Howto: Develop Motion Picture Film

Recently I’ve been exploring developing film at home, specifically motion picture film since standard labs don’t support ECN-II development. I decided to write this how-to since there is no single page resource for ECN-II development and most of the information is scattered across multiple forum posts or different websites. Hopefully this will be of some help to new comers.

The method is cross processing ECN-II film with C-41 chemicals. I know there is a lot of talk about incorrect colours, incorrect contrast. Yes the contrast ratio will be different but the colours, to me at least, are very appealing.

Now I won’t be documenting how to mix your chemicals or what you’ll need for processing but if there are enough requests I may do a beginners tutorial for film development.

Additional item’s you’ll require:

  • Baking Soda
  • 1 Litre plastic jug with measurement markings.
  • Very soft sponges. Usually the cheapest grocery store sponges are the softest.
  • Kodak Photo-flo (Optional)
  • Tetanal (or Jobo) C-41 Press Kit. You can find it here at B&H

Motion Picture film contains a special anti-static layer called Rem-Jet. This layer is a thick black layer on glossy side of the negative film which needs to be dissolved or scrapped off. The method documented below should help you safely remove the Rem-Jet without damaging your negatives.

Process:

Start by filling a sink, tub, or large pot with hot water to warm your chemicals up to 39C/102F. Place your bottles into the sink and put a thermometer into the developer bottle. While your chemicals are warming up go ahead and spool your film on the tank reel(s).

1.) At this point your chemicals are probably getting close to the optimal temperature, fill your tank with 39C water and let it sit for 1 1/2 minutes to warm up and then remove the water.

2.) Place 1 tablespoon of baking soda into 1 litre of warm water (35C -> 40C) using a plastic jug and pour into your tank. You will need to agitate roughly for the next 1 1/2 minutes. When you dump the water you will notice a pink/red tint or blackish tint depending on the film stock. Continue pouring more baking soda water and agitating until the water runs clear.

3.) After the baking soda rinse you’ll need to rinse the film with clean water for about 1 1/2 minutes. Go ahead and fill the tank with warm water and agitate gently to remove any remaining baking soda water.

The process from this point is the same as C-41 Development.

4.) Pour the warmed developer (39C/102F) into the tank and continuously agitate for the first 10 seconds then do 4 inversions every 30 seconds. Do this for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

5.) Once you are done with the developer return the chemical to it’s bottle and pour the Blix in. Continuously agitate for the first 10 seconds then every 30 seconds for the next 6 minutes and 30 seconds. The Blix needs to be between 35C -> 40.5C (95F -> 105F).

6.) Return the Blix back to it’s bottle and rinse the film under warm water, 39C, for the next 3 minutes. Let the water pour directly into the tank, swirl it around and pour it out.

7.) Now it’s time for the stabilizer. I put 5ml of Kodak Photo-flo into the stabilizer to enhance the wetting agent and prevent streaks, stains, etc. Pour the stabilizer into the tank and agitate for 15 seconds. Let the film sit in the stabilizer for the next minute. While this is happening soak your sponge in water.

8.) Take your reel out of the tank and soak your sponge in the stabilizer. Do not discard the stabilizer solution. Un-spool your film, remove the sponge from the stabilizer and wrap the sponge around your negative, pulling the film through the sponge. You’ll start to notice the remaining black Rem-Jet leak right off the film and your images will start to be visible.

Squeeze the sponge and rinse it in warm water. Make sure you have removed all the Rem-Jet and place it back in the stabilizer. Wring out the sponge and wrap the clean side of the sponge around your negative running the film through to remove remaining water to prevent staining.

9.) Hang your film to dry and wait for approximately 2h before scanning.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions you have below.

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32 comments: On Howto: Develop Motion Picture Film

  • Great shots Dom, they look like scene grabs from a movie! Do you think there is any disadvantage to removing the rem-jet AFTER developing instead of before?

    • I do think there is a dis-advantage. I use the baking soda solution before developing since you’re not supposed to soak or wash off the stabilizer. This keeps your negative intact and preserved. If you wash off the stabilizer you risk degrading your negative faster.

      Also there is a chance by doing the baking soda last you may receive calcification stains as well as baking soda stains on your negs.

      I highly recommend doing the baking soda solution first.

      Cheers,
      Dominic

  • What ASA did you rate the film? I’ve heard that there is significant speed loss when processing ECN-2 in C-41.

    • I personally haven’t noticed any speed loss when processing ECN-2 film in C-41. I shot the film at 500 ASA and developed 1 stop over as a fail safe in case I metered incorrectly. There is a huge amount of latitude in the images and the grain is pretty fine.

      Most of the images in this post have been shot at f/2 at 1/15 shutter. Once developed I was around 2 stop’s over and had to reduce my exposure in post.

      I wouldn’t believe what people are saying in regards to the speed loss. The only time you’ll notice significant speed loss is if the film is expired. Motion picture film degrades quickly past its expiration date and the grain becomes quite heavy.

  • Hi!

    This is amazing! I have bought myself some motion picture film, very cheap and excellent results. My only concern is that the REM-jet does affect the c-41 fluids. And the REM-jet makes my c41 fluids dirty. My stab is all black now. Errr

    Peace,
    Pontus

    • Hi Pontus,

      I’m glad you enjoy using motion picture film. I have noticed some minor affects to my stabilizer but be very diligent on removing as much remjet as you can with baking soda. Do the first step as many times as you need to until the liquid runs clean.

      Feel free to post a link to some of your results. Would love to see them.

      -Dominic

      • Ok, good. But when i remove the rem-jet with my baking soda, the fluid is always clear (even after the first time). What do i do wrong?

        Yes i will post some pictures with the stop motion film. My website is soon up on the cloud. I keep in touch!

        • Hi Pontus,

          Do you let the film soak before the baking soda? I find this helps with the removal of the Rem-Jet and it’s always tinted dark pink when I dump the water. How do you agitate the film with the water + baking soda mixture? Do you do simple inversions or do you shake the tank roughly. If you only agitate by flipping the tank upside down you will not remove the Rem-jet, you must shake the tank as roughly as possible for at least 45 seconds then do simple inversions afterwards.

          Let me know.

          • Pontus Mattsson

            Hi.

            No i have tried many times now, and it does not work. I have shaked roughly for 1 minute, but it does not show any shade of black or pink. It is just transparent.
            And now after 2 developments, my c41 is completly messed up. All my fluids is all dark and the result now is = nothing on the negatives.
            But after the blix, and when you have left the negative to dry, how much rem-jet is there left? Because the negative is all dark.

            Pontus

            EDIT:Do you really mean baking soda, or do you acctualy mean baking powder?

          • Hi Pontus,

            I’m sorry to hear you’re having issues developing your cinema film. I usually have some dis-colored water after the pre-soak and tend to have tinted water for at least 3 baking soda cleaning cycles. How old is the film? Is it fresh or expired?

            Also I’m getting a bit confused with your negative drying. Are you following step 8? or are you removing the negatives out of the spool and hanging them right away. The rem-jet will still be present on the film and needs to be sponged off after your stabilizer. In my case there’s still quite a large amount of Rem-Jet on the film after I’ve finished developing, but it doesn’t seem to affect my chems. The pre-rinse and baking soda steps are just meant to loosen and remove any Rem-jet that may flake off during the developing process. The remainder has to be removed with a sponge.

            I’m sorry to hear your chem’s are ruined. Try soaking in 40 degree Celsius water for more than 1 minute and see if more Rem-Jet dissolves. My chem’s seem to last just fine for the recommended 10 rolls.

            In regards to your final comment I really mean Baking Soda NOT baking powder and use Arm & Hammer Baking Soda for my rinses.

            Thanks,

            Dominic

  • hi there!

    thanks a lot for your post! Its been really helpful! I just did my first experiment developing some Vision2. The negative is still drying so i can’t be sure of the results but from a fast look it seems pretty healthy.

    I did everything more or less as you describe with 2 tweaks. I went for the slower, 30C developing (8mins dev, 6mins BliX) because i work in an uncomfortable space and was kind of worried i might mess up working so fast. Plus i wanted to try and use a water ¨stopbath¨ to see if i can avoid contaminating the BliX too much (not much sense for a water stop bath if the chems are warmer/faster i guess) …
    the second tweak is that i unspooled the negs after rinse , removed the remaining rem jet and then spooled again for stabilising. Stab is still super-clean!
    Id like to ask you if you think some change in color of the used dev would also happen with normal use (no rem jet negatives)… or is the change i see caused ONLY by rem jet? i think i did a pretty ok job with the soda prewash and the change in colour of the dev wasn’t really radical but still…
    Also i tried filtering the used dev & Blix through coffee filters as I’ve read it might work removing rem jet residues but to be sincere i don’t think that works a lot (no visible residues left on filters)
    Thanks a lot once again, your post was really helpful !

    • Hi Cristos,

      I’m happy this post was helpful to you. I’ve been meaning to try developing at a lower temperature so I’m curious how your negatives turned out. Please post some images for us to see.

      I think the change you see is primarily from the Rem-Jet. There may be a slight darkening over time during “normal” use when to much air makes its way to the chems, but the darkening for sure is from excess Rem-Jet. This happens to me as well. I wouldn’t worry too much as the soda rinse can only remove so much of the Rem-Jet and there will always be some trickle into your developer and Blix. I haven’t seen any negative effects to my negatives from the darkened chems.

      -Dominic

  • This info is amazing, thank you very much for sharing it! I have loads of expired cine films that a friend gave me and I didn’t knew what to do with them, I’ll try this! Thanks again Dominic!

    • No worries. Feel free ask any questions you may have along the way. Good Luck!

      • Hey Dominic, I’ve developed a test roll today and here are the results. Film was Kodak Vision 2 5218 500T shoot @ 500. It expired in 2011 I think… This is the best shoot in the roll so far, but It needed a lot of tweaking with the scanner soft and post in PS to get the colors “right” . Do you post process your photos or they come right out of the scanner? I’ll leave you my e-mail, If you can help me with this I would really appreciate it. The main diference with your process is that I developed this with standart C41 process in a Jobo processor and kodak Flexicolor Chemistry. Thanks again!

        • Hi Ariel,

          I normally do very minimal post work on the images. All I touch is contrast, exposure, highlights, and grain reduction. Otherwise colour temperature etc are all left alone. I have in the past used expired cinema film for “practicing” the development process as I didn’t want to waste good film. My experience from this is cinema film does not age well. Once the film has expired it greatly reduces it’s ability to capture proper exposure and colour. All my images from the expired rolls looked absolutely terrible.

          Scanner wise I set my Plustek 8200 to custom, for the film emulsion, and leave all the settings at default. The image you attached definitely looks under exposed, but seems to be holding up better than my attempts at using expired cinema film.

          -Dominic

  • Hey, thanks a lot for sharing!

    I’m going to pick myself some Vision3 500T films and try to develop it at home using your guide here.
    I’ve been doing self-development in B/W and both E-6 for the past 4 years (yes, no C-41 as I skipped that and went straight to E-6)
    Hopefully I’ll be able to deal with this Ramjet removal kinda things!
    Thanks again!

  • Dom what’s your scanning process?

    • I use Silverfast SE that came with my Plustek Scanner. I avoid at all costs to set a “preset” film type for this film as it tends to shift drastically. Leaving it at custom with default settings seems to work for me. I then re-white balance the shot in Lightroom. Does that answer your question?

  • HI Dominic,

    I was wondering if you had any thoughts on how to pre-process a whole reel of cinema style film such as Kodak 500t. Is there a better way to do it besides wiping each roll that you make?
    What is the best way to remove the remjet?

    Thanks for your help!
    CW

    • Hi Chris W,

      Unfortunately I don’t know of a way to pre-process the entire roll of film prior to shooting it. You would have to un-spool the whole 100′ or 200′ and wipe off the Rem-Jet coating in complete darkness. Making sure all the Rem-Jet is removed without leaving residue. I know that Cinestill film is an option (http://cinestillfilm.com). Much more expensive than spooling your own film, but you won’t have to worry about RemJet. The downfall is you’ll receiving halo’ing on your brightest points. Sun, Lights, etc. Since the Anti-halation layer is now gone.

      As for the best way to remove the Rem-Jet check the how-to here. This seems to be the best way to achieve good results with your cinema film.

      Hope this helps. Personally I would live with the Rem-Jet removal after vs before.

  • which vision 3 version has to be taken to match the 35mm format?

  • Hello, I am about to try develop first Vision3 250D test film with Tental Colourtec c41 kit. And dev times in the instruction is a bit different. At 38c dev – 3:15min, blix – 4:00min.
    What kind of kit you used here? Do you think, should I do it as my kit instruction said or do it your way because it’s different for motion picture film and instruction is for usual photography film?

    • Sorry for the late reply Justinas. The times I used were based on the Tetenal Press Kit I purchased. They are roughly the same development times as the package.

      In regards to the times you listed, it should be fine? But I would test it on a 10 frame or 5 frame garbage roll, if you’re rolling the film yourself. This way you can be 100% sure.

      As for temperatures those can vary slightly. I did an update last year which you can find here: (http://blog.wakingmist.com/update-htdmpf/) where I experimented with the development temperatures. I found 30 degree’s celcius gave the best result for Kodak Vision3 films.

      Hope this helps and feel free to ask more questions. Good luck!

  • Hey, Dominic. No problem. I did some tests with Vision3 and Ektar100. Ended up with 30c’ temperature and longer development time.

    • Good to hear! Hope you’re enjoying the process of developing your own film. Feel free to post a link to the images. Would love to see them.

      • Took a while to finish first roll, but here it is https://www.flickr.com/photos/155209306@N05/albums/72157682818854432
        I am not really happy about it yet. Developed it with tental colourtec kit at 30c, scanned it with reflecta rps 10m scanner and inverted with colorperfect. Maybe I underexposed it, but all frames came out very grainy. I was shooting at ISO 200 set on my camera and trusting my lightmeter, but maybe I should set ISO to 100 next time? Another thing was a lot of scratches. Maybe it was RemJet removing part where i was sliding film between sponges. I managed to heal most of these in photoshop. And also I had trouble to load film to my peterson developing tank spool as motion picture film is pretty thick at the end I had to apply strong force to load it all and damaged it at few frames. Maybe I was a little clumsy and not experienced. So good start, but that grain issue is the most important I think. Do you have any ideas how can I improve it? Here is one frame without any corrections just after colorperfect invert http://imgur.com/a/Yrd12.
        Thank you.

        • Thanks for sharing your images. It’s definitely underexposed but I don’t think it’s from your metering. It looks like you didn’t develop it for long enough.

          As for the grain, cinema film inherently has more grain than your typical 35mm film unless you go very slow 50D for example. I may have missed it but what stock of film did you get?

          Scratches will reduce over time as you get used to developing the film. But I recommend a very very soft wash cloth over a sponge that may be harder on your film.

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