Saturday, July 18, 2009

Color Film - Black and White Chemicals

The other thing I did yesterday was process color film using regular black and white chemicals. I researched around the internet to see if this was possible and received conflicting information. Some websites say go for it, it works great. Others say it doesn't work at all, ever. Still others say is works but you'll end up with black and orange negatives which will only be good for scanning, never for traditional, photographic printing. In my experience, the last piece of information is pretty much the truest. Color film is composed of multiple layers of emulsion, each sensitive to a different color range. Black and white chemicals successfully develop the black layer of emulsion, but only that layer. The other color layers rely on different chemistry. The film base that the emulsions are layered onto is a clear, yellowy-orangish brown plastic. So, in the end, you get a black and white negative on a clear brown background. Traditional photography is done under safe-light conditions in a darkroom because photo paper is not sensitive to the particular color of the safe-light. The brown film base, is pretty much that color too, so the negative should be just about useless for printing onto photo paper. However, since this is the future, we can just scan the negative and then invert it digitally, and then suck all the color out to make a nice looking black and white picture. If you are a technical person and want to know the specifics here's what I did. Other film, chemistry, temperatures and times would probably work just as well.

Kodak Portra 400VC film
Kodak HC-110 developer, at 68 degrees, using dilution B (1:31)

Pre-soak the film for five minutes
Develop for 4.5 minutes agitating 5 seconds out of every 30
Rinse with water
Rapid-fix for 7 minutes
Rinse with water
Hypo-clear 3 minutes
Rinse with water

I'm not sure what benefit doing this has over just using regular black and white film. I can imagine a situation where I only have color film and I really need the film developed immediately and can't wait for color processing. But that situation seems unlikely in my life. Like everything I do, I just wanted to see if it could be done, and I needed to do it myself to be sure. I also wanted the 620 film spools out of one of my cameras and this seemed like a fast way to run through 8 exposures.

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