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What's the shelf life of short ends and recans?


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#1 Fernando Getz

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 04:53 AM

I'm shooting a short film in 35mm with mostly short ends and recans. The director works in advertising and he got access to the fridges of a bunch of production companies. Of course I would rather shoot with fresh cans, but it's not the case. I got cans from 2 months to 5 years old. Does anybody have a ballpark idea of how much the emulsions will change and what am I to expect from different aged film? I'll be shooting mostly 5218 and 5246, and a little 5201 that I was planning to push to get more contrast out of it.
I know hter are other variables involved like how good a job the loader did when saving the film, etc, but we'll hope everybody took as much care as I did when I was a loader.
How long does the stock hold its original rendition qualities and how does it change with time?
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#2 Rodge

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 04:58 AM

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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 10:30 AM

All this affects shelf life or base fog levels:

1. How it's been stored. If it's been frozen it'll keep for ages, if refrigeratet maybe years, if in sun - well, not very long.

2. Film self-develops due to cosmic rays. High speed film is more susceptible to this and goes bad quicker than low speed film.

There is no real way of saying how long film will last. I know guys who've shot on 10 year old film and been fine - others have been burned by 2 year old. This is also why Kodak and Fuji hasn't got any use-before-dates on their film cans because they don't know how you will store it - you might be storing it in a sandpit in Arizona, for all they know. :D

Now, I've shot my fair share of old film and never had any real problems. One way to suppress the base fog level is to overexpose slightly. The 5 year old definitely needs at least a stop, I'd say. Probably stop and half. The more recent batch doesn't really need any overexposing unless it's been kept in really nasty conditions. But just in case, give it a little bit extra.

Also, avoid using the oldest film in low light conditions and where the image is devoid from overall 'lightness', if you understand what I mean. Base fog level is exactly like hum on a tape - you want as high a signal-to-noise ratio as you can get to distance yourself from that base hum and get good dynamic range. This is hard to do at night where only portions of the image will get exposed at all. Obviously, you could flash the image, but that opens up other problems.

Another trick is to use film you suspect or even know is a bit foggier and grainier on close-ups. You can get away with a lot more grainy film then you can on wides. For the same reason it'd be fully possible to shoot a film on 35mm for the wides and use 16mm on close-ups and getting away with it without many people noticing. Wides need resolution, close stuff doesn't.
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#4 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 10:48 AM

I'm shooting a short film in 35mm with mostly short ends and recans. The director works in advertising and he got access to the fridges of a bunch of production companies. Of course I would rather shoot with fresh cans, but it's not the case. I got cans from 2 months to 5 years old. Does anybody have a ballpark idea of how much the emulsions will change and what am I to expect from different aged film? I'll be shooting mostly 5218 and 5246, and a little 5201 that I was planning to push to get more contrast out of it.
I know hter are other variables involved like how good a job the loader did when saving the film, etc, but we'll hope everybody took as much care as I did when I was a loader.
How long does the stock hold its original rendition qualities and how does it change with time?


As Adam Frisch notes, it really depends on the storage conditions. All the Kodak stocks keep well under the recommended refrigerated storage conditions:

http://www.kodak.com...rage_cond.jhtml

In general, faster films are more sensitive to ambient radiation like gamma rays.

If the film has not been stored properly, or is over two years old, or may have been subjected to x-rays or high temperature storage (e.g., a few days in a hot camera truck), you should have your lab run a "clip test" to check fog levels on each roll. Better yet, run a short picture test to see if age has increased graininess or lost any speed/contrast.

If there is any fogging or graininess increase from poor storage, it will be aggravated by push processing or underexposure.
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#5 Fernando Getz

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 12:10 PM

Wonderful, thanks a lot guys.
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