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Freezin' film?


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 02:43 AM

Because I'm probably going to be majorly or totally financing my first feature film, I've been considering starting to look for deals on short-ends, re-canned and factory sealed film, buying it as I can afford to, while simultaneously putting aside the cash to cover processing and work prints or transfer for the amounts bought then freezing the stock thus allowing me to kinda put my film on the installment plan in advance so to speak.

I had a few questions about the process of freezing motion picture exposed film and rawstock. I have 2 deep freezers that work very well but I don't use, one upright and a large chest type. Together they should be able to handle enough stock for a feature.

I also have a freezer that fits into the bed of a pickup I had planned on using for on set catering but may be pressed into doing double duty in the event the searing temperatures this God forsaken desert can climb to, make it preferable to keep film frozen in the field or if there are several days of location work in areas where keeping a relatively large amount of film cold would be difficult. Now here are a few of my concerns.

FIRST of all, these are just standard full sized home freezers and although the temperatures should remain fairly stable, I'm concerned about humidity especially with short-ends and re-cans. Is it advisable to place the cans in large zip lock freeze bags or does that do no good? I've seen those plastic pail dehumidifiers that you set in a refrigerator and it collects the water from the ambient air in the box but I can't see that working for a freezer. IS there a low solution that doesn't involve buying, renting or sending the film to a commercial film freezer?

Second of all, since every time I pull a Coke out of the fridge, it almost immediately is covered in condensation especially in summer, what is a proper procedure for warming film to room temperature and can condensation form inside the film can during this procedure? If so how can this be avoided as if THAT happens, I'm fairly certain it's utterly disastrous.

Third of all, will there be changes in the differently sealed stocks, in other words will the short-ends and re-canned stock age, deteriorate or fog at different rates than the factory sealed stuff?

ALSO any additional information or answers to questions I SHOULD have asked but didn't think of would be greatly appreciated. Thanks-Steve B)
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 07:04 AM

Thefilms will age differently as the films will be older. Normally you'd do a snip test and send it to a lab to see what each rolls base fog is like so you can expose them all the same, but so long as they aren't too far gone there is a lot you can fix in post in this case (rather than fix, even ou might be a better word).

I have never had an issue with condensation on cans. Once frozen, pull 'em out and let them thaw overnight, or at least that's what I've always done. I wouldn't worry about a freezer for the desert, the film will age very little over a few days; it's more of a few months thing.

I've never put the film in a ziplock bag and it happily sits in my normal freezer and has been good for me.

I did a film on recans and e bay film, the film was all badly kept, but it also worked; magically almost, and i'm talking vision 1 stock, EXR stock, and some of the "odd balls," like 5277 the 320T and the old 800T! So don't worry too too much about more recent stocks ;)
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#3 Michael Kubaszak

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 08:30 AM

Don't freeze your exposed film, send that to the lab right away or within a few days. I've shot on 6 year old vision 500t which was all kept in a freezer. I rated it at 250t and it was still very grainy, granted that's the look I was going for. Do tests.
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#4 Nicholas Rapak

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 03:09 PM

I would put the cans in a ziploc bag, and then freeze them. That way the condensation will form on the bag and not on the can. Another option, depending on the size of the cans, would be to put them in a vacuum-sealing bag and seal them. That way, almost no air will be outside the can itself, and hopefully the air at the warehouse was relatively dry (which is likely, unless you are dealing with a shady dealer). I have done the vacuum-sealing method several times with 100ft loads of 16mm film, and it has always worked out fine.
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 03:59 PM

Steve, I would answer here, but this has been answered, literally, HUNDREDS of times on here. I've probably answered this question at least a dozen times, so I'd recommend you do a simple search: "FREEZE FILM" or "STORE FILM."


As for what you say, Michael, about sending it to the lab as quickly as possible, you're right. BUT, it is better to keep film frozen, or at least refrigerated, when prompt processing is NOT possible.

Personally, the phenomenon of latent image fading and base fogging isn't as severe as it used to be. This has almost become an old wive's tale about having to have the film processed the next day, stuff like that. The research I've heard, this being for the needs of hyper-accurate reversal film exposures for scientific study, say that latent image fading IS something significant, 1/4 of a stop, but the most fading happens immediately after exposure, and then slows rapidly.

So, the only place you'd actually run into real negative effects is if you are processing immediately after exposure as opposed to waiting a day, or a week.

You aren't going to see any difference between processing a day later and a month later. If you're storing imaged 500T, even in a freezer, for a year, then you'll probably see some higher base fog (hardly any if you were shooting '01 or something), but I doubt even another quarter of a stop of latent image fade would occur in a year.


Modern ECN-2 is far more resilient than the early color stocks upon which the advice you espouse is based. It's still good advice, though, from the practical standpoint of keeping track of all your exposed film and avoiding any mixups, losing film, things of that nature.
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 05:13 PM

Well yes, I do realize this subject has been broached before but my concerns were mainly were home freezers gonna be sufficient for want I wanted to do also some more details in the process for example, what is the optimal temperature (Fahrenheit) to set your freezers at, what is the best technique to use when thawing the filmstock, should one leave it in the refrigerator then once it has thawed bring it out into warmer environment. I was worried about humidity in the can especially in the film can which has been answered here.

I GUESS one of the reasons I wanted to start a new thread on the subject was though I've read a lot of the ones posted here on the subject, as I remembered, they seem to be less technically detailed than I was hoping for plus I don't remember commercial freezers specifically designed for film being compared, or contrasted if you will, with home freezers. If I start gathering up film and freezing it for use, it will represent a significant financial investment on my part and I'd rather not screw it up if you know what I mean, so I'd rather be redundant and find consensus on possible issues and techniques. :D
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 06:20 PM

Yeah, you can get a specially-designed low-humidity freezer, but *I* use a dedicated stand-alone freezer designed for regular food storage with no ill effects.

If you want to try to track down a special freezer, the Wilhelm Image Institute put out a book in 1990 or so that is available for free online in PDFs that talks at length about low-humidity freezers.

Interestingly enough, I think that motion picture film actually needs to be stored at 50% relative humidity to keep it from becoming brittle, but this is post-processing archival storage they are talking about, not rawstock storage.


Here you go: Permanence and Care of Color Photographs
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#8 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 07:01 PM

Some of the older threads DO have a caution about freezing Ends as they may have high humidity. The issue is formation of Ice Crystals on the film. Putting film in a plastic bag while it warms up is a "Can't Hurt". Kodak has a publication or two on storage of film.

My 1974 Edition of Kodak H1, (happened to have it in this room) says that "raw stock should be stored in a freezing unit at (-18C to -23C) if the film must be kept longer than 6 months or if the film is intended for critical use" (page 39)

The book also emphasises the "original Taped Cans" warning which of course lets out re-cans, ends and even stock that has been tested by the dealer. They also suggest a 5 hour warm up for a single can of 35mm film, having to warm up 55C degrees. (ie on a 30degree desert day.) Overnight is probably a practical warm up time.

They also recommend storage at -18C for exposed film, after going on a length about moisture pick up.
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#9 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 10:48 PM

AAAHHHH THAT'S the STUFF!! this is a DAMN good starting point and I'm gonna start looking for similar publications on ebay.

One small thing bothers me just a little bit. I'm thinking is this is a 1974 publication. A LOT has changed since 1974 so I'm wondering are we using the same base materials, the same or very similar emulsion chemicals? Given the breakthroughs in film technology, do these numbers err a bit more on the side of caution than it would have in '74. Is there any information missing for more modern filmstocks?
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#10 Simon Wyss

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 05:11 AM

James, NOTHING has changed since 1974, since 1889 if you want, with regard to photographic gelatin on a flexible base.

Freezing something means expansion of the water contained by some 9 % (nine percent). The other point is the freeze-drying effect. You can let it thaw up as slow as you want, there is always a change in the layers. I’m not so well trained in chemistry like a Charles Edwin Kenneth Mees but he’d probably have told us what the relations are. He, Stuber, and Reichenbach were the ones who saved Eastman totally. Bark, old stories, but not forgotten.

Keep film at 4 degrees Celsius, at its water content’s maximum density point.

Keep a dry white Cabernet at 8 degrees.
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#11 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 11:30 PM

OK, now we have a quandary, 0 to -9 deg. as opposed to 39 deg. Fahrenheit (-18 to -23 C as opposed to 4 C)is a HUGH difference. The Kodak manual would seem to be the more logical guess for information on Kodak film but the moisture forming ice crystals in emulsion also would make sense. :unsure: :huh:
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 12:24 PM

Do you even HAVE a freezer that goes to 0° Fahr.? I don't, and I'm pretty sure you don't either, so it seems your problem has been solved for you unless you want to throw a couple of grand into a custom freezer. . .
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#13 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 06:55 PM

Do you even HAVE a freezer that goes to 0° Fahr.? I don't, and I'm pretty sure you don't either, so it seems your problem has been solved for you unless you want to throw a couple of grand into a custom freezer. . .


Most domestic freezers are adjustable. Mine have the knob on the back near the compressor. The Little Woods freezer I use for film shows -18C on the thermometer.

Just did the calculation that comes up to -0.4F
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#14 K Borowski

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 07:24 PM

Did you pay extra for that fridge?

I have a stand-alone, I think 5 cubic foot (142 dm^3) freezer for dedicated film storage, and I don't think it can go below 32F/0C. I have it the coldest it's set but I'd be surprised if it is below 20 Fahr. / -7 Cels.
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#15 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 01:00 AM

Weeeelll actually. mine can get below zero (as verified by a fairly accurate thermometer) but forget about that. listen even IF it would be able to only get to 20 deg F. there is a HUGE difference between 39 deg F and 20 deg F. Let me ask you a quick question Karl, how long is the longest you've ever, frozen film and what was the results when you shot it? ALSO what temperature did you store it at? That should give a practical evaluation of how well film will hold up for extended storage under temperatures over 0 deg F.
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#16 Nicholas Rapak

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 10:57 PM

Did you pay extra for that fridge?

I have a stand-alone, I think 5 cubic foot (142 dm^3) freezer for dedicated film storage, and I don't think it can go below 32F/0C. I have it the coldest it's set but I'd be surprised if it is below 20 Fahr. / -7 Cels.



Wow. You need a new freezer. Every freezer made in the past 10 years has to be able to reach at least a temperature of 5F. 32F is basically a glorified fridge, as Federal law states that all refrigerators must keep food at a temperature below 37 degrees.

Edited by Nicholas Rapak, 01 November 2010 - 10:58 PM.

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#17 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 11:41 PM

-18 degrees fits with what I remember reading on the Kodak website a few years back (can't find the page now, of course) I believe they also said that freezing wasn't necessary unless the film was to be stored for more than 6 months
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