it as a means to proof my negatives. Consider the advantages: a positive transparency allows you to examinate details with a loupe on a light table (if you have one!), its long tonal scale allows you to see maximal shadow details, and its extremely fine grain lets you evaluate the negative's grain, not the copy's. Such a transparent contact sheet gives you the best of both world, letting you proof your negatives at both the pictorial and material levels.
My next experimentation will be to contact print an entire roll on 2302, and compare the results with a paper contact to assess its usefulness. If nothing else, I will have a nice set of slides with amazing archival qualities that I can show on a screen and keep forever.
Silverprint sells 100ft rolls of 5302 from their website, but 2302 is only available through large orders. Your best bet is to team up with someone who works in the movie industry, and ask for loose ends. Kino has been forthcoming in offering some stock to people on APUG, me included, so I hope he will not mind my mentioning it.
comments from previous article system:
By Kino - 12:48 AM, 07-17-2006 Rating: None
Very nice! Well done!
By Clueless - 08:54 AM, 07-17-2006 Rating: None
Another human victory...Huhr-rah!
By Hans Borjes - 09:36 AM, 07-17-2006 Rating: None
'Finally, this procedure is not practical if one wants to copy a 120 negative.' True. A 120 slide photographer certainly does not want to copy 120 negatives onto 135 film. As far as the effort is concerned, this process looks simple, but in the end it makes more effort to develop the negative film and copy each frame separately on copy film, where each copied frame needs separate handling. From that perspective a film reversal process is easier. And potassium permanganate bleach in the kitchen is not a problem at all. The reduced contrast that you are describing is most likely contributed by light diffusion in the sandwhich.
By Kino - 03:10 PM, 07-17-2006 Rating: None
Hans brings up a good point about how contrast in contact Vs projection printing varies. Most motion picture printing is contact-based and the industry is geared toward that reproduction gamut to produce good looking images from contact printed dupe negs NOT projection printed negs, so if you want snapper positives, you have to process the print or the neg and the print to a higher gamma to obtain that. It is not a defect, but a DESIRED property of the stock to avoid generational build up of contrast.
By mhv - 01:30 AM, 07-18-2006 Rating: None
Hans-- that's a good point, but because my primary purpose is printing, I develop my film as negative first, and wanted an easy procedure to create amusing slides. A slide photographer would either fine-tune his negatives for this purpose, or simply work with direct reversal, but I wanted to have an opportunity to reuse my favorite negatives in a different medium. I wonder if rephotographing would change the contrast of the final print, given that it's a projection, not a contact.
Kino-- so it DOES make sense that the film develops to completion once it's in the soup. By doing so the number of variable to control is reduced, just like when one prints on paper. Having too much flexibility would amount to opening the door to more problems.
Thanks for reading, guys!
By Hans Borjes - 10:39 AM, 07-18-2006 Rating: None
mhv-- that is the key point: what is the primary usage. For me it is slide projection, i.e. all parameters including contrast need to be optimised for the projector (not for the light table). Because my secondary usage for a small fraction of the shots is printing, mounting and hanging on the wall, the slides need to work in a scanner as well (I never want to hand over a slide to a lab again, all come back with fingerprints or scratches - if they come back at all). Besides: the golden rule in analog technology is to keep the number of copies to a minimum, i.e. the number of lenses in the chain, taking the picture and projecting is already two.
By glennfromwy - 01:44 AM, 07-20-2006 Rating: None
I have a very old 100 foot roll of Fine Grain Release Positive that I make black and white slides with, on occasion. I contact print them. Develop in Dektol 1:2 for 3 minutes. The base is crystal clear, with creamy white emulsion. Maybe 5302 ? It can be worked with under a red safelight and is enlarging speed, so easy to work with. The results are quite good. They don't seem all that great just to look at them but they project nicely.
By Kino - 01:52 AM, 07-20-2006 Rating: None
Yep, that sounds like 5302, which is exactly the same as 2302 except for the base is acetate instead of estar/polyester. If you want more contrast, you could use one of those slide copiers or copy tubes like the Testrite; of course, assuming you want to do 35mm @ 1:1.
By Jordan - 04:15 AM, 07-20-2006 Rating: None
There are also slide copiers that let you "zoom in" and crop. A little more finicky.
Have you guys seen Luca de Alfaro's page? http://www.dealfaro.com/home/bwslides.html That's where I first learned how to make copy slides on 5302. It works well. You can "tone" the slides in KRST for more kick.
By mhv - 05:50 AM, 07-20-2006 Rating: None
One thing I noticed with Estar or polyester base films is that they tend to be more finnicky to load in a camera. My Spotmatic's taking spool tends not to grip on 2302 as well as it does on acetate base films. You need to be very careful with the first advances of the film.
Selenium toner sounds like an interesting idea for putting in more contrast. I was also thinking about using D-19, given that it's an off-the-shelf high contrast developer. The only reason I didn't try it was that because when I looked at Kodak's contrast indices for Tech Pan, Dektol gave a higher contrast than D-19. I don't know if 2302 would react differently, though.
comments from the previous article system:
By bonagva - 12:53 PM, 09-01-2006 Rating: None
A somewhat more detailed page on B/W slides:
By firstname.lastname@example.org - 03:51 AM, 09-02-2006 Rating: None
A few years back I made positive b&W slides with this same film by projecting the same size image with my enlarger into the body of a Nikon F with the lens removed as well as the prism finder. A waist level finder would make it easier to focus the image on the film. The camera body was on its back and was placed on the enlarger base board and by using a loupe to aid focusing you can get sharp focus and also some cropping. I also used regular film with some very good results. With this set up you can get almost any exposure using a combination of enlarger lens f stops to control the light intensity and the shutter on the camera body for getting the right expoaure. The film is easy to develope in regular 35mm film processing tank. A longer focal lenght enlarger lens makes it easier to get same size images. Some enlargers have limited bellows length and may require an extension lens cone to get proper focus with a longer focal length lens. This method makes it easy to get a series of exposures in a short time. Good luck! PS I now use color slide film and copy the regular b&w print and this results in a very nice positive b&w slide and the exposures are easy and once you have done it this way a few times it it is easy to meter in the camera and it is a one exposure process
Good Evening, MHV,
Congrats on getting satisfactory. In my opinion, this method of getting B & W transparencies is much superior to doing reversal processing. It gives a lot more control. Once you've zeroed in on exposure and processing, the whole thing becomes very simple, much like using a standardized copy set-up.
I wouldn't give up on making slides from MF or LF negatives, either in B & W or color. All it takes is a macro lens. It gives you the flexibility of being able to crop as you see fit.
I haven't made B & W slides for years, but you've made me get interested again. Thanks.
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I think it can work. I'm sending you a PM in French.
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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When I was in Florida, the person who did the darkroom work on request would produce for me TechPan 35mm and 120mm slides using the Kodak reversal kit. She said is was no more difficult than normal development. We had given it a try as she had never tried it before and we both loved the results to the point that for several years before moving to Toronto that is almost all I shot and developed. I had a love affair with TechPan as it was so versitile and results depended on the development. The store where she worked decided to list the service on their price lists and developed a niche trade and market in the area until she left and her replacement did not want to do it. I have several thousand b&w slides and there is nothing like seeing a 120 6x4.5 projected.