SPIRAL REEL Film Processing Notes
[This applies to any spiral reel processing method, including the LOMO
tank instructions which follow.]
by Martin W. Baumgarten (C) 1998
(1). The best way to process Super 8mm movie film on a spiral reel is to
make sure that when it's loaded onto the reel that the perforation edge
is down in the spirals. This is to ensure that any agitation currents
that may move thru these spiral ridges don't impact the image area with
(2). To do this...when you remove the film core with the film from the
cartridge...transfer this to a 50ft/15m takeup reel [best to build your
own workbench setup with two rewinds and a film core holder on a length
of 2" x 4" x 30" long board. THEN, retransfer it to another takeup reel
which will up the film into a wind position so that the perforations
will be facing downward as you load the film onto the spiral reel with
the emulsion edge facing outwards. The slight winding tension onto the
reel will keep the base side of the film against the
spirals, and the emulsion edge free. However...should there be any
touching problems of the emulsion against the spirals...this will only
then affect the preforation area....not the image area.
(3). Always lower a spiral reel into the solution...NEVER pour solution
onto a spiral reel as the force of the liquids can easily dislodge the
film from sections of the spirals and thus result in ruined sections of
* * * * * * *
Russian LOMO Film Processing Tank Instructions
[for the earlier Lomo
tank...later ones are similar]
by Martin W. Baumgarten (C) 1998
NOTE: On the LOMO tank, the center film agitator has a small drilled
hole which is designed to allow the solutions to drain into the tank
from the small light trap. Unfortunately this small hole also allows
light FOGGING to hit the film...so tape over it with a small piece of
black electrical tape. To drain any residue from this light trap...just
turn the tank on its side once you have drained a given
---> The russian-made LOMO film processing tank is designed to process
two 15m/50ft rolls of Super 8mm motion picture film, or one roll of
50ft/15m 16mm width motion picture film. The tank accomplished this by
using a narrow diameter double spiral reel design with spacers. In the
abscence of instructions...I have devised my own here, which I will
eventually improve upon.
---> TANK PARTS Breakdown: (1) Tank chamber body with drain assembly. (2)
Tank light-tight lid. (3) Lower Spiral Reel with threaded center. (4)
Middle Spiral Reel/Flange with non-threaded center. (5) Top/upper Spoked
Flange. (6) 2 - clear plastic threaded spacer rings. (7) 1 - black
plastic lipped spacer ring. (8) 1 - threaded Reel Spindle/Film Agitator
Shaft [On newer versions, this is now a two-part unit, allowing the
smaller lower threaded shaft to hold the bottom Spiral Reel and middle
Spiral Reel (or flange) together.]
---> The SPIRAL REEL: The spiral reel consists of a double-axis/double
~> Super 8mm 2 - Rolls Film Setup <~
(1) To set it up for Super 8mm movie film, place the lower part of the
reel with spiral flanges facing upward (the one with the threaded center)
on the bottom, add on to the bottom, one of the two clear plastic
threaded spacer rings. (2) Now place the second reel flange on top of
that reel with the spiral flanges facing upward. [On later models, you
now add the lower short threaded shaft to hold these together]. (3) Next
add the third non-spiral flange on top of that with the threaded portion
facing upwards. (4) Now screw the threaded spindle into the center of
all three components and the reel is now set up for two rolls of Super
8mm film. [On later models, you screw the upper threaded spindle shaft
into the already in place, lower one.]
NOTE: Film loading will be a bit tricky, so remember the setup pattern
so you can put these together in the dark later. Always practice loading
until you have the technique down perfectly, BEFORE ever using real
~> 16mm/Double Regular 8mm Reel Setup <~
NOTE: You have two variations for this setup:
---> (A). 1 - single reel 50ft/15m 16mm roll of film or Double Regular
(1) Place lower threaded spiral reel on bottom, have small clear plastic
threaded spacer attached on bottom. (2) Now the spoked flange with its
threaded end facing downward (without any spacer screwed onto it). (3)
Then place the black plastic lipped spacer with the thinner portion into
the center opening of the spoked flange. (4) Screwin the black plastic
threaded Spindle/Agitator rod, and the reel is configured for a single
roll of 50ft/15mm 16mm width movie film.
---> (B). 1 - roll of 50ft/15m 16mm or Double Regular 8mm film ~ AND ~ 1
- 50ft/15mm roll of Super 8mm film.
(1) Threaded spiral reel on bottom with spacer attached to bottom. (2).
Center non-threaded spiral reel in center with spiral facing upwards.
(3) Spoked flange next with the threaded portion facing downwards (no
spacer) (4) Insert threaded black plastic Spindle/Agitator rod, and the
double-reel set up is configured for 1 - 50ft/15m roll of Super 8mm film
on the bottom, and 1 - 50ft/15m roll of 16mm width film on the top.
~> Super 8mm Single Roll Film Setup <~
NOTE: This is the most basic setup and easiest to use.
(1) Threaded spiral reel on bottom with spacer ring attached (bottom
spacer ring is almost always attached). (2) Spoked flange is next,
facing with threaded part upwards. (3) Black plastic spacer with narrow
portion inserted into center of spoked flange. (4) Black plastic Spindle/Agitator
Rod threaded into assembly. [On newer models, insert both combined
~~~> FILM LOADING of the SPIRAL REEL(s) < ~~~
NOTE: This is one of the most difficult parts to learn...but can be
mastered quickly with plenty of practice.
~~[Single Reel Set up for either 1 - 50ft/15m Super 8mm or 1 - 50ft/15m
16mm width film]~~
(1) There are two ways to load the reel: (a) Feed film from a small take
up reel between the spiral reel and spoked flange...feeling with your
fingers from above the flange and thru the spokes to position the film.
(b) With the upper flange removed, feed the film into the center film
holding slots, and while holding the film down flat to the left (outward
direction), turn the reel clockwise slightly to let the film take up a
half turn. Now, replace the upper flange and secure the Agitator Spindle
shaft to hold them together.
NOTE: The film is ALWAYS loaded clockwise and with the emulsion facing
outwards (away from center of spiral). Thread the film into one of the
center film holding slots (Make a small bend in film to help hold it
there is necessary).
(2) Now turn the reel slowly and carefully with your left hand, while
holding the film on the small take up reel in your right hand (or on a
loading jig you have configured). Always hold the film at a 45° angle to
the LEFT [leaning leftward] as you wind it on, and hold it level with
the center of the reel....and it will load on very easily. Take your
time...with practice you'll eventually be able to load the real within a
couple minutes time.
(3) When you near the end of the film go very slow to be able to make
sure that the film all fits onto the reel. Sometimes you may have an
overlength roll of film...and will have to break off or cut off a few
inches to fit it all onto the reel...however this is the exception.
Carefully tuck the last bit of film into the reel with your fingers...and
if you desire...tape a small piece of tape (masking or electrical vinyl
tape) on the end...to ensure the film doesn't unravel on you while
~~[Double Reel Setup for either 2 - Super 8mm 50ft/15m films or 1 -
Super 8mm 50ft/15m Film and 1 - 16mm 50ft/15m Film]~~
(1) NOTE: This method is trickier to learn...and requires that you begin
the loading with the reel parts separated. So disassemble the reel from
left to right in the correct order that it will go together with all
parts facing upwards. Or from right to left if you feel more comfortable
with that. PRACTICE this several times..until you learn it...BEFORE
using real film!
(2) Insert your film end into the one of the slots provided on the lower
spiral reel with your Super 8mm film, and while holding it snuggly in
place with your left hand...gently turn the reel at the same time to
advance the film just a couple inches past the loading slot. This is
variable here...so do whatever works best for you.
(3) While holding the film in place, twist the takeup reel holding your
film supply over to the left one time and lay it down on your work table.
The film now has a leftward lean to it, and with care will stay in place
for the next steps...if not...just begin again until it does.
(4). Now place the second (middle) spiral on top of the lower one with
its spirals facing upwards.
(5a). Carefully set the upper spoked flange onto the top of the middle
spiral reel with the threaded portion facing DOWNWARDS (for 16mm film
setting) OR with the threaded portion facing UPWARDS [for the Super 8mm
(5b) For NEWER tanks...you ONLY have to insert the lower threaded
spindle shaft, which will hold the lower reel units together.
(6) Insert and attach the threaded black plastic Spindle/Agitator Rod.
The unit is now assembled and has only the lower spiral started with
your Super 8mm film.
(7) Place the film supply into your right hand (whichever works best for
you of course), or onto your loading jig, and rotate the reel carefully
and slowly until all of the film is loaded onto it (holding the film
again at an approximate 45° angle for ease of loading and to prevent
film binding). Once all loaded...you can attach a small piece of tape to
secure film to reel.
(8) Loading the UPPER SPIRAL Reel portion: Now insert the film end (either
Super 8mm or 16mm width film depending on how you setup the upper spiral
reel), into one of the film slots provided (as outlined earlier in Step
1 if Loading the Spiral Reel).
(9) Working carefully, load your second roll of Super 8mm film or 16mm
width film onto this reel, securing it at the end if necessary with a
small piece of tape. The double-reel system is now fully loaded with two
rolls of movie film ready for processing.
~~~> FILM PROCESSING with the LOMO Tank <~~~
NOTE: The LOMO tank is a daylight film processing tank...similar to
daylight tanks made for still roll films, except that it has a bottom
drain. Water and chemicals are premeasured in a graduate and when at the
correct temperature are meant to be added to the top filling orafice.
However, as with still photographic films, the most even and best
processing results are achieved IF you ADD the film to the solutions...NOT
by adding the solutions to the film. This requires using the tank a bit
differently than outlined in the original instructions or just by
looking at the way it's designed. I speak from years of film processing
experience...so follow these steps wisely and you'll achieve
~~~> SOLUTION Requirements <~~~
The LOMO tank requires approximately 1 - liter (or quart) of chemistry
to process one roll of Super 8mm or one roll of 16mm width film. In
order to process two rolls of Super 8 film at the same time,
approximately 1400ml (or 43 ounces) of solution quantity is required. In
order to process 1 - roll of Super 8mm and 1 - roll of 16mm width film,
approximately 1600ml (50 ounces) of solution quantity is required. You
may be able to use slightly less or more solution volume depending on
your chemistry kits and working methods. These volumes stated are
minimum levels from my experience.
~~~> BLACK & WHITE Reversal or Negative Processing <~~~
(1) Make sure all solutions are to the correct and same temperature as
each other. Use a holding container to warm up or cool down your
(2) Now, once everything is set up (including your timer clock)...go
dark, then remove the tank cover, then remove the film and place it
safely to one side away from any solutions.
(3) Carefully pour the first solution, usually a water wash/rinse into
the tank. Then slowly but deliberately add the spiral reel assembly
rotating it to the right (clockwise) while lowering it. Agitate it up
and down a few times, and then rotate it to the right again letting it
come to a stop. Your Pre-Wash Step is about one minute, so then drain
via using the drain on the tank...or remove the spiral reel assembly and
place it into a photo print tray or similar sized pan to contain any
drips from it. Then dump the wash water, and fill the tank with your
first solution (you are still in total darkness all this time...if you
need to turn the lights on to orientate yourself...just place the film
back into the tank, close the cover and turn it to clockwise to seal it,
and then turn your lights on.
(4) When ready to proceed with your First Developer Step, turn off the
lights, remove the film spiral reel assembly, setting it aside safely.
Add your chemistry to the tank carefully to prevent any splashing upward
to your face or onto your counter or worktable.
(5) While watching your timer...hold the film spiral reel assembly and
wait to lower it into the solution...about 10 to 15 seconds before the
exact start time is reached...lower the film into the tank and solution
carefully but deliberately and rotating it clockwise while doing so.
Once in the tank...raise and lower the reel(s) about an inch and then
turn them clockwise slowly, come to a stop, then raise and lower it
again, rotate to the right again, come to a stop, and at the end of
doing this for the initial 20 to 30 seconds...rock the reel to the north-south
and then east west positions. Replace the tank cover...and continue your
operations in roomlight.
(6) Continue your agitation sequence in either a 5 second every 30
seconds cycle or for the more convenient 10 seconds every minute cycle.
When you agitate...first lift and lower the reel by using the Agitator
Rod gently, and then rotate the reel one full rotation slowly coming to
a stop and then gently agitate the Rod north-south and then east west
for a couple seconds. This will ensure even film processing agitation.
DO NOT SPIN the agitator rod...as it may seem tempting to do so! But
this will create swirls of uneven density on your films.
(7) When you come near the end of your processing step...allow
sufficient drain time for the tank, and INCLUDE this drain time in your
timing of that processing step. To allow for a quick and exact timing...turn
off the lights, remove the spiral reel assembly from the tank setting it
into another tank or large pan for rinsing or holding...and drain the
LOMO tank, fill it with the rinse water or next chemical, and then
insert the film again into it for that step. If you are going to a wash/rinse
step...then include the time it takes for you to remove the film from
the tank, drain the tank, and fill it with wash water...into your
process timing of that step. For example...if it takes you 45 seconds to
do all this...then begin this procedure during the final 45 seconds of
the step up to the point where the film actually enters the wash water
or next chemical.
(8) NOTE: The above procedures are most critical with the developers,
and for other solutions you can safely just use the tank pouring spout
and drain if necessary for your convenience. If you encounter any
technical problems...then just do ALL processing steps as are outlined
above for the developers.
~~~> BLACK & WHITE Film Processing Control <~~~
(1) The best way to maintain control of your processing for any process
type, is to keep track of how many films you have processed in a given
solution and either replenish the solutions so they maintain full-strength
and/or adjust your processing time. A Liter of chemistry will process
about 6 to 8 rolls of Super 8mm film. After each roll of film if
processing separately, add approximately 15 seconds to each Developer
time only. Or after processing two rolls of Super 8mm film, add 30
seconds to the next film batch. These are approximations intended to
quide you to correct final film density.
(2) Your best way to control the process is to use Process Control
Strips and use a densitometer to measure them out, and then adjust times
and solutions as needed.
(3) You can make your own control strips by filming an entire fresh roll
with alternating shots of a given scene with a good brightness range and
that of a gray card. This roll should then be cut up into strips of
about 5 inches each as you need then and kept frozen.
(4) Pull out one strip about an hour before use, and attach to the end
of a roll by stapling it to it. If you are careful, and shoot the film
alternating every few frames...you will have both informational images
on your test strips reguardless of where you cut the filmup (since you
can't see the film when you're cutting it up in total darkness). Then
attach it to one of your rolls about to be processed.
(5) After processing read out the gray card density on a densitometer....or
visually determine if the film is too dark or too light and adjust your
processing times accordingly.
~~~> COLOR REVERSAL or NEGATIVE Film Processing <~~~
(1) NOTE: Color film processing depends on a few factors. If you are
processing EM-26 type films, or FujiChrome Single-8 films, or Agfa
MovieChrome films...you will have to remove the jet-black anti-halation
backing. This is an involved procedure which will require removing the
film from the reels to take up reels...and then while transferring the
film from one takeup reel to another, having a tray with warm wash water
or borax bath beneath the film into which you immerse the film and wipe
the coating off...foot by foot with a clean soft cotton cloth that is
kept fully saturated with the wash water or borax solution. The EM-26
type films are the easiest to use...since their backing is a powdery dye.
However...the Fuji and Agfa films have tough rubbery coatings...that
make a terrific mess! You will have to rinse the reels off fully and
wipe them down...and change your wiping tray solution many times....as
well as continually rinsing your wiping cloth. So be warned! Film is
then wound back onto the clean reels for continuation of processing.
This entire procedure is extremely time consuming!
(2) EM-26 type films can be wiped down after the final wash stages...so
you don't have to remove them after you get to the first light stage as
you do with the Agfa and Fuji films. Their dye dissolves in solution and
won't affect other films processed thereafter. HOWEVER, this is not the
case with Fuji and Agfa films...which will shed a massive amount of
their rubbery coating...so it's best to remove it before continuing
after the first wash and/or reversal bath steps. The solutions that you
first used however...have to be CAREFULLY FILTERED BEFORE reuse, in
order to remove any traces of the jet-black coating.
(3) Make sure all your solutions are up to temperature. Pre-wash your
film at 105°F to 110°F for 2 to 5 minutes...this will also pre-heat the
tank interior, reels, and film surfaces to prevent a rapid cooling down
of the First Developer solution. Also, it will remove most of the film
dye, and some of the anti-halation backing on EM-26 type films and Color
Negative films (ECN-2 via using C-41 chemistry). Drain your tank and
reel completely. Rinse film another time with warm water if you should
be delayed...this will ensure interior tank temperature is still warm.
(4) Follow similar fill and drain procedures as outline in B&W film
processing, always making sure that your temperatures are correct. Keep
developers about 4 or 5 degrees higher than where they should be...since
a full reel of film (two films) will lower the solution temperature by 2
or 3 degrees initially upon lowering it into the solution. The heavy
bakelite construction of the LOMO tank will hold processing temperature
quite well....however....it is advisable to have a rubber or plastic
Tupperware/Rubbermaid type container filled with a water jacker of about
102°F to 108°F into which the LOMO tank is placed. This will ensure that
the tank's interior chemical temperature doesn't drop below the
recommended processing temperature. This type of critical temperature is
only necessary for the Developers...not the other solutions. The First
Developer determines the density of the film (speed control), and the
Color Developer determines the final positive image density and color (or
negative color) of your films. If the temperature is too high or too low,
it will affect your density and color results.
~~> COLOR PROCESSING CONTROL <~~~
(1) Control of your color processing can be done by using Process
Control Strips...ones that your purchase and use and then read out on a
densitometer to know which way your processing is shifting to, so you
can correct it. OR by making you own ones...by using fresh film,
shooting a test chart of color patches and a gray card. Then you remove
the film from the cartridge freeze it in a lighttight and air proof
container, and cut up the film into small approximate 5 inch sections,
just before you need them. You can cut up several from the main roll and
place these into used lightproof 35mm film canisters, label them and
then freeze them. Remove a strip about an hour prior to use, and place
it immediately into a spare lightproof 35mm film canister. When you have
loaded up your film...attach this strip to the very end of your film by
stapling it via a small overlap. After processing you can evaluate this
small strip by using a 5400°K light source that is daylight balanced (some
flourescent lights are 5000°K daylight balanced which is close enough)
and then decide if your color is off or not.
(2) If you read these strips out on a densitometer, you will have a
better idea of which way your process is leaning towards. The Super 8mm
frames and Regular 8mm frames are very tiny....so it is best to shoot
your Control Strips just a few frames at a time...filling the frame with
your gray card and alternating between that and a color chart. Provided
that your exposures are exactly correct (use a good light meter etc)...you
will be able to determine if you have over or under processed your films,
by how much, and which way the color is shifting, if there is a shift.
You will have to have a basic understanding of densitometry/sensitometry
to be able to do this. That notwithstanding...at least this will provide
a visual indicator of which way things are going, and hopefully you'll
be able to correct the problem.
(3) If you are processing Color Negative film which is to be telecined
to video...minor variations can be corrected upon transfer. However...you
will still want to be able to control any major changes, especially
density. If your color is way off...and you have a color cross-over
problem...then the film may not be able to be corrected properly on the
telecine machine. This is since if you correct for white, for example...flesh
tones will be incorrect, or some other color. You may still be able to
live with some variations like this...however it is best to keep as
accurate control of your processing as possible.
~~> FILM DRYING <~~
(1) It is best to remove film for drying, after first treating it with a
wetting/drying agent such as Photo-Flo (Eastman Kodak Co.), and either
gently squeegeing or not squeegeing the film as you hang it onto a Film
Drying Rack. It may be quite possible to dry the film on the reel and
remove it after it is dry. I don't prefer this method myself...but if it
works fine for you...then by all means do so. It may take much longer
for the film to dry on the reel, probably overnight due to small
moisture pockets trapped between the film spirals and film surfaces.
Shake the reel out very well...to remove these pockets of moisture.
(2) Alternatively you may be able to use a chemical Film Drying Agent
such as Rapid-Dry or similar. These may have alcohol or similar rapid
evaporating products in them to render your film and reel dry within 30
minutes or so (see manufacturer's instructions). Make sure this sustance
doesn't harm your reel first...place a couple drops of it onto a part of
the reel plastic and observe it over several minutes to make sure it
doesn't harm the reel...if it doesn't…then proceed with using it.
(3) Carefully remove the film from the spiral reel, by holding it at a
similar 45° or 90° angle upon removal as when you loaded it...this will
prevent it from binding or nagging on the reel edges. You can set the
LOMO reel on top of the tank cover (cover only on table top) and
carefully pull the film off at an angle while winding it onto a takeup
reel on your two-rewinder film-holder 2" x 4" x 30" portable setup. I
always fasten this to a table top in darkness via a large C-Clamp, to
prevent it from moving around. This affords greater control and you're
less likely to have an accident. Pull the film off gently and wind up
the slack onto the take up reel.
(4) You will have to transfer the processed film back to another takeup
reel to make sure the film is in the correct position (sprocket holes on
edge of reel as it faces you) and also that he end of the film is in the
center of the reel.
(5) Now just make sure you attach a leader (head) and trailer (tail) to
protect your film, and also lubricate it prior to ever projecting it.
(6) Wind the film nice and snug onto the take up reel....adding a little
pressure to the supply reel so that the film windsup evenly and neatly
along one side of the take up reel. Wrap a medium rubberband around the
film and allow to set overnight if possible. If you used a Film Drying
Rack...there will be some indentations in the film base about every foot
or so, and this nice snug wind will help the film to slacken out out
nice and smooth. Always wind it up nice and snug like this the first
week...to help the film develop a nice curved shape and also to prevent
any cinching when handling it.
With care and professionalism, you will be rewarded with high quality
film processing that you did yourself. Also make sure your projector is
clean, and that the filmpath is clean...wipe some film lubricant all
thru the accessable filmpath areas on the projector...and blow out any
dust using canned air or dust-off type products.
Any questions or problems, please contact me and I'll gladly try to help
if I can.
Martin W. Baumgarten
Plattsburgh Photographic Services