Lance Acord: Danger of Using Rare/Old Stocks

From American Cinematographer, Playing a Risky Stock on Buffalo 66, by Jean Oppenheimer (July 1998)

The problem of processing the 5239 {160 Ektachrome} still lurked, however. Bono Film and Video's idea of modifying a 16mm reversal machine sounded great in theory, but the reality of completing such a task proved to be complicated. Reversal stock has a thick anti-halation backing that sloughs off during processing, clogging filters and preventing the chemistry tanks from agitating properly. To solve this problem, bigger filters and pumps were installed to compensate for the 35mm stock's additional waste.

"We found that if we had to pull the film at all-- which involves running it through the chemicals more quickly-- the drying cabinets were no longer sufficient in size or blower power to dry the film."

- Lance Acord, ASC

Furthermore, when film is wet, it gets very heavy, increasing the amount of tension it takes to pull it through the processing machine; the 35mm stock demanded more constant torque than the converted 16mm processor could initially handle.

"At one point we stretched some perfs on a roll. In fact, in terms of damaging the film, that was one of the bigger [dangers]. The Bonos caught it really quickly; only about 100 feet was affected. But at that point they had to stop the run, go back in, pull the rollers, readjust the tension and start all over again. We weren't able to run film for another two days."

- Lance Acord, ASC

(While 5239 had recently been used extensively on such films as Clockers and U-Turn, those pictures' respective directors of photography, Malik Sayeed and Robert Richardson, ASC, had elected to cross-process their footage in negative chemistry, thus eliminating the need for reversal processing machines.)

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