Homemade Film?

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Darth Musturd

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"If they were doing it in a lab 50 years ago, you can do it in your kitchen today."- unknown
Well, they were making film since at the very least the 1800's, and I think we've had cameras for roughly (2500???) years. So, I've never seen anything on making your own film at home. It's always about making a homemade darkroom or red room or making your own cameras or what-have-you. So, as far as I've seen, film is just silver salts over some thin plastic. Any way to possibly make film at home?
 

Don Heisz

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Let's assume, all things possible on a large scale are possible on a small scale. However, practicality and expense intrude. There are people who make emulsion, people who coat glass with their own emulsion, probably people who coat sheets of film with their own emulsion. But there is a tipping point where impracticality and undue expense overpower desire. That point is probably anything more than coating a single sheet at a time. To coat a continuous strip, you need a machine.
 

Moose22

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Go watch the smarter every day series on Kodak. It's on Youtube, at least the first 2/3 of it is.

Then come back and have this discussion.
 

momus

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That point is probably anything more than coating a single sheet at a time. To coat a continuous strip, you need a machine.

This.

Of course, one could always hand coat the emulsion onto a strip of whatever film is actually on, but for 35mm you would have to make the sprocket holes on the strip. If you found a clear base w/ sprocket holes on it, the cost of that may be prohibitive unless you order a huge amount. For MF, you would have to make your own backing paper, but no sprocket holes. For LF, you could probably make your own sheet film....but why? Remember, you would be working in total darkness.

Making your own emulsion would be doable on several alternative processes, people already do that.
 

Sirius Glass

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Search this website for PE's posts on coating film. PE, Photo Engineer had worked at Kodak developing and updating film emulsions for decades.
 

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mshchem

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First learn the original Geo Eastman way, coat backing paper with AgX in gelatin. Expose and develop on the paper, then transfer the gelatin image onto a piece of glass, dry carefully, then make a contact print. Super easy. Get that done before you try extruding your own cellulose acetate.
 
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foc

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"In England in 1879, an obscure 38 year old photographer named Alfred Hugh Harman turned from his artistic trade to begin making and selling dry gelatin photographic plates.

He made his plates by pouring the emulsion from a teapot onto a glass plate which was held on fingertips and tilted until it was covered." (from the history of Ilford)


Why not give that a go and see how you get on.
 

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The teapot technique is how Mark Osterman at the George Eastman House still teaches it - or at least did up to a few years ago; not sure what the situation is now. But it's a tried-and-tested technique. I think Jason Lane does something similar with his glass plates. One of the challenges apparently is to minimize the drop that tends to flow towards the back of the glass plate and indeed 'artisanal' glass plates (old & contemporary) can apparently be identified by this feature, which generally manifests as a trail of emulsion running diagonally across the back of the plate from one of the corners.
Other technical challenges are things like preventing frilling along the edges etc.

In any case, the technique works, but AFAIK it's mostly done with glass plates. I'm not sure if it can be made to work with film that could be loaded into a camera. I do imagine that sticking a piece of polyester film (or similar) to a flat surface (e.g. glass) might work in a similar way: stick polyester to glas, pour emulsion on, let set, peel polyester off of glass, let dry. It will curl quite badly, probably, which then will have to be dealt with by e.g. coating a second emulsion on the backside (to create a 'counter-curl') or perhaps the problem can be minimized by adding a plasticizer to the photosensitive gelatin emulsion. Likely it's going to bring a whole new set of challenges, but I'm sure someone has already tried it, somewhere, sometime. I wouldn't hold much hope making film suitable for 35mm or 120 format cameras; sheet film in e.g. 4x5" or 5x7" sounds like a more feasible endeavor. For roll film formats, I think some kind of hopper (like Ron Mowrey / Photo Engineer had made) is really the most feasible way to go.

"If they were doing it in a lab 50 years ago, you can do it in your kitchen today."- unknown

Never underestimate what people were capable of pulling off in a lab in the 1950s. Seriously - the 1950s weren't exactly the dark ages in terms of technology. As such, I really have to disagree with this statement. In the 1950s, several firms were making color film in a lab setting for testing, and of course also at an industrial scale. I haven't heard of anyone making a working color film at home, although it was perfectly feasible in a 1950s lab!
 

mrmekon

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Never underestimate what people were capable of pulling off in a lab in the 1950s. Seriously - the 1950s weren't exactly the dark ages in terms of technology.

Wait until you find out what they were doing in labs in the 1970s... 50 years ago 😉
 

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In the 1950's, they could do anything they wanted in a lab. Using anything they wanted. Land said, "I want the photo to come right out of the camera." The guys at the lab said, "Yes. Of course. What's a camera? Give us a few weeks."
 

Donald Qualls

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Denise Ross (her site is linked above) has coated commercially sourced acetate to make her own film (120, as I recall, as well as sheet sizes). One presumes Harman and others in the 1890s were using blue-sensitive or orthochromatic emulsions that allowed them to work under safelight. Pretty sure Denise Ross makes ortho as well, though I seem to recall reading about panchromatizing dyes on her site. Panchromatic is harder, though, because you can't see what you're doing during the coating process (unless perhaps you use infrared goggles).
 

Donald Qualls

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I haven't heard of anyone making a working color film at home,

A couple workers have recreated Autochrome this century, and Lippman plates aren't all that difficult (aside from working with mercury, of course).
 

Lee Rust

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About a decade ago I was concerned that chemical photography might soon disappear, so I signed up for a series of glass plate and paper emulsion workshops at the Eastman Museum in Rochester, directed by Mark Osterman and Ron Mowrey. I can attest that the results were very satisfactory. There are quite a few chemicals and laboratory gadgets involved, but once you're set up and practiced with the techniques, the process is fairly straightforward. Later on, Mark and Ron with Nick Brandreth managed to increase sensitivity and create ortho emulsions, plus they also successfully coated 35mm film. Of course, on the West Coast, Denise Ross has long been hard at work in these same pursuits with her Light Farm workshops.

To the surprise of many, film photography has lately been making a bit of a comeback, so the end of the 'old ways' doesn't seem as imminent as it once did. Nevertheless, there's nothing like the satisfaction of creating your own photographic materials with your own hands.
 
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Darth Musturd

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...I signed up for a series of glass plate and paper emulsion workshops at the Eastman Museum in Rochester, directed by Mark Osterman and Ron Mowrey...

Im sure if you can do it with glass plates you could probably make your own film. I'd be wanting to make large format film myself so glass plates probably wouldn't be too much of a difference. I'd rather shoot digital than 35mm personally but as far as film goes I'd like to do something with large format.
Brain is mush so sorry if that doesn't make any sense at all right now.
 

grat

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Remember, you would be working in total darkness.

Not necessarily. With the modern generation of IR goggles and 920nm LED's, it's quite easy (and not that expensive) to do a night vision setup that doesn't affect the film.
 

grat

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Im sure if you can do it with glass plates you could probably make your own film. I'd be wanting to make large format film myself so glass plates probably wouldn't be too much of a difference. I'd rather shoot digital than 35mm personally but as far as film goes I'd like to do something with large format.
Brain is mush so sorry if that doesn't make any sense at all right now.

Glass plates are fairly forgiving. They're rigid, easy to work with in the dark for pouring emulsion, etc.. Flexible strips of film are a totally different ball game.

But there's also a difference between pouring emulsion out of a teapot, and the very precisely machined and calibrated laminar flow systems being used to coat modern film.
 

ProfessorC1983

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I've been making emulsion at home for about a year now and agree that glass plates are much, MUCH easier than film. I've tried the Dura Lar Wet Media film as recommended by @dwross2 in The Light Farm and found it exceedingly difficult to work with due to how thin it is and how badly it wants to curl while drying. Glass plates are dead simple to hand-pour and dry flat, and "feel" much more historically authentic.
 
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Darth Musturd

Darth Musturd

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Not necessarily. With the modern generation of IR goggles and 920nm LED's, it's quite easy (and not that expensive) to do a night vision setup that doesn't affect the film.
Cheap night vision? To be honest, I've thought about picking some cheap digital up for hiking but apparently that doesn't have any depth perception. Cheap digital isn't that cheap anyway from what I've looked at. I really want some one day so I can scare hikers and campers at night. Make 'em think I'm Bigfoot or something.
 

Donald Qualls

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Make 'em think I'm Bigfoot or something.

That sounds very hazardous. Might be okay if you only hike in New Jersey or Massachusetts, but other places, at least some hikers routinely carry things to defend against bears.

Meanwhile, I've seen (presumably analog) IR goggles (yes, single sensor so no depth perception) on Amazon for around $100. You'd have to improvise a trap for the display light to avoid fogging with what doesn't go in your eye(s), but compared to what this stuff cost twenty years ago, this is cheap.
 

baachitraka

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kastam (Tamil language) meaning tough, hard, mildly impossible.

rombo kastam (Tamil language) meaning almost impossible, very hard, etc.,
 

MattKing

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I will, thanks! Where's the last 1/3?

Still to come - although I understand it has been shot. The last 1/3 focusses on film finishing/confectioning.
 
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