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Film and the Environment


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#1 Fred Neilsen

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 06:24 AM

Many people assume that film is extremely bad for the environment, with all the chemicals which go into making the emulsion and processing it.

It seems that leading DOPs such as Don Macapline hold this view;

"As far as the environment is concerned, it [film] is a very expensive, filthy way of producing entertainment"

Is this view correct, is film infact that bad for our planet? Many digital fanboys claim this as one of the major arguments for digital over film, others say that producing a Cmos or CCD is far worse for the environment.

Anyway, should I feel guilty about shooting on film or not?

Fred

Edited by Frederik Nielssen, 07 December 2009 - 06:26 AM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 06:29 AM

Do you feel guilty about the computer you're typing on? How 'bout a bottle of water?
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#3 anthony le grand

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:01 AM

Surely, the film industry is not really good for the environment because many chemicals are involved in the whole process. But it's nothing compared to a lot of industries, all the energy that transports need etc, etc...

Have a look at this very interesting article :
http://www.telegraph...iar-wedges.html

Sure there are so many things to do for the environment and it's a real emergency but this shows all the hypocrisy of our governments.
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#4 Alexander Zabotkin

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:28 AM

Surely, the film industry is not really good for the environment because many chemicals are involved in the whole process. But it's nothing compared to a lot of industries, all the energy that transports need etc, etc...


Sure. That's nothing when compared to many other things

Sometimes you can see that film could be the most environment-friendly product if you look at many modern polluting industries
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 12:33 PM

"Chemicals" aren't bad for the environment; the environment, the world IS chemicals. Humans are made up of chemicals.


Manufacturing processes that produce carbon dioxide and other toxic compounds are what are bad for the environment, not chemistry itself.

Jesus, the worst part of film is the silver in it, which at current prices it would be idiotic to dump down a drain anyway.

Kodak is/was New York State's biggest polluter at one time, but I know they've since demolished a lot of their more toxic manufacturing facilities in favor of more modern/efficient ones anyway.


So how about a little less ignorant, reactionary pseudo-science, and some actual facts on film manufacture, processing, and printing just because we are in the shadow of a climate summit?

Buying and selling new computers every three years, along with the surge in energy usage for computers and televisions that are now EVERYWHERE are probably far more polluting than the billions of feet of release print that are mostly *recycled* after their theatrical runs each year.
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#6 Tom Jensen

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 02:19 PM

I know several lab workers who have died of cancer over the years.
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#7 Fred Neilsen

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 02:46 PM

Thank-you everyone for clearing up my confusion,

Karl, I didn't know that you could recycle prints, by that do you mean reuse, bring to other countries, or by means of removing the emulsion/separating the silver...

I always suspected that film wasn't as bad as it seems, certainly by comparison with other industries,

anyway does anyone know how polluting the manufacture of a digital cinema camera is, I take it, that it's similar to that of making a computer? Of course if it was similar to making a computer, film would be far more efficient (at the rate that most buy digital cameras/That those that use film expose it)

Fred

Edited by Frederik Nielssen, 07 December 2009 - 02:48 PM.

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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 03:00 PM

It is building a little computer, for the most part....And yes, a bit more ineffcient as they have a shorter useful life, my SR3 is from the mid-90s and still going strong, but my HP Pavillion died and was sent to computer heaven long ago.
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#9 Tim Brown

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 04:08 PM

Manufacturing processes that produce carbon dioxide and other toxic compounds are what are bad for the environment, not chemistry itself.


I remember my grandfather saying that "government would eventually tax the air we breath." Funny I thought to myself. Surely that's hyperbole.... I guess he would have been more accurate by stating "the air we exhale." <_<

I digress.... back to your normally scheduled post.
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#10 Dominic Case

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 04:46 PM

I didn't know that you could recycle prints, by that do you mean reuse, bring to other countries, or by means of removing the emulsion/separating the silver...

Fred

Traditionally, "recycled prints" are ones sent to other territories where the release dagte is later than the initial release. "Second hand or used prints is a better term. ANyway, it happens less and less as "day and date" release take over with simultaneous release aropund the world.

In the environmental sense, Kodak and Fuji and Gevaert changed from acetate-base prints to polyester base prints about 20 years ago. In theory youcan recycle polyester (PET). Kodak had a division that collected used prints and recycled the material. I don't think they do it any more. Nd in many other countries, the prints are still just sent straight to the tip (where they do more damage than the old acetate ones, which at least would decompose in time).

The recylced material isn't used for more prints - it's shredded, compacted etc etc and eventually used for packaging products, cheap clothing, etc etc.

It's only marginally economic at the moment (no-one seems to care about the environmental benefits when they look at the business case). One plan seems to involve shipping used prints to a centralised recycling facility, rather than having a facility in each country. Seems pointless when you think of the carbon miles that would involve.
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#11 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 07:49 PM

Many people assume that film is extremely bad for the environment, with all the chemicals which go into making the emulsion and processing it.

Is this view correct, is film infact that bad for our planet? Many digital fanboys claim this as one of the major arguments for digital over film, others say that producing a Cmos or CCD is far worse for the environment

Fred



I think digital taken in it's totality is far worse film once used and processed does not consume mountains of coal to keep going and is basic organic chemistry computer parts have a short life cycle and to keep that information you need to constantly replace the container it is stored in (drive , disc, chip) and or that information will use power constantly. Google's server farm at the Columbia river sucks down something like 120Mw and I think they have tens of these farms consuming Giga watts of mostly coal produced electricity.

It is here to stay but the computer industry uses exotic materials with many persistent carcinogens and the shelf life of that gear is short so where does it go? Look at this: http://www.pbs.org/f...ideo_index.html

So at best it is a draw but I think film could be more environmental if it were to be looked at in that way.

-Rob-
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#12 John Sprung

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:42 PM

Karl, I didn't know that you could recycle prints, by that do you mean reuse, bring to other countries, or by means of removing the emulsion/separating the silver...


B&W film has silver in it after it's developed, but color film has dyes left where the silver was, and pretty much all the silver is recovered unless you do a bleach bypass. Silver recovery is a big chunk of change for the labs. Many things are not as bad as extremists would have you believe. Film is definitely one of them.




-- J.S.
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#13 Dominic Case

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:14 PM

Google's server farm at the Columbia river sucks down something like 120Mw and I think they have tens of these farms consuming Giga watts of mostly coal produced electricity.

I think I've read that Google have located their servers at places where they can use hydroelectric power. (e.g Columbia River?). Of course it might just be for cooling water. Either way, it's a lot of heat generated, with or without CO2.

I've read somewhere that the IT business, on a global scale, matches the airline industry for CO2 emissions. That's hard to imagine - but think how many people are in front of a computer all day every day, for each one person on an airplane for an hour or so once or twice a week (or mostly a day or so in this part of the world but that's another story).

Still'n'all, that's no reason for complacency, whatever you do. Nero is fiddling away . . . .
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#14 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 12:09 AM

I think I've read that Google have located their servers at places where they can use hydroelectric power. (e.g Columbia River?). Of course it might just be for cooling water. Either way, it's a lot of heat generated, with or without CO2.

I've read somewhere that the IT business, on a global scale, matches the airline industry for CO2 emissions. That's hard to imagine - but think how many people are in front of a computer all day every day, for each one person on an airplane for an hour or so once or twice a week (or mostly a day or so in this part of the world but that's another story).

Still'n'all, that's no reason for complacency, whatever you do. Nero is fiddling away . . . .


The Columbia River server farm is there for cheap hydro which is probably how they spin hydro use because the other 30 or 50 server farms are not all near a hydro station and google is just one company like this... also power consumption alone does not cover all of the ground for the impact of IT infrastructure. How often do all of the server and disk components "live" for I think it's 9 months or so which means all of the gear in there is turned over at a very high rate.

-Rob-
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#15 K Borowski

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 01:31 PM

So Kodak isn't recycling prints anymore Dominic? That is news to me. . .


I would've thought polyester would've been more environmentally friendly (since it is thinner too, therefore consuming less actual plastic per length of film), but of course, I am ignorant of the chemistries of either of these plastics' manufacture.

Let's not forget the elimination of silver from soundtracks (where Dominic could speak much more authoritatively than I) as a big step forward in terms of environmental friendliness of film.


As for the actual chemistry of processing, the only other component that is worrisome is the ferricyanide compounds. At the same time, I understand that similar compounds are present in plant fertilizer. I heard a story, maybe an old wives' tale, from a Kodak employee who said that blix (bleach and fixer mixed together) could actually be USED as a fertilizer.
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#16 John Sprung

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 01:40 PM

I would've thought polyester would've been more environmentally friendly (since it is thinner too, therefore consuming less actual plastic per length of film), ....


It's also better because it's so much stronger and longer lasting. I know a guy who towed a car with polyester processing leader -- Jim Martin, the 12 perf camera guy.





-- J.S.
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#17 K Borowski

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 01:43 PM

I know several lab workers who have died of cancer over the years.


I know several non-lab workers that have died of cancer over the years too :-/


To be fair though, I suppose it could happen, more-so due to stupidity. Film workers that I have worked with seem to have this notion that protective gloves and aprons are for chickens. I seldom go without them, remembering the one time that, in a hurry, I used my bare hands in chemistry and the smell remained for two days and my hands started shedding skin. It's like people don't understand that cumulative exposure to chemicals is bad for you. But again, so are many other common household chemicals. "Draino" is one big one I can think of. It has more to do with concentration than with the chemical compounds themselves. Acetic acid is listed as a hazardous chemical (often used between developer and bleach steps in processing). Diluted, it's vinegar that you use on a salad.

I remember someone asking at John Pytlak's funeral if Kodak might have had anything to do with his getting cancer. I told him I didn't think so. But I think the actual manufacture (energy, chemistry, chemical byproducts) is more toxic than the actual processing of film. And, of course, I don't think film itself is toxic at all. Let's remember all of those things that, at least in North America, we rely on that are bad for the environment too: Automobiles and coal power plants.

Picking on film is like picking out the least of our environmental worries.
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#18 Marc Roessler

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 03:31 PM

For manufacturing semiconductors, you need such nice chemicals as arsine and hydrofluoric acid.
Just google a bit on them. I guess you'd happily drink the contents of the film lab's processing tanks rather than getting in contact with this stuff. And the semiconductor industry generates lots and lots of this stuff - which can't be reused as it is needed pure and gets contaminated while applying it.
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#19 John Sprung

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 07:44 PM

I know several non-lab workers that have died of cancer over the years too :-/


Yes, it takes a deeper knowledge of probability and statistics than the average person can muster to know what's significant.

For instance, put 100 pennies in a shoebox. Shake them up real well and count heads and tails. Shake and count several times. How often do you get exactly 50 of each?






-- J.S.
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#20 Dominic Case

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 11:03 PM

I know several lab workers who have died of cancer over the years.

So do I. But they were all heavy smokers, and they were all client reps or managers, so not so exposed to chemicals as others in the lab. And, like Karl, I know other people who have died of cancer who weren't lab people. I don't think there is a statistically significant issue here. And if there is, rather than the chemicals, I'd put it down to the constant pressure that lab liaison people work under in a busy lab, which might encourage the smoking and both of those might increase the risk of cancer. But that is a lot of mights. Point being, that the chemicals are more or less known risks and there are safe handling procedures, which good managments insist on - whereas smoking is left as an individual right (only outside the building these days of course).

And the real issues that this thread is about aren't personal risk, they are environmental risk. I don't think film as such is the biggest mosnter here, it's many of the routine production practices on set: using only bottled water, having everyone drive to location individually, keeping lights on too long, and so on.
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