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Ed Davor

processing consistency

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Here is something I've been wondering lately (and I'm not a cinematographer, so I have no direct experience of this). How consistent are the results of processing in a single lab from roll to roll in major MP labs. But even more importantly, is there a difference between different labs? I assume these days things are pretty much standardized and most labs will produce same results unless something goes wrong (am I right)?

I remember hearing somewhere that in the "old days" (whatever that means...what timeframe are we talking about?) labs made their own chemistry, so I assume you could get different results between technicolor London, Rome, Rank, Metro etc. Right? When I say "different" results, I mean differences in contrast, colors (I read somewhere that some labs had trouble with silver retention so it affected colors), edge effects etc. Some of the european films from 60's and 70's, don't seem to exhibit the same color fidelity as some US movies from the same time, but I suspect it has to do with bad video transfers and not with the actual film, but I have no way of knowing.


Anyone have any experiences or thoughts on the matter?

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ECN can be very consistent roll to roll and lab to lab, we use pre mixed Kodak chemistry for ECN and like most labs we run sensiometric tests before running each day, there can be variance in overall sensiometric readings but if they are within a certain tolerance I don't think they are visible in either photochemical post or digital scans.

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Thanks. I suspected as much for modern lab work. When I was a teenager I had this habit of trying to guess that "color by" part at the end of the movie just by looking at the picture. I used to think I could really guess who did the developing (kind of a weird habit for a teenager right?). For example, I used to think that all Metrocolor films were kind of brownish in tone for some reason, and Technicolor always looked more saturated than Deluxe. (I'm mostly talking about 60s films here) But after many years of experience in still photography, I now believe I was imagining things.

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I think that ECN2 was designed to have certain chemistry and amounts of it and times such that it is not as variable, even at the far end of exhausted developer chemistry. ECP and printing in general is more variable and how certain labs work to make prints and settings on printers contribute to how a film will look, in the 60s and 70s the process was far less finely controlled.

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