The 4th Kind
By Joseph Prezioso
Every film shooter knows about the three main film types, C41, BW and E6, but there exists a 4th kind of film: ECN2.
ECN2 is simply motion picture negative film. Both Kodak and Fuji make many types of motion picture stock that is used for most major movies and tv shows. If you want to get the look of your favorite movie, lets say Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” or one of Wes Anderson’s flicks, then you can. You just have to take a few extra steps in your film shooting process.
Before I get into how to get these films and shoot them, let me just talk about their qualities and advantages. Most motion picture film is tungsten balanced, and suitable for shooting indoors, when outside its best to use a 85B filter to correct for the color. I love shooting Kodak’s 500T film because of its high latitude and look. I can shoot 500T anywhere from 250 to 2000 and get a useable image. I usually push the film in developing about a stop when I shoot at 1600 or 2000. This film is my go to indoor dark event film. At ISO 500 grain is un-noticeable, but it does become apparent when you push it, and depending on how you have the film scanned you will get different looks. The Frontier typically yields smoother less grainy images then a nortitsu, but its totally a personal preference.
When I am outside and want smooth creamy colors I like to shoot Kodak 250D (daylight balanced) and Kodak 50D. These films are rich and vibrant and have a great latitude as well. The 250D can be shot at 500 without any push in development and still deliver awesome images.
Now when it comes to shooting this film you have a few options:
Option one: Bulk loading camera. These cameras are 35mm with a film back that takes cartridges that you load in the dark with 50’ of film and they provide you with 250 shots per cartridge. This is how I have been shooting motion picture film for the past few years. I have a Nikon F3 with the MF4 250 shot bulk loading back. I order the motion picture film I want from online and buy short 200’ ends that are left over from major movie shoots. I then use a nikon bulk loader to roll the film into the cartridge that fit into the camera’s back. This takes some time getting used to as you have to do it in the total dark, but once your film is loaded into the canisters all the loading of the camera takes place in daylight. You just loose a few frames the beginning and end of your roll, but I take this into account and fire off blank shots when I first load it.
Next I wait till I have a few hundred feet of motion picture film shot and stored in their cartridges and send the film off to a movie lab, usually FotoKem in LA, and have them develop the film and mail it back to me for scanning.
It may seem like a lot of work, but its worth it.
Option two: Cross Process by hand.
With this option you buy the film and load it into a film canister loader, just like if you were using reload able canisters for BW film. You place the film into the bulk loader in the dark and then you are able to load 36 exposure cassettes in the daylight that will work in any 35mm camera.
The caveat, you can’t just send these rolls to be developed at a film lab. Movie film is coated with rem-jet, a carbon based coating to prevent static charges while the film is moving fast through a motion picture camera (normally at 24 frames per second). If you were to simply take one of these rolls to a normal film lab, you would ruin their chemistry and possibly other peoples rolls of film.
To process these rolls you will have to do it by hand, that is to say with a C41 press kit. You would roll the film onto reels and develop just like BW film except with the color chemistry and then before stabilizing you would have to remove the remject coating. I did this with baking soda and a soft sponge. Then stabilize and dry and your ready to scan.
With processing this film in C41 you are cross processing it, but I have never had a color issue. If anything, I have always likes the look of ECN2 film developed in C41. Not all films react to C41 the same, so its best to experiment. Kodak 500T is the best for it.
Option three: This is the easiest option and the way I will be shooting this film for now on. At CineStillFilm.com they have taken 500T and pre-removed the rem-jet so that you can buy the film from them pre-loaded into normal 36 exposure cassettes, shoot it and take it to any photo lab to develop in normally in C41.
So there are your options. If you want your work to look different, or you just need a higher speed film to shoot inside in low light, motion picture film is here to save you.
About Joseph Prezioso
Winner of both the knot and wedding wire's best of 2009-2011.
Author of Fearless Photographer: Film in the Digital Era and Fearless Photographer: Weddings
I take photos that you are going to keep and cherish forever. I document life.
I shoot film.
That sweet stuff that we call negatives. I record and archive your images forever.
Film is sweet, wicked, rad and warm. I use it to capture color and black and while and to render what I see as a analog image. All my work is scanned and rendered as a digital file in the end, but it begins as film.
I am a graduate of Salem State College with a degree in Journalism. Published in both magazine and print, I have also written the book Fearless Photographer that is available nation wide.
My career as a photographer started more then ten years ago while I started shooting for local newspapers around Boston. Today I shoot weddings and fashion. Loving every second of it.
Copyright Joseph Prezioso 2013
Guide to shooting motion picture film in your 35mm camera.