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Kaspar Kamu

Storing exposed film in the fridge

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Dear community,

I'm shooting a little teaser/proof of concept on super16 next week. Due to our low budget we've decided to divide up our costs by first buying the film, shooting and then keeping the exposed film in the fridge until we can afford process and scan.  

In your opinion, how long is it safe to keep the film in the fridge without it affecting the final quality?

Thanks in advance!

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Unfortunately, this is how you create a poor image. 

You're putting very little light onto the film, it's not magical, over time it will fade. Back 60 years ago when film wasn't that sensitive, you'd have to hit it with a lot of light so the image was more permanent. However, with modern stocks, you don't need as much light and as a consequence, the image isn't as permanent. 

I've done lots of testing and from my research, the difference between processing the day after you shoot vs processing a week or two later is astronomical. The level of noise will increase. The colors will start to fade. The image will be less vibrant. Some people like that look, but if you care about your project, I would process immediately and then wait for transfer. Once the film is processed it can be stored for 100 years without an issue. 

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Ideally, you should process your exposed stock as soon as possible after shooting with it. If that’s not possible, then refrigerating it is a good idea. I wouldn’t worry too much about it degrading quickly. Film stock on documentary shoots is routinely processed weeks later if there is no lab nearby, without ill effect. As with any film stock, keeping it in a cool, dry environment is important. 

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12 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

You're putting very little light onto the film, it's not magical, over time it will fade. Back 60 years ago when film wasn't that sensitive, you'd have to hit it with a lot of light so the image was more permanent. However, with modern stocks, you don't need as much light and as a consequence, the image isn't as permanent. 

Modern stocks require less light because they are more sensitive. This makes them more susceptible to fogging over time from atmospheric radiation, but this is true whether they are exposed or not. The amount of fogging of even fast stocks over a period of weeks is negligible. “Hitting the film with more light” does not somehow make the image more permanent.

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Thanks for the replies! We ultimately decided to get it developed straight away.

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On 5/3/2019 at 11:15 AM, Stuart Brereton said:

Modern stocks require less light because they are more sensitive. This makes them more susceptible to fogging over time from atmospheric radiation, but this is true whether they are exposed or not. The amount of fogging of even fast stocks over a period of weeks is negligible. “Hitting the film with more light” does not somehow make the image more permanent.

Actually, hitting the film with more light, AKA using a lower ISO stock, does make a huge difference. I have done numerous tests to prove without a shadow of a doubt, the higher the ISO, the faster you need to process in order to eliminate noise. With the narrow gauge formats, the difference between one day and one week is astronomical at 500ISO, but not as noticed on 200T or 250D. This is because there is less light hitting the film on the higher ISO stock. If you were to rate 500T at 200iso, it would react like 200iso stock does in terms of noise level. So it has nothing to do with the optimum ISO range of the stock, it has everything to do with how much light the stock has been exposed to. 

Remember, the reason why film stock has an optimum ISO range is due to processing and color. Imagine having tungsten balanced stock that you have to filter for daylight that doesn't have a base ISO at all. You simply rate it to whatever ISO you want, write it on the can and the lab processes it at the appropriate length in the bath. That would be expensive for the lab work AND very time consuming for the lab workers. However, it would work fine, just not as "efficient" as properly balanced stocks. 

Kodak's solution was making properly balanced stocks that can run together in the bath. It's a far more complex process for Kodak, but it's easier on the labs, creating greater consistency. 

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I'm afraid what you claim would turn decades of established practice on its head if correct. If there were a mysterious mechanism fogging fast film noticeably within days of exposure I think Kodak would have told us.

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Film is magic!

 

I have personally shot film and developed it months, sometimes many months after the shoot.

Yes film stocks do accumulate base fog but even fast modern stocks do take years to do so.

I shot some Plus-X negative 16mm for a music video last fall which had an expiration date of 1966 and it looks fantastic.

 

YMMV

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I'd shot a test roll of 200T that I tossed in the fridge to send "with the next batch" of stuff, but never shot more stuff and it sat chilled for 10 months. Recently processed and transfered it and it was fine.

Now note I said fine, not great. My understanding from Kodak matches what Tyler is saying. Process ASAP for best results. But if thats not an option, then a fridge will work. I'd be curious if anyone has an opinion of fridge vs freezer

If it were me, I'd process ASAP and scan later. Record off your video tap, ideally with stamped timecode if you camera will do it, and you can edit with that for now (though there will be some minor headaches thanks to most taps being 29.97 if in the US)

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The fridge is a fairly damp place. When you say fridge do you mean the one in the kitchen, or a special fridge set aside for storing film? Sometimes I wonder if dampness could cause problems. I've got film in the kitchen fridge.

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On 5/8/2019 at 3:15 PM, Tyler Purcell said:

Actually, hitting the film with more light, AKA using a lower ISO stock, does make a huge difference. I have done numerous tests to prove without a shadow of a doubt, the higher the ISO, the faster you need to process in order to eliminate noise. With the narrow gauge formats, the difference between one day and one week is astronomical at 500ISO, but not as noticed on 200T or 250D. This is because there is less light hitting the film on the higher ISO stock. If you were to rate 500T at 200iso, it would react like 200iso stock does in terms of noise level. So it has nothing to do with the optimum ISO range of the stock, it has everything to do with how much light the stock has been exposed to. 

 

You seem to be confusing video terms with film. Noise is what hides down in the shadows of a digital file. If you’re talking about film, it’s grain. You’re correct that overexposing  500T as 200t would reduce grain. It’s common practice to overexpose by 2/3 stop to move the exposure range up the characteristic curve, away from the largest grains down in the toe of the film. However, this has nothing to do with fogging from radiation, and does not magically make the film more permanent.

if the differences shown by your testing are ‘astronomical ‘ as you claim, you should post your results and methodology here for everyone to see.

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15 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

You seem to be confusing video terms with film. Noise is what hides down in the shadows of a digital file. If you’re talking about film, it’s grain. You’re correct that overexposing  500T as 200t would reduce grain. It’s common practice to overexpose by 2/3 stop to move the exposure range up the characteristic curve, away from the largest grains down in the toe of the film. However, this has nothing to do with fogging from radiation, and does not magically make the film more permanent.

if the differences shown by your testing are ‘astronomical ‘ as you claim, you should post your results and methodology here for everyone to see.

Video camera preamp noise creates an overlay similar to film grain. Sure, it's not exactly the same as film grain, but it is in most cases an unwanted noise floor within your image. That's the whole point of this discussion... noise floor. Otherwise, there is nothing to talk about. 

Kodak's sensitivity hasn't improved much in the last 20 years. What they've focused on is making a stock that has finer grain, thus the noise floor isn't as prevalent when using at higher exposure indexes. They simply offer balanced stocks that can be processed all the same, for cost savings. If you were to rate 200t at 500T, it would have nearly identical noise floor as 500T. This has been proven time and time again by numerous filmmakers. They are in essence the same stock, just like 50D and 250D. The only difference is the balance when processed. 

From my experience, the fog level is always increasing from the moment the film is manufactured. This is why Kodak destroys or gives away all unsold stock after 6 months of sitting. When the fog level increases, you need more light to push past the fog. So the film is still usable, it's just the base IE has changed. So if you shoot a new roll of film and let it sit in your refrigerator, the fog level is still increasing. Reality is, the image is actually fading. 

I don't have any A/B comparison footage that directly compares. What I do have is quite a few examples of film processed next day vs several days later. I even have a 16 vs 35mm example to show noise floor between the two formats, which is super nice to have. Remember, most of the time it's a mistake when you don't process right away. So it's not like we're actively trying to destroy a few rolls of film ya know?  

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7 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

I don't have any A/B comparison footage that directly compares. 

So despite your “numerous tests” which prove these “astronomical” differences, you have no direct a/b comparisons, and therefore no empirical evidence to support your claim.

7 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

. Reality is, the image is actually fading. 

No one is denying that, only your assertion that fogging becomes noticeable within days.

7 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

If you were to rate 200t at 500T, it would have nearly identical noise floor as 500T. This has been proven time and time again by numerous filmmakers. They are in essence the same stock, just like 50D and 250D. The only difference is the balance when processed. 

 

If you rate 200T at 500 ISO, you are under exposing it by a stop and 1/3. They are not the same stock. Nor are 50D and 250D. I really have no idea what you are talking about here.

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I shot 16mm 100ft rolls of 50D, 250D and Double X, some rolls of these many months ago, kept it in the fridge...sent it to UK a few weeks ago to Cinelab London...went through 2 hand luggage X-rays in airports and the film came back great....

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5 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

So despite your “numerous tests” which prove these “astronomical” differences, you have no direct a/b comparisons, and therefore no empirical evidence to support your claim.

Since I shoot so much film these days, I started noticing a very strange issue with my film. My shoots are always identical. I buy brand new film from kodak on monday or tuesday. I fly out/travel on wednesday, I shoot thursday - sunday and I come home and drop the film off monday to be processed tuesday morning. The first thing I noticed is that stuff I shot earlier in the shoot, was more noisy than the stuff shot later in the shoot. Mind you, the film is always stored in the hotel room refrigerator.

Since I edit so many different shows shot on film, I started noticing a trend. Some shows were super noisy, others were not. I started asking the filmmakers about their processing practices and it was very clear; people who didn't process right away, had a much higher noise level then people who processed immediately.

To prove this theory, I brought some friends in to do a camera test between 16mm and 35mm and store it in a refrigerator for a few weeks before processing. The results were, pretty horrible actually. I'd be more than happy to assemble what it looked like, but most likely you'd just say "it's film, it's suppose to be grainy". However, you can nearly eliminate the noise, if you process right away. Since I shoot so much film, I know what it's SUPPOSE to look like. People can go on all day about "my film looked fine" when processed after a few weeks, months or years, but just imagine how much better it would have looked if it were processed immediately? My goal as a filmmaker is to make things that look professional, not that look like a student film, full of nasty grain. 

5 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

No one is denying that, only your assertion that fogging becomes noticeable within days.

Well, considering I see a difference between what was shot on the first day of a shoot, to the last, yea one would think that is noticeable within a few days. 

5 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

If you rate 200T at 500 ISO, you are under exposing it by a stop and 1/3.

Yep, but if you push it 2 stops... it has the same noise floor as 500t! So it only takes a reasonable person to think. Hmm... what is the difference between 200t and 500t then? It's simple... 

5 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

They are not the same stock. Nor are 50D and 250D. I really have no idea what you are talking about here.

The tungsten stocks are, pretty much the same stock. The difference is that Kodak has formulated them so when processed, they have different slightly different optimal IE range. Also, 2 stops is a nothing difference. I've over-exposed 500T by 8 stops before and still had details in my highlights. I've underexposed 500T to the point where my meter said "below" (which means zero) with an F.1.2 lens and was still able to get a beautiful image out of it. So the concept that 200t and 500t are literally the same stock, just slightly balanced different for the sake of processing, makes perfect sense to me. As I said earlier, imagine if every stock needed to processed differently? 

I can't afford to do these tests however, but Kodak has done them for years and I've seen them, I know what I state is accurate. 

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