Motion Picture and Audiovisual Markets Div. Eastman Kodak Company
All about Eastman color print film 5384/7384, which retains original color values approximately 10 times longer, and what it means to you
A new color print film with vastly improved dye-stability characteristics will help make sure that the public sees motion pictures the way they are perceived by producers and directors and exposed by cinematographers. This should hold true whether the film is projected in a theater one month or 10 years after it is printed.
This development should go a long way toward meeting both the current needs and future expectations of filmmakers. Eastman color print film 5384/7384 is the culmination of many years of research and development efforts in the areas of dye stability, film lab productivity, ecology practices, and image quality.
The new stock will replace Eastman color print film 5381 /7381, Eastman color SP print film 5383/7383, Eastman color LFSP print film 7379, and Eastman color LF print film 7378. The last two of these films offered superior cyan dye-keeping capabilities, and very stable colors. However, because of higher manufacturing costs, they carried a price premium of around 10 percent.
The new print film retains the best image-structure characteristics of 5381 / 7381 and 5383/7383, such as fine grain and sharpness. Because of substantial improvements in dye-keeping stability, it should be able to retain original color values approximately 10 times longer. This improves the long-life benefit which was previously available with the LF films, only now there is no price premium because technological advances in manufacturing have eliminated the need.
We believe that prints made on the new stock will be usable for generations before there is any detectable change in color, as long as film is processed under recommended conditions and not stored for long periods under extreme temperature and humidity conditions.
For cinematographers, there are other enhancements in addition to improved dye stability. There is slightly more blue in the skies, and slightly more yellow in grass and foliage. There is also slightly more saturation in yellows, and slightly more cyan in cyan-greens. All told, we believe that it will yield an image with slightly more realistic colors.
There are also significant benefits for labs inherent in the new print film and a modified process -ECP-2A-for handling it. The new print film has reduced sensitivity to process variations, and the modified process provides more efficiency in chemical recycling. Because of less bromide release during development, more of the overflow can be reconstituted as color developer replenisher. There are also improved ecological considerations, since persulfate bleach is recommended for the new process, though ferricyanide bleach is still an acceptable alternate choice. In the long term, persulfate bleach is likely to become the worldwide standard.
An even more significant consideration for labs is reduced sensitivity to such process variations as temperature and certain chemical levels. This should improve both productivity and quality assurance. For example, we anticipate better timing correlation between answer prints and prints from full-length, one-light duplicate negatives since 5384 "sees" all preprint materials essentially alike.
We have been working with technical societies and labs all overthe world during the past several years to establish uniform standards and procedures involving the use of process ECP-2A. The goal is to be sure that every print made from the same master will look the same. This is becoming increasingly important with the emergence of broad global markets for entertainment and informational films.
At the same time, labs will have considerable leeway for customizing contrast of the final print to match the needs of the producer, as well as the wishes of the director and filmmaker. This will primarily be achieved by pre- and/or post-flashing the master positive, dupe negative, or print. Each of these procedures can reduce contrast by as much as 10 percent, so there is quite a bit of range available for customizing the final look of a print. There are also established techniques for increasing contrast through the effective use of color dupe masks.
Such techniques for manipulating contrast have been most widely used in Europe, particularly England. However, we anticipate that more labs in the United States will aggressively offer these custom services. There is also increasing awareness that the same print doesn't always satisfy all needs. For example, many people now feel that a lower contrast print will yield a better video image. So, for the same motion picture, higher contrast prints might be ordered for theatrical release, and lower contrast prints for television.
REVIEW OF RECENT PRINT FILMS AND PROCESSES
To put the print film situation in context, it may be useful to review some of the recent history that led up to the introduction of the new print film and modified process. The roots go back to the introduction of Eastman color print film 5381 and process ECP. These products were announced in April 1950. The original process required approximately 45 minutes of wet time with all chemical solutions and washes operating at a recommended 70 degrees Fahrenheit temperature.
During the following years, there were a number of improvements in both the emulsion and process. In fact, research and development is an ongoing procedure with every film product or process until it is no longer needed.
By the mid-1960s, it was clear that the most pressing need that the labs had was for a faster process time, which would allow them to increase productivity. This reflected a substantial growth in the print film market, brought about in part by a changing strategy for distributing features to theaters. Producers began ordering 300,400, 500 and more release prints at a time. An order for 1,000 or more prints wasn't uncommon.
In some cases, labs opted not to wait for technology to catch up. They sped up the process by raising the temperature level of solutions. Most of the time, this practice didn't cause problems, though occasionally we saw an effect which we called reticulation. In these cases, the higher temperature literally baked the emulsion, causing small cracks which showed up on the screen as a diffusion of light.
We targeted on making improvements in the print stock and process designed to maintain high-quality standards while fulfilling the demand for higher productivity. By 1966, wet process time was reduced to 28 minutes with a recommended 75 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. The following year, process time was trimmed to 20 minutes with a recommended 80 degrees Fahrenheit temperature.
In addition to helping the labs increase productivity, the faster process time gave them a much quicker look at the first print. This occasionally paid real dividends, since problems could be spotted quicker, substantially reducing wasted time and materials.
By then, there was a clearly established trend toward lab automation, calling for the use of faster and smaller machines, which maximized the use of space and time and permitted most cost-effective use of labor. Accordingly, in 1974, we introduced Eastman color print film 5383/ 7383 along with the process ECP-2. This was done in conjunction with the introduction of Eastman color negative Il film 5247/7247.
The new print film and process trimmed wet time to around 10 minutes. It required an increased developer temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit, though all other solutions and wash were heated to only 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The latter was important because it conserved energy use at a time when the cost of power was spiralling. Since the new process was shorter, less machine space was required, allowing more efficient use of facilities along with an anticipated reduction in maintenance costs. There were also savings in reduced water requirements, and in more efficient recycling of chemicals and recovery of silver.
Nevertheless, some labs felt that they had modified process ECP to a point where they couldn't see a sufficient benefit in investing in new machines, or modifying existing equipment for the new film and process. The result was that some labs chose to keep running process ECP and release printing on the 5381/7381 stock, while others were using process ECP-2 and release printing on the 5383/ 7383 stock. In addition, other film manufacturers were (and still are) providing labs with print stocks compatible with both of these processes.
Initially, the print stocks of the two Eastman films were reported to be producing like results. The only difference was in the way they were processed, and that wasn't a concern for filmmakers.
Later on, we had to modify our manufacturing procedures in order to satisfy changing environmental regulations. The result was that there was a brief period when there was a slight differential between the two print films.
The difference was very difficult to pinpoint because it was so slight, it wasn't universal, and it was linked to the range of exposure in the original negative. What it came down to was that if you "pushed" the latitude of the negative during exposure to its fullest range, under certain conditions, shadow details at the low end of the scale tended to block in when the newer print film was used.
This led to a considerable investment in development and manufacturing costs, which resulted in a convergence of the screen appearance of the two print films. I believe that today, anyone would be hardpressed to distinguish a print from the same master on each stock.
In 1978, our research involving the stability of color dyes began to pay dividends, leading to the manufacture of two new Eastman color print films with improved cyan dye dark-keeping stability. Eastman color LF print film 7378 was identical in all other characteristics to 7381, and it was designed for process ECP. Eastman color LFSP print film 7379 was identical in all other characteristics to Eastman color print film 7383, and it was designed for process ECP-2.
Despite having built what we considered to be a better mousetrap, the world did not beat a path to our door. The most significant response came from Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation, one of the largest educational film distributors. Since many of the prints in its library are recycled for years, even decades, it saw a potential for long-term costsavings. In 1980, this company started making all new color release prints on the new LF stock.
Though there were concerns voiced by some people in the entertainment film industry about a potential long-term colorfading problem, there was very little interest in the more stable LF films because of the price premium. It was difficult for us to argue with the logic of producers and distributors making this decision, since most prints made for theatrical release are costjustified and worn out from use long before the color dyes would be expected to fade, even under the worst of conditions. Their reasoning was that the color integrity of films is stored on the original and intermediate stocks, as well as silver separations, in some cases. The only exception that I can think of is Academy Award winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who had a contractual clause requiring the distribution of one of his motion pictures on LF print film.
Of course, all of this should become history soon with the introduction of Eastman color print film 5384/7384 and process ECP-2A. With these products, every print will work harder to preserve the heritage of the industry. In summary, I believe that some giant forward steps have been taken on a number of fronts at the same time. The labs are going to benefit, and so are filmmakers. And you can believe that we don't intend to stop here. While these are a considerably better print film and process, they aren't our last words on this topic.…