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Hand processing vs Lab / Reducing coasts of Film


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#1 Mendes Nabil

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Posted 25 June 2016 - 03:16 PM

How are you guys?  

 

In term of final image quality, what are the differences between Hand processing and Lab' processing?

 

Shooting film is really expensive, any tip allowing to spend a little bit less without scarifying the quality is greatly welcome..

 

I also discovered this little Super 8 home scanner:

 

http://www.itsjumbl.com/gadget/jumbl-high-resolution-22mp-all-in-1-scanner-digitizer.html 

Does someone tried it? What does that worth?

 

Thanks!


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#2 Andries Molenaar

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Posted 25 June 2016 - 03:32 PM

The link gives 404 :(

 

Fresh film is getting terribly expensive, little to win there :(

 

With some skills and not counting time you could attempt DIY processing and scanning. But then you need tanks, chemistry and a scanning apparatus :)


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 25 June 2016 - 08:12 PM

Welcome to the forum!

Unfortunately there are no benefits to processing at home if you expect any decent quality in return. There is a pretty decent startup cost associated due to the hardware, chemicals and building a dark/clean room with heavy ventilation. Sure, you can do a lot of outside, but you still need to load and dry it, both steps are difficult without a clean room.

Super 8 is the cheapest film format to work with, but minute by minute, it's not much cheaper then Super 16. Super 8 is around 15-20% less then S16, which isn't a big number when you consider S16 is twice the resolution.

There are literally hundreds of DYI solutions for home processing, but none of them solve the basic issues of retaining chemical temperatures, keeping the film from touching each other, removing the rem jet layer automatically (color negative) and drying. These four things are really what separates lab processing from home processing. The results of home processing are always SUBSTANDARD as a consequence.

The problem with home processing in my eyes (having done 100's of 35mm still rolls in my lifetime) is that cost of stock is so high and the cost of lab processing is so inexpensive in comparison ($0.34/foot for S16mm stock and $0.12/foot for processing), the RISK of buying that stock and getting a crappy product in the end, seems hardly worth it. You don't get a second chance with film, the moment it's messed up, it's messed up forever. So you've not only wasted the stock cost, but the time you spent shooting the stock and the time and money you spent building your processing apparatus and chemicals. Working with color motion picture film is always going to be costly. Either you pay the lab or you loose time you could be making money, mucking around with home-brew solutions.

I have yet to see a DYI scanner solution that shares any quality resemblance to a real film scanner. With 16mm and 35mm motion picture film, it's a bit less of a problem then super 8 because they have less gate weave. However, with super 8's gate weave issue, it's extremely time consuming to build a working scanner and fix the gate weave in post. Where it's easy to do that with a modern scanner which can look at frame corner as a registration point, rather then the perforations or edge of film, like a projector or telecine machine would.

In the end, working with film has an associated cost. No matter how much you try to skirt around the issue, it will always come back to bite you. If your goal is to save money, the best way to do that is cut down on stock cost (buy 16mm short ends instead of shooting on Super 8) and send in big batches at once, which helps reduce the processing/scanning rate. The guys over at Cinelab in Boston, offer phenomenal package deals for processing and transfer, you can't beat'em.
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#4 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 25 June 2016 - 10:37 PM

 

Hey Mendes,
Often people will ask a question like this,  without adequate definition.  What are the parameters that can make the question meaningfull?  Parameters?  Some boundaries or conditions that qualify the question.   When people answer,  commonly the same lack of qualification exists.

 

My thoughts are founded on experience with 16mm and a little 35mm,  B&W,  not S8.  I appologize for that,  but this may still be usefull.  Some replies you may get are from people with no experience whatsoever.  So be wary of that.

 

The question on image quality has to be qualified in terms of the particular project.  What does it need?

 

There are many small projects possible using hand processing for B&W.  The consistency will be less perfect than a commercial lab. You may have more dirt, and water spots.  But those are the only real problems I can think of.  Apart from spiral tank systems only accomodating small lengths.  So we come back to the issue of what the technology is actually relevent to,  projects that actually suit it.  Notions that fly straight past some people, busy as they are indulging the myth of what a film is supposed to be,  how it should look,  ignoring what kind of processing might actually suit it.

 

Working on one's own with limited resources,  a spiral tank is interesting.
Working in a small group,  a small continuous processor may be interesting. 
These things have all been done before.


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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 June 2016 - 10:55 PM

This topic comes up regularly, I've lost track of how many times in the past 16 years or so on this site that someone has proposed doing their own processing as a cost saver.  It should tell you something that most people give up on the idea; if it were very practical and truly saved money, every independent film shooting in film would have set-up their own processing.

 

For small amounts of b&w, sure, it's workable -- many visual effects facilities like ILM did that back in the days of optical printing in order to get quick results back from tests, etc.


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#6 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 02:53 AM

There are many small projects possible using hand processing for B&W.


If film is a specialty market in of itself, Black and White is a myopic specialty within it. Most people are looking color negative solutions, as that's where the cost is.

The consistency will be less perfect than a commercial lab. You may have more dirt, and water spots.


Right, so when you're talking about super 8, an image HALF the size of what you're use to, those things are a REAL problem.

Plus, the other inconsistency you didn't mention were the developer and fixer phases. If there isn't enough gap between the film during these phases, there will be further inconsistencies. I'm unaware of a super 8 tank/spool which works properly, for 16/35 there are a few difficult to find ones, which require spooling off the film inch by inch in a dark room.

Anyway, I've processed my own B&W and color film for over a decade at specialized facilities. I couldn't imagine doing it at home and unless quality makes no difference, there is no point. If you make something and don't want it to look good, just buy a digital camera. :shrug:
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#7 Mendes Nabil

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 04:41 AM

A huge Thanks for all your answers guys! 

 

Let me clarify few points, first, here is the correct link of the home scanner :

 

http://www.itsjumbl....-digitizer.html

 

 

I'm talking about hand processing because here in Paris we have two independent lab' that allow their members to hand process:

 

You pay a membership fee (about 40$ a year), a member show you how to process film and you can process as many rolls as you need (5$/working day + 3$/roll).

 

They have Tank, dark room, chemistry and everything you need, so you can process your rolls at a much cheaper price..

 

But from what you all said, hand processing is always Substandard right?

I've shot Color negative Vision 3 500T, and these Super 8 shots will be mixed with digital (I'll release the chapter Zero in the next few days, here are some screenshots of the film : 

 

https://www.findspir...viewer=hb9qcpc4

 

 

I think that i'll go with classical lab.. Do you know a great and not too expensive one in Europe?

 

Thanks again all!


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#8 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 04:49 AM

Was it Lenny Lipton who wrote that "quality is relative to purpose"? Maybe he was quoting someone else.  If it helps to shake off the cotton wool of normality,  consider perhaps that quality is relative to the requirements of the project.   Without attention to that,  there's almost nothing one can say.  And yet,  people do....

 

So,  to counter some of the poor logic in play...is it proposed that because B&W films are a small category,  that this manual development technology is not interesting or useful?

 

Re the Lomo tanks with the spirals.  They aren't difficult to load once the skill is learned and it is quite rare to miss-load so you have an uneven gap.  Actually,  I found the skills quite easy to learn and the spirals quite quick to load for 16/35.   But yes,  if no skill one could have problems.  Maybe S8 is harder to do?  There are some videos on youtube to learn how to do it.

 

As to the availability of the tanks.  There are about 20 of these 8/16/35 tanks on eBay at the moment.


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#9 aapo lettinen

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 07:56 AM

home processing may be practical with black and white negative if you have to get the results asap (camera tests etc) or you want to experiment and learn the craft on deeper level. 

Black and white processing in a professional lab is here in Europe close to double the price per meter compared to colour negative and the developing chemicals are very inexpensive. 

Only when very constant and high quality results are needed the home processing for b/w becomes unpractical and uneconomic. For colour negative, it may not be practical at all because the chemicals are much more expensive unless bought in very large amounts and the process is much more complex and sensitive and needs more quality control than b/w processes.

 

Lomo tanks are relatively easy to load (as long as you don't drop any parts in the darkroom. they are very fragile plastic and will shatter to thousands little pieces if you drop them) but you have to create a system to check that the film is correctly seated on the spiral. I usually check that the outer film layer is absolutely round and then run my fingers over the film edges on the side to find out if there is any double layers which would be ruined in processing (hearing/feeling the individual layers). I also gently shake the spiral to seat the film more evenly and to hear if there is anything wrong with it. All this has to be, of course, made in absolute darkness, you can't use a safety light to check if there is something wrong with it and if you drop anything you'll absolutely screwed.

 

One needs to learn basics about chemical safety/handling before starting to play with developing chemicals and make sure the ventilation is good etc. A good safety principle with chemicals is that if you are not absolutely sure what you're doing, don't do anything... mixing wrong chemicals together may accidentally create carcinogenic substances, poison gases etc.  

Some developers may already contain carcinogenics in the formula btw, for example formaldehyde as a hardener, so it's better to have a gas mask on hand if you need to handle that kind of stuff at home  :ph34r:  

 

One thing to consider is that even when the b/w home processing is inexpensive, the b/w negative has to be purchased new  VS using recans/short ends/clearance color negative film and processing that in lab. Depending on stock you don't necessarily save anything compared to color negative even if using more expensive lab.

 

Home processing S8 has the big disadvantage that the dust and scratches show much more clearly than with larger formats. that's why I don't use S8 at all for home processing, only 35mm and occasionally 16mm


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#10 Pavan Deep

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 11:13 AM

Processing motion picture film at home is very doable, it can be fast and can save money, but not always and it’s not always easy or practical. I feel when processing at home one needs a dedicated space, a workshop where processing is done, I have found that having a workshop leads to much better quality processing than using a bathroom.  The process with B&W film is easier and simple, in reality you only need three chemicals which are easily available, a developer, a Stop bath [although most use water] and a Fixer, the total cost of these chemicals is as little under £20.00 and these will comfortably process 400ft of 16mm, although most tanks will only accept 100ft at a time. Here in England it’s difficult to find a commercial lab to process B&W motion picture film, a commercial lab may charge £100.00 for 400ft, so obviously there could be a huge saving processing B&W at home.

 

The quality and consistency of home processing will vary, this will depend on your technique, workflow and equipment, firstly it’s worth pointing out that B&W film processing isn’t as temperature critical as colour reversal or colour negative film is, B&W film is usually processed at normal room temperature of about 20°. In the home many will use the Spiral Lomo tanks and some use the Morse G3, these tanks are pretty cheap and can be easily bought online, the Lomo spiral tanks are more common and most believe offer better consistency.

 

Processing Colour reversal is possible at home too and to control temperature one needs a water bath, for Super 8 I have used a specially made rack for a semi automatic Jobo CPE-2, the Jobo keeps regulates water and chemical temperature, processing colour reversal with E6 chemistry is quite straightforward and the quality is as good as a commercial lab, I have found the results to be far superior to the Lomo, the only issue is that 100ft of 16mm is too much for the Jobo, currently there aren’t many colour reversal stocks available in 16mm .

 

Up until now I have not considered ‘Rewind Processing’, which seems to have been widely used for processing aerial photography and microfilm. I have never used the ‘Morse rewind’ tanks and have never quite understood the process. Over the years I've heard not to bother with the Morse tanks, believing that the effort using them is meaningless because it’s impossible to get decent results from them. The general consensus is that ‘Rewind Processing’ is inefficient, however, recently I have been reading a lot about ‘Rewind Processing’ and I have deduced that this is by far the simplest processing device for the home, I have seen some pretty impressive processing results from the Morse G3 online. I have just bought a Morse G3 and hope to try it out very soon.

 

The biggest complaint of the ‘Morse’ tanks is that you have to constantly rewind the film for long periods of time, naturally this ‘manual’ winding will never be even which is why using these tanks results unique processing that has a ‘fickering’, pulsating effect. If we want to avoid a mild workout this tank can be easily motorized, a simple motor can be used to turn the handles in one direction and then the other direction, this would be much easier and the unique pulsating effects won’t be there as the constant speed of the motorized turning should result in even processing. Motorizing this tank is pretty straight forward and I wonder if anyone has ever done this. I believe that a motorized system could give ‘professional’ lab like results for black and white and colour reversal. Many say you can’t process colour negative in the Morse because of the Remjet layer.

 

 

Pav


Edited by Pavan Deep, 26 June 2016 - 11:18 AM.

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#11 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 11:18 AM

Was it Lenny Lipton who wrote that "quality is relative to purpose"? Maybe he was quoting someone else.  If it helps to shake off the cotton wool of normality,  consider perhaps that quality is relative to the requirements of the project.   Without attention to that,  there's almost nothing one can say.  And yet,  people do....


Sure, but that market is even MORE myopic then then B&W. Most people who take the time to shoot something, doesn't matter what it is, care greatly if what they shot looks good. Yes, there are a hand-full of people around the world, that only shoot film for artistic purposes. I personally don't understand the market, because it's easy to take something that first looks good and turn it into something that looks bad. Give me a perfect negative and when I strike a print, lets mess it up.

So,  to counter some of the poor logic in play...is it proposed that because B&W films are a small category,  that this manual development technology is not interesting or useful?


It's useful for hobbyists who are only interested at screaming "eureka" when there is something that resembles a processed image.

They aren't difficult to load once the skill is learned


They are tricky, I've loaded them before. The film is so close to each other, it's impossible to know if it skipped a rail. Plus, the lomo tank is only 50ft at a time. Complete impractical for any serious work.

So how do you do 16mm? Do you break the film in half mid scene and splice it back together again?
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#12 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 11:20 AM

The Morse (rewind) system will never work. Film can't be touching each other during the processing phase.

Also, no color once again.
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#13 Pavan Deep

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 11:24 AM

I am not sure about colour, but as I've said some people have got pretty impressive results using the Morse.

 

Pav


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#14 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 11:27 AM

Let me clarify few points, first, here is the correct link of the home scanner :
 
http://www.itsjumbl....-digitizer.html


Most scanners like that are ULTRA slow. It make take upwards of a minute to capture each frame. I'm not sure how they go about capturing Super 8, but not 16 or 35? I think someone made a small mistake when they wrote the info page. Also, even if it DID work, there is no registration.

I'm talking about hand processing because here in Paris we have two independent lab' that allow their members to hand process.


Yea scary, now when it doesn't come out right, you have no recourse. At least when you do it yourself, you can only blame yourself. :)

Again, Cinelab in Boston deals with european stuff constantly. Just shoot them a call via skype and they'll hook you up! :)
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#15 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 11:29 AM

I am not sure about colour, but as I've said some people have got pretty impressive results using the Morse.


I haven't seen anything impressive from ANY home processing, motion picture film or still.
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#16 aapo lettinen

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 11:40 AM

They are tricky, I've loaded them before. The film is so close to each other, it's impossible to know if it skipped a rail. Plus, the lomo tank is only 50ft at a time. Complete impractical for any serious work.

So how do you do 16mm? Do you break the film in half mid scene and splice it back together again?

 

They are not so tricky but you have to be very careful with them and know them thoroughly (like all the Soviet filmmaking equipment. this is true whether talking about Konvas, Krasnogorsk, Kinor etc. cameras, processing tanks, accessories, lenses... they work OK but they are NOT as foolproof as the Western counterparts and you have to know their weaknesses and adjust them every now and then. It's like the Soviet motorcycle, Dnepr, we had a while ago, it worked great but every 30 or 40 miles you had to adjust the spark gap and maybe fine tune the valve clearance. Russian gear works JUST like that B)  ) 

 

You can split the 16mm to 50ft load before shooting. that way you don't ruin anything important by splitting the film ;)


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#17 Heikki Repo

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 05:50 PM

Sure you can process color neg at home! You just have to ... ehh .. build a processing machine. With lots of tanks. And computer controlled heating. And remjet removal. ;)

 

0.23 -->

 

 

Unfortunately that lab is at the moment closed. Anyway, it can be done. Results were also quite good, even though there was no Lipsner-Smith to clean the footage and the scanners (super-8 and 16mm) were DIY as well. Some examples below, Super-8 (not my footage) and super16 (my test footage). There were many hobbyists but also professional clients who used that lab.

 

 


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#18 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 06:59 PM

Sure you can process color neg at home! You just have to ... ehh .. build a processing machine. With lots of tanks. And computer controlled heating. And remjet removal. ;)


Well yea, if you have a lot of money, time on your hands and understand the mechanical/electrical systems that go into such a project, it makes sense.

I mean, none of this is difficult, but all of it is costly and time consuming. You'd have to process millions of feet to make it worth while. Plus, you still have a higher risk of things not coming out well vs a professional lab.
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#19 aapo lettinen

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 07:56 PM

the main problem is that to make it economical you need to process in large volume as Tyler said. That was maybe one of the reasons why that 'semi-pro' lab closed: one needs to develop other people's films as well to make developing oneself's own colour negs economical, and that leads to making a business out of it which leads to full time running films so it takes all the time and is not a hobby anymore, nor allows shooting much oneself's own films anymore because of the time constraints. 

The prices were very reasonable and the quality was good, but running a film lab as a full time job with very reasonable prices is, hm, a bit uneconomical and may bite back after a while. on the other hand, if you raise the prices the customers turn to pro labs so there is little you can do, other than running in even larger volume. May not be practical if someone really wants to SHOOT on film and NOT to only run a film lab  :ph34r:


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#20 Andries Molenaar

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Posted 27 June 2016 - 02:31 AM

If you have a labroomfacility at hand at such interesting low prices I would certainly process a few films there. See how things work and efficient it can be. Plenty of help too so what could go wrong :) Should be interesting and educational!

 

Here is an interesting demonstration about remjet removal:

http://www.filmkorn....super-8-filmen/

And many other aspects on DIY processing.


Edited by Andries Molenaar, 27 June 2016 - 02:33 AM.

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