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A processing machine up for auction...


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Hello,

I recently saw a black and white 16mm and 35mm cine film processing machine come up on an auction site.... and although I do have heaps of film ready to shoot, and eventually process... and i love a tinker project... is it worth getting one's own processing machine.... even if just for consistancy of results over home processing?

It is starting really cheap.... but i am nervous about buying a machine that may require specialist adjustment or at least a manual.... does anyone have experience with these machines?

 

Gareth (in Australia)

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Gareth

I haven't touched a film processing machine since 1973, (and it was color reversal--7242---  for five nights a week for about four years),  but I can say that your extra costs will include film leader to precede the film being processed and following it afterwards.

You will need one each of 50 to 55 gallon plastic barrels to hold your chemistry (along with their connections),   (you didn't specify negative or positive film).  (Or the type of machine).

The chemistry will need replenishment on a regular basis.  There will be a large water bill as well.  Talk about your "hour shower."

The thing about film processing machines is that they need to run just about every day.  If you've hand processed BW and/or color film, you know mixed chemistry doesn't last long sitting around unused for days let alone weeks.  (for optimum results).  You will also need film calibration strips for testing.

However,  since film processing (I gather) died in your country and some people are attempting to bring it back, aaaand  if BW has enough popularity in your area then maybe other people could pay for your tinkering pleasure.

Others on this forum can speak to any physical adjustments needed,  and perhaps an online search of Eastman Kodak will further help you with BW processing requirements and scope of endeavor.   The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, SMPTE) published a manual for color film processing back in my day and probably published one for BW even earlier.  (SMPE).

I just remembered:  darkroom space!!  Rewinds!!  Reels!!  Cores!!  Splicer!!  Staples!! Hand Stapler!!  Silver Recovery!!  Environmental Impact!!  ---  and will you want to get into digitizing the processed film?

Hope this helps.

Good luck!!

 

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Care to share the link so we can have a look? I promise I won't bid myself!

But as Eric says the minimum quantity of chemicals needed is pretty large. I have a Kodak manual from 2000 which covers b/w machine processing so if you get any further I could share it.

Regular running is good for consistency though it's less important for b/w than colour. We had a VNF machine when I worked in defence and consistency was a constant struggle. ECN was a good deal easier though.

IME b/w chemistry is good for quite a few weeks, but that's for rolls in hand tanks. You can keep a litre of developer in a squeezy bottle to keep the air out, but it's harder with a big tank with processing leader sitting in it. (The processor has leader threaded right through it, back and forth over rollers through every tank, of the right length so that the processing time is correct when run at a given speed. Your film is then stapled onto the beginning of the leader and run through, dried and run off onto a spool at the other end).

Seriously the break-even on cost over commercial processing will be pretty high, but if you can't get commercial processing, that's a dead letter. If you have your processing tested and consistent it might make sense to process a few thousand feet in one go for a single project, and you could even do it for others. Just be careful you don't turn from a film-maker into a processing technician- unless you want to be one. It might work out.

But don't pay much. These things used to cost as much as an expensive car. Now maybe, a second-hand bicycle.

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What manufacturer is the processor? Allen?

B&W Negative is pretty easy to setup and maintain honestly it is the simplest chemistry basically wash developer wash fix wash final drybox.

B&W Reversal is allot more complex and the chemistry exhausts allot faster than negative.

The machine itself is fairly easy to setup and get running as long as things like the tires and spring bearings etc. are good and or available. Most of the rest of the machine is drive components like motors and chains and sprockets or tanks and pumps which are all off the shelf kind of parts.

DM me for more advice..

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Thanks for the really helpful replies, so i lost the bid, perhaps If I had bid more the machine would have gone for a great deal more.. its hard to tell how much another person wants it. I actually intended on getting it up and running, servicing it, running some film through it, then donating it one of the small home labs in Melbourne... I enjoy mechanical challenges, and I understood pretty well running the machine  would probably cost more than I could justify as I do not shoot much film these days. 

I saw recently a giant colour negative processing machine from Filmlab Engineering recently sold for under $100 in canberrra, the guy I spoke with told me such large machines used to sell for around 1.2 million.... I did'nt have the heart to tell him one sold for less than scrap value.  He seemed saddened by the companies demise, he told me he was the last person employed, and it was his job to donate anything of value, scrap the rest,  and bin anything else.... machine blue prints, intellectual property etc etc. 

These stories I find interesting, we all remember Kodak's demise and struggle to remain afloat.... but the hundreds of stories from people who witnessed items being scrapped when just months earlier the items were highly prized.  Imagine how many machines from the processing industry have been disposed, sold for scrap, accessories and people with years of knowledge laid off... obsolescence can be cruel.. 

This is the one i went for... 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/284961827189#vi__app-cvip-panel

The below link was for thr very big processor...

https://www.allbids.com.au/c/industrial-tools-building-supplies/plant-machinery/film-lab-engineering-12md46-9-35-motion-picture-film-processo-1372908

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  • 1 month later...

So a quick update.... I am now the owner of a B&W processing machine... 16mm and 35mm.... I saw it come up again on ebay, and contacted the seller.  He told me the new owners were unable to collect it.  Apparently it weighs a ton.. So it was basically me or the scrap metal merchant.  It is Filmlab Engineering machine, very well built, high quality, Australian made, and after I spoke with the now closed company's old head accountant, it is worth a fortune in high grade stainless steel alone.

So I will get it running, and hopefully with help from members here, experiment with chemistry, timing, trial and error until I can state it is back in running condition.  I have hundreds of feet of old Ektachrome 7240 news stock I can practice on... I am hoping that when I get into the guts of the machine I may be able to reduce the tank capacities, (without reducing length?) so less chemical can be used at a time.  I have no idea how many litres are needed for how much footage etc.  

I am sort of excited, it will annoy my wife no end.... I might call it an Eastern European dishwasher to throw her off.. she's sort of used to 16mm camera parts lying around the house...

Cheers, Gareth

 

s-l1600.jpg

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Have you got all of it? You've certainly got the feed end and the controls in the photograph, but it seems to me the tanks ought to be a couple of meters long at least.

Still, AU$63👍

Edited by Mark Dunn
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Gareth,

Congratulations,  What a steal!!

Now the fun begins, finding a manual for the machine.

Never having seen one like this before, I can only hope most or all of its parts are there. I hope so.

Who knows, if you get it running again, you may spark a buying frenzy for all those old Nikons sitting around with their 250EXP rollfilm backs unused, because you will be able to process the full length of film for them.  That's in addition to motion picture shooters, of course.

Noticing the Ilford sticker on it, contact them for all the info they may have concerning your machine. (Or at least its typical chemical usage).  

So, good luck.

Keep us posted.

 

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Hello, 

Well im not sure about processing more than a couple of experiments to see if i can run it correctly.  There are no manuals for it anywhere, most labs probably threw them out once they learnt how to run it... i will have to learn a bit.  Also, Mark, i was curious about tanks, however looking at the plumbing out the back i am hoping the tanks are small and inside.... 

I will have lots of fun i think....

s-l400-4.jpg

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Congrats!

If you need any tips or help please message me.

Processors have manuals but they are also pretty simple mechanical machines in many ways. Looks like a Film Line processor do you know if it is shaft drive or chain drive?

How many tanks does it have?

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Saw it is a FilmLab machine, there was a Co in the USA called FilmLine and I had one we ran ECP on, it was huge and old and a bit of a mess. It had a driveshaft and bevel gears for each tank so kind of complex.

Chain drive is pretty simple with sprockets for the drive shafts at each tank and a "demand" roller which governs speed.

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Hello, 

I will be picking it up on the weekend, i cannot wait to get a closer look. Hopefully it is complete, i am not averse to modifying or adapting parts from other machines to keep things going. I imagine parts for these are nonexistent. 

I will certainly be in touch once i get inside it, lots of pics i shall take! 

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Processing machines are (mostly) built with off the shelf components like the pumps the heat controls the chain sprockets etc.

The parts which are film specific are the rollers for the film in the tanks and some of the shafts which drive the rollers at the top.

 

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Nice, i went tona auction that was online to pick up a vintage cast iron printers cabinet. Very nice work bench, and while I was there, a copy camera had sold for around $10, I offered $20 for it, but ended up not taking it since I didnt have the space.  
 

you should buy it if you have the space, just to add to your collection. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well sadly I have not collected the processor.... I went to collect it with a trailer and some heavy duty winches.... but when I got to look at it, the machine was a monster!.... the photos were of one end, not the most of it as I thought.  By my estimation it weighed in around 500 kilos, half a ton.  My little 6"4 trailer  would have crumpled, if I could have moved the monster onto it!

So it would essentially need a car trailer, several winches, strong ramps, and a powerful car to tow it 300kms back to my house.... and I discovered it needed 3 phase power to run...... So I bowed out, thanked the owner who was very understanding.... and went home.  I did find out that the film dryer is included within the beast, so the processor is truly all-in-one.

The owner is putting it up again on ebay in a desperate bid to almost give it away to someone who will use it.... Does anyone here live nearby who wants it?

Maybe I should start a Go Fund Me site?

Gareth

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3-phase equipment can be fairly easily run with a phase converter and that is mostly the drive motor I would guess.

I would guess that my PhotoMec processor weighs five or more tons so a half ton machine is smaller in terms of film processors.

If you set it up you could likely make it into a reasonable business.

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On 11/12/2022 at 11:58 AM, Gareth Blackstock said:

Well im not sure about processing more than a couple of experiments to see if i can run it correctly.  There are no manuals for it anywhere, most labs probably threw them out once they learnt how to run it... i will have to learn a bit.

If you actually buy one I can bother a mate of mine about documentation, he might be able to find a manual. That said, there's a few people we know have purchased (or acquired for free) different film machines and then have no idea what to do with them including old scanners/telecines.

For reference I think the price for a good refurbished fast ones like they use in wetlabs in the US through MMT is around USD $50K at the moment and they come ready to go with all the required tanks etc.

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16 hours ago, Dan Baxter said:

For reference I think the price for a good refurbished fast ones like they use in wetlabs in the US through MMT is around USD $50K at the moment and they come ready to go with all the required tanks etc.

Ha more like $150K-$200K if you can find one.

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I had a quick conversation with an electrician regarding 3 phase converters, he said that while a converter would likely get a 3 phase machine running, once the machine started drawing big power the converter would fail. And getting 3 phase connected.... thousands.  Sadly i do not think 16mm shooting and processing in Australia will last much longer... enthusiasts on the ground are dwindling.  And with a kid, house repairs, and a full-time job... i dont get time to shoot film, let alone start a business developing film.

Sigh....

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17 hours ago, Robert Houllahan said:

Ha more like $150K-$200K if you can find one.

Refurbished through MMT (.25-.50/ft speeds). I believe they can build new ones as well from scratch. They're not ready to go, if you commission a rebuild/refurbishment it likely takes around 3-4 months or so before you get it after you pay the downpayment.

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15 hours ago, Gareth Blackstock said:

I had a quick conversation with an electrician regarding 3 phase converters, he said that while a converter would likely get a 3 phase machine running, once the machine started drawing big power the converter would fail. And getting 3 phase connected.... thousands.  Sadly i do not think 16mm shooting and processing in Australia will last much longer... enthusiasts on the ground are dwindling.  And with a kid, house repairs, and a full-time job... i dont get time to shoot film, let alone start a business developing film.

Sigh....

Here's a spec for a 1000ft/minute machine, looks like 6kW for the drive, 6kW for the pump and another 8kW for the dryer. So you're not plugging it into your house supply.

https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/38481322/specifications-for-negative-film-processor

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