'hand made movies' by brett gaylor

Hand Made Movies

 by Brett Gaylor



Welcome to my hand-processing website. Here you will find all you need to know in order to develop your own motion picture film. Anyone who has ever developed any kind of film themselves will find it easy to do their own film processing. In discovering how to develop my own film, I came across many methods. Only two of those methods I have gained experience with, and therefore these will be the ones I cover in this site. They are the Bucket Method (also called the Quick and Dirty) and the Rewind Tank Method. Hand processing is not for everyone. If you aren't willing to screw up a couple of times, it's not for you. If you want to do colour film it's not for you (at least not with the instructions I will be giving). If you don't like reversal film, it's not for you. But...If you want to learn about how film works, want to save money, want an interesting look or want to experiment, hand-processing is definitely for you.


To discover the joys of hand-processing, choose your preferred method: (I) Rewind Tank or (II) Bucket.


UPDATE: I have frequently decided to skip the bleach process, and instead processing the film to negative only. Then I reverse the film on the computer. I have done this because the R-9 bleach is increasingly hard to come by, is messy, and is the least predictable part of the process. As for video transferring, I simply videotape the projected image. I often simply do this on a white wall. The only tips I can offer is to try adjusting the shutter settings of the video camera. This can help to reduce flicker. Also, make the projected image small...that way the grain is tighter. And you can also experiment with having the video camera on an angle, which can also reduce flicker and distribute the hot spot of the projected image. Make sure your camera is not set to auto exposure or it will make the flicker unbearable.


(I) Rewind Tank



The Rewind tank is what I use when I don't want it to appear as if I've hand processed the film, ie it looks normal. The problem I find with the rewind tank is it takes forever. You can expect to be doing it for about 2 1/2 hours. The plus side is that you can do it in the light, so I usually rent a movie when I'm hunkering down for some serious tank processing.


The tanks are called Morse G-3 tanks. You can find them on E-Bay, at photostores or from this source:


2769 South 34th Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53215
-Phone: (414) 645-2050
-Fax: (414) 645-9515
-Toll Free: 1-800-695-2055
Item: Daylight Roll Film Processor - Model: G-3.....$79.95 plus shipping


You must load the film in a light tight room (I personally lock myself in the closet). Bring into this room a stapler, your film and the tank. Staple one end of the film into a loop and load it into the tank. Note that Super8 and 16mm require different loading. For super 8, flip the top of the reels so that there is a smaller space than there would be for 16mm. 16mm is easier, because you can simply stick the daylight spool where one reel would go, wind it on another reel, and just replace the daylight spool with the proper reel. Super8 is easier done unloading the whole cartridge into another container and winding it from there. In either format, make sure you load the film emulsion outward. If you don't know what side the emulsion is, one trick is to hold the each side to your lips. The sticky side is the emulsion. Another highly scientific description is shiny smooth side being the base, dull sticky side being the emulsion. Once you've got it all loaded, you don't need to be in the dark anymore and you're ready to process.


The following are directions provided by the king of home processing, Martin Baumgarten. Martin is a wonderful resource and a great guy. Additions to his instructions will be presented in italics.


Let me quickly review the processing steps and times. It should take you one minute to pass the film from one reel to the other, regardless of film volume. Thus, if only processing ONE 50ft reel, the film will move slower thru the solutions, and the processing times will be cut down to 75% of the times for 100ft of film. The times mentioned in this breakdown and all information relative to rewind processing is based on a full 100ft load of film at 68F (20C). The steps outlined are for archival quality long term keeping of the film. Some short-cuts can be made for less-than-long-term keeping of the processed film. (e.g. just a quick exposure test or something etc).


 Steps  Actions  Time
 (1) PRE-BATH   This is generally a solution to allow for even wetting of your and may contain an anti-fogging compound if you scratch-mix Kodak's PB-3 (Pre-Bath Formula #3) from Kodak's instructions. (A Photo-Flo or similar wetting agent can be used otherwise).  4 minutes passes
 (2) RINSE   Water only, four passes of the film.  4 minutes
 (3) FIRST DEVELOPER   Recommended is Kodak formula D-88, but you can use D-19 which is readily available (D-11 is also purpoted to work just as well, although I always stick to D-19. It is advised to add 3ml of Sodium Thiocyanate (51% solution) per Liter (or quart) used. This acts as a silver solvent and will prevent wild silver halide crystals from causing any visible fog in the highlight areas. You can probably live without adding this compound if you can't locate it, and many have processed their films without it over the years. Your own results may vary. It's not in the D-88 formula anyhow. PLUS-X:20 minutes (20 passes)

TRI-X: 18 minutes (18 passes)

4-X:18 minutes (18 passes)

 (4) RINSE  Water only, four passes.  4 minutes (passes)
 (5) BLEACH   The bleach needs to be mixed in varying strengths depending on which film type is being processed. If you use liquid concentrates, depending on availability, it shouldn't be too difficult to mix this to a 2x or 3x of normal strength batch. If you can't purchase it in a liquid concentrate and need to scratch-mix it yourself from individual chemicals, then follow the formula and cut the water amount to strengthen it either two-fold or three-fold. Failing that, add 50% of the bleaching time to the bleaching time and see if that works fine for you.

  Careful Here. Too much bleach can really screw up your film. Personally I simply go for a 1x strength of bleach and add the time as Martin suggests. Bleach is the trickiest part, and you can often get residue left on your film from this stage. Experiment yourself to see what you can get.

  I have only once used R-9 bleach from Kodak. It worked great, but it's hard to get. Try contacting Kodak. I think they only sell it in huge quantities though. The above solution isn't hard to make, but there isn't much else you can do with potassium dichromate or sulfuric acid...you also have to consider disposal. Kodak can be reached at 1-800-GO-KODAK.

PLUS-X (2x strength):10 minutes (passes)

TRI-X (3x strength):10 minutes (passes)

4-X (2x strength): 10 minutes (passes)

 (6) RINSE   Water only, four passes.  4 minutes
 (7) CLEARING BATH   This is mixed up in different strengths also, BUT ONLY by changing the amount of Sodium Sulfite. Again, if this isn't possible for you due to how your chemicals are formulated etc, just add 50% to the time for the Tri-X and 4-X films, compared to the time for the Plus-X. This would be incredibly long though since even with CB-2 (Clearing Bath #2) with Tri-X film, the time is already 20 minutes! Plus-X (CB-1): 10 minutes

Tri-X (CB-2): 20 minutes

4-X (CB-2): 15 minutes



 Kodak Bleach R-9 Formula (to makea one liter)
 Water  1.0 liter
 Potassium Dichromate (anhydrous)  9.5 grams
 *Sulfuric Acid  12.0 ml
 *NOTE: ALWAYS add Acid TO Solution or Water s-l-o-w-l-y. Never the other way around!



 Kodak Clearing Bath CB-1 Formula (to make one liter)
 Water  750 ml
 Sodium Sulfite (anhydrous)  90.0 grams
 Add Water to make  1 liter

 Kodak Clearing Bath CB-2 Formula (to make one liter).

 Same as above EXCEPT use 210.0 grams of Sodium Sulfite.


Clearing Bath can also be found at some photo stores.

 Steps  Actions  Time
 (8) RINSE   Rinse with running water and simulataneously re-expose, while passing the film 8 times from one reel to the other, and while exposing the film to a No.1 Photoflood lamp at 12 - 18 inches from the film. (or use a 90 or 100 watt bulb in a small lamp placed at about 6-10 inches from the film). Earlier G-3 Rewind Tanks have a reversal exposure window in front which makes it much easier to wind the film while re-exposing it. --- IF yours doesn't have this window, you'll have to remove the cover and use a finger tip to rotate the reels. Otherwise, use a FOGGING REDEVELOPER to avoid this step. If you use a fogging redeveloper, just rinse normally for 8 passes without exposure to light.  8 minutes

  Here you have a choice depending on whether or not your re-exposed the film. If you did re-expose the film then use either: D-88 (with 0.25 grams per liter of potassium iodide added), or just use D-19 mixed normally, either at same time.

FOGGING REDEVELOPER: Use FD-72 or any commercially available fogging developer for reversal processing (follow directions) for 8-10 minutes (passes) NOTE: Kodak recommends that if at all possible, re-expose and then redevelop is the preferred way to proceed. (it depends on your equipment.)

  IF you don't mind a Sepia Toned Image, then you can use the SULFIDE REDEVELOPER T-19. This is easy to mix, just one chemical and water! Add 20 grams of Sodium Sulfide (anhydrous)(Sulfide NOT Sulfite!) per liter or quart of solution made.

Process for 6 minutes (6 passes).

  CAUTION: Rinse well afterward and BEFORE using any Acid Stop or
dangerous fumes can result.

10 minutes (passes)
 (10) RINSE   Water or use a simple Stop Bath made from 28% Acetic Acid mixed at 125ml per liter or quart of water. (ALWAYS ADD Acid to Water, not the other way around!).  4 minutes (passes)
 (12) FINAL WASH   Washing in a rewind tank is incredibly long! (40 minutes/passes), so it's best to use Kodak Hypo Clearing Agent to shorten this time significantly. Rinse-in-water for two passes: 2 minutes. Pass-twice-thru in Hypo Clearing Agent: 2 minutes. Rinse-in-water for 6 passes: 6 minutes.
 (13) DRYING AGENT    Although not mentioned in some steps/procedures, use Photo-Flo (or similar) wetting agent to aid in even drying. A few drops in a water bath of a liter or two to cover the film and run the film for two passes, will aid in preventing water spots. This helps especially in hard water areas....in very hard water or poor water areas...use distilled water for your final rinse and wetting agent (also consider mixing your developers in distilled water as well).  2 minutes
 (14) DRYING THE FILM   Attach the end of the film to a film drying rack via a rubberband/paperclip combination, emulsion side up/base down. You can even use a film chamois dampened with the wetting agent and rung out, by very carefully pulling the film through the chamois. Keep the film in the wetting agent bath the entire time as the film is being pulled out of the tank and then onto the drying rack. Attach the paper clip and rubberband to the end of the film. Loop film as needed so that the clip will reach the next dowel. IF too much of a loop is required, then just add another rubberband/paperclip to compensate for the gap, to carry you to the next dowel. This will help prevent you from having to snip off too much of your film, especially if there are images towards the end.  


While Martin's drying rack method is probably wonderful, I prefer to simply hang my film across my halway. I stick push pins through the perfs in the film and hang it up. I always do a quick bath of photo-flo before I do this. The tighter the film is the better, to avoid spots drying in the film.


(II) Bucket



What you need is: A bucket, a pair of gloves, and a dark room. The dark room can be a bathroom with all the windows taped up. You also need D-19 Developer, R-9 Bleach, Clearing Bath and Fixer. D-19, Clearing Bath and Fixer can be purchased at most photo stores. The Bleach, however, may have to be scratch mixed depending on the availability of R-9 in your area.


Plastic ice cream buckets are the best buckets I find when doing your processing. It is advisable to not wear nice clothes when doing this developing, as a bit of bleach on your pants will ruin them. Please wear gloves. It is also not a good idea to do the processing in a bath tub, as mine is stained orange from the potassium dichromate in the bleach, which spilled out of the bucket during processing.


Always agitate the film well when it is in the bucket. It is a good idea to empty out a whole cartridge into a bucket of water before placing into the developer, so as to ensure all of the film gets equal exposure but also to lube up the film a bit before processing.


  Step   What Happens
  First Developer (4 minutes, room temperature)   Develops the camera-exposed light-sensitive silver hallide crystals to mettalic silver (a negative image). Time and temperature are critical for optimum results.
  Wash   Removes that first developer from the film
  Bleach (2 minutes)   Dissolves the metallic-silver negative image produced in the first developer but does not affect remaining silver hallide.
  Wash   Removes excess bleach from the film.
  Cleaning Bath   Removes any bleach left from the wash step and prepares the film for redevelopment
  Re-Exposure (to eye)   Exposes the silver hallide crystals that were not exposed in the camera
  Second Developer (Done in light to eye)   Develops remaining exposed silver hallide to produce a positive image
  Wash   Removes second developer
  Fixer (5-10 minutes)   Removes and undeveloped silver hallide grains. This step should yield minimal silver.
  Wash   Removes fixer from the film
  Photo-Flo   Aids the film in drying

The Re-Exposure step is accomplished by taking the film out of the bucket and holding it up to a light bulb. High tech. Make sure all parts of the image receive exposure to the light. Don't worry about holding it up too long, just make sure all parts of the film get enough light.

For drying, find a long corridor and hang your film with tacks through the perforation holes. Make sure you have the film fairly tight, otherwise spots will form in the areas where the film didn't dry quickly enough.