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Kodak Ends Production of Acetate Base For Photographic Film 137

Posted by timothy
from the personal-development dept.
McGruber writes "According to a report by Rochester, NY CBS affiliate WROC Kodak has ended in-house production of the cellulose acetate base that is the primary component of photographic film. Popular Photography magazine adds that, for more than 100 years, Kodak has made the acetate in house in bulk, providing the structural basis for the company's film. Now, with Kodak in bankruptcy, the company is firing 60 workers and shutting down the acetate machinery. Citing the decline in interest in film photography as a primary cause, Kodak will no longer undertake the time intensive process of acetate production. Thankfully, the company has large stockpiles of the material, and once that runs out they will source it from elsewhere."
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Kodak Ends Production of Acetate Base For Photographic Film

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  • Sad, but inevitable. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Film has a wonderful look, but the convenience of digital just means this has to happen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I agree. There's a quality to film that digital has yet to produce.

      As a medium for documentation, digital photography is superior, but for artistic purposes, film is still a strong contender. There's something charming about the darkroom process, as well.

      • Also, having analog films is still a proven way of storing media. Despite the fact that digital archives should be transferrable between sotrage technologies as time goes on, we still have little real-world experience with trying to use them to preserve stuff as long as possible (and you know what happened with all those NASA data tapes) so having those things on film can't hurt.
      • I agree. There's a quality to film that digital has yet to produce.

        Why should it?

        It looks different. That doesn't mean it looks better.

        Much of the "film look" can be replicated easily enough, anyway.

        • Replicated to a degree. It still looks artificially processed and not like real film.

          • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

            Replicated to a degree. It still looks artificially processed and not like real film.

            This is the issue. People who claim that film is real, and digital is not,

            Dont' get me wrong, I've been in Photography since the late 70's, and a professional since the early 80's. And I've done a lot of film of every variety.

            But the one thing - film isn't "real". The struggles you have to go to to get just an approximation of the real color or lightness or darkeness with film is monumental. If you aren't struggling, you are not operating under very strict conditions.

            Monitoring chemical activity, ca

          • not like real film.

            Would that be Agfapan AP 100, Vista 200/400, Velvia 100F, Sensia 400, True definition 400, HP5 Plus, Kodak Ultramax 400, Rollei Ortho...

            You see where I'm going with this.

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        I agree. There's a quality to film that digital has yet to produce.

        As a medium for documentation, digital photography is superior, but for artistic purposes, film is still a strong contender. There's something charming about the darkroom process, as well.

        I've found that the "quality" of film is a whole lot related to the compression of the highlights and bottom end, a distortion that can only be partially compensated for in the printing process. This is quantified by the famous S-Curve of silver based emulsions. I've also founf a way to emulate it in th emore modern digital, which has what would normally be a more desirable straight line characteristic. I've been able to emulate the S curve pretty closely in Photoshop. But it certainly isn't a superiority,

        • by ratbag (65209)

          With regard to the long exposures, I've found digital makes one aspect of the process much, much better, and that's the oldest argument in favour of digital in general: experimentation is quick and cheap. I've started using Lee's Big Stopper recently and I'm pleased I can chuck away (without developing) 97% of my early work with it!

    • by AaronLS (1804210)

      One thing is for certain, there's alot of things that are alot easier and cheaper to do in digital. I did alot of long exposures and night photography. Trying to get a balance between grainyness and being too dark is challenging when the feedback you get on your settings is a couple weeks later. You can go through a whole roll trying different settings. One time I went to pick up prints and the lab gave me the negatives and said they didn't turn out. I had to point out to them a couple shots on the neg

      • by AaronLS (1804210)

        Not to mention having to keep a notebook on settings you used for each photo so that you could learn what is working.

        • by Mal-2 (675116)

          I thought of that but it wasn't really true. Some of the better 35mm film cameras would print the technical data in the stripe between the frames. YOUR camera may not have (mine sure didn't), but it's not a defect of the medium.

      • My midrange-consumer camera (Nikon D5100) makes color images at ISO6400 that are roughly comparable in quality to "consumer" (say Fuji drugstore-brand) color film at ISO200. It captures 5 stops, 2^5 times more, light for the same (or better) overall quality. If by "capture light" you mean dynamic range or tonality or something other than raw ISO sensitivity there's more to discuss.

        • by AaronLS (1804210)

          That's nice. I'll have to pay more attention on my next camera. Think my Nikon D60 only goes up to 1200. How is the graininess on that camera? Mine gets really grainy on long exposures if I have ISO above 800. I know that's kind of the holy grail pipe dream of getting high ISO without graininess.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      The real downside to this is that film is still the gold standard for autoradiography. Nothing beats the sensitivity and resolution of Kodak Biomax x-ray films.

  • Don't worry... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluxmov (519552) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @03:45PM (#43999743)
    ...when the last commercial film runs out, we'll be coating glass plates with home-mixed emulsions!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...when the last commercial film runs out, we'll be coating glass plates with home-mixed emulsions!

      Some of us are. It's called wet plate collodion and it's a hell of a lot of fun. Film production has drastically declined in the past decade but there are still those photographers among us who shoot primarily with traditional media.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Watch out, all those "dangerous chemicals" might get you labeled as a terrorist or something. I kid, back in highschool we did exactly that, and learned how to make our own emulsions as well as developing film in a dark room, even how to make our own dark rooms at home. Wasn't all that long ago either, back in the mid-90's. I took a trip up to my old highschool to see if they still did this, and it's a big o'l nope. Now they send the film off for processing, because those chemicals are too dangerous for

      • When I was working for a lab, I used to developer big colour enlargements (> 8x10" in a darkroom) from the spent chemicals out of the regular C-41 enlarger/printer. We didn't even need to mix any chemicals for the job.

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      ...when the last commercial film runs out, we'll be coating glass plates with home-mixed emulsions!

      There are practitioners of what is known as alternative photographic processes that are doing that right now. Also making their own printing paper. One of the favorites is albumen paper, which is made from chicken eggs, the whites only, coated on paper of choice, and sensitized with silver nitrate.

      The large negative is exposed in contact with the paper in a frame that is hinged. After seeing actual darkening of the paper in the frame, it was taken out and processed.. The results can be stunning, in keep

      • I have an old 4x5 view camera that I haven't used for some time. I've kept it partially to try those kind of things when I get some copious free time. Sheet film/plate holders should be easiest to "load your own".

        I saw a machine on some antiques show that was from a seaside pier or amusement park. It printed onto metal discs, to be used as souvenir medallions. I'd love to try that process (if I can ever find out what it is). I assume it's not too complex, if it was at least partially susceptible to aut

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          I have an old 4x5 view camera that I haven't used for some time. I've kept it partially to try those kind of things when I get some copious free time.

          Although I com out on the side of digital for work, using film in a view camera is one of the most interesting ways to work. The view camera forces you to use a slower pace, and the images show it. Relaxing sort of work.

          I saw a machine on some antiques show that was from a seaside pier or amusement park. It printed onto metal discs, to be used as souvenir medallions. I'd love to try that process (if I can ever find out what it is). I assume it's not too complex, if it was at least partially susceptible to automation.

          That sure sounds like tintype. That was one of the earliest quick turnaround systems. It can be adapted very well to 4 by 5 camera work. Should be a lot of fun.

          • The view camera forces you to use a slower pace, and the images show it. Relaxing sort of work.

            One thing I discovered is you can really only use it when you're on your own, or in the company of "serious" photographers. Otherwise everyone's nagging you for taking so long. Which, as you say, is sort of the point.

            That sure sounds like tintype. That was one of the earliest quick turnaround systems.

            I did some googling after I posted and came to the same conclusion. Odd, I'd heard of it but didn't make the c

  • I hope everyone else is thankful that Kodak still has large stockpiles of a material that there is so little commercial interest in, they're stopping production. Why do we need bullshit remarks at the end of TFS? Just post the story and leave the editorials to the comments.
  • by steelfood (895457) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @04:01PM (#43999995)

    Who else has money that Kodak will go under first before they exhaust their stockpile?

    Granted, they're only in bankruptcy protection, but unless they can kill CCD/CMOS imaging with a new device of their invention, they've got little chance of coming out.

    • unless they can kill CCD/CMOS imaging with a new device of their invention

      Kodak did much of the early work on using CCDs for imaging so they are their invention in a way. It just never fit into their razor blade business model so they licensed out the relevant patents and sat on their heels while the world passed them by.

    • the last plant in Holland continued to make instant film until the last chemicals ran out. the employees then bought it and re-invested the process with new chemistry.

    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      Who else has money that Kodak will go under first before they exhaust their stockpile?

      Kodak *is* pretty much toast at this point, it's just a question of when. Unfortunately, they've really left it too late for the company to restructure and reorient in the way that the more far-sighted Fujifilm did over a decade ago, and ironically it's only bankruptcy proceedings that have (and will) give them the power to do what needs to be done.

      Kodak's problem is that there's no real reason for them to exist in their old form- with many legacy operations, obligations and structures- at this stage, and

      • Unfortunately, they've really left it too late for the company to restructure and reorient in the way that the more far-sighted Fujifilm did over a decade ago

        Incidentally, Kodak never really hit my buttons with their colour films to the extent that Agfachrome (RIP 1978) and Fuji did. Agfa was never quite the same after it adopted Kodak's process, but Fuji film (which still seems to be pretty commonly available, at least for now) rocks.

        • by Mal-2 (675116)

          Velvia was (and presumably still is) a spectacular film stock for shooting landscapes and general outdoor photography. The blue and green rendition and overall saturation were astounding. Unfortunately, it was a bit TOO saturated and in particular a bit too contrasty to make a good portrait film. It was very hard to beat Kodachrome for this, and (aside from shots taken to finish a roll) that's all I ever used it for.

          That's one big advantage to digital -- you can change the response from shot to shot, rather

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Thursday June 13, 2013 @04:04PM (#44000045)

    Interestingly, the former chemicals division of Eastman Kodak, spun off in the 1990s as the Eastman Chemical Company, is still one of the major producers of cellulose acetate. While its usage as a film base usage is declining, its usage for lots of things, ranging from cigarette filters to LCD screens, is increasing.

  • Kodak always was a "scaling" company, not just a niche market thing. WIth the emerging trend towards produce-your-own stuff with 3D printers, can small-scale production of acetates be far behind -- for the few who still want it?

    So let me know when you can produce your own 3D molecules small-scale. I have a special order. :-)
  • If Slashdot were just a bit less responsible, the (technically incorrect but misleading) headline on this would be "Kodak stops making film".
    • by PhotoJim (813785)

      Doesn't matter much - Kodak's days in the film business seem numbered.

      Thankfully Fujifilm continues to do well, and Ilford is the market leader in black-and-white photography (and even brings out new products occasionally). There are also a few niche B&W fim manufacturers kicking around, like Foma.

      • Doesn't matter much - Kodak's days in the film business seem numbered.

        Is is true that Kodak has stopped making transparency film altogether?

        They announced the discontinuation of Ektachrome in particular formats in early 2012, but never actually said "we're stopping making slide film". Yet some people seem to believe that this is effectively what's happened.

        Go to their website, visit the "professional films [kodak.com]" section (the "consumer" films [kodak.com] bit only seems to contain a couple of print films) and click on "color reversal films". There's nothing there but the discontinuation not

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I subcontracted in that building in the past. It's like 5 football fields side by side with lots of rollers and extruders. They were crazy about everything being clean, we had to wear tyvek suits and booties. The place smelled like a carpet show room from all of the plastics in use. One of the largest building in Kodak park will go un used and off of the tax bill for the town. I'm not surprised by any of this, one less thing for them to produce. There isn't a market for film since everyone is digital these

    • One of the largest building in Kodak park will go un used and off of the tax bill for the town.

      I think they have to tear the building down to get tax relief which is part of why other buildings at KP have been taken down in the past few years.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Kodak's Portra is an excellent film.

    Let me know when I can get a digital camera with the dynamic range of good film in my Pentax 67.

    Ever notice on some of the old black and white films how they can capture shadow details in a very dark hallway, as well as the highlights in a full lit room?

    Digital tech still can't match that.

    • by Mal-2 (675116)

      Digital can get that range with two shots and HDR, so unless you're shooting motion in that low light (such as theater or dance), you can still capture those fine details. Plus you'll be capturing it in color, allowing you to filter it in a variety of ways after the fact that can't be used once the chroma data is gone.

    • by ledow (319597)

      And vinyl sounds better?

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