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Kodachrome Takes Its Final Bow Today 262

Posted by timothy
from the fond-memories-good-music dept.
Ellis D. Tripp writes "Today marks the end of an era for photo geeks, with the shutdown of the world's last Kodachrome film processing line. Dwayne's Photo, of Parson, KS will pull the plug on their K-14 processing equipment at the end of business today."
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Kodachrome Takes Its Final Bow Today

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  • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius.driver@Nospam.mac.com> on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:37PM (#34716398) Journal

    I hope they are just "selling" the processing equipment, not specifically "selling for scrap", as the article mentions. I would hope that SOMEONE would buy it to send to the Smithsonian or similar.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      All n all its not that interesting an item for a museum, there are lots of other automated film processing and printing machines, so the "technology" is not going away exactly. Kodak is no longer going to produce the chemistry to process this type of film which makes it pretty impossible to use the machine in any way. Yes it might serve as a museum piece but I am not sure it warrants that.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        Automobile technology isn't going away either, but that doesn't mean obsoleted automobiles aren't "interesting items" for museums. Especially automotive museums. (Car analogy enough for you?)

      • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius.driver@Nospam.mac.com> on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:23PM (#34716884) Journal

        I'm just thinking that because Kodachrome is so "iconic" and historic piece of photography history, the processing machinery would be a good thing to have in a museum. Also, if it truly is the last one, it might be nice to keep one around, just in case. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolo_11_missing_tapes [wikipedia.org] for a case where keeping around the last machine proved useful. If something like this comes up, I'm sure SOMEBODY could whip up another batch of chemicals...)

        • by Baseclass (785652)
          I'm sure there must be several photography museums in this world. We have museums for just about everything, including toasters, twine, and wooden nickels.
          • I'm sure there must be several photography museums in this world.

            I have a picture of one, if that helps.

        • You don't need a machine to process Kodachrome, so long as you have the chemicals. If something really phenomenal showed up, you could have the chemicals synthesized and do the processing by hand.
          • by Y-Crate (540566) on Friday December 31, 2010 @02:11AM (#34719378)

            You can do D-76 processing in your bathroom with strong coffee, and the right off-the-shelf equipment.

            You can do C-41 processing in your basement with the right chemicals and off-the-shelf equipment.

            K-14 is another beast entirely and demands all kind of proprietary chems that you simply cannot find because they no longer exist. Even if you had the chemicals, you wouldn't have the equipment process the images properly.

            What really needed to happen here was another instance of someone pulling together The Impossible Project [the-imposs...roject.com] which (thanks to a chance meeting at a bar) salvaged the last Polaroid processing equipment riiiiiiight before it was to be scrapped, and then reverse-engineered the chemicals needed to produce and develop the film.

            (Note: I don't have any financial stake in their success, but I have to say the staff at the IP are amazing, and some of the nicest bunch of people I've dealt with in the photo world. Please give them your business.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RDW (41497)

      Kodak at one point made an automated Kodachrome minilab, the K-Lab, which was intended to make processing more widely available:

      http://www.kodak.com/global/en/consumer/products/klabs/index.shtml [kodak.com]

      Unfortunately it never really took off, and one was up for sale for several years with no takers:

      http://www.rockymountainfilm.com/equipment/klab.htm [rockymountainfilm.com]

      The day before it waa due to be scrapped, an enthusiast stepped in and bought it, and is now hoping to get it running again:

      http://www.kodachromeproject.com/forum/showthr [kodachromeproject.com]

      • There are people who process their own colour films (negative and positive). Granted it is much more tricky if you don't have the right equipment, considering temperature ranges and development times etc. are less tolerant of changes from development specs. But if you have the right equipment and know how, it isn't hugely different from B+W, just more steps involved. When I read the OP I wondered if it is possible to still buy the chemicals required for the process. Mind you, given that Kodak stopped making
        • by mobby_6kl (668092)

          It looks like you're talking about other color film, like Ektachrome or something. Those are still being manufactured and anyone can develop it, even if it's more difficult than B&W for amateurs. Kodachrome uses a significantly different and much more complicated process which requires different equipment, knowledge, and chemicals. I don't really know what the exact procedure is, and probably very few people do. Up to this point there was only a handful of labs in the world that could actually develop t

    • I've seen nothing to indicate that Dwayne has the last processing machinery in existence, just the last one in use. Plus, processing could be done without the machine they're using (it's an industrial model designed for high-volume work) - the problem is the chemicals. Kodak isn't making them any more.
  • by chill (34294) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:40PM (#34716420) Journal

    When I think back
    On all the crap I learned in high school
    It's a wonder
    I can think at all
    And though my lack of education
    Hasn't hurt me none
    I can read the writing on the wall

    Kodachrome
    You give us those nice bright colors
    You give us the greens of summers
    Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
    I got a Nikon camera
    I love to take a photograph
    So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away

    If you took all the girls I knew
    When I was single
    And brought them all together for one night
    I know they'd never match
    My sweet imagination
    And everything looks worse in black and white

    Kodachrome
    You give us those nice bright colors
    You give us the greens of summers
    Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
    I got a Nikon camera
    I love to take a photograph
    So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away

    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away

    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away

    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away

    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome
    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome
    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome (away)

    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome
    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome
    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome (away)

    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome
    (Leave your boy so far from home)
    Mama, don't take my Kodachrome (away)

  • by Relayman (1068986) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:45PM (#34716474)
    Here's the original story [nytimes.com] from the New York Times.
    • Still needs the proper referrer set. Punch that URL into google and follow that link OR:

      PARSONS, Kan. — An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

      That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be s

  • by colinRTM (1333069)

    It pisses me off that the majority of people crying about this (and the demise of colour films in general) are mostly the ones who scour eBay for expired rolls with which to stock their fridges, instead of buying fresh packs of film, demonstrating to the manufacturers that there is actual demand for it.

    • by hjf (703092)

      Not really. Kodachrome itself is difficult and expensive to develop. Other color films are still alive (Fuji Velvia 50 was actually introduced in 2007. Well, re-introduced, but it shows that there is demand for it).

      • Re:Bah (Score:5, Informative)

        by Plekto (1018050) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @09:08PM (#34717280)

        Fuji currently makes several positive and negative type films. They also make a color-neutral type for professional use that looks as dull and washed out as our eyes generally see. The differences between Kodachrome and Provia are fairly minor, to be honest. Kodachrome was actually a black and white film that had color added to it, so it requitred special chemistry and had a curiously super-saturated blue tint (it's more reactive to blue than most any other film.

        http://www.soerink.nl/film/film.html [soerink.nl]
        You'll note the 3.7 value for blue on Kodachrome. But realistic it's not.

        http://www.maremmaphoto.it/filmtest.eng.html [maremmaphoto.it]

        Close, but not quite.

        I use Fuji NPS 160/160S, though, as it's spot-on realistic to what your eyes see. Slightly dimmer blues and not as punchy (I find Velvia garish, like a poster, almost). But very nice, especially for portraits.

        NOTE: Fujifilm USA stops importing film from Japan if the numbers get too low. In most cases, though, the film is still made in Japan - you have to sometimes order from a shop that deals directly with Japan or import it. (the same is true for Agfa as well)

        • by Goaway (82658)

          All colour films are black and white films with colour added to them, and require special chemistry.

    • You disdain is misplaced. Kodachrome is a slide film or a colour positive. The reason for its demise began before digital cameras came along and starts with the fact that people just don't find time to sit around looking at slide shows. The 35mm film speed was ASA64 or ASA200 which was slow compared to the 400 and 800 print films that are available today. Finally, processing requires mailing it away and people have given that up as an acceptable practice. In the 1970's, Kodachrome film came with a

      • by afidel (530433)
        colour precision and accuracy.

        OK, you can say MANY things about Kodachrome, but color accuracy was never one of its strong spots.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      That's only because they can't buy those films through more reasonable means. Buying anything off eBay is a somewhat risky proposition even when dealing with honest sellers.

      Color film is great, but for most purposes digital at this point can meet or beat it for most uses. That being said, I have a soft spot for Fuji films. Reala and IIRC provia. Fuji does a really good job with films and technologies for portrait photography. Even now, if you want to take portraits, Fuji should be near the top of your li
  • You have provided us with more memories of good and bad times than the discovery-channel. You will be missed. Well not really, but that's only because I have the kodachrome plugins for ps. :')
    • by PhotoJim (813785)

      If only the Kodachrome plugin for PhotoShop could make actual slides that you can project. I haven't seen a digital projector that can touch the quality of a projected slide yet.

  • Do you actually need to process this a certain way, or can you just like scan the negatives(??) in and fix the colors?

    I know absolutely nothing about photography.

    • by e9th (652576) <{e9th} {at} {tupodex.com}> on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:10PM (#34716748)
      Kodachrome is a transparency ("slide") film, not a negative one like Kodacolor. Also, unlike conventional transparency films like Ektachrome and Fujichrome, the color dyes are not present in the emulsion when you shoot the film but are introduced during processing, which makes developing the stuff a bitch. One effect of this is that the dyes in Kodachrome are much longer lasting than those in other transparency films (the ones developed using the E-6 process).
      • by cptdondo (59460)

        Yup; my dad still has Kodachrome slides from back in the 60s? 50s? It's the only film he's ever used that kept its color.

        Every other film has faded and lost color.... There's a reason the stuff is expensive. I haven't used it in 20 years, but it still saddens me to see something that good die.

        • I recently scanned a large number of slides my parents shot over the decades. All the Kodachrome slides looked like brand new when directly viewed. However, the dyes used in the film interact with scanner sensors to give a very heavy blue cast to the results that need to be fixed up with post processing.

          In my case, most of the Ektachrome slides taken before the mid 1960s were heavily faded to a muddy brown, and a few were almost unviewable. Ektachrome slides taken in the mid 1960s and later generally looked

      • by emes (240193) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:28PM (#34716940)

        Actually, the process Kodachrome uses to produce the color is still based on the fundamental instability which plagues all chromogenic systems- even though the dye coupler is not in the emulsion(as would be the case with Kodacolor and Ektachrome), the fact is that the process is still the same. A dye coupler combines with developing agent by-products in proportion to the amount of underlying silver that is developed. I've always wondered how Kodachrome achieved greater archival permanence; maybe it is because the coupler/developing agent byproduct reaction happens only in processing and the dye coupler does not have a chance to become spoiled while unused sitting in an emulsion.

        • by e9th (652576) <{e9th} {at} {tupodex.com}> on Thursday December 30, 2010 @09:12PM (#34717314)
          Every time I consider the maniacal steps involved in process K-14 [kodak.com](small .PDF), I'm amazed that anything shows up at all.
      • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @09:52PM (#34717632)

        ...One effect of this is that the dyes in Kodachrome are much longer lasting than those in other transparency films (the ones developed using the E-6 process).

        In the 1960s, this was correct. In the meantime Kodachrome has stayed much the same, while E-6 films have improved. Modern slide film is as fade-resistant as Kodachrome was, and is much easier to live with. I develop Ektachrome in my bathroom with a daylight tank. And a big tub of warm water and a thermometer.

        I've tried my own C-41 processing, but it's a bit temperamental. Since you develop for 3 minutes 15 seconds at 38 degrees, your agitation must be perfect to avoid streaks and spots and stuff.

        ...laura

        • by e9th (652576)
          The 1960s? From the Kodak 1997 Professional Photographic Catalog (publication L-9):

          KODACHROME Film was the first Kodak color film ever made and continues to be the most archival of all color films

          But you're right about the E-6 films being easier to live with. I used to do sink-line E-6 sheet film processing, and for an extra fee we could even adjust the first developer time by inspection!

    • by Rich0 (548339) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:11PM (#34716754) Homepage

      Just shows you how far we've come with digital photography that we actually have /.ers who don't know how film works.

      Film before it is developed is light-sensitive. Developing film fixes the image on the negative and makes it no longer light-sensitive. If you scan undeveloped film you'll just get an image of gray, and you'll also expose the film to intense light which means whatever was on it is lost.

      Different kinds of film require different kinds of processes to develop them (since the chemistry is different). Color film is particularly fussy about such things. Once the film is developed you get a negative and there are lots of directions you can go from there. Unless you're doing something exotic there is pretty-much only one right way to develop any particular kind of film.

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        I get your point... but is there really no way to scan it?

        Traditional consumer scanners obviously use intense white light, but could it not be possible to develop a scanner using some other spectrum of light that the film is not sensitive too? I am thinking that since the processing equipment is being scrapped, what would happen if we had something we wanted to develop 50 years from now?

        I guess what I am thinking is that the information is there in the film and that scanning it with a different spectrum wou

    • by Danathar (267989)

      As I understand it there are specific chemicals needed because they are applied after the negative is created and Kodak is the only people that make them (and know how). So even if you bought the equipment you would have no way to develop film because you would have the same problem as the current owner of the equipment..which is getting the chemicals.

      In a story on TV the owner said he was doing GREAT business developing Kodachrome film but that he would not be able to get the chemicals anymore.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Right, and the other problem is that since Kodak discontinued the film a while back and film has a finite shelflife he'd run out of people with film to develop in the near future.
    • by wowbagger (69688)

      The issue is developing the negatives. In chemical photography, you don't just expose a piece of film to light and poof! it's a negative. You have to expose the film to light briefly, then keep it in the dark. Then you have to run it through a series of chemical baths that take the molecules of the film that were altered by the light, and "fix" them so they won't be altered by light anymore, while removing the molecules that were NOT altered because no light hit them, to grossly simplify the process. (even

      • by loshwomp (468955)

        So you might be able to scan a developed Kodachrome negative on a good film scanner[...]

        That would be a good trick, since there is no such thing as a Kodachrome negative. It's a positive film.

    • First, you have to develop the film to get any kind of image at all.

      Well, okay, theoretically, you could scan the film, but not with any ordinary scanner. The light from the scanner, you see, would wash the image right out.

      You have to develop film to bring the image out into a form that is visible to the unaided/untrained eye. Developing also stabilizes the image so that further exposure to light doesn't wash it out.

      Places to educate yourself even further (regards negative and positive process film, etc.):

      k [wikipedia.org]

  • by stern (37545) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:56PM (#34716620) Homepage

    Kodachrome is hard film to use; I gave up trying to take indoor photos with it years ago. I have continued to use it (about 25 rolls in the last two years), mostly because the quality of the images is obviously different from modern film or digital, and evokes nostalgia in older viewers. And I liked the bragging rights. It's no surprise that Kodachrome is gone; Kodak had been phasing it out for years -- first killing the larger format versions, then the iso25 and iso200 variants, and the motion picture film. The economics just weren't there; virtually every other color film uses identical (C41 or E6) processing chemicals, and Kodachrome used a different and apparently more toxic set. Without scale, it was more expensive to buy and process than other color films, and the emulsion can't even be scanned by most slide scanners. You're left with only nostalgia and archival properties to drive sales, enough for a small specialty chemical company perhaps, but not for Kodak.

  • I know that most photography has gone digital, but there are enough 35mm cameras still having shutters snap that I wonder if there would be a market for a new type of color film in various ISOs. Something designed for modern use, using as non-toxic chemicals as possible (probably not likely), and perhaps with as small a grain as possible, so one wouldn't have to go with a Hasselblad or medium format to make a 11x17 with ISO 800 film.

    This might be impossible, but film has a number of things over even the be

    • by santax (1541065)
      Ah, but photographers are like guitarists (I know, I do both for a living) and when I pick up a cam that still works with film it is because of the much nicer grain on analog. I don't think people would really want a new sort of film. The generation that is growing up now sees only benefits in digital processing (cheaper, faster) and the fans of film love it just for it properties, like beautiful grain on high iso. But to be honest, even playboy-shoots are done with a hasselblad + digital back these days. F
      • Nothing beats a good Tri-X 400 shot for black and white. The grain adds to the charm of the picture.
      • by hedwards (940851)
        Film is great, I personally have a soft spot for Fujifilm, but I absolutely hate it in terms of having to guess at how the developer is going to handle it and what exactly I'm going to end up with. Sure it depends a lot on technique and the developers tend to do it a fixed way, but it's a challenge to find a place which will actually make any promises about how they turn out.

        Plus, I'm not personally thrilled with having to hand over that portion of the process to somebody else to handle. And I haven't go
    • by Rifter13 (773076)

      256 gradients? I thought with a 16bit capture that number was... well, a LOT higher. I have read that the technical specs of digital have surpassed film a couple of years ago. The ONE thing that I know film can do better, is star-trail shots. Digital sensors warm up over time, and can't take REALLY extended shots.

      (There is software to simulate it, but it is not really, the real thing)

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        You cool the sensor then, telescopes do that.

      • I'm told that the really hardcore astrophotography crew uses CCDs backed with peltier elements or other forms of refrigeration system to keep temperatures stable and low over long shots. Now, since taking up astrophotography is pretty similar to taking up heroin in a "Percentage of income dedicated to primary hobby" sense, I don't think that much helps the 'could use film camera to take long sky exposure, cannot use digital camera for same purpose' relative dabblers...
        • by Rifter13 (773076)

          DAMN... yea, that's hard core. :-) Though, I think the % of income argument can be made against photography in general, especially when you move up to GOOD glass.

          • by afidel (530433)
            Even decent glass gets spendy, I have $1600 in two lenses (Nikon 18-200 and Sigma 150-500). They both take great photo's but not in low light, to get the same kind of coverage in low light glass you could spend 10x that easily.
      • (There is software to simulate it, but it is not really, the real thing)

        Actually, it's the other way around. Astronomers were some of the first people on board for the digital backs, and they ordered some huge ones (sometimes having to resort to matrices of them...), but even amateur astronomers have been using electronic sensors for a long time now because of the benefit you get with long-term exposures (and quantum efficiency, but that's another matter to discuss some other time.)

        And that benefit is that when you're stacking your images into a longer exposure, you can throw

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      With modern cameras having increased color depth the gradients are becoming less of an issue. Also, while film is analog that doesn't mean that it can accurately distinguish arbitrarily close shades of color. If you took a photo of two light sources that were only slightly different in intensity at some point you couldn't tell the difference with film.

      I think the biggest problem you're going to run into is supply and demand. Is there really enough demand out there for a fancy new film chemistry that peop

    • by RDW (41497)

      Kodak Ektar 100, which was launched about 2 years ago, is maybe the closest current film to what you're suggesting. It's very fine-grained and designed for scanning, though you only get ISO 100, and the chemistry is standard C41 colour negative (which realistically it has to be - nobody is going to do R&D on an entirely new film process at this point, and finding decent local processing is already hard enough):

      http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=13328 [kodak.com]

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      This might be impossible, but film has a number of things over even the best digital cameras. From color gradients (256 levels of RGB versus infinite),

      Actually, regular 8-bit color in photography means that you have 8 bits per color channel which adds up to 24 bits and 16 777 216 possible colors in your palette. With 16 bit RAW images you have 281 474 976 710 656 possible colors. Not quite infinite but close enough as long as you don't insist on taking only really poorly composed shots.

      ...to the fact that it is quite difficult to doctor film without that being detected (at least easier than firing up Photoshop.)

      Personally I find this to be an advantage of digital, even if I slightly botch a picture I can easily fix it in Aperture/Lightroom. It also lessens the reliance on a third

  • Remaining inventory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PatPending (953482) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:00PM (#34716650)
    I just went to the refrigerator and removed 25 rolls of Kodachrome 64 36 exp. -- paid $8.20 per roll ($205 total). They've been in there since 2002. I've been meaning to shoot them ever since Kodak made their announcement last year but alas work prevented me from taking two scheduled vacations this year to do so. Sigh. I suppose now there's nothing left to do with it except throw it away.
    • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:14PM (#34716790) Homepage Journal
      Or you could just put it in your closet for a couple of decades and sell it at one of those camera shows that are constantly being put together somewhere. It will then be an antique and a conversation piece.
    • I just went to the refrigerator and removed 25 rolls of Kodachrome 64 36 exp. -- paid $8.20 per roll ($205 total). They've been in there since 2002. I've been meaning to shoot them ever since Kodak made their announcement last year but alas work prevented me from taking two scheduled vacations this year to do so. Sigh. I suppose now there's nothing left to do with it except throw it away.

      One word - eBay.

      Okay that's actually three words. And now it's twelve.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You can hand process it as a black and white film. Not a complete waste! I shot my first and only roll of 16mm Kodachrome a couple weeks ago and sent it the other day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tenser234 (973242)
      Dwayne is still doing limited runs. Its just not commercial anymore.
      • by PatPending (953482) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @11:32PM (#34718442)
        Huh? Kodak no longer manufactures the chemical dyes & agents required for the K-14 process and Dwayne's Photo [dwaynesphoto.com] is selling their K-14 processing equipment. From Dwayne's website front page: The last day of processing for all types of Kodachrome film will be December 30th, 2010. They will however continue to offer processing for Ektachrome and other E6 process compatible films.
        • by Tenser234 (973242)
          I was told by my photo mentor who is good friends with Dwayne that limited runs will still be able for processing.
    • by soulsteal (104635)

      You can stillmdevelop it, it'll just be black and white.

    • by reiisi (1211052)

      Hmm. The process is known, but it is complicated (tricky, it sounds like, since you have to re-expose the film several times to different colors of light (which may be part of the reason for the vivid colors?)) and use chemicals even more poisonous than those used in the more common processes.

      But I'm going to guess that there will be amateurs/independents who try to reproduce the process for those people whose rolls didn't make it to Dwayne's in time for the last cans of the official chemicals.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Not necessarily. There's a guy in New Mexico who got a hold of one of the last k-lab machines and is looking to get it operational, but Kodak has kept the chemical formulas for the dye couplers locked up tight. Maybe with the end of official processing that will change.

  • Find those rolls in the back of the closet and send them in!

  • I'm amused at the apparently clueless people on eBay bidding against each other for film that can no longer be processed. There are several examples of multiple bids on auctions for unexposed film ending tomorrow.

  • Another hit for the analog world. In a few more years, real quality will just be a distant memory and all we will have are 'samples'.

    • by raddan (519638) *
      If you're thinking that digital photography lacks the "continuous" qualities that film has, think again. All of our recording media is, at some level, discrete. The difference is that film is not digital.

      Right now, large format film still has the edge qhen it comes to resolution, but I have no doubt that digital technologies will exceed even what film can offer. It will do this, mind you, while maintaining all the other things digital information has going for it (cheap to store, easy to copy, etc).
      • by pz (113803)

        If you're thinking that digital photography lacks the "continuous" qualities that film has, think again. All of our recording media is, at some level, discrete. The difference is that film is not digital.

        Ah, but film is digital. Single grains of silver halide are the fundamental capture element, and once a given grain absorbs a photon, through magic I don't quite recall that involves cascading electrons through the crystal, the entire grain changes state from unexposed to exposed. The density for a given region and color layer is determined by how many of the grains in the area were exposed. It's very, very digital, just not spatially regular.

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