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Avoiding X-Ray in Shipping


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#1 Colin Theys

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 10:10 AM

Hi all,

I had to ship out film for a project I did last semester and when I brought it to the post office I asked how I could avoid getting the package x-rayed because it contained exposed film. She told me I could write "exposed film" on it, but that frankly that would probably just make them x-ray it more and that if I wrote "please do not x-ray" there was a chance it would get pulled and opened for a security check or something after being x-rayed.

Everything came out fine, but I found this all very discouraging. Does anyone know of a better way to get film shipped without being xrayed? Is Fedex or UPS better about it than USPS?

Thanks,
-Colin
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#2 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 09:30 AM

Hi all,

    I had to ship out film for a project I did last semester and when I brought it to the post office I asked how I could avoid getting the package x-rayed because it contained exposed film. She told me I could write "exposed film" on it, but that frankly that would  probably just make them x-ray it more and that if I wrote "please do not x-ray" there was a chance it would get pulled and opened for a security check or something after being x-rayed.

    Everything came out fine, but I found this all very discouraging. Does anyone know of a better way to get film shipped without being xrayed? Is Fedex or UPS better about it than USPS?

Thanks,
-Colin

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Shipping film:

http://www.kodak.com...1.4.11.10&lc=en

http://www.i3a.org/itip.html

Small packages can usually be mailed safely, if they are clearly and properly labeled as containing unprocessed film. (Still film mailers are still widely used by many companies). Here is a downloadable label:

http://www.kodak.com...4.11.10.6&lc=en

Larger (more suspicious/risky) packages may require more intense security examination, including x-ray examination. Usually the "Do Not X-ray Label" will result in the exam being done by opening the package.

US Mail going to certain government offices (especially in Washington DC) will get intense security examination, and may even get high intensity "sanitization" which can damage any imaging media, including digital:

http://www.i3a.org/p...ting_report.pdf

For larger packages, shipping companies like UPS, DHL, Airborne, Fedex, etc. can usually help in shipping unprocessed film, if properly declared and documented within their system.
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#3 Frank DiBugnara

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 09:34 PM

I've had perfect results with countless film shipments through FedEx. For good measure, I put "Film, Do Not EXRAY" on the box, but I've never had a problem.

FedEx is nice because if there is a problem, they have a phone number handy to get a hold of the shipper.

I have heard of problems with overnight services like FedEx when you request a non-standard shippment that forces them to use a plane other than one from their own fleet. For example, a same-day shippment or a Saturday shippment for a Sunday delivery. This forces FedEx to use other carriers where they can't guarantee exactly what happens to your package.
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#4 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 05:37 AM

I have heard of problems with overnight services like FedEx when you request a non-standard shippment that forces them to use a plane other than one from their own fleet.  For example, a same-day shippment or a Saturday shippment for a Sunday delivery.  This forces FedEx to use other carriers where they can't guarantee exactly what happens to your package.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Yes, the usual issue with parcel shipping companies is when they are forced to utilize a passenger carrier, where anything put into the cargo hold needs to be inspected. So the package may inadvertently get x-rayed if the "Do Not X-Ray" labels are not heeded. As noted, more likely with "same day", "weekend", or shipments to smaller cities that aren't directly served by the shipper's planes.
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#5 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:27 AM

Slightly off topic - I had to take film to Malta - Since there are no vendors of 5218 on the island!! Even though Gladiator, Troy, the new Spielberg film etc shot there (in fact I met some of the crew in the Hilton and was going to ask them how they got their film)

So I took film out with me as hand luggage on a flight. I called the airport in advance and got told that there would be someone who knew how to check film without x-raying it as long as I took a changing tent .

So I arrive at the airport with film, tent and paperwork from BAA stating all this and the security say "nope everything goes through the xray" I say "no - read this"
They go and call a very nice manager who thinks then says "Nope new rule we x ray everything - no exceptions"

They produce a booklet to back it up but there is actually a note saying motion picture film can be hand searched - they refuse

We hum and har for about 20min - eventually I have to x ray the unexposed film

We got the rushes back and everything was fine so....

(NOTE: 5 rolls of 5218)

thanks

Rolfe
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#6 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:41 AM

The "low dose" machines usually used for carry-on baggage can fog film, but unless you have excessive or multiple exposures, the effects usually are minor.

The high intensity scanners used for checked baggage (e.g., Invision CTX 5500) will almost always produce damaging fog patterns:

http://www.kodak.com...1.4.11.10&lc=en
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 12:21 PM

Hi,

Something Kodak could do would be to directly contact the security units at the major world airports. The problem is that the staff, who are generally minimum-wage types, are simply told point blank that the machines do not fog film at all (usually by the manufacturer) and believe it explicitly. Usually they simply will not accept that there can be a problem.

Going directly to them with accurate information on what the problems can be, perhaps with a politely-worded plea to be sensitive to the needs of imaging professionals, might help. At the moment most of them just stonewall you because they're simply misinformed.

Phil
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#8 Stephen Williams

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 01:09 PM

Hi,

Something Kodak could do would be to directly contact the security units at the major world airports. The problem is that the staff, who are generally minimum-wage types, are simply told point blank that the machines do not fog film at all (usually by the manufacturer) and believe it explicitly. Usually they simply will not accept that there can be a problem.

Going directly to them with accurate information on what the problems can be, perhaps with a politely-worded plea to be sensitive to the needs of imaging professionals, might help. At the moment most of them just stonewall you because they're simply misinformed.

Phil

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Phil,

You seem to be getting very film friendly!

Best wishes

Stephen
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 02:16 PM

Hi,

I've never been anti film, I'm just anti "assumption that you're a moron if you don't/can't use it".

Plus oak-skulled security types wind me up. Yes, they have a job to do, yes, we applaud their efforts, but... christ, see CML discussion at the moment!

Phil
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#10 Steven Budden

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 02:19 PM

I think UPS is definitely a better option. I ship film through them and they put a large PHOTOGRAPHIC FILM< DO NOT XRAY stamp on there. They definitely are never hand searched, and I doubt they're x rayed.

This is for maybe a 1.5 x 1.5 ' box.

Steven
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#11 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 06:58 PM

Shipping film:

http://www.kodak.com...1.4.11.10&lc=en
Here is a downloadable label: 
http://www.kodak.com...4.11.10.6&lc=en

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Can I make a silly sugestion? It is nice that there are labels to print, but could you sugest to the web folks to create a PDF that is inteded to print on a standrd AVERY style sheet? The US Cat 5164, (4 by 3.3 inch) for example. That way everyone could print up a batch without having to get out the snips.
A version made to print in B&W would also be nice...
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#12 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 05:31 AM

Can I make a silly sugestion?  It is nice that there are labels to print, but could you sugest to the web folks to create a PDF that is inteded to print on a standrd AVERY style sheet?  The US Cat 5164, (4 by 3.3 inch) for example.  That way everyone could print up a batch without having to get out the snips.
A version  made to print in B&W would also be nice...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Good suggestion. I'll pass it on.
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#13 Colin Theys

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 11:38 AM

Wow. Thanks for all the feedback. I'm glad (sort of) to hear I'm not alone in my encounters with the stubborn security types wanting to scan my precious film. I also think that a standard label could be useful, although it's nice to hear that UPS has such a thing already.

Thanks, :)
-Colin Theys
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#14 timHealy

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Posted 23 September 2005 - 10:23 PM

I shot a small project for myself last year in the Greek Islands and looked into buying film and getting it processed in Athens. But the film stock alone would cost about 210 bucks a roll compared to 135 (minus 10% for a student discount) in NYC. So I bought the film in the US and dragged it around Europe for a few weeks. American baggage inspectors in NY were the most knowledgable about film issues, with the Germans in Frankfort being close behind and having some really fancy modern technology inspecting carry on luggage. But I do not think it was x ray becasue it was in color. The Greek carry on luggage inspectors were very difficult and not familiar with unexposed film issues. They forced me to put it through if it wasn't faster than 800 speed (I should have lied and said so) and one guy who was trying to look at my camera (arri 16 sr with a zeiss t2 zoom lens) started handling it like he was a monkey throwing Samsonite luggage around. Not to mention, I had the impression he had no idea what he was looking at or what to do if he found any sort of weapon. But the film looked fine when processed and transferred back in NYC. I was using 50 asa and 250 asa 16mm.

I think the best thing to do may be to put your film on your checked luggage wrapped in a lead lined box. But probably not practical.

Best

Tim
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#15 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 25 September 2005 - 08:23 AM

I think the best thing to do may be to put your film on your checked luggage wrapped in a lead lined box. But probably not practical.

Best

Tim

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


NO!!! NEVER put unprocessed film in checked baggage, no matter how well "protected" or identified.

Even a lead "shield" may not offer sufficient protection. When the security inspector sees a dark shadow in the x-ray image, they likely will turn up the power or do multiple inspections anyway.

The color image in Frankfort was likely from a low dose x-ray machine. A computer colorizes the images to highlight suspicious items.
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#16 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 25 September 2005 - 11:19 AM

I think the smartest move is to buy film stock locally and have it processed locally (if services are available of course).

Even if the film stock is more expensive (taxes, VAT etc) it is a lot safer than some stock you carry around with you halfway around the world. Low-dose X-ray exposures may be safe for one exposure, but they add up.

I have seen too many rolls wasted to X-ray the last couple years. Never happened ten years ago.

Never had a problem with UPS, Fedex etc, all of the problems were with film in checked bagage.
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