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Giordano Maestrelli Zarnicinski

Expired film and airport X-Rays

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Hey guys! I know that what I'm about to ask was vastly discussed and talked about 10 year ago on this forum, but I was unable to find topics discussing film x-ray damage on more recent times.

 

Recently I shot my very first project on 35mm film! It was a music-video where we managed to rent a Arriflex 435 ES and shot some expired Kodak Vision2, both 500T and 250D (we shot three 400ft cans, all of them expired at the end of 2007). During pre-production we ran some tests to find out how much sensitivity/color the film had lost, and was very happy when we discovered that colors were amazing and we had lost only one stop on each roll.

 

However, I'm kind of worried that some of our cans may have been damaged on airport x-ray. A colleague of ours fled to the U.S taking the film with him (to be processed by Kodak NY) and asking for it to be hand-inspected. On one of the airports he managed to do that just fine, but on another one (São Paulo, in Brazil), he was unable to get it hand inspected and had to let it go through the carry-on X-Ray machine.

 

He asked the security officers to lower the x-ray dosage to the minimum, but, still, I'm worried that the fact that we're dealing with expired film + the x-ray dosage may fog or damage the film in any way.

 

Do you guys have some info on that?

 

Thank you a lot!

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Don't know about expired film stock.. but back in the day we put shot film through multiple X rays and never once any harm done.. its an accumulative effect.. so one pass through a machine I really wouldn't lose any sleep over.. TBH the hand check is more prone to disaster .. unless you are physically present with a black bag.. once your film goes off to some office without you.. to be "checked" by someone who probably knows very little about film.. esp these days.. your toast .. at least 50% chance someone will just open up your cans...

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Sometimes the Xray does get through on exposed cans. My experience!

 

Really.. never had that in over 10 years lugging film around the world as an assistant in the 80,s.. even multiple x rays.. or any other assistant I knew.. hundreds of airports all over the place.. what happened .. ?

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I have seen many rolls damaged by X-Rays. I am sure any lab can tell you horror stories.

They look like a pulsating blueish fog. We can even tell if the X-ray exposure was before or after the camera exposure by the increasing rythm of the pulsations. I have one customer with a full carton of 100ft daylight spools; the box must have passed the x-ray machine looking at the short edge. The first two rows of cans were damaged, the second one less than the first one, the X-rays did not penetrate more than two rows of cans.

The world is a changed place since the war on terror.

All I can say is that the film is most likely total loss, no easy digital fix.

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I have seen many rolls damaged by X-Rays. I am sure any lab can tell you horror stories.

They look like a pulsating blueish fog. We can even tell if the X-ray exposure was before or after the camera exposure by the increasing rythm of the pulsations. I have one customer with a full carton of 100ft daylight spools; the box must have passed the x-ray machine looking at the short edge. The first two rows of cans were damaged, the second one less than the first one, the X-rays did not penetrate more than two rows of cans.

The world is a changed place since the war on terror.

All I can say is that the film is most likely total loss, no easy digital fix.

 

 

Ive never dealt with 100ft daylight rolls.. only 400ft 16mm or 35mm.. film is placed back in the bag and then the cans.. daylight loads in cardboard boxes might be more vulnerable ..? never a single issue or ever heard of one.. it was in the 80,s though.. maybe the machines have changed.. but it was always the older ones we worried about anyway..

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The X-ray machines at the airports in the US at least, are very powerful, but a very confined beam. Yes, you'll for sure have damage of some kind, but you may not see it as normal x-ray damage you may get from shipping for instance. It really depends on the direction the can's are scanned. If they're flat on the rollers, it may not affect it as much as if it were sideways.

 

Expired film vs non-expired film doesn't mean much. It's all about the stock's sensitivity to light. The lower the sensitivity, the less likelihood of damage. Kodak says anything over 800 ISO should not be x-ray'd but anything under should be fine. However, the x-ray machines at the airport are pretty brutal because they move slow and stop in spots, so it's a toss up in my opinion. I would expect SOME damage.

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I know this doesnt help now but in the future definitely consider shipping your film to the lab instead. My only real experience similar to this is having film shipped from frame24 in the UK to the USA, and from what I can tell the few thousand feet I've done that way have never been x ray damaged. It seems you are far less likely to get the war on terror level xray blast if your package is among 1000 others that all need to get to their destination within 48 hours.

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OP.. so what was the final prognosis.. was your film damaged at that one X-ray in Brazil .. shot film should be less prone to problems.. or was everything ok.. ?

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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Hey guys! Thanks for all the kind replies :)

 

I'll be hearding about the lab later today. They will double check if there is any abnormality on the film and will let me know.

 

About shipping film through carriers like Fedex/UPS/DHL: I called both Fedex and UPS's brazilian offices an they were unanimous on the fact that all packages go through x-ray and they can't ensure that it won't. We'll be sending other two cans through another friend tomorrow; I guess it is safer to have someone trying to bypass carry-on x-ray machines (and, eventually, having to let the cans be scanned by low-dosage machines) than not knowing what is going to happen when shipping the film and taking the risk of having the cans scanned by high-dosage machines (I'm not sure what kind of x-ray Fedex packages go through, and they weren't able to inform me).

 

From all that I have read on these past few weeks, carry-on x-ray effects are really minimal and nothing to worry about, especially on everything below 500 ASA. However, checked luggage x-ray and (maybe) the ones that scans carriers packages, are realllllyyyyyyyy risky.

 

Will let you guys know ASAP!

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